I recently had the honor of speaking at a conference in St. Louis. The attendees received a nice book bag as part of their registration and utilized them as they toured the vendor shopping hall. The bags were just the right size for books and flyers and had shoulder straps to make carrying easier.
As a bag-aholic, I admired these bags from the vendor booth that I was manning. I struck up conversation with a visitor to my booth, who of course had a bag, and we laughed at the fact that as much as I loved bags, she actually hated them! We were both astonished by the opposing passions we had regarding bags.
She asked me, with incredulity, what I used miscellaneous bags for. I shared with her that I keep a few in my car to use at grocery stores that don’t provide bags. I always have a bag on hand to fill with paper, pens, and coloring books for mini road trips with my daughter. There is always a bag ready with a beach towel for when we go swimming or on a spontaneous picnic. We parted ways with her chuckling at the “bag lady” she had just met!
Two days later, at this conference, I was to give the first of my speaking sessions. I always experience the normal jitters, but that morning, I was overcome with dread, sadness, and fear due to a circumstance that had nothing to do with the conference. I poured my heart out to God. I agreed with him that I knew He had put me on this path, but that I felt like I wouldn’t be able to walk in that day. I was completely broken before him. God truly ministered to me during my quiet time. He quieted my spirit, He lifted my downcast heart and gave me the courage to fulfill my calling.
I had to man the vendor booth before my first session and was very surprised to see the lady that I had conversed with about the bags approaching me. Her arms were full and there was a huge smile on her face. She said, “I am so glad you are here. I brought you these!” Spilling from her arms were bags! Bags of all shapes, sizes, fabrics, and colors fell at my feet. There were totes, backpacks, book bags and more! Tears started flowing and I was so overcome that I could not even speak for several moments.
There was no way to communicate to her where my heart had been hours earlier. There was no way to communicate to her how broken and downcast I had been upon waking. There was no way to communicate to her how God had just given to me the biggest kiss ever! I tried to regain composure and thanked her the best I could. God didn’t have to give me anything tangible, but in his kind regard of my state, He did. Only God would know how much bags would thrill my heart.
Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
As long as I have breath, I will declare that the Living God of all creation wants to be seen. He himself said that his “eyes of the Lord roam the Earth looking for someone to show himself strong to.” (2 Chron. 16.9) If you have eyes to see with and ears to hear with, He can be found!
Last March we became the recipients of an incredible gift, our entire curriculum for our rising 6th grade daughter. We are a homeschool family and the estimated value of this gift is ~700.00. When the box arrived in the mail, it was like Christmas! My daughter and I fawned over each book and could not believe the blessing. Just this past week, the same benefactor, the curriculum publishers, sent an additional new edition of the language arts program! I am in awe of God’s goodness. God sends every good and perfect gift from heaven and wants to be seen in the giving!
Now on to crickets. I am currently Chameleon sitting for my one of my older sons. What that entails is misting his tree twice a day, refilling is auto mister and water dish and feeding him crickets. Yuck. This has been a busy week and I didn’t realize we ran out of crickets. I was concerned that Drake the chameleon was hungry and was searching frantically outside for a cricket last night. I could hear plenty of them but none were in sight. I stopped and prayed, “Lord, if Drake needs supper, can you help me find a cricket?” When I opened my eyes, there was a cricket at my feet! Only God! He cares about chameleons. Surely, He cares for us!
Ask him to give you new eyes and ears and a heart of child like faith to see Him everywhere. God wants to be seen.
Can you imagine any more intimate invitation than for your beloved to say, “Arise my darling, there’s something that I want to show you; come along with me.”? This beckoning suggests that there is a hidden delight to be shared. Perhaps it’s a surprise just for these two affectionate lovers planned by the one for the other. As a woman who LOVES surprises, my mind imagines all sorts of treasures to be revealed.
In the Song of Solomon 2:13 (NASB), this adoring secretive call is found:
‘The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!’
There is something to be shown and shared. There is something delightful to behold that will be so sweet to encounter together. There is something that the one lover has discovered and cannot wait for the other to experience. I imagine myself placing a trembling hand with an anticipating heart into a strong waiting hand and being led to a place of utter joy.
As with most words, I want to know the depths and shades of their meanings. So it is with this verse and I studied out a few words that captivated me.
- Ripened – to embalm, as in the air, with a sweet aroma; to make spicy; to ease harvesting.
This actually led me to look the meaning of embalm.
- Embalm – to fill the air with a sweet fragrance. To preserve from decay.
- Fragrance – a savoury smell; a soothing odor; the technical term for a sacrifice to God.
- Blossom – a tender state; the peak period of development; the flower of a seed plant.
- Given – to assign; to bestow, to cause, to permit. To stretch out. To deliver up. To assign.
- Darling – attendant maiden, companion. An endeared person. A particular favorite.
- Come Along – to walk, to travel, to run, to go up and out. To move in a constant direction or path. To be in the company of another.
