Helping the Thief

burning-question-markThe other day I was reading Psalms 50:16-18a when I stopped short, feeling as if I’d been hit right between the eyes. Before I tell you why, I should confess a shortcoming. Occasionally, because I’m reading my Bible, praying, and not committing any heinous sins, I start feeling content in my own “righteousness.” As you know, a self-righteous person can be a real pain in the neck. Usually, a Scripture checks this type of irritating attitude before it gets out of control in my life. And that’s what happened the other day when I read Psalms 50:16-18a.

But God says to evil men: Recite my laws no longer and stop claiming my promises, for you have refused my discipline, disregarding my laws. . .”

At this point of my Bible reading, my self-righteous attitude kicked in. Almost without realizing it, I smiled smugly and mentally patted myself on the back for not being evil or disregarding God’s laws. I had just pictured myself as God’s “shining, over-achieving child” when I read the first part of verse 18.

“You see a thief and help him.”

cuffs-and-messageSuddenly, I felt as if I’d been struck by a bolt of lightning. Staring at the verse, I felt a wave of conviction from the Lord. Naturally—being me—I fought against the guilty feeling. Looking up at the ceiling, I protested loudly, “What are you talking about, Lord? Why am I feeling guilty? I’ve never helped a thief steal someone’s television set! As far as I know, I’ve never even met a thief!”

Instantly, John 10:10 came to mind: “The thief [the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Immediately after I remembered the verse, I felt God speak deep down in my spirit. His voice wasn’t audible, but it was powerful. God simply said, “The devil has been stealing from you, and you have been helping him.”

thiefLeaning back in my chair, I gazed up at the ceiling. I felt stunned. Reviewing the last several weeks in my mind, I narrowed my eyes. I had been experiencing some difficulties, and when I prayed about them, I felt God’s peace assuring me that everything would be okay. But regardless of God’s assurances, I had been worrying about my circumstances. I had been running scenarios in my mind, trying to anticipate possible problems. I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I’d been spending my days feeling worried and tense.

God’s gentle voice said, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your peace.”

handcuffsFeeling ashamed, I had to admit it was true. My mind wandered to my recent diet. I felt myself blush. I had been losing weight and then gaining it back with alarming regularity. Every time I was few pounds down, I would start craving cookies. Eventually, I would cave and indulge in sweet treats. The break in my diet would signal a return to bad eating habits and lack of exercise. The pounds would creep back onto my frame—along with a feeling of guilt and defeat.

Again, God’s gentle voice came, “You’ve been helping the thief steal your health and victory.”

Biting my lip, I nodded. I knew it was true. Again my mind flashed back over the last several weeks. I realized that I’d allowed resentment toward an individual creep into my thinking. Although I knew bitterness was wrong, I’d been harboring hurt feelings.

God spoke, “You’ve been helping the thief destroy your relationship and steal your joy.”

truth-stonesHiding my face in my hands, I whispered, “I’m sorry, God. I know you’re right. I’ve been helping the thief steal from me. What do I do now?”

At this point, I expected God to give some wonderful piece of advice. I expected to be directed to another Scripture verse. I expected—well, I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect what He said next.

God simply said, “Snap out of it, and stop it.”

Sitting there with a stunned expression on my face, I had to laugh. “Snap out of it, and stop it,” may not have been exactly what I was expecting to hear, but I had to admit that it resonated.

Standing to my feet, I nodded. From that moment on, I resolved not to allow the thief to steal my peace. The next time I started worrying about things I knew God had under control, I decided that I would give myself a mental shake and sing a hymn. The next time I was tempted to break my diet and eat cookies, I decided that I would shake my head firmly and grab a bottle of mineral water. And the next time I was tempted to feel angry and resentful, I decided that I would sit down and write ten things that I appreciated about the person who had offended me.

holding-the-sunA wise person once said that the best way to fight the devil is to do the opposite of what the devil wants you to do, and to do it with gusto. I think that advice goes hand-in-hand with what I felt God telling me to do. When the devil comes in the form of a sneaky thief, rather than blindly helping him steal—snap out of it, and stop it!

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Asking Again: Is God Really Real?

Dear Friends, for those of you who don’t know, I’ve been very ill again. For several months, I haven’t been well enough to write. Many of you have contacted me, telling me that you’re missing my blog articles. Your lovely messages have meant so much! I’m so glad that you’ve been enjoying my writing. I want to thank everyone who is praying for my recovery. I have felt surrounded by love. I’m feeling better, and hopefully, things will be back to normal soon. It may be a while until I can maintain a regular writing schedule, but in the meantime, please feel free to visit my old articles. You can access them by clicking on “Article Index” and then clicking on “Index of Articles.”

