Crumbs For Dinner?

I had just prepared dinner for Jack, our huge, goofy, but lovable giant puppy. He looked eagerly at his bowl, but suddenly, something on the floor gained his full attention. Crumbs! I could hardly believe it! A choice of a tasty dish — or crumbs — and he decides to lick away on the floor! I tried coaxing to no avail.  I pushed his head to the direction of his bowl. Nothing worked. He was content on the crumbs closest to him, rather than having to walk five feet to get his fresh dinner in his bowl!

I sat back and watched in dismay as Jack licked the floor of the very last crumb. I found it mind boggling that he would make such a choice when the best was his for the taking. That’s when a truth hit me: Does God also watch in dismay when He places a dish of His blessings so near, yet in our haste and desire for ease, we choose the crumbs of convenience instead?

You see, God has clearly shown us how to walk with joy, peace, and courage, even in the darkest of our moments.  He has written it all down in His love letter to us— we call it the Bible. It takes time to open His words, to read and meditate on the truths and instructions found there.  Much easier to simply draw a card from a verse holder, read it, and carry on through our day.  Now, please don’t think I’m criticizing the stacks of the “verse of the day” cards that one can purchase in the Bible book store; but I am suggesting, if that is all one does, then that one is settling for crumbs when a whole loaf of God’s goodness is available.

In the Old Testament book of Samuel, there is the story of Mephibosheth, the disabled grandson of the former King Saul. The current King David invited Mephibosheth to live in his home and to sit at his table for all his days. Mephibosheth did not feel worthy to feast at the king’s table.  He said this in II Samuel 9:8, “Who am I that you would show such kindness to a dog like me?”  Even so, he accepted the king’s invitation, sitting with him, enjoying both the king’s company and his food.

Isn’t that just how it is with us?  God invites us to dine at His table, to devour the truth of His words, to bask in the joy and peace of His company.  We are not worthy to do so; however, God’s love compels Him to invite us . He has prepared the best for us, to fill us up with His goodness.   We can feast at the King’s table everyday — or like Jack — we are free to settle for crumbs.

Hello? Can You Hear Me?

The other day a friend and I agreed to meet for lunch.  The night before our lunch date my friend phoned me.  “Hello,”  I answered as I picked up the phone.   I recognized my friend’s voice as she said,  “Hello?  Hello?”  “Hello, I’m here,” I answered again.  I could hear my friend saying once more, “Hello?  Can you hear me?  Hello?”  Over and over I spoke into the phone, telling my friend I could hear, but it was obvious by the repeated attempts, that something was wrong with our connection.  I hung up and tried to phone her.  The same thing happened.  Oh well, I thought to myself, we agreed to meet so I’ll be there tomorrow.

The next day, sure enough, my friend arrived at the restaurant the same time as I did.  We laughed about the phone call.  She said, “I was calling to confirm, but when I couldn’t get through, I just came anyway because we had already made our agreement.”  Our lunch was most enjoyable.

As I later reflected on that episode, I thought of a verse in Lamentations 3:8, “And though I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayers.”  Have you ever felt that way about God?  You call out to Him.  You feel no response, so your heart tells you that He isn’t there. You begin to believe that God is ignoring you, that He has no interest in listening to you.  Therefore, He is not going to help you.  Ever had those thoughts?

Those are the very thoughts that the enemy, Satan, wants of you.  He does everything he can to cause you to believe that God no longer cares; even perhaps, that He never cared in the first place.  What cruel lies.

You see, my friend arrived at the restaurant without being able to reach me the night before, because she knew we had already made our agreement.  She trusted that I would honor that agreement and be there.  It’s no different in our relationship with our Father.

When you call out but it appears He’s not listening, please remind yourselves that the agreements have already been made and your Father will never go back on His word.  For example, He has already told you that He will never leave you or forsake you.  He has already told you to cast all your burdens upon Him because He cares for you.  He has already told you that His unfailing love never ends and His mercies are new every morning.

He has already made His agreement with you.  Therefore, when it seems He can’t hear you on the other end of the line, please go ahead and behave according to His promises. He definitely gets all your messages and all your pleas for help.  He’s listening and responding to you as specified by all His promises.  Therefore, please show up to meet with Him regularly, because of a certainty, He is listening, already carrying out everything He has promised, moving you in the direction to receive all the good plans He has designed just for you.  Never despair at what seems like a bad connection; of a certainty, He is there, honoring his Word.

 

Surprised By Grief

It came with no warning.  There I was enjoying the day with friends.  I was sitting in the front seat of the car, passenger side, laughing and talking, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the rugged seascape of Wales.  Seagulls were floating, wings outstretched on the thermals of the blustery day.  The white capped swells of the ocean rushed to meet the shore, crashing in splendor, each wave gliding, leaving white foam etching patterns on the sand.  Kite surfers happily battled the elements, dog walkers tossed frisbees and balls to their tail wagging, canine friends, and children undeterred by the weather, licked ice-cream cones.  It was a perfect day.

I could feel the smile stretched on my lips as I gazed across this wonderful scene just below the craggy cliff tops.  The radio was on and we were singing along with the old songs of yesteryear.  I felt young again with the songs playing from my youth.  We sang loudly.  I knew every word from one song after another.  Then it happened.  A song began, and with just one line sung, a pain, deep and unexpected, struck the chords of my memory.

