This morning Jack, our dog, and I were taking our first walk of the day. It was 6:00am. I like that time of the morning. It’s still quiet from human activity as we walk around the neighborhood. Seagulls are swooping, calling out greetings to each other, and the sky is pale in color as it waits for the sun to fully rise.
As I was enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, Jack was lost in important sniffing pursuits — I call it reading the canine morning papers. He neared a tree, walked over to have a sniff when suddenly, and very quickly, he backs up and sits down, paw lifted, panicked eyes locked on mine. “What is it boy?” I speak soothing words to him as I stoop down to investigate. Had something stung him? Did he step on a thorn? No, he had kerplopped his paw into a little pile of poo! Oh, no! I found a leaf and did the best I could to remove the unwanted, awful mess between his toes. His panicked gaze was steady on me the whole time. Having done the best I could I stood up and said, “It’s okay now. All gone.” Just like that, with a smile, as if nothing had happened, he pranced along happy as can be. We purposefully walked through dewy grass after that to finish the cleaning job, and when we got home, I took his doggie wipes and sterilized his paw and pads —and sterilized my fingers, too!
I was warmly touched that he came immediately to me when something bad had happened to him. His stare of panic never left me. He trusted whatever I chose to do, believing that I was helping him. I would remedy his problem and ease away his troubled spirit, of that he was sure.
Poor Jack, stepping into mess, but we step into mess, too, don’t we. Sometimes it’s an accident. We didn’t see trouble coming. Sometimes it’s our own wrong or foolish choices that lands us in a pile of life’s poo! We can fret. We can talk to others. We can try to pretend it never happened. We can do lots of things but the only right thing to do is — come to Jesus. Remember what He told His followers in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus never gets overburdened Himself. When you come to Him, He never thinks, “Oh no! Not this one again!” Just as I was warmed in my heart when Jack looked to me, Jesus is warmed all the more when we come to Him, trusting that He will know what to do, and His comfort will come quickly. When we turn to Jesus, He will stoop down with assurances that all will be well. He will clean up the mess of our troubled souls. He will urge us onward. He will never leave our side. He will walk us on fresh, dewy grass of joy, to wipe away our fears. He will do all that is needed and best for us. His compassions never fail; they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Never forget, while it’s comforting to turn to a friend for help, go to Jesus first. His comfort is like no other.
When I go to bed I like to read a little until my eyes start closing. Last night was no different. I turned off the overhead light, turning on the bedside table lamp and began to read. After a while I realized I wasn’t quite comfortable; my eyes were straining to see clearly. I adjusted the table lamp and began to read again. Still, something wasn’t right. I was squinting and tilting the book to see better. It was then I decided to move my pillow closer to the light. Propped up against my pillow, book open, I smiled in relief as I could see perfectly. No longer was I experiencing the discomfort of squinting and tilting and moving about. Being nearer the light I could see, I was calmed, I was joyful. All was well just because I moved nearer the light.
It was at that moment a realization popped into my mind; it’s no different in our spiritual world. You and I can come up with some pretty good ideas, but our own ideas will never outdo God’s plans. Our ways may be real good, but God’s plans are always perfect. He tells us to stay close to Him, focused on Him.
Have you ever been going along your way when you realized you weren’t fully comfortable? Perhaps you adjusted your circumstances as best you could, maybe you came up with another game plan. It was going okay, and yet, something didn’t feel right. You were still troubled. Finally, you stopped to give God your full attention. You asked Him what to do. You lifted your troubles to Him and left them there. It was then you sensed a returning peace, a quiet joy in the midst of a present difficulty. You knew why. You had come closer to the Light.
Most of you reading will be familiar with the verse found in James 4:8, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you…” I used to think that meant that if I walked toward God, then He would start walking toward me, too. However, now I realize that isn’t the case. God is always there. When we sense we are distant from Him; it isn’t because He moved, but because we did. It is as we come closer to Him that we are fully in the Light of His leading, His comfort, His peace, His courage, His joy. The closer we move to Him, the more focused are we on the Light of His truth. We begin to become one with His ways.
Are you in a situation today, or just in a mood that seems a bit gray? Are you not seeing clearly? Are you troubled or agitated? I encourage you to actively — move closer to the Light. Everything is clearer, more peaceful, and joy is sweet when we are fully in the Light.
