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Being Still

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Being Still

The other day I wrote about the dragons that we all fight as we battle through life. In Exodus 3, God had a beautiful land waiting for the Israelites but they would have to fight their way through a desert to get there. We all have choices to make every day, battles of temptation to overcome every day. I’ve often said that being a Christian is not for the proverbial timid church mouse. Today I am reading in Exodus 14 and came across this verse:

The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still. Exodus 14:14

I think of all the times in the Bible that men like David and Joshua and countless others led the Israelite army into battle and realize that there are just as many times that they are told to “be still” and let God do his thing. So I wonder how do you know when to step up and fight and when do you need to “be still”.

Just today a friend was telling me that several times in devotionals ever the last two days, she had read verses that emphasized the need to be still. She felt that it meant her need to stop the hectic pace of her daily life and just rest in Christ. This is how I have always viewed verses about being still and it’s a very important practice that should be the foundation of your daily prayer life. But reading this verse in the middle of the very active story of the Israelites flight from Egypt, the whole idea of “being still” seems a bit out of place.

Then I realized something that has been nibbling at the edges of my thoughts as I read these passages about Moses in Exodus. There were times when Moses was called to do battle with Pharoah and there were times when he was told to lay low.

“Stretch out your arm”,

“Stretch out your staff”,

“Stand before Pharoah and say…”

These are all the things that Moses had to do before God would “lay bare His holy arm, in the sight of all the nations, and the end of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10). Moses had to make a choice each day about whether he would obey God. God sent plagues, pillars of fire and parted a whole sea but always allowed Moses to make his own choice first.

I’ve come to think that the dragons that we face in daily battle are the choices we must make in response to the temptations that we do battle with. Every day, in multiple ways, we are faced with the choice of whether or not we will follow God. As we slay each dragon another may rise up and we will fight again and again. What we need to keep in mind is that as difficult and dangerous as our individual battles may be, Jesus has already fought the biggest battle of all. The cross is the place where He won, and where we should be still. We have nothing to prove, there is nothing more to do and we can rest in assurance that Christ has prepared everything for us. That battle has been fought, swords have clashed and He has won. In that, I can be still.

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Be still before the LORD, all mankind… Zechariah2:13

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Fighting Dragons

dragon drawingThe Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey- the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”

Exodus 3:8

The Israelites were in trouble. They were being held in slavery because the Egyptians were afraid of them. God, who is always merciful, hears and responds to their pleas for help. This story is often used as one of encouragement. I, too, have thought of the the story of the Exodus and felt renewed hope for a personal struggle. But we usually only read the first part. We stop reading right after God promises to rescue His people. And why not? That’s the good part. That’s the part where we can draw reassurance from. But it’s not the end of the verse. God promises to lead them to a wonderful land “flowing with milk and honey”. Notice that God doesn’t just promise the necessities, like bread and water. He’s offering luxuries to a desperate people. But there’s a problem. Because this land is a fertile area, others have settled there during the Israelites absence. And those people may not be willing to step aside and let these ex-slaves take over prime real estate. Israel will be leaving one brutal exsistence only to step into a time of violent war to secure what God has promised them. Doesn’t sound like God is doing much “rescuing” here. In fact, it sounds downright cruel, but that’s only because we don’t understand the larger picture. Reading the story now from the comfort of my couch, I can reread parts or skip ahead and only then can I see God’s hand throughout this. God does have a purpose for everything He does and can draw something positive out of everything that He puts us through.

Let’s take a closer look at the story. Why were they in Egypt anyway? Weren’t they supposed to stay in the land the God had promised to Abraham? If you recall, they left during a time of famine to find food. At this point in their history, we see the sons of Jacob intermarrying with the Canaanites and the family is in danger of losing their relationship with God as they interact with other cultures. The exile into Egypt actually forces them to depend on God as never before. When they return to Canaan, after years of slavery and another 40 years wandering the desert, they now know exactly where their strength and safety come from. They have been transformed from a ragtag family group to an army of faith-filled warriors. They will still make mistakes and unwise choices but they have learned to depend of God.