Lately, several people have asked about my article concerning the birds, so I’ve decided to republish it. “Is God Really Real” was first published on October 8, 2015. It went around the world in an amazing way–I’ve been astounded by the number of nations it’s reached. It’s an article that’s close to my heart, and I hope you enjoy it. May God richly bless each one of you–now and always!

* * *

Is God Really Real?

I’d been a Christian my whole life—I’d even taught Sunday School and preached in nursing homes, so when this question rocked my world, it came as a complete surprise. I’d never expected to question God’s existence, but after suffering from a lingering, painful illness, this question could no longer be ignored. Was God really real?

I suppose the root of my doubts stemmed from the deep sense of betrayal that I felt toward God. I had served the Lord faithfully, and in return I’d almost died. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was in near constant pain. If God was real, why hadn’t He delivered me from my illness? Where was He when I needed Him the most?

After a while, my questions spiraled in on themselves until my life felt like a big black hole of misery. I knew I should have more faith, but it’s hard to be “spiritual” when your hair is falling out and your teeth are all loose. It’s hard to sing songs of praise when every movement causes horrible pain. Anger became my status quo, and I turned that anger toward God.

By the time the question of God’s existence fully formed in my mind, I was actually hoping that God wasn’t real. After all, if God was just a myth and all of the beautiful church services I had experienced were just examples of mass hysteria and delusion, then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I could be mad. I could die in anger. My suffering would be over. But if God was real, then I would have to deal with my anger and try to reconcile the fact that the God I had loved had let me suffer—and that seemed just too hard to do.

The lake 2Eventually, after months of struggling with the question of God’s existence, I walked up to the secluded lake behind my house. My body was so wracked with pain that each step was agony. I thought about turning back, but staying inside the four walls of my bedroom was driving me insane—I had to get out. Gritting my teeth, I struggled up the dusty path, dragging my feet, willing my body to move. I remembered how I used to run up that very same path, secure in the knowledge that life was a marvelous gift and that God was good. My lips twisted in bitterness. I was so angry that I felt bile rising in my throat. How things had changed.

When I finally made it to the lake’s shore, I collapsed on the grass and looked out over the water. Was God really real? Even as the familiar query formed in my mind, I tried to shove it away. But as I rubbed a muscle knot in my leg, I knew it was time to face the question. Sitting on the fence was making me miserable. I needed to decide what I believed.

sparrowThe knot in my leg grew worse. As I tried to breathe through the pain, something flew past my face. I lurched back and blinked in shock as another tiny bird flew past my ear. All around me, birds began swooping and speeding past me as quickly as lightning bolts. As I watched, they darted over the water chasing gnats and then swung past me in a lovely arc. The sight was exhilarating. I couldn’t believe how fast they were flying. They were coming within inches of my face—it was almost like they were demanding my attention…

I blinked a little. Turning away from the birds, I looked down at the grass below me. Each strand was radiant with different shades of color. I picked a blade and looked at it closely. It was lovely. I wondered why I had never noticed that before. Looking out over the water, I saw the sunlight being reflected in shimmering diamonds. I gazed up at the puffy clouds floating in the deep blue sky. Beauty was all around me. I paused. How could such beauty form out of random blind luck? Didn’t there have to be a design? And if a design—then a Designer?

The lake 1
As my leg cramped again, I rubbed it absently, ignoring the pain and concentrating on the beauty of the lake. Was God really real? If I decided that He was, it wouldn’t be a decision based out of dewy-eyed naiveté. I knew life wasn’t always fair. I knew bad things happened. And I knew that sometimes God allowed bad things to happen. If I decided to believe in Him again, I would have to deal with my anger and disappointment. I would have to choose to serve a God that I didn’t fully understand in light of a painful illness that I couldn’t ignore.

Was God really real? Even as the question formed in my mind, I sensed a waiting. An almost hushed atmosphere fell on the lake. The sparrows stopped circling. Things became quiet.

Looking down at the blade of grass in my hand, I said softly, “Yes. God is real.”

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

Susan Karsten–Author Interview

Dear Friends, I’m honored to have Susan Karsten on my blog today! Susan is an incredibly kind person, and she is also very talented. Her debut novel, A Match for Melissa, was published earlier this year. I know that this has been an exciting time for Susan, and I’m honored to share in her joy by interviewing her!