Probably everyone who has ever lived has been treated unfairly. Perhaps you have been falsely accused of something. Maybe someone cheated you. You might have been the subject of gossip; the truth of a matter twisted into lies.
Being treated unfairly never feels good. When it happens, our natural instincts kick in. We want retaliation. We want to see the other person feel pain and humiliation. What we want in the natural, if left unchecked, will fester into bitterness. Bitterness watered by resentment always grows into hatred — always.
What can we do to keep our minds and hearts at peace? After all, when we have been treated unfairly, we don’t deserve melancholy; we deserve peace that permeates our entire being. The answer involves a choice on our part. Many of you reading will know the verse found in Isaiah 26:3-4, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the Eternal Rock.” Our choice, to focus on God in the midst of what or who wronged us, is absolutely key in maintaining peace.
I am reminded of a friend in Central Asia whose family suffered a terrible persecution when a relative was murdered for becoming a Christian. I visited the family, wondering what I could say to offer comfort, but my words were never needed. As I entered the home and listened to the horrible tale, the murdered man’s sister lifted her face, wet with tears, and said, “Can we sing?” She closed her eyes and began to sing; not a known song, just words from her heart to God. The entire family joined in, singing words from their own hearts. I joined in also. The presence of God was the sweetest I can ever remember in my life. I felt if I opened my eyes I would see Jesus, such was the strong sense of His presence.
This memory and experience remains one of the most beautiful of my life. I like to recall it when something happens to me that is unfair. I have a choice. I can grow bitterness with my focus on the unfairness of the wrong committed or I can grow peace with my focus on the One Who is my eternal Rock. After all, when we are treated unfairly, we don’t deserve to feel even worse, especially by our own lack of right focus. We deserve the peace of our loving, heavenly Father, who delights to fill us with His joy to replace all earthly pain.
Whatever pain is in your life today, I hope you focus on Jesus. I hope you sing.
Our dog, Jack, loves a good game of chase, but not every dog wants to join in the game. One day this week Jack was running up to dogs, enticing them to chase. A few entered into the fun, but one dog, a large German Shepherd, did not appreciate the invitation. The Shepherd did not behave in aggression but his stance and facial expression was one of solemnity. Jack stopped and stared. I could tell he was a bit bewildered with the situation. He wasn’t certain what to do. Dare he turn his back on the Shepherd?
I walked in the dog’s direction, coming up behind Jack. The Shepherd, who had been unflinchingly staring at Jack, saw me coming. He glanced at me, turned, and walked away. Suddenly Jack’s body broke into a picture of excitement. His mouth parted, tongue out, joy in his eyes. He glanced around as if to say to any onlooker, “Did you see me scare away that big dog?” I watched with delight as Jack ran on to find another, more willing, canine to engage in chasing games.
I wonder how often, when you and I get into a difficult situation, that we forget our Father is watching our backs? He never leaves us. He is always watching over us. In His presence we have His own strength, courage, and wisdom to carry on. The problem we face may be menacing, but it will never be able to conquer us, because our Father is stronger and wiser than any dilemma that comes our way.
Wasn’t it God who shut the lions mouths when Daniel was thrown into a pit with them? Wasn’t it God who gave young David the fortitude and skill to bring down Goliath when the whole army of Israel was afraid to even try? Wasn’t it God who gave such peace to Paul and Silas that they sang loudly in great joy while imprisoned for their faith?
If God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” as we are told in Hebrews 13:8, then we must never forget that His ways are the same as they have always been. Therefore, He is ever present, never leaving us. Just like me with my eyes on Jack, our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off us. Remember the truth of Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”
Every Spring and Summer my mother and I enjoy watching a pair of seagulls who live on the roof across the street. We watch them build their nest, always amazed at how it stays on the roof no matter winds and rain that come. Then we watch them take turns sitting on the nest. Finally the day arrives when a little chick is hatched. This year, to our absolute delight, the seagulls had triplets! It must be unusual because the triplets have caught the attention of others in the neighborhood who come to watch and take photos.
Two days ago, while I was out taking our dog, Jack, for a walk, my mother witnessed a scary event. She was watching the chicks step cautiously about, when all of a sudden, one loses its footing and begins to tumble down the roof! My mother said she gasped in horror, fully expecting the poor chick to fall to the ground, but just then, one of the parents swooped quickly below, blocking the fall with its body. For several moments the parent sat, no doubt comforting, and waiting for the baby to regain its footing. Then together they walked back up to the nest where the chick climbed into safety.
