As a Christian, I struggle with fear and doubt. There I said it, yes even Christians can struggle with fear and doubt. I accept that seemingly bad things happen to good people and believe that our Sovereign God can bring good out of even the worst circumstances. Yet, in the midst of trials in my life I still experience fear and doubt. I question what I did wrong, how could I have avoided these circumstances, who is to blame for my suffering, how quickly can I remedy the situation? Perhaps these exact thoughts are not what pop into my head but in some form I am trying to rationalize the situation and devise a way out.
In my previous sentences you may notice the use of the word “I” A LOT, and therein lies my struggle. In 2 Peter, we are told of several instances where God has preserved the righteous in the midst of the ungodly.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 4-9)
The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. So, while I’m sitting there stewing on what I can do to fix the problem, God’s solution had been ordained since the beginning of time. To put it more simply, God’s got my back. When temptations come, God promises to ALWAYS provide a way out of it…always, in fact the way out was there before we experienced the trouble, we just have to decide to take it.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So, why then do I respond the way that I do? I get caught in the moment and fix my eyes on the trouble I am in, not on Jesus. I get stuck in the immediate fear and pain of the trial, and instead of looking at the whole situation and what God is going to teach me through it, I allow myself to be paralyzed. Yes, I know it is hard in those moments to focus on the solution not the problem, but that is what we need to do. If we are focusing on the situation, and how we are going to fix it, we are not allowing God to work.
At the very beginning of our daughters chemotherapy treatment, we got an enormous cell phone bill (this was before there were unlimited plans). I was completely blindsided and had no idea how we were going to pay for the bill. The cell phone was our primary source of communication with family, friends, doctors, therapists, pharmacists. We literally could not do without a phone. I was so stressed with a little phone bill, it became the biggest thing in my world. I made a humongous mountain out of this molehill. This obstacle became the tipping point of my daughters health. Now looking back, it was such a small thing, but at the time it was HUGE! You will not be surprised to hear that an anonymous angel paid that phone bill. It was just the first of a long line of teaching opportunities that grew my faith, patience and trust in Jesus.
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all”
God’s way may not always be someone coming out of the woodwork to pay your bill, often it’s the simple answer that while difficult, provides a peace that passes understanding. What I would encourage each of you to do, along with myself…is to see the whole picture. Instead of asking, ‘why God’ in the midst of trials, ask ‘what are you trying to teach me’ or ‘what can I learn in this storm’. See the forest for the trees, molehills are just molehills unless you lose sight of the bigger picture. Keep your eyes focused on God and He will direct your path, keep your eyes focused on the problem and the problem will direct your path.
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Over the past few weeks I have been joining a group of friends praying for one of their relatives. A young woman, who through extenuating circumstances was in an unrecoverable state, comatose, on life support and declared brain dead. I joined the saints praying for her, for her family and preparing for the inevitable. Although I did not know her personally, I do know her family, and having been in a similar situation where I had to make the decision for my own daughter, felt deeply for everyone involved.
While we prayed, my heart prepared for what I believed would happen, what I think everyone believed would happen. She was taken off of life support, and while her family stood by, waiting for the end, she opened her eyes. Yes, she started breathing on her own and began to speak. As her family prayed God moved.
Yes it would be easy to attribute this ‘miracle’ to medical means. Perhaps she wasn’t really brain dead, perhaps she was about to come out of the coma herself, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I am not a medical professional, I am believer that miracles happen every day; in big and small ways. As I was contemplating what had just occurred and watched the tears, the emails and the text messages fly, I had one question in my heart…why?
Why was this woman worthy of miraculous intervention and my own innocent 13-year old daughter, not? Why did I have to sit and listen to her heart slowly stop beating when taken off life support and not her voice saying “mom I love you”? In the midst of my emotional struggle I remembered something very important.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
First, as my creator, God does not owe me an explanation. Second, I can’t begin to understand all that is the universe and the plans that He has made for each of us. Plans He made long before each of us was born, plans to grow and perfect us, plans to bring us closer to Him and to bring Him glory.
I remember, years ago after Alex had passed, when we were going through the process to be licensed as foster parents. It was a rigorous process (as it should be) and one night after our class, I prayed. I asked God that whatever His plan was for our family that He would make it so out of our comfort zone that we would know it was His will. Never in a million years would Chris or I have imagined we would, in just two short years, adopt not one but three children.
