Questioning Faith in God

Am I the only one that has read the beginning of the Christmas story in Luke and wondered why Zechariah was treated so unfairly? Why was his mouth closed up when he questioned the birth of John the Baptist and Mary’s was not when she asked about Jesus’ conception? I’ve wondered many times why Mary’s response was okay and Zechariah’s was not.

Since I often have difficulty saying things that I regret later I finally asked God why? What is the difference here? Why was the question Zechariah asked not okay and Mary’s was? Both of them are asking valid questions because both of them didn’t understand how the birth of John the Baptist or Jesus would be possible. So, what is the difference? Why was one’s mouth closed up and the other’s was not?

Is God just a militant leader that expects a salute and a “yes sir” or else? Thankfully He is not, which was made very clear in the angel’s response to Mary’s question. The difference is in how it is said and the underlying belief behind it. Zechariah says, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (Luke 1:18) When he says “how can I be sure” we know that he does not believe and wants proof. Mary says, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34) Mary is an intelligent woman and she is just wondering how it will occur (which God is okay with by the way, He loves our questions!). She is satisfied with the response and believes. Zechariah does not believe, he wants proof before he will believe. Unfortunately for him he did get his miraculous sign when he was unable to speak!

After the birth of John the baptist when Zechariah was asked what the baby’s name should be “He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.” (Luke 1:63-64) . When Zechariah fell in line with God’s plan he was set free from his bondage.  When he finally put down his stubborn unbelief and had faith he was able to enjoy God’s blessing on his life. Not only that, so were all of his neighbors and God’s glory was spread throughout the region!

Elizabeth (John the Baptists mother) said to Mary when she greets her for the first time during both of their pregnancies, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:45) . The Lord truly wants to bless us and it is our unbelief that is holding us back.

I will admit I struggle with this a lot in my own life. Mostly in areas concerning my own free will. Areas like saying things I regret, acting unkindly and just not being a good representation of Christ in all of my actions. So, when I ask Him for help with this and other areas I struggle in (like compulsive overeating) I cry out the prayer of the father who’s daughter is dying “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). God wants us to believe so that He is able to help us in our area of need. He is okay with questions and with us admitting our need for more faith. We don’t need to to fear that He will shut up our mouths if we do something he doesn’t like. He understands our hearts and underlying motives. As long as we come to Him with an open heart, He will help us. We need only the faith of a mustard see and He will move mountains!

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

God's Strength for Us

“Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.” Psalm 105:4

It is okay, in fact it is right that we continually need to seek Him for strength to do the right thing. He wants us to search for and seek Him. I get so frustrated with myself for failing over and over again. For continually needing to ask for forgiveness for doing the same thing over and over again. He tells us to continually seek Him & His strength. He knows that we are sinners and wants us to come to Him yet again. As we mature, what we keep coming to Him for will change, but we will always need to continually come to Him.

Loving Above Sacrifice

What is the most important commandment? Jesus tells us in the gospels when he is questioned by teachers of religious law. “Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.’” (Mark 12:29-31)

Then one of the teachers responds to Jesus and says, “‘And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.’” (Mark 12:33) Which Jesus affirms as correct in the next verse.

What does this mean about love? It means that loving is more important than anything we do. It is more important than tithing, or giving to the poor, or being a part of a ministry at church. It is more important than keeping a clean house, eating right, having a good job or a successful business. All of these things should be a result of loving God. Giving and ministry will spill over as we are loving others because of His love for us. It will also spill over into right actions. Good choices and right living are impossible without the love of God. It is critical that we accept His love for us or we will be unable to share His love or do the good works He has created us to do.

He Cares For Me (and You!)

I had a doctors appointment in Mobile, which is about a 50 minute drive for us. Since the stroke driving has been more difficult. I have noticed my reaction times are not as quick as they used to be. Changing the radio station or doing anything else that takes my complete concentration off of the road would send me swerving. It has been steadily getting better though and I’ve been slowly increasing my driving distances. I have already driven as far as another town that is about 35 minutes away.

My appointment was in the afternoon and my husband Micah had been missing a lot of work because of my doctors appointments. I told him my driving was improving and I would be able to drive myself this time. There was a possibility of rain the next day and he agreed to it as long as the weather was clear. When we woke up in the morning the forecast showed a 30% chance of rain during that time. He left for work and I was feeling anxious about the drive and my health. I asked God to let Micah know if he needed to drive me. Later that morning he called me from work to tell me he was driving me to the appointment.

On the way over the weather was fine. I was feeling a little silly being chauffeured unnecessarily by my husband. He told me as we were driving that he had a dream the night before that I was driving in the rain and I was lost and couldn’t get home. He woke up knowing that he was supposed to drive me.