My mother had not seen the parent seagulls anywhere. She assumed they were out gathering dinner for their babies, but somehow, though presently unseen, at least one had been near enough to come to the rescue just in the nick of time.
In our spiritual worlds, it is no different for every child of God. There are moments in our lives when perhaps we feel alone. We are going through something and who can help us? We feel we are tumbling into inescapable despair. Take heart, our Father is always there, unseen, but there, watching over, preparing our meal to eat in the presence of any enemy, ready to lead us into His shelter of calm peace and sweet joy.
Do you remember the comment Jesus once made when He stood looking back at the city of Jerusalem? Luke 13:34 tells us. He said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” Let us be certain at all times to keep our minds stayed on Him and His ways. After all, our Father knows the road on which we travel, He knows the dangers that lurk, He is watching, not some of the time, but all of the time. Never fear to do what He asks or to follow the way in which He leads. He is there and will swoop in to keep you from tumbling off the roof of fear. He will shelter you in His arms, helping to strengthen you; then together, you will walk on in the way He has planned, and nestle in His peace.
I read a verse this week in Matthew 28:20. It says, “…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” When I read the verse, a strong memory of long ago popped into my mind. I had been visiting a friend in southeast Alabama in the United States. She lived in the country with acres of land. She also owned and rode a motorcycle. “Hop on,” she said, “I’ll take you for a ride.” The idea sounded like lots of fun so I eagerly took my place on the seat behind her. Away we went. It was not a gentle ride.
We drove over bumps that lifted me off the seat. “Jaaaane!” I yelled. “You’re alright,” she called back, “just hang on.” We drove through open fields and into a grove of trees. Then we were on the open road. We went around curves where I felt my body tilting nearer the road. Once again I yelled, “Jaaane!” Again she called back, “You’re alright. Just hang on.” We rode for miles between the towns of Banks and Brundidge, and then off the road and into the woods, riding along the banks of Pea River. By this time I had stopped yelling and kept doing exactly as I had been instructed to do — I hung on!
After the woods ride we hit the road again and made our way back to her house. By that time, to my surprise and relief, the fear had subsided. When we went around curves I sensed that all would be well. When my body left the seat as we hit another bump on the the dirt track that led back to her home, I didn’t yell in fright for my life. After all, thus far in our journey, her instructions had been true. I was alright as long as I hung on. The wild ride would not be my last. Jane was in the driver’s seat. She was in control. Hanging onto the driver, I would be just fine.
Isn’t it like that in our spiritual world? The way God plans for us is sometimes bumpy. We feel we will fall to our peril. Danger lurks. We can sense it waiting to strike. We look ahead and the way is dark! Surely we will crash! We cry out in our fear and dread — then we hear a gentle, assuring voice call back — “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Our heavenly Father has designed the way. He is already aware of every curve yet to come, of every bump in the road that could send us flying off, but He knows perfectly well, we will be alright if we just keep hanging on.
Our Heavenly Driver will not leave us. He knows where He is going. He knows the lay of the land. He knows every danger and He is stronger than any hazard. He is with us always. He is in control. Trusting His leading will make us stronger. Cling to Him with all your might. His strength will melt into your being and bring you peace. It may be a wild ride but — you’ll be alright. Just hang on.
I read an article this week about a couple, married for over thirty years, who decided to separate. One of them remarked, “we don’t talk anymore.” Good and regular communication is vital to any relationship for it keeps the connection healthy. Irregular or abusive communication can kill it in a very short time. It’s the same in our spiritual relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Do you remember when you first came to know Jesus in a personal way? Such overwhelming joy and sweet inner peace. You thought it would never end — but it did. Life is busy. You couldn’t talk to God today or read His words of love. Tomorrow, you told yourself, and you meant it, but tomorrow came too quickly and you had even more to do than you did the day before.
Another day went by and then another. After weeks you rarely even thought about it. One day you realized a melancholy came over you. Why? You could find no reason. Life was good. There were no serious problems to handle or weary challenges to meet. Even so, the sadness inside began to feel suffocating. You wanted to breathe in joy again, to feel the sweetness of inner peace again. Where had it gone? Why had it gone?
Perhaps you drifted away from the One who loves you so much. Perhaps you don’t talk to Him anymore. Perhaps you don’t listen anymore. Just perhaps that’s the reason. If that’s you today, you can know that joy and sweet peace again. Let’s read the words of Proverbs 1:23-24, “Come and listen to My counsel. I’ll share My heart with you and make you wise. I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you but you paid no attention.” I am warmed inside with the above words, “I’ll share my heart with you.”
