When Our Faith has to Pick a Lane

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pick a laneJesus had some busy days. 

He had just healed a man with leprosy, then a guy’s servant, then healed a bunch of other people from sickness and demon possession. There was a lot going on. This was all in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8. Jesus had to be physically exhausted. He climbed into the boat and went right to sleep. Just after He and the disciples got on board, the storm started brewing. The wind was blowing, the rain pounding, and waves jumping over the boat. The disciples began to mildly freak out.  

Rushing to Jesus’ mattress, they scream for Him to save them from their impending doom. He was sleeping.  

Have you ever felt like Jesus was sleeping? Unaware of what you are going through? Your wind and water are all over the place, but it feels like He is silent 


Me too. 
 


It is a tricky place to be, a time when our faith 
has to pick a lane. Do we trust Him, or do we not?  


I have prayed for something specific for more than a year and a half now. Something easily answerable. 
Yet I feel like if I look across the boat, I will find Jesus still napping. 


It’s during this time I have to
 decide whether I believe He will do *what* needs to be done *when* He knows it needs to be done, or if I believe I have been forgotten.   


This isn’t easy, and it’s not fun, but sometimes it’s good and necessary for our faith to have to stand exposed
, so to speak, to see what we really believe. No false pretenses, no wishy-washy church words said without meaning. We get to this stormy place, and we decide if we trust Him as the One who can save us or if we don’t.  


The disciples knew w
ho to go to. They ran to Jesus, He got up and stopped the storm. But they had their doubts. Jesus knew it, and He told them as much, asking them why they were so afraid.  


I’m certain Jesus is asking me the same thing right now. “Jennifer, why are you so afraid?” The truth is, I don’t know. I have seen Jesus come through for me over and over again,
 and I have no reason at all to think He would take a break. There are some questions I need to ask myself to get my mind back where it needs to be.

  1. 1.Do I believe God *can* answer my prayer? Yes.  

  1. 2.Have I seen God answer prayers for me before? Yes. 

  1. 3.If this prayer is for our good, and God could be glorified through it, can I trust He will answer it? Yes 

  1. 4.If He chooses not to, can I trust that His reasons are bigger than what I can understand, but that it certainly is not because He fell asleep? Yes. 


If I believe all of
 these things, I can have peace, believing that God will work things out in His own way and His own timing. It might be something I have to realign my soul to every single day, until He works things out His way, but for the peace that comes with it, I will gladly confirm my yeses to these questions as often as I need to. 

Needless to say, Jesus calmed the disciples’ storm by simply speaking. He took care of it, and all was well, amazing these guys who had just seen Him heal a gazillion people right before this. Over and over He proves how He is the One we can trust, and somehow, we forget and then continue to be amazed when He comes through.  


He will take care of me. He will take care of you. 
Let’s trust Him. 


“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
 

Being Thankful During a ‘No’

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Blog picture JCM

When I was in junior high, and parents trusted television a little more than they should, I saw a music video on MTV that featured a beautiful lady with a tattoo of a snake that was the entire length of her arm. Though over the years, my mind somehow decided it was on her leg, and that was what I wanted. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I was determined that when I was old enough, I would make that happen.

Turns out putting age restrictions on things like that are a good idea.

But at the time, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thankful for these restrictions, not the ones from my parents nor the ones from the government.

As a kid, I didn’t know that was a good thing. It seemed kind of crummy to me. Where’s my freedom? Why can’t I make my own choices?

When I don’t get my way, it’s easy for me, even now, to focus in on that, and forget all the other good things that I have in my life.

No, I didn’t get the 3-foot long snake tattoo (thank you mom and dad), but I did get rules that kept me from getting hepatitis and I had a good education, food, shelter, clothing and teen magazines.