On the way home from the appointment it started pouring down rain by the time we reached the interstate. The interstate was stressful for me even before the stroke on a clear day. If you have been to the south, or live in the south, you know that when it pours rain it looks like a waterfall coming down on your windshield. The fastest windshield wipers in the world can’t keep the water off. Visibility is usually just the tail lights of the car in front of you, depending on how close or far away you are.

My prayers the last two mornings were asking God to take care of me. I had been struggling with really trusting God. I know He is in control, but honestly I have been terrified about when He will say its my time to die. This is ultimately in HIs control, not mine and I know that learning to trust His will is truly the best, even if it is the time for our last breath.

When I realized that the prayer I said in the morning about the drive had already been answered by God in a dream during the night, I was filled with such a feeling of peace and love. It was such a confirmation that God was watching out for me. He knows what will happen and He has it all in His hands. He answered my prayer before I even prayed it because He knows all things. He also filled me with the awareness of how much Micah loves me. I am so thankful for his love and to God who gave him to me (how we met is a story for another day).

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he call us his children, and that is what we are…” 1 John 3:1a

Until He chooses to take me home, I will praise Him. I will praise Him and trust that He knows best when my life is to end. Until that time I will keep on praising Him! I will praise him for my life, my family, His wonderful love and so much more! He is so good! He will watch over me and keep me. I have nothing to fear. If I hold on to my life I will loose it and if I loose it I gain it. (Mt 16:25)

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!” Psalm 104:33

What God Has Given

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I know I have fallen into the comparison trap a lot.  It can affect so many areas of our lives. Not only how we see ourselves but what we are doing with what we have been given.  It’s so easy for us to look at how God has blessed others and tell ourselves that we would be giving or doing more if only we have what they have.  We may tell ourselves that if I had more time like she has I would be able to work at the church or food pantry. Or if I had more money like he has I would be able to give to those in need.  The truth is we all have something and from that something we can give.

In the parable of the servants we read about a master entrusting money with three servants while he was on a long trip,  “He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.”  In our own lives we can’t control what God gives us, be it five bags, two bags, or even one bag.  We can control what we do with it.

When the master returned home from his trip, he was just as happy with the servant with two bags as he was with the servant with the five.  He had the same response to both:  “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Mt 25:21, Mt 25:23). 

He was unhappy with the servant he had given one bag because of his lack of effort, “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’” (Mt 25:26-27).  He was unhappy that he had done nothing besides bury what he had been given.  It was never about the amount, it was about the effort. 

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” Mt 25:29

It says to those who use well what they are given. God is a just God. He isn’t making a grand total up in heaven of all the dollars spent and hours given, He is looking at our effort.  Let’s not be limited by our age, abilities, time, wealth, or anything else we might see as less than.  God is looking at our hearts and He delights in helping us in our weakness.  He can help us in these areas if we ask Him.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil 2:13)

So if we are limiting ourselves in any way, God wants to help and WILL help.  If we confess our sins in this area and ask for His help, he will be faithful to answer.  This is my prayer today and everyday, to be faithful with the many blessings He has given me, especially my life and family.

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Thankful for Messy

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Without oxen a stable stays clean,
but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (Prov 14:4)

When things get messy, change starts happening! My husband told me during those days in the hospital, when I was recovering after the stroke that he knew that everything was going to change.  His words have stayed with me because that has been my prayer, that things WOULD change.

Things sure did get messy! I found myself unable to walk without assistance and having difficulty with simple tasks that came so easily before.  Even getting dressed and taking a shower was difficult.  Words did not come as easily to my mind as they had in the past.  Typing and writing took a lot more time.  Dizziness was my companion for weeks.

New, previously unknown health issues have cropped up in addition to the high blood pressure.  I have a brain aneurysm that they found on the MRI after the stroke.  I also have a heart condition that was found with the heart monitor that was put in after the stroke.  Though I am happy they were discovered, they have both struck new chords of anxiety that I struggle at times to deal with.

Moses said in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom”.  Sometimes I feel like the was slapped in the face with the realization of how short and fragile our lives are and it can at times be almost overwhelming to think about.  But, the second part of this verse says, “so that we may grow in wisdom.”  This is my prayer, that I will grow from this and I will be instrumental in a harvest, just like the ox in the now dirty stable.

I am so thankful for God’s healing and grace.  For His patience with me as I drag my feet into the tasks He has called me to do. He has given me the chance to see life with new brevity of life lenses.  I’m so thankful for His love and protection.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

I am so thankful that He has already been with me in trouble.  I pray that He will reward me with a long life.  My prayer this is Thanksgiving day is that I will truly love the Lord and honor Him with every aspect of my life.  I can’t do that without His help and thankfully His word says, “…It pleases you to make us strong” (Ps 8:17b).