Danele: Hello, Susan! I’m so glad to have a chance to talk with you today!

Susan: I am excited to be on your blog, Danele, as I have always enjoyed your posts. It is a delight to be the subject of one.

Danele: It’s wonderful having you! I can’t wait to hear about your debut novel, but first, I’d like my readers to get to know you. Can you tell us what your favorite Bible verse is and why?

Susan: One of my favorite verses is Job 13:15, which says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” This verse reminds me that our lives here aren’t always sunshine and lollipops, but He (God) doesn’t change. He is the same worthy God as He was in the good times. Our circumstances may change, but His love endures forever.

Danele: I love that verse too, Susan. It’s good to remember that when our life is hard, that doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. I had to come to terms with that fact when I became ill. I don’t understand why bad things happen, but I do know that God’s love doesn’t change. Here’s another question for you—which Bible story is your favorite?

Susan: The hope-filled story of the prodigal son is one of my favorites. It shows that God can draw His children back from the depths of sin and welcome us with open arms.

Danele: That’s a beautiful parable! I love the part where the father runs eagerly to his repentant child. It paints such a lovely picture of God’s forgiveness. On another subject, can you tell us why you think it’s important to go to church?

Susan: The importance of the church can sometimes be neglected, but the theology of the church is fascinating and proves that the church is a miracle here on earth for us to enjoy. The church is called Christ’s body, and out of gratitude, we are to be members of a faithful church.

Danele: Some of my favorite memories have been associated with church gatherings. I love the beautiful moment when a congregation lifts up their collective voices and sings praises to the Lord. It’s so moving. When I was in quarantine, I really missed attending services. I never realized the privilege church attendance was until my health stripped that privilege away. Susan, what’s your advice to new Christians?

Susan: My first advice is to find and join a faithful, Biblical church, one that preaches the Gospel every Sunday. Next, I would re-assure them that God is faithful and will not let them fall from His loving hand.

Danele: That’s good advice for new Christians as well as old ones! Here’s another question for you—how has being a Christian influenced your writing?

Susan: My faith has influenced my writing in that I work very hard to do my best, as unto the Lord. When matters that touch on theology arise in my characters’ lives, I try to portray our relationship to God with accuracy.

Danele: I love the idea of writing unto the Lord—I try to do that too. And I agree that it’s very important to get matters of theology right in our stories. Speaking of stories, can you give us details about your new book series?

Susan: Of course! My books will be called The Honor’s Point Series. The first book in the series, A Match for Melissa, was released earlier this year. It will be followed by book #2, A Refuge for Rosanna, and book #3, An Escape for Ellie (books #2 & #3 are contracted with Prism Book Group, but their release date hasn’t been announced as of yet.)

Danele: I’m so excited for you, Susan! Congratulations! Can you please tell us more about A Match for Melissa?

Susan: A Match for Melissa is a Regency Historical Romance. I am a big fan of this genre, because I find the world of early 19th century England to be a fascinating era, and because the genre is usually morally clean, with marriage the prized goal of the romance. Because I had read hundreds of book in this genre, I decided to try my hand at writing a Regency Romance. I enjoyed adding the faith element to the fictional romance between Melissa and …! I don’t want to spoil the fun for the readers by naming the man who wins her heart. Within the pages of A Match for Melissa, two men vie to marry her.

Danele: Your book sounds like fun! Can you please give us A Match for Melissa’s back cover blurb and purchasing link?

Susan: Melissa Southwood’s wealthy merchant father desires her to marry into the aristocracy, and he arranges for Lord Peter Winstead to court her. Melissa submits to the plan, but retains the right of final refusal. Lord Mark Russell, who learns of her fine qualities from some mutual friends, also belatedly throws his hat into the ring. Which handsome, titled nobleman will win her heart?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Match-Melissa-Honors-Point-Book-ebook/dp/B071JWQRX4

Danele: Susan, it’s been wonderful talking with you! I wish you all the best with your new book!

Susan: It’s been a real pleasure to be a guest of your blog, Danele. I hope many of your readers will read and enjoy A Match for Melissa.