And sometimes when I ask God for something, it goes that way. I asked Him for healing for my Mom, which didn’t happen this side of heaven. But I asked for healing for my niece, and it happened that very moment, so I know He is capable (if I haven’t shared that story, find me – I’d love to tell you). I have asked for jobs and babies and relationships, and not all of it went the way I wanted. Some of these things I still pray for, knowing these deep desires are in the hearts of my friends. And some things that I’ve prayed for, I can see now how it wouldn’t have been the best option.

But we are supposed to be thankful in all of it. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

In the book “Anything,” by Jennie Allen, she quoted her friend Rachel, who had many reasons to become bitter in her life. Instead of bitterness, Rachel was filled with joy and love for others, even those who had hurt her, and she said this:

“You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.” (p59)

There are ways that God can use those seemingly bad things to bring about good that our minds can’t even understand.

Sometimes I still might resemble that 12 year-old girl who wants a snake tattoo, not realizing that what I am asking for isn’t for the best, even though it sure seems to me like it is. But I have a Father who looks at me with love, knowing what is best, and holds me through the “No.”

If there is some “No” you have received that has your full attention right now, and you’re not feeling very Thanksgiving-y, take a few minutes to make a list and let God know how thankful you are for the things he has given you, and how much you trust Him as your Father to know what’s best, even during a “No.”

There is a serious freedom that comes with not having to figure it all out, but simply trusting God, and I, for one, am thankful for that.

 

 

 

What’s the Difference?

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My Gift

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gift

The day before Christmas break we sat in our classroom, and I watched as the sixth- grade girls began to open their gifts from our teacher. I looked at my package. The shape of my present looked different. I was the only fifth grade girl, and wanted to fit in with the older girls. As they began to open their presents, I saw it was cute socks that teens were wearing at that time.

socks2

At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything else that I would rather have than those socks. I didn’t want to open my gift quite yet, holding on to the hope that just maybe what I had in my package was the same thing. As I separated the paper and tape, I saw the doll. My heart sank. I wanted to fit in, by having what tdollhey had.

 

 

 

 

It’s not the first time that I wanted someone else’s gift.

I have looked at people with talents and abilities that I have wanted and felt like I didn’t measure up. Whatever gifts I have seem not cool enough, or not as good as someone else’s.

I listen to people speak in public, and wonder how in the world they do it… I would love to have that gift. Listening to people sing, play the piano, see others’ organizational skills, hospitality, leadership ability… So many gifts I would love to have, especially when I notice other people with them. Not only am I reminded that I don’t have them, but I question the very ones I have been given. I start to feel like I don’t measure up, and that maybe I’m not that great at the gifts I have anyway.

*Side note – I’m pretty sure Satan loves this. He sneaks his way into our head through that tiny crack of comparison, and suddenly has access to much more. While he is in there, he wrecks the place. He fills it with wads of doubt, and boxes of envy, and bags of insecurity – all for me to sort through and unpack for a long time afterward. He is really good at this.

If I can shine some light on them, I would be able to see that those boxes and bags and wads have no place here, and there is nothing in them worth sorting through. Everything must go. That light comes from prayer and reading God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, here is what I read –

“You are Christs’ body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your part mean anything… But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christs’ church is a complete Body and not a gigantic unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called ‘important’ parts.” 1 Corinthians 12:27, 31 (Message)

“God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…” 1 Corinthians 12:6,7 (Message)

My gifts aren’t shabby. Yours aren’t either. When we quit comparing, and focus on the reason for having the gifts in the first place, we can see the beauty. We can see how we can all work together to “show who God is.” It really is wonderful.

To be honest, I really loved the doll. It was a good gift for me. I just had to take my eyes off everyone else’s gift to see how great mine was.

A Road Trip and a Reminder

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I was about to ship my only son off on a plane to spend a week with his friend, and I was savoring every minute of the three-hour car ride to the airport. Snacks, music, sunshine – it was perfect.

I had been this route before, but I was taking in all the scenery. The trees were especially beautiful that day, and there were times the early morning rays of sunshine spread out over the hills in front of us and made me want to stop for pictures.