Our daughter Alex had serious health issues, outside of her liver transplant there was significant cognitive challenges brought about through years of progressive brain damage. She would have lived with us for the rest of our lives, which we knew and embraced. However, we would probably never have considered adding to our family by adopting. Would I chose them over her, or her over them…no, I could never make that decision. His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways not my ways. He can see the whole picture from the beginning of time through to the end. He can design that which I cannot begin to comprehend.
He doesn’t owe me an explanation, because chances are I wouldn’t understand it any way. And you know what, I’m OK with that. The God and creator of the whole universe has my best interest at heart. He wants only the best for me, as attested in scripture by his promises and experienced in my every day life.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11
Time after time God has shown His love for me; He provides, saves, redeems and restores. Jesus forgives, defends, and heals. I have never been given occasion to doubt or question, although I still do, usually when I don’t get my way.
If you have ever struggled with the question of why; why me or why not me, don’t despair. This is a question we all meet at some point. The answer is both easy and terribly hard. We don’t need to know why, we need to trust that God, the creator and designer of everything has a plan, and nothing, nothing can keep Gods plans from being fulfilled.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:10-13
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“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
God is not relative, He is and always has been relevant; yesterday, today and tomorrow. We don’t have to guess about which scriptures are true, which are relevant for today, which ones are for ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. The God we serve is bigger than our speculation, doubt and fear. He is absolutely, absolute.
Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
John 4:14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
I could go on and on but, I don’t think that I need to. God is who He says He is, He will keep the promises He makes, and will do the things He says He will.
I’ve been noticing with myself and my children that absolutes are something we throw out all the time. “I always tell the truth”, “I would never do that”, “I am faultless”, “the situation is ideal”, “It’s perfect” and of course my favorite from my children, “I need that!”
One day I was talking with my oldest son, I believe that he was 10 at the time and he told me he needed for me to buy him something; at that age it was more than likely Legos. Having heard him inform me more than once over the years of something he ‘needed’, I asked him to look up the meaning of the word. This is what he read, “to require something that is essential or something one must have to survive.” He looked at me with his sweet face and very quietly said, “I would like to have them mom?” From that point on, anytime one of his siblings requested that I purchase them something they ‘needed’, Nik would look them in the face and ask, “are you going to die if you don’t get it?” Hysterically enough, often the answer was yes, but again, story for another time, you get the picture.
Absolutes in our world have become so commonplace that they have lost their meaning. They have lost their meaning so much we feel compelled to add words to the absolutes to be more emphatic; “I promise to never ever do that again”, “I swear I will always do that from now on”, “I swear there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you”. It’s as if our word no longer holds any weight. So, then it doesn’t surprise me that in a world where absolutes mean absolutely nothing we have the same doubts of God. If our word doesn’t mean what it should and the word of the people around us doesn’t mean what it should, and we were created in God’s image then does His word mean anything?
James 5:12 “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”
Absolutes exist for a reason, they don’t need embellishment to convince us. God didn’t use fancy words to convince us what He said was true. He just did it, his actions are enough; He upholds every promise and follows through on every utterance; you don’t have to guess with God, you can take Him at His word.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I challenge you for one day to listen to the words that come out of your mouth. What are you saying to your family, and friends, to your peers and co-workers; how often do you use absolutes in situations where it is unnecessary? How often do you say the words always, never, promise, swear; are you doing it because you think the people you’re speaking with don’t believe you… or are you saying it because you don’t believe you?
In either case, perhaps we need to take our lead from the Psalms, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”. Psalm 19:14
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It was just a normal day…well as normal as can be in our house, which is chaotic on the best of days. Chris went out to check the mail and there was an envelope for us, one we’d been waiting for. Addressed to the both of us from the State of Arizona. Quickly we opened it up and found two birth certificates.
We had started the process two years earlier to pursue adoption. We had a biological son but wanted more children and felt that adoption was where we were called. It was long, at times heart wrenching and required more than a few tears. After two years and a long list of disappointments, we were blessed to have not one but two children placed in our care for foster to adoption.
As I held their new birth certificates in my hand, reading over each detail like it was Willy-Wonka’s Golden Ticket… it struck me. They were mine, I mean really mine. Not just because some judge told us so, they were mine because my heart told me so. Standing in the kitchen with my husband holding these pieces of paper, and yes I was crying, they were mine.