In only a moment I was transported to a time past, sitting next to my father.  Tears shot to my eyes, filling them, threatening to spill over my eyelids.  I turned my head to gaze out the window, hoping my companions would not see.  This was a very private moment and I wanted to share it with no one.  What had happened, I asked myself?  What a total surprise; an unwanted surprise!  But wait; no, it was not unwanted.  It was painful, but there was beauty in it, too.

As my thoughts raced to bring some explanation, I came to an understanding:  While the pain reminded me of what I had lost, the memory itself reminded me of the joy of what I once had with my father, and of what I would have again.  After all, the promise of life after death, a continuance of living with our loved ones in Christ, is the secure and comforting hope of every child of God.

The song on the radio continued, but with each verse, watching my father in my mind’s eye, the tears disappeared, and a smile, once again, came to me.  I was thankful to have experienced this beautiful pain.  It reminded me of the joy of love; love that knows no end.  Yes, it really was a perfect day.

“You keep track of all my sorrow.  You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  Psalm 56:8

 

Trusting In The Dark What God Has Promised In The Light

When I get discouraged I often like to read David’s story. His journey in life was truly one of ups and downs. God had promised that he would one day be king of Israel. However, that promise took a long time in being fulfilled. During the wait, we see David running away (many times) and hiding from King Saul, who desired to kill David. We sense David’s deep sense of despair as he shares his heart in Psalm 13. David writes, “Oh Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?”

I am so thankful for David’s honesty. He’s exhausted emotionally and spiritually. He’s burned out. He feels all used up. David has definitely come to the end of his rope. We can feel the torment of his suffering as he cries out to God, “How long will you forget me?”

Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Have you ever felt like He has not been true to His Word — like He hasn’t kept His promise? We have all faced situations in life; not once but many times, when it seems that life around us has spun out of control. We’re on a runaway roller coaster and we can’t get off. Perhaps we cry out as David did, asking where is God in all of this? Does He really even care?

When we’re going through a difficult time we want it to be over now! Therefore, like David, we may also question God and wonder, “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul?” Be assured, God has not forgotten you. He knows exactly where you are and what’s happening in your life at all times. You see, while we concentrate on the situation — God is concentrating on you and me. We want Him to change our situation but He wants to change us. God wants to do far more than a quick fix of something uncomfortable in our lives; He wants to design us into a person of strength and courage, of inner peace and joy. Therefore, He waits that we may be refined or as I shared in last week’s blog, He molds us into an extravagant beauty.

Has God made a promise to you? Have you been touched by something in His Word but felt let down because you’re still waiting for that Word to come to fruition? My father used to say, “never doubt in the dark what God has revealed to you in the light.” In other words, choose to trust your heavenly Father in the midst of life’s doom and gloom. How do we make such a choice and stick with it? It greatly helps to praise Him in the most difficult of times, for God is good all the time, and you are always on His mind. David made a choice of trust in the darkness when he wrote at the end of this same Psalm 13, “I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He has been so good to me.” Trusting God in the midst of our despair grows stronger when we praise Him in the darkest of our days.

Watching Puppy Love

I visited some friends this evening who have a new resident in their home — a puppy!  To those of you who are dog lovers, you will fully understand the statement my friend made this evening as she held  onto an armful of squirming fur, “I just fell immediately in love.”  Yes, it was most evident indeed — that puppy was one greatly loved pooch and would be for all her days in her new home.

As I watched the continued demonstrations of love for this canine wonder, I could not help but think about God and His love for you and me.  However, too often, we grab hold of a great distortion of God’s love.  It seems, we sometimes feel that we have to earn God’s love.  We must obey Him in all things or He might not love us anymore.  Having those out of focus thoughts about the love of God can make us shrink back from Him rather than cling joyfully to Him.

But, mustn’t we obey Him?  Yes, we are instructed to obey God in all things.  Of course, no one is perfect and we all sin, but we always have before us a way of repentance that brings us immediately back into right relationship with our Heavenly Father.  When we sin, does God love us less?  No.  He loves us the same at all times.   If God loves us even when we disobey, then why do we need to be so concerned with obedience?

Questions like the above bring me back to my friend and her puppy.  She must teach her dog how to obey.  The dog is indeed learning but still has a way to go in knowing what is expected of her.  When she gets it wrong, my friend still loves her dog completely.  Even so, it’s vital that the dog learns to obey for her own protection and joy.  For example, if a car is coming, the dog must obey the command to “come.”   Ignoring this instruction could bring dire consequences.  It’s no different in our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

God doesn’t give us instructions to obey, as a way for us to keep His love; He gives us instructions to obey, to keep us safe and filled with His joy.  The words of a favorite hymn come to my mind, “For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

God has a right path for us to follow, totally because He loves us.  The consequences of following His path will be joy, peace, wisdom, and courage to get us through all our days — or — we may choose the wrong path if we so desire, but like the puppy who refuses to “come,” we might get run over by life’s troubles, bringing unrest and absence of peace,  that could be so easily avoided.

It’s really true the words to that hymn — “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”