Teenagers No More

“But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. (Psalm 81:11-12)

This sounds like pretty much everyone in today’s world doesn’t it?  But, how often do we live our lives like that? Maybe not the whole of our life, but our daily lives we spend living according to our own ideas.  We are living like teenagers who don’t want to be bothered by our parents.  If we can move past that stage of rebellion, we can grow into mature individuals.

We all remember how bothered we were by our parents as teens.  How much we may have wanted out of their house to be free to do whatever we wanted.  We didn’t care if they had the best intentions for us and that they wanted us to grow and mature into healthy, happy adults.  They wanted good for us, not to harm us, but we could only see what we wanted.

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13)

If our parents, in their imperfect sinful state, were trying to do their best for us.  How much more our Father God who is perfect and loves us more than we can imagine.  He says in Jeremiah 29:11, “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.”

Though we all might not come from the best family situations, our Father God’s love is not like that.  He loves us perfectly and has a great love for you.  Sometimes it is hard to separate how we think God feels about us from how our parents treated us, but it is not the same.  He loves you more than you can imagine.  “…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Eph 3:18)”

So now we can, by God’s grace, stop living like teenagers.  We can move forward in our growth with Him and His plans for our lives.  He wants us to open our mouths wide so he can fill it with good things, but we cannot do that if we are stubbornly demanding our own way all of the time.

For it was I, the Lord your God,
    who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things. (Psalm 81:10)

Bragging About Tomorrow

In 2 Kings chapter 20, King Hezekiah of Judah becomes sick and receives a word from the Lord that he will not recover and soon die.  Hezekiah responds by praying and weeping before the Lord.  He reminds the Lord of his love for Him and all he has done.  God decides to extend his life by 15 years.

At the same time that this was happening, the neighboring King of Babylon hears of his illness and comes bearing gifts.  When he arrives Hezekiah had just recovered and he shows the King of Babylon the contents his storehouses and his armory. He is essentially bragging and showing off all his wealthy treasures.  As a result of this bragging, he received another word from the Lord that in time the Babylonians will carry off everything he just bragged about.  Including some of his own family that will be forced to serve the king of Babylon as Eunuchs.

I’ve talked before about the stroke I had in September.  The fear I felt waiting for the ambulance to arrive after we made the call to 911.  The sadness I felt for my children at the possibility of loosing their mother.  I cried out to God, asking Him to heal me and prayed that I would be okay. He heard those prayers and kept me here.  Not only did He keep me here, He healed me from the stroke.  I am fully recovered with very minimal stroke effects remaining.  Stroke effects can be life long and I am so happy that I no longer struggle to speak, or walk, or feel constant dizziness.  Tasks that were hard after the stroke have become easy again because of His rapid healing of my body.

This passage about Hezekiah strikes some fear in my heart.  Immediately after his recovery, Hezekiah who had been a very faithful man of God and brought a lot of reform to Judah, was bragging about his wealth.  I fear that I will respond in some similar way and not use the days He has given me.  I do not want my days, which are numbered, to be ineffective for His kingdom.  All of our days are numbered whether we realize it or not.  We may not be like Hezekiah who knew exactly how many years he had left.  You may not be like me, who realized after a health scare that your days are numbered.  Yet, they are in fact numbered, all of our days are numbered.

Come now, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your proud intentions. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-15)

God shows us very clearly that all of our days are numbered and we should not assume that we will have a tomorrow.  In fact, He considers assuming that to be just a prideful as Hezekiah’s bragging about his wealth.  He says, “As it is, you boast in your proud intentions. All such boasting is evil”(v. 15).  All of those things we plan to accomplish today or tomorrow without even considering the Lord’s agenda is wrong.  It is so easy for us to be caught up in the busyness of life that we miss His purpose for our life.  We miss the plans He has for us during our numbered days.

Let’s ask God together to help us realize the brevity of this life He has given us. For the ability to accomplish His will in our lives.  Let’s ask for His help to include Him in all of our daily activities, in our thoughts and prayers.  Let’s ask for His help to see every situation through His eyes.  To see our lives and words as His instruments. This is my prayer for you and me today in Jesus name I pray.

I Will Wait For God, My God Will Hear Me

Six weeks ago I was lying in the ICU at the hospital.  I could only walk for a short time with a therapist on each arm.  Three weeks ago I still needed a walker to get around the house.  Last night, I walked around our county fair with my family without any assistance for the entire evening.  This was only possible because of God’s healing power that has been responsible for my rapid recovery!