The birth certificates were the legal documents that stated a fact that we had known for some weeks (takes time for the paperwork to come through) these two babies belonged to us. The documents, we held in our hands stated quite clearly that we were the parents of these children. Eerily enough, they looked exactly like our biological son’s birth certificate. I kept trying to find the seal or asterisk that showed we were only ‘adoptive’ parents…it was no where to be found. It was the exact same birth certificate that would be given to biological parents who had given birth to a baby…yup they were ours, (should have been saying ours from the beginning, sorry babe).
I would have never thought when we started the adoption process that we would have been so doubly blessed. Now to really throw you off, one year after their adoption was complete, we adopted one more. Making our family complete with two boys and two girls at home. But that is another story. I want to talk about those birth certificates…
When we adopted our children we made a legal agreement that they were as much ours as if we had given birth to them. We were responsible for them in all things, this was a conscious decision we made…a commitment to them for their entire lives. Equal to our biological son in all legal rights as heirs to their name and our family.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:14-17
I heard someone say once that adopting a child is the closest example here on earth of our relationship with God. He chose us long before we knew ourselves, to be His children. With all our faults, flaws and sins. He saw past all of that to what we were intended to be…from the very beginning…His.
Like my children; from their tiny fingers and their chubby cheeks and their temper tantrums and their arguments, missing homework, lost toys, nightmares, fevers and everything that goes along with it. I am mom and Chris is dad. We see past their pasts, through their mistakes and around their choices to who they are, our beloved children.
Reading the above scripture, the Holy Spirit is our birth certificate, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Can you imagine a better testament to our lineage? The Holy Spirit Himself testifies to the world who we are, sons and daughters of the King of Kings.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Our adoption as children of God is so complete that we are co-heirs with Christ. I’m not sure about you, but having Christ as a big brother can seem a bit daunting. Talk about big shoes to fill. However, I also know that He will never leave me or forsake me. He will guide me, lead me, carry me, fight alongside me and never let me fall. The Psalms are full of those promises.
Our adoption into God’s family is so complete that there is nothing that can separate us from Him. Why then aren’t we shouting from the rooftops for everyone to join us? I love the song by Audio Adrenaline Big Big House. It was my oldest daughters favorite and she would belt it out! She loved hearing about the table with room for everyone and that the house had lots and lots of rooms, a big backyard where we can play football.
Our table is not yet full; I think it’s time for all of us to consider who we can bring into the family.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
Yes I just asked you what is inside your Tupperware. Spoiler alert, I am old enough to still own some of the old 1970’s green and gold classic Tupperware, photo shown left. Although I am not old enough to have bought it myself.
I still remember being asked by my mom, “Betsy, what is in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?”
The only way to find out…the only way, was to pull it out, open it and see.
Yup, you guessed it, if I was lucky it was a few days old left overs. No big deal, dump in the trash, no harm done. However, I’m thinking more about the container that’s been in there since, well who knows how long. Everyone in the family keeps hoping that someone else will deal with it so they won’t have to. Days have gone by, weeks, dare I say a month. There is now a serious science project growing, a 20th century bio-hazard to say the worst.
Everyone gets into the fridge, everyone sees that container, we push it aside to get what we’re looking for. We move it from the top shelf to the middle to the back, hoping it will miraculously not be there the next time we go searching. Then it happens… “Betsy, what’s in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?” Oh no, not me, why is it always me?
You walk to the fridge and slowly move some things around, praying miraculously that it won’t be there. Maybe Dad already took it out and dealt with it? Maybe the boys got tired of seeing it and just threw the whole thing in the trash…yea, they’d totally do something like that. Then, you see it, still there, carefully hidden in the back, starring at you. Nope it wasn’t dealt with, now it’s up to you.
How often have we had this conversation with ourselves? How about with God? We know it’s there, the green Tupperware container. It’s hidden in the way back of the fridge. We see it but we just continue to move it around from shelf to shelf. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow, I don’t have time to take care of that today, it’s just going to make a mess and I have things to do…places to go…people to see.” We come up with so many reasons not to deal with it, all the while we’re hoping that one day we’ll open the fridge and the green Tupperware will be gone. Not just gone but emptied, cleaned, put through the dishwasher and sitting on the counter just waiting for us to use it again…it could happen…right?