Wide, open fields and big older homes had me wondering about the people who lived there and what they might do with their days. Do they farm? Do they have other jobs and have to come home and tend to all the gardening themselves?

And there was conversation. I love getting to talk to him. The older my son gets I realize how quickly we are cruising to the end of the time I get to spend with him like this.

The one thing I did not realize, however, is how quickly we were cruising through Circleville.

2017 1986

The lights behind me let me know it was probably faster than it should have been. And the kind officer who asked for my license and registration confirmed it by telling me I had been going 72 in a 60. I received my first speeding ticket in all of my driving years. And I deserved it. I do the crime, I do the time (well, pay the fine, I guess).

He also asked me if I had realized what the speed limit was, and I honestly said no, because it turns out I had not paid any attention to it.

I was looking at the beautiful sunshine, and the trees, and the houses, and occasionally the road, but had only noticed a speed limit sign a couple of times the entire trip.

What I was paying attention to was lovely, but I was focused on the wrong thing.

And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve done that.

I can get so distracted by things in life, sometimes things that aren’t a bit good for me, and oftentimes things that seem harmless. But if they are taking my attention from what I should be focused on, I need to be reminded.

Life is busy, and there are a thousand things that need our attention. But the most important part of our days is without a doubt our time with God. When we keep our eyes focused on Him, we are less likely to mess it all up, and Satan is less likely to distract us from how God is wanting to use us while we are here. And boy is he good at it. He will distract us with busyness and he will distract us with sin. He will distract with frustrations and disagreements. He distracts with dangling an imitation of what you really need right in front of your face. Don’t let him. Focus on God. He has what you need.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Let’s make it a priority – keep our time with God above everything else. And use cruise control in Circleville.

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Strip Clubs…

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I have been in a total of two strip clubs in my lifetime, both for work; not as a dancer, but as a reporter wanting to do a story.

One club that ultimately was willing to participate in the story had me stop in on a Thursday night, during operating hours. When I finally gathered enough courage to walk in, I took note of what I saw as I waited on the young women who would be speaking with me. Most of the club was dark, with neons and spotlights highlighting the parts of the room they wanted visitors to focus on – the bar and the dancers. Loud music, a party kind of feel. Kind of what I expected.

I was able to get the story and talk to two sweet girls who I am hoping by now really were able to get their education from Ashland Community College and begin a new career.

The other club I had stopped in was a different scenario altogether. It was a small, lesser-known club on Route 60, and I stopped by during lunchtime to see if any of the dancers would be willing to share their story. Lunchtime isn’t a busy shift for exotic dancers so the only person there when I walked in was a cleaning lady. Turns out, she and the owner both assumed I was from the health department (not relevant to this story, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it – was it that I and my grey turtleneck sweater gave off a sense of purity that would clearly say I wasn’t there to do anything worldly, or was it that I gave an overall feel of a health inspector rather than a dancer? For some reason I felt slightly insulted…)

No dancers were there at the time, so I talked with the cleaning person for a few minutes, and left my business card, but I also gave a quick look around the room with the lights on. No music, just some wooden tables scattered around the room, with chairs haphazardly placed as if they themselves were in a game of freeze tag and were paused in precarious positions. A tiny stage. Floors sticky with spilled alcohol from the night before. It looked old, and cheap. Nothing fun or classy about it.

Things sure look different with the lights on.

I was thinking about how Satan can use all his trickery, making sin look so beautiful and cool and fun, and then what we are left with is the music-off, lights-on version, the real version. The one that shows the damage and the grossness and the emptiness. I have been there.

Satan sees what we are longing for, and presents us with a fraud, something that seems almost like what we are looking for, and in the dark, amid the spotlights and the loud music, you think you might have found it. But eventually the lights come on. Whatever it was that seemed like the answer is now revealed for what it truly is, and we are left with guilt and shame.