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I wish I could say everything was perfect last night. That there were no arguments getting ready to leave for the fair or drama that unfolded while there, but that just isn’t the truth.  God has brought me a long way, but we still argue and I still make mistakes.  I wish that I was so much better at this parenting thing and that I made a lot less mistakes, but I am just not.  Thankfully, He says that In my weaknesses He is strong (2 Cor 12:9). I have to ask Him for help daily in this area and so many others. He is faithful to help me and I have certainly seen that to be true with my health, even in just the last week.

The recovery from the stroke has been going extremely well. The tiredness that that had been prevalent for the last six months to a year (my only symptom) was no longer present.  So last week when my blood pressure levels suddenly became higher than normal I was very concerned.  My apple watch was recording very low pulse rates and also very high ones. These were symptoms I had had right before the stroke and so I was extremely anxious that I would have another one.

I went to the doctors office and my blood pressure and pulse were fine when taken manually, but high when taken with the machines.  The nurse explained this was because my pulse was beating a little slower and then faster and the machines weren’t accurate when this was happening. Learning this was just another new symptom that made me even more anxious.  The nurse left me under the impression that it was more than likely just anxiety and that it would be discussed with the doctor.

When I got home I was still very scared something was going to happen.  I received an alert on my Apple Watch that my heart rate had exceeded 125 while at rest for the last ten minutes (I was laying down at the time) and I spoke with a friend who was a physician.  She encouraged me to try to go to my happy place and take my pulse manually while I was resting.  I went to our front porch swing that I love to sit on.  I just couldn’t get my resting pulse rate (that I was now taking manually for accuracy) to go below 120 when sitting on the swing.

While I was sitting out on the swing worrying, the Lord allowed me to understand that I could do nothing to change the current situation.  Whether what was happening was just anxiety or the onset of a stroke, I couldn’t do anything to change it. I should be spending my time doing what was really important to me.  I immediately got up and went inside to check on my daughter.  She was working on a report that she had asked for help with before I went to sit on the swing.  It was due later in the week so I told her it could wait.  She was struggling to do it herself when I came in.  I sat down beside her and helped her find the answers she needed.  She was so relieved because she really did need my help.  I am so glad I came inside and was there to help her instead of worrying about something out of my control.  I was there when she needed me to be and fear wasn’t going to stop that!

The next day I talked to my cardiologist office.  The loop recorder that had been installed surgically while I was in the hospital after the stroke recorded what he thought was an Atrial Flutter.  It’s a heart arrhythmia where the the top part of the heart beats rapidly and faster than the bottom part of the heart.  When this is happening it is more likely to throw blood clots.  So, I likely had an atrial flutter that pumped out a clot that traveled to my brain when I had the stroke six weeks ago.

I had seen the neurologist a week before the incident. Nothing had come back pointing to a cause other than high blood pressure alone for the stroke. He decided I was clear to stop taking blood thinner when the prescription ran out in about a week.  I had taken the last blood thinner pill the day the cardiologist office found the arrhythmia.  They put me on an even stronger blood thinner that day to help prevent clotting if happened again.  Even though that situation was terrifying for me, I now see how God allowed it to happen at just the right time, before I was taken off of the blood thinner.  He was looking out for me and completely in control of the timing.

I’m still working on making the most of every day.  I still get caught up too easily in silly arguments and complaining.  Thankfully, God is merciful to me daily and reminds me of this truth.  Though our lives our passing quickly, He does have a plan for me here and He was one for you too.  With His help and strength we can make the best of every day.

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

The Persistent Widow

I don’t want to keep overloading you with stroke stuff and make this blog all about my health, but I just wanted to share this. 😊 I am so grateful that I was able to go to church with my family exactly three weeks after that terrible call to 911. 🙌🏻

So many prayers 🙏🏻 have been lifted up on my behalf and I am so grateful for them because I know our Father is hearing them. He hears us when we pray! I know that my recovery would not be as swift as it is as it is without your prayers and His healing!

Jesus tells a parable about the persistent widow who gets justice from an unjust judge just because of her persistent requests. I feel like you have been the persistent widow going to God in prayer for me and I can’t thank you enough! Already my double vision has almost cleared up, I am walking almost completely on my own now, my speech has dramatically improved, and my dizziness is almost completely gone, praise God!

I learned this weekend that someone on my email list was having some warning signs of high blood pressure and in denial about it. Because of the story that I shared she decided to go and have her blood pressure checked and found out it was high! I am so grateful that I shared my story because she is a mother too and her family needs her.

This is such a great example of God turning bad to good, because if any one of you gets your health checked and you find something out in time to fix it, that is one of the best things that can come out of this situation! Every one of you is here for a reason. Your family and those around you need you. God made you with a purpose and a plan. He knew you before creation began and He chose to create you. You are his beautiful child and He has so much good in store for you!

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