That has been a great lesson for me. Sometimes when I find myself in a bad situation, I have to remind myself that God is still there. He is still protecting me and most likely has a lesson for me so I better start paying attention. The problem for me is that I tend to equate God’s rescue with putting me in a place of safety and are then disappointed when I find that I still have problems to face and dragons to fight. I’ve come to realize that God does not keep trouble from happening. Trouble is what living in a fallen world is all about. God will help us, strengthen us and even rescue us from those dragons. He may also send us right back out there to fight a new dragonfiery dragon. This is where I get confused and cry out, “Lord, why me?” Sound familiar? It’s hard to remember that whatever comes at us is always either from His hands or at least, allowed by His hand, perhaps a consequence from your own actions. The trick is to learn to trust that hand. Even when we aren’t allowed to see down the road to prepare for those dragons that await us – trust that God’s hands are holding you, protecting you, guiding you through it. Whether you are able to enjoy the ride or are just clinging to the hem of His robe (been there!) – hang on! Sometimes He will take us out of one unhealthy situation only to face another one, but we are safe with Him. Maybe it’s just that He defines “safe” differently than we do.

dragon-1And keep in mind that dragons are just imaginary creatures – God is very real!


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It snowed a bit today

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When I heard the predictions of the expected blizzard conditions, I took this picture of my little penguin spinner before the snow started.

 

Here he is today during the storm.

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I think he’s given up, the poor little thing. just buried under all the snow. Even his arms P1010785are stuck. Ever feel like that? You try so hard but at some point you have to realize that you are just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. As problems mount up and your wheels can’t even spin anymore, that’s when you are close to giving up. But hang on. When the sun returns and the snow starts to melt, my little penguin’s arms will start spinning again. I think you are only truly stuck when you give up hope. As I sit here with a heating pad on my aching back and know that there will still be more shoveling out to do tomorrow, I hope for the sunshine to melt some of those 30 plus inches that fell today. I think of spring promises and I hope. I still hope.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

 


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A Day Off

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I’m enjoying having a day off on Martin Luther King Jr. day. As I eat lunch I am watching a documentary about this man and his amazing vision for our country’s future. A commercial comes on and I really don’t care how nice my laundry can smell so I direct my attention out the window at the bird feeders in my backyard.

 

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There hasn’t been much activity there this winter due to warmer than normal temps but we had some snow yesterday and the thermometer has been dropping.

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Here they come! It’s hard to get a decent shot from my kitchen window but I’m seeing sparrows, finches, juncos and one big fat mourning dove peacefully mingling together to share a meal. There were some cardinals, nuthatches and wrens but I think they are camera shy, or I don’t have to patience to wait for them to pose, more likely.

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They seem to get MLK Jr’s message but we are still confused about it. Sad. Things have changed but much is still the same.

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My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.”

John  15:12

Think Peace, Live love.


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It’s been a weird winter

birds and snowmanI’m not getting as many birds at my feeders this winter because of this unseasonably warm weather. I miss my little friends although I am sure that they are enjoying not having to battle the elements this year. Still I saw this picture and couldn’t help but think that it would be fun to build a snowman and place some birdseed on his head.

Not that I am complaining, but a warm winter is just weird unless you live in Florida (or other parts south). I love not having to shovel. I don’t even know where the snow shovels are hidden in that cavernous garage. I love not needing extra time to heat up the car and scrape the windshield each morning. I love not having to worry about how my kids at their respective colleges are dealing with the cold and ice. And I am really rocking the low heating bills!

Still, I find it a bit unnerving when I see a cherry tree in full bloom in December. My gardens are still tinged with green and I have found occasional blossoms here and there. It makes me wander what this spring will look like. The seasons seem to be a bit mixed up. El Nino weather patterns have taken over the Northeast this year and I am enjoying wearing sweatshirts rather than full winter gear outdoors. Today’s weather report calls for the first real snow of the season but it should be just a coating to an inch. We won’t even have to shovel. I’m going to be soooo spoiled!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

 

 


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Remember the Tree

Bear with me if you will, for one more Christmas post that has nothing to do with Christmas but is something that hits me each year when we take down our tree.

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We get the best trees each year from our local firehouse. It started because we wanted to support our wonderful volunteer firemen in their annual fundraiser. The fact that the trees are always so healthy and full is an added bonus. This year’s tree was gorgeous. It had to be over six feet as it brushed against the ceiling. It dropped surprisingly few needles and sucked up tons of water. We loved it – the way it looked, the way it smelled, the whole Christmas-y thing!