Just think, Almighty God, who made heaven and earth and everything in it, who sent His Son to pay for your sins, who designed that you may be with Him for eternity; God so loving and powerful, wants to share His heart with you. How amazing is that!
So, no matter the busyness of the day, make time to talk and listen to the One you love and Who loves you beyond measure. Take care to make communication a daily event — a priority. Inner peace will be constant and joy will flow within. Communication is vital to both emotional and spiritual health.
There is a memory that brings my mother and me into fits of giggles every time we think of the incident when she was airborne like a bullet. It was years ago when we decided to join a local gym. We bought the right attire, joined the club and was shown around the facilities. I was riding the stationary bicycle while my mother got on the treadmill.
We were clocking up the miles. I glanced at my mother walking up a storm when she put her hand to the dial to turn up the speed. I’m so glad I happened to glance over at that precise moment, because as the treadmill burst into an immediate faster speed, my mother’s body was swiftly taken to the end of the conveyor belt, causing her to fall on her front, and shooting her out like superman flying backwards. Of course I jumped off my bike and ran to her aid, but when she rolled over laughing, I joined right in. It was a hoot!
I recalled this as I was thinking about our walk with God. Life can be like training in a gym. Sometimes we’re strolling along peacefully at a very nice pace. At other times we get in a hurry. Waiting on God’s timing isn’t always a piece of cake. Human nature easily grows impatient. We may be walking in the direction God is leading when we think to ourselves that we’ll help God out; we’ll quicken our pace to get the job done more quickly. We may have the very best of intentions, but going ahead of God’s perfect timing could well send us belly flopping and flying backwards. Then we have to start all over again.
When that happens, and it happens to us all, don’t beat yourself up. That never helps. Just laugh with Jesus. Tell him you got a little ahead of yourself and ask forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you sensitive to God’s timing. Remember, every walk with God, in whatever direction He leads is a training moment for us. We can walk at His pace and grow stronger or we can run ahead and flop.
If you have flopped recently, may you, as the song goes from that old Fred Astaire movie, Swing Time, “pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.” Our Heavenly Father is patient and loving — and He has a sense of humor, too.
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5 (NIV)
I never tire of the story found in the Old Testament book of II Chronicles 20. A man with the unusual name of Jehoshaphat was leading the army of Judah. War had just been declared on them, from not one, but three other armies. We read in verse 3 of this chapter that, “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news…”
It would have been understandable if Jehoshaphat asked to meet the army leaders to discuss terms of surrender. We would not have been surprised to read that they turned back to get away from the armies, giving them time to think of a defense plan. They did neither of those things; they advanced, with an amazing front line of offense — Jehoshaphat ordered the musicians to lead the way playing and singing praises to God. What?! Singing in the midst of great battle? Yes. Praising God is a mighty weapon.
If you read the rest of the chapter you see that God confused the attacking armies to the point they began to kill each other! Verse 24 tells us, “When the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.” Did you know the same thing can happen in our spiritual worlds in the midst of attacks by our enemy, Satan?
Satan is forever sending demonic forces of despondency and despair to control our minds. When he sees that we are in a situation of stress, he rubs his evil hands in glee and sends in the troops of darkness to shoot arrows of mental fatigue and defeatism at us. We have all battled with such attacks. We must not leave our minds open to such assault.
What can we do? We can keep our minds filled so it’s too full for the enemy’s poisonous arrows to penetrate. We can take a lesson from Jehoshaphat. Bring on the singers — bring on the praise. You see, God’s Word, which never lies, tells us in Psalm 22:3, “God inhabits the praises of His people.” If the army of Judah could be outnumbered three-fold, and defeat the enemy by praising God, is it any different for us today? No, because God Himself said in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord and I do not change.”
Therefore, if God gave His people victory through praising yesterday, then He will do the same today and tomorrow. Are you down today? Are you stressed out? Are you dreading what happens next? Do you just want to stay in bed? Then choose to praise. No excuses — just do it, and watch God give you victory over the attacking enemy. Breathe in His peace as it fills you through praising. Grab hold of His strength, His joy, and His courage. Will the enemy attack again tomorrow? Most likely. Will God always inhabit your praises and give you strength? Always.