As you can see, this verse begins to explode with depth and richness. This is just like God. The first glance is breathtaking and sweet. However, the longer you look, the more you study Him out, there are unsearchable riches to be found.
Look and listen for his invitation today. See what delights He wants to show you. Take His hand and breathe deeply the sweet fragrance of His being.
You are His darling.
I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Yosemite National Park this past week. There is an inadequacy of words to describe the beauty, the vastness, and the grandeur of it all. The most surprising element that I experienced, was the wonder of being small.
From any view, either down in the valley or atop Glacier Point, I realized my smallness and the infinite bigness of God. His handiwork truly declared His glory! I breathed deeply and was struck by His greatness. He is so much bigger than that which He has created.
Trees, birds, squirrels, lizards, rushing waters, roaring water falls, placid lakes, jagged peaks; all spoke of him and not of me. What a cleansing place.
Job 12:7-10New American Standard Bible (NASB)
7 “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
8 “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
9 “Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
I fully agree with John Muir:
Severe thunderstorms have been rolling across our state the last few days. With high winds, blinding rain and even hail, they have been treacherous to say the least. Yesterday, as I drove to work, traffic crawled at a snail’s pace because visibility was only about 2 feet! I clinched the steering wheel with white knuckles and was exhausted by the time I arrived at my job. I collapsed in my desk chair, thankful that I had made it.
Honestly, these storms have mirrored my insides. A few days ago, while I was out-of-town, an emotional storm started rolling in and ravaged me in very familiar ways. Old triggers were being set off and I felt out of control and like a wounded animal. My mind and emotions could not seem to settle or find any peaceful calm place. After an entire day of being in inner turmoil, I prayed, cried, yelled, and finally retreated to my bed thankful that I had made it.
I don’t understand days like these and I wish with every fiber of my being not to have any more of them. Sadly, I know that I probably will and I am trying to gain as much insight as possible. Here’s what I have come up with so far:
- Being in unfamiliar settings can put me off kilter
- Fears are opportunistic
- I do not think in reasonable ways when I am off kilter
- It’s ok to retreat to my room!
- As I get older, my body handles stress in different and lesser ways
- Nothing can snatch me out of the Father’s hand!
- God does not love a future version of me, He loves me NOW!
- Feelings do not always reflect the truth
- God, like the good father He is, pities my broken and weak state
I am going to try to remember these truths for the next time. I also want to remember that times of dysregulation and being out of kilter are a normal part of living in a fallen world. I will also remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom:
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Random thought today about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I am a FIRM believer in the fact that God does not waste the details. Anything in scripture has meaning and I love the details that God gives us.
Today, I was contemplating anew the detail that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. A donkey has traditionally been a beast of burden. They are a work animal. Honestly, they have very little value beyond that. Today I was struck that Jesus was the ultimate “beast” of burden. He was to carry on the cross the weight of EVERY sin of all of humanity. I cannot imagine that crushing weight. He who knew no sin, became sin for us.
He still calls us to cast all our burdens on him. He cares about what weighs us down and what becomes heavy for us. He alone can bear the weight. He alone can take the heaviness of heartache and worry and turn it into something good. He wants to take these things from us! My heart is overwhelmed that the King of the Universe became a beast of burden for me.
I am also struck that the next entry into the world will not be on the colt of a donkey, but on a white charger! A very different entrance. Not as a beast of burden but as a victorious KING! What a day that will be.
“Lord, you are so good and kind; fill me with your love. Help me to help others. I long for your coming. Thank you that you are the victorious burden bearer.”
So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.
Times were desperate and the people of Israel were in hiding. Having been forced to leave their homes, they were barely surviving in caves and holes and animal dens . With hardly enough food for themselves, their livestock was perishing also. God’s people were, “brought very low.”
There is a pattern of the ancient Israelites and their interaction with God. In times of plenty, comfort and ease, they tend to forget God and all that He has done for them. They forget His past works, His present promises and His future plans for them. Their attitude and posture becomes rather self-sufficient and seems to say, “Thanks God for all the blessings, we’ve got it now. We’ll call you again if we need you, but we’re good for now.” Treating God like a magician with a bag of tricks never ends well. God is not a god among many or the best of the choices…..HE IS THE ONLY LIVING AND TRUE GOD! He will not share His glory or our affections with any other! Like the Israelites, I forget who He really is and the position He holds. Often, God uses unpleasant and desperate circumstances to bring us back to our senses and the reality that HE IS GOD!
Oppression by the Midianites is where we find Israel in Judges chapter 6. The Midianites were a cruel people who frequently teamed up with another enemy of Israel, the Amalekites. Taking the harvest from the Israelites fields wasn’t enough. The Midianites would utterly decimate the fields and leave nothing behind. Killing and enslaving captives, stealing livestock and casting our their opponents from their homes, were all trademarks of the Midianites. Conquering was not the consummate goal; destruction and despair was the objective. This scenario is where we find God’s people; totally defeated, hopeless, despairing with no champion among them.