We are looking for our answers in the wrong places. We want to find fulfillment and purpose and meaning in another person, or in our job or in our money. But none of that is where it is. All of those things can only be found in God. He is where we are fulfilled, where we find our purpose, where our lives have meaning.

It’s important to keep your eyes on Him, so you aren’t tricked into searching for those things somewhere else.

In the Bible, in 2 Kings, chapter 6, starting at verse 8, the prophet Elisha is passing along messages from God, warning the King when he is about to be attacked by the Arameans. This ticks the king off royally (see what I did there? J ) and he says he is going to capture Elisha. The Arameans surrounded the city where Elisha was staying during the night. When his servant woke up in the morning and saw them all, he freaked out a little, but Elisha was completely chill. He could see what the servant could not. So He prayed to God, asking Him to let the servant see what he saw.

“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17

What was really there was an army of God, ready to protect Elisha, and Elisha wanted his servant to see it.

I have certainly been unable, and I have had people I love unable, to see things for what they are. And while the situations are kind of opposite, my prayer is the same as Elisha, I have prayed for their eyes to be opened. To see things as they really are. If only they could see what the sin will look like with the lights on, if they could see Satan as the mastermind behind it, they would run for their lives. But in the dark, fixated on what we think we need, we are tricked. Snookered. Lured in and left with emptiness.

If you have seen this firsthand, and fell for it, as most of us have, I pray that you will find healing and redemption in God. He is really good at what He does. He has done it for me.

If you have people in your life that you see headed that direction, pray hard for their eyes to be opened. The God of Elisha is still the same God today.

#2K617

Resolve Today

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Geno

 

I came into the living room where Shawn was sitting and plopped down on the couch in just enough time to see the last few exciting minutes of a women’s college basketball game during March Madness this year.

The University of Connecticut had just won the game, continuing their streak to well over 100 consecutive wins, and afterward a reporter was on hand to ask Coach Geno Auriemma the typical questions. This was one of them:

“What did your team do differently in preparing for this game in the finals?”

His answer is one I won’t forget.

“You practice every day like it’s the most important practice, and you play every game – no matter who you are playing, no matter where, no matter what time – like it’s the most important game. When the most important game comes up, you don’t have to change anything. You show up and you play the way you have the other 35 games.”

A great philosophy for basketball and a great philosophy for life.

It reminded me of Daniel.

In Daniel chapter 1, it starts off with the Israelites going through a time of correction, where God allowed them to be captured by other nations to let them realize how desperately they need Him. King Nebuchadnezzar snatched up Daniel and his friends first and sent them to his kingdom in Babylon.

There they would undergo some serious preparation – including getting their names changed, starting a new diet, learning a new language and literature, and going through three years of overall training.

The diet was something Daniel was not on board with. The food and wine they would be given went against the Jewish customs and laws given by God. And in verse 8, we see what he did.

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

Daniel resolved. Daniel “decided firmly.” Long before he ever had to face a pit of lions, or help run a kingdom, or interpret dreams and relay visions, Daniel resolved to honor God. He resolved to be obedient.

If I resolve to believe in God, then it will be easier to dismiss those times of doubt when things get prickly and I am momentarily questioning everything, because I have already decided Whom I have believed in.

If I resolve now that I will be consistent with my moments with God, through prayer and reading my Bible, I will no longer use excuses about not finding the time.

If I resolve to be obedient to God no matter what – regardless of fear or the opinions of others – I don’t have to question whether I am going to follow through with what I feel Him calling me to do.

If I resolve early on how I live and what lines I will not cross, I won’t feel pressure when the pressure is on. This can be in relationships, friendships, how I treat my body, the things I will and will not watch or look at, etc.

If I resolve to treat others with love and compassion and kindness, no matter what, I won’t have to decide my reactions when the tension is high.

Pray about it. Ask God what He wants you to resolve to do today. It will be much better to do it now, than to wait until you’re facing a pit of lions tomorrow.