But, inevitably, you hit that day when you are tired of walking around it, vacuuming around it and sneezing around it and you know that you and the tree are ready to part ways. Very carefully, you remove each ornament. They must be rewrapped and repacked back into their boxes. Fragile glass ones that were gifts, sweet ones that your children made for you, the “baby’s first Christmas” and “our first Christmas together” Hallmark ones that bring back so many memories. Then the final last step – the indignity of hauling that bad boy out to the roadside for mulch pick up. My hubby and son dragged it out to the edge of our property and we stepped back to have a last look. That once regal tree now looked so impossibly small and sad.

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It got so small for two reasons.:

  1. It’s been stripped of all it’s finery. No decorations or twinkling lights are left to adorn it’s branches. It looks sort of like the way I do in the morning before any makeup has been applied.
  2. It’s in the wrong place and in the wrong position. A Christmas tree is supposed to have a place of honor in your home, in front of the living room window or in a corner where everyone can see it. We struggle to make sure that tree is standing straight and tall. We will even trim it’s trunk and top to ensure a perfect fit.

Here’s the thing about Christmas trees. They give the whole family an excuse to come together over hot chocolate and Christmas carols and that is good. They hold our memories from past years and hopes for future ones amidst their branches in the form of cheesy and beautiful ornaments and that is good. They represent the best of a holiday season when everyone takes a moment, just a stolen moment here and there, to stop and reflect and that is great. But it’s just one season in the lifespan of the tree.

Looking at that sad, little tree out by the curb, I realize that it has only shared a small portion of it’s life with us. I wish I could have seen it growing in the fields of it’s youth. Even now, though it has been cut down in it’s prime, it still has important purpose. After the family celebrations are over, it will return as mulch for spring gardens. It’s not done yet and neither am I. Even though I have gained a few pounds over the season and had to drag myself back to work, I am still standing tall with a twinkle in my tired eyes. Why? Because I remember that the outside is only and always a temporary season.

Charm is deceptive and beauty if fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

While I can have fun choosing just the right sweater to go with those jeans and carefully apply that mascara and eyeliner, I remember the tree and how majestic he looks even in his humble, unadorned state.

That tree is was and still is beautiful. So are you. Christmas is done for another year but you are not.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord lookimages (2)s at the heart.

2 Samuel 16:7


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It’s a New Year!

 

New Year

There are three things that happen at this time every year. We all look back, we all look forward and we think about resolutions. We don’t all make New Year’s Resolutions but you have to admit that we all think of what we could be doing better or what needs to be cut out of our lives. My yearly goals are usually the same ones each year: 1) lose weight, get physically healthy and 2) read God’s Word regularly and get spiritually healthy. Pretty common and ordinary goals. This is what I need – physical and spiritual daily bread. I don’t need to learn to speak Russian or run a marathon. Just daily nourishment for body and soul. Shouldn’t be too hard, yet I will fail at this repeatedly Then I will pick myself up and get back to work in a never-ending cycle. Sound depressing and futile? Then you are not listening closely enough for the victory is in the daily battle itself. Failure only makes any success sweeter. Forgetfulness allows me to lose myself in memories of better days and inspires me to work harder in the present day. I do not worry about what went wrong. Rather, I will use those missteps as lessons to learn from. Admittedly, I wish some of those lessons had not been so costly, but it is what it is.

New Year, new lessons.

New Year, new mistakes.

New Year, new mercies for those mistakes.

New Year, new minutes to spend with the One who gives me each minute.

So here we go again. For good, for bad, for all the marbles, I will strive to do better, learn from my inevitable screw-ups, always finding a place at my Savior’s feet where love never ends.

I wrote these words a long time ago as part of a larger piece. I found myself humming these words today as I thought about Christ and all that He put up with from me in the past year:

And only when I turn my eyes to the beauty of your face

Do I find compassion there,

Mixed with the radiance of grace.

You who leads the stars

In a perfect dance of time,

I love that you still applaud

These clumsy steps of mine.

Just love that you still applaud

These clumsy steps of mine.

dance