A young Israelite named Gideon is among the defeated and cowering. We are introduced to him in a winepress but he is not, however, pressing out grapes. He is threshing wheat instead. I can almost imagine the scene: Him beating the sheaves, a few at a time, and peeking over the edge of the press to see if his enemies saw or heard anything.
Working as fast as he can, he tries to separate the wheat from the chaff. Normally, you thresh wheat out in the open so that the wind carries away the unwanted parts but desperate times have called for desperate measures and Gideon is not only hiding, he is having to settle for a less than desirable end product.
I can imagine that while the sweat and dust and chaff cling to his face, he wonders how long will he and his people live like this. “God, where are you? When will you deliver us?” I don’t know if he could even remember a time that was free of oppression, defeat and fear or when daily survival wasn’t literally a struggle between life and death. A young man, in his prime, found himself living in fear among a family and nation who were crippled by fear. But God appears on the scene doing what He alone can do. He greets Gideon with a salutation that is in direct contrast to Gideon’s self identity and circumstances. He also reaffirms God’s relationship status for his people:
12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”
The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior. I can almost see Gideon turn and look behind him to see who God might be talking to. “Um…Are you talking to me?” God is addressing the right person and the man of his choosing, a fearful, oppressed young man hiding in a winepress. Gideon’s response goes straight to the heart of the matter:
Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
God answers him with a calling. The calling was that Gideon would deliver his people from the Midianites. Again, I am sure Gideon looked over his shoulder. His response backs me up in this:
“O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”
The least among the least, what a moniker! Proving once again that God’s ways are not our ways, He chooses the least among the least to accomplish mighty things. God is not a respecter of a person’s status, age, lineage, wealth, or social standing. God chooses the base and weak things to confound the wise and strong. God uses the Gideons of the world. There is great hope in that! God did indeed work thru Gideon to defeat the Midianites. Be encouraged if you feel like the least among the least in desperate circumstances. God can use you!
God, let me remember that you are with me! Even when I find myself fearful and despairing and hiding, you desire to accomplish great things thru me. Lord, your power is perfected in my weakness. Thank you for renaming me and being with me always, even to the end of the age!
I love words in all forms. Written, spoken, or sung, they are fascinating to me. I love the sounds of languages that are not my native tongue and I find myself listening for patterns and similarities in the words. I enjoy roots and derivations and anything hidden in words and discovering their meanings. For Jesus to have been referred to as, “The Word” makes my mind wild with excitement. There is so much to discover about Him, thru Him and for Him!
My mind and studies frequently bring me back to Hosea 2:16 and the word, Ishi. I love this little word, its sound and its meaning.
“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord,
“That you will call Me Ishi
And will no longer call Me Baali.
Some time ago, my study of this word revealed its translated meaning to be “Husband.” Husband is in contrast to the word, Baali, which means “Master”. There is a HUGE difference in being in a relationship based on servitude versus spousal intimacy. I laugh with my husband. We share secrets and have private jokes. We share hurts and forgiveness. Our life is made up of a past, a present and a future. We have reached that place in life where we not only finish each other’s sentences, we finish each other’s actions. The intimate knowledge we have of each other is thrilling, comforting, and incredibly fulfilling.
God longs to have this kind of intimacy with us. In fact, He will settle for nothing less. He will not let us settle for less. Earlier in this passage, his people are described as having settled for harlots, parties, clothes, food and the like and have forgotten Him. Desiring to show His people the vanity and emptiness of earthly pursuits, His plan is to take Israel into a wilderness and show Himself to them.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness
And speak kindly to her.”
I , too, have had times of pursuing money, houses, parties, etc. trying to fill my deep desire for intimacy and fulfillment but came up even emptier than before. I have also had the sweet pleasure of being spoken kindly to be the Lord. His words are like honey to my soul. With everything else stripped away, His words are true and life giving. Intimacy with Ishi can also be thrilling, comforting and fulfilling. Rest assured that if God has allured you into a wilderness, His intention is to speak kindly to you.
He longs for intimacy and for us to call Him, “Ishi”.
Psalm 56:8 (NASB)
You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
What do you keep a record of? The birth of babies, holiday memories, special trips, good friends? How about your sorrows or the crushing blows to your soul? Do you chronicle the hours you spend being heart-broken and crying out to the Lord? What about the endless nights where you cry until you have no more tears? God keeps a record of not only our tears, but the anguish that caused them to flow. He has given tears a holy status.
Be careful in not allowing yourself or others to cry when in extreme pain. Tears are valuable. They are the inexpressible words being spoken by our soul. Tears are how are heart speaks when the pain is too great for our lips to describe. God has seen every wound. Every heartache has been recorded in His book and our tears have been kept in a bottle. Even when we forget why we cry, he does not. When we hurt, God is near; He is gathering our tears.
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” -Corrie Ten Boom