Here’s the funny thing about green Tupperware, you can’t see through it like a Ziploc bag or a clear plastic container. It’s not a glass jar or plate with Saran wrap. It’s full of toxic sludge that has been there for so long, longer than we’d care to admit, however no one would ever know. There are day’s it’s hidden so far in the back of the fridge, we forget it’s there. When our friends come over all they see is a clean fridge that has some Tupperware in it. Probably last night’s dinner or leftovers from the lunch you had a few days ago. They’d never know what’s really inside.
Green Tupperware can hide a multitude of sins…and no I’m not using that word flippantly. We can often hide it in the deep recesses of who we are, keeping the sludge from being seen by our friends, co-workers, family. The funny thing is, God can see it. He wants to help us deal with it. He wants to take that container of sludge, empty it into the trash, put the Tupperware (yup that’s us) through a holy dishwasher and make us clean. That is the only way He can fill us up with all that He has in store for us. If we’re full of sin, we can’t be full of Him.
My pastor often quotes Jeremiah 29:11, it has become one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord”, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God doesn’t want you to remain full of the old ‘stuff’ that you carry around inside. He is passionate about you and your life and your happiness. He doesn’t want to condemn, embarrass or humiliate you, He wants to clean you out and set you free.
Next time He asks you what’s in the Tupperware, ask Him to help you open it, you might be surprised by what happens.
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It’s starts as a normal request, “please go brush your teeth.” Then a few minutes later, “Did you brush your teeth?” After a wee bit longer, “how many times do I have to ask, go brush your teeth.” Before too long it is more of a declaration of war than a simple request.
Finally they emerge from the bathroom and you take a deep satisfying breath. Then when you go to give them a kiss before they leave the house…the truth is revealed! WOW, they never brushed their teeth, they wet the brush, smeared toothpaste on it and everything…with the amount of time they spent making it look like they did the job, they could have actually done the job! What the heck!
This is not an uncommon occurrence with our children, we fight the important battles with them, and for each child it can be different; the rest we chalk up to acceptable losses. There is one arena however that this kind of behavior is way more detrimental…in the workplace.
Do you have an employee, co-worker or even supervisor who seems to be always busy but rarely seems to produce results? Are they constantly saying, “yes I’ll do that right away“, “I‘ll get right on that“, “as soon as I get back to the office I’ll take care of it“, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted ME to do that“, and yet whenever you ask again, because it hasn’t been done, you get the same responses?
As an individual occurrence, this can happen. We are living and working in a world that moves so fast, things can and do fall off our radar. However if this is habitual it can be an indicator of root causes that need to be addressed.
Our children are…well children. They forget, they’d rather play, they don’t understand the consequences of their inaction. That is why we as parents much teach them and hold them accountable and give them boundaries to help them safely navigate their world. We don’t give up on getting them to brush their teeth, cause it’s just too hard. Trust me a 7 year old needing a root canal is much harder, and yes that did happen to my son. He was VERY good at finding ways to not brush his teeth, but he is much better now.
As a manager/supervisor/leader the lines aren’t always as clear. We have to show the way, teach the way, then get out of the way. After that, we have to take the time to inspect what we expect and hold them accountable. What does that mean exactly? That’s not always so black and white.
When I hold a meeting, it’s always a working meeting. If there is a meeting to schedule, a follow up email to be sent, a phone call to be made…I make it right then and there. When one of my team comes to me and asks me to make a call or send a note, I do with them in my office watching and listening. They see my actions, I show them how to do it, they see my results. When I delegate a task to someone on my team, I set the expectation for when it should be done and that I will follow up. I don’t micromanage them asking every 2 hours if it’s been done. I follow up on the results; “I know you were reaching out to Joe yesterday, how did the call go and when is our follow up meeting?”
As each member of the team finds their rhythm, I follow up less, getting out of their way allowing them the autonomy to make great things happen. Some don’t find that rhythm, and my follow-up does become micromanagement, like harping on my children to get their teeth brushed. If you find that going to work is like dealing with your children at home, then you have some work to do. You either need to set the appropriate expectations, show them the way, so you can get out of the way or start sending people to timeout.
If you have some of these challenges, I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.