 

Friends, Susan is such a terrific person. She has a kind, tender heart, and she tries her best to honor the Lord. If you would like to learn more about Susan, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Susan’s Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/puresparklingromance/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Susan’s Website: graciouswoman.wordpress.com

 

Gay N. Lewis #2–Author Interview

Hello, everyone! I hope that you’ve been having a great summer. Many of you have sent lovely messages asking about my blog and telling me that you miss it. Your messages have meant so much to me! I apologize for being absent, but for those who don’t know, I’ve been very ill and I haven’t felt well enough to write. That being said, I want to thank everyone who has been surrounding me with prayer. I’m feeling better, and hopefully, things will be back to normal soon. It may be a while until I can maintain a regular writing schedule, but in the meantime, please feel free to visit my old articles. You can access them by clicking on “Article Index” and then clicking on “Index of Articles.”

I’m writing today for a very special reason. Months ago, before I fell ill, I scheduled interviews with Gay N. Lewis and Susan Karsten. Gay and Susan are lovely Christian authors and sweet friends of mine. Gay’s interview is posting today, and Susan’s interview will post on Monday. Even though I’m still a bit under the weather, I wanted to make sure to introduce you to these terrific ladies.

Today, it’s my honor and privilege to welcome Gay N. Lewis back to my blog! Gay is an incredible Christian woman. She is genuinely nice, and she also has a delightful sense of humor.

Danele: Gay, I’m so glad to talk with you today!

Gay: Thanks, Danele, I’ve enjoyed your time travel books.

Danele: That’s so nice of you to say! I’ve really enjoyed reading your Sarah books as well. Sarah’s antics always make me laugh.

Gay: We both write fantasy, but I think writing about a dyslexic angel is far easier than writing about characters that time travel. I research for Sarah, my angel, but I can’t imagine the amount of research it takes for your books. You do a great job remembering who is who and who did what in each time zone. Whew!

Danele: What a lovely compliment! I have to admit that I really enjoy orchestrating my characters’ travels through time. You should see my desk—it’s covered in charts to keep me organized. I think the best part about writing is that we can have a blast doing something we love. I can tell that you love your character, Sarah. She’s lots of fun!

Gay: My little Sarah wants to wear red stilettos but falls down each time she does. She often uses human disguises or shrinks to miniscule. No matter her size or appearance, she creates a catastrophe however she emerges. I enjoy making readers laugh at Sarah’s antics.

Danele: You definitely succeed in making your readers chuckle! Sarah always makes me smile. Speaking of your Sarah books, can you give us a list of your titles?

Gay: I have 14 books listed on Amazon and other online booksellers. They are available in eBook. Many are also available in print and audio. They’re all Christian and faith inspired. All my Sarah books are squeaky clean. So is my latest, Mattie’s Choice. Rather than list them all with blurbs, let me invite you to my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Gay-N-Lewis/e/B00AAVJ4G0/ref

Danele: That’s perfect, Gay! Speaking of your books, one of the things that I enjoy about your Sarah stories are the little glimpses of heaven that you give. What’s the first thing you want to do when you get to heaven?

Gay: Thank Jesus for coming and dying for all of us, especially me. I find His act indescribable and can’t imagine why He would do such a thing for me. Others? Yes. But I know who I am.

Danele: What a lovely answer—God’s grace toward us is so amazing! After you thank Jesus, what’s the first question that you’d like to ask God when you get to heaven?

Gay: Why do you love all of us so much? Your great mercy and love makes no sense when we consider our humanity and Your Deity.

Danele: That’s so true! God’s love is mind-blowing. Whenever I feel upset and tempted to doubt God, all I have to do is pause and think about His love. There have been times when I’ve felt the love of God in such a powerful way that it’s literally a tangible thing. God isn’t just a nice idea—He’s a powerful, living force—and the idea that someone like God actually loves us, and wants to be involved in our lives, is absolutely amazing! Now, Gay, here’s another question for you. If you could be a Bible character, which one would you choose to be?

Gay: Lazarus. I’d like to ask him what he did in heaven and how it felt to come back to life. We all want to know more about eternity, and if I’d been him, I’d have shouted heaven’s virtues on every dusty street corner.

Danele: Lazarus’s miracle was awesome! Now, let’s put a different spin on things—if you could be a Bible character, which one would you NOT choose to be?

Gay: Moses. I’d hate to put up with whining, complaining people for 40 years. Dealing with a few in my life for a matter of weeks drives me crazy. I’ve got a few relatives that are negative, rude and they daily cause me grief. I can’t imagine 40 years of nagging. And just think—there were between two and three million of those complainers! My hat is off to Moses.

Danele: Oh, Gay! You just made me laugh!!! Moses really was patient, wasn’t he? Here’s another question for you: how has being a Christian influenced your writing?

Gay: I’ve been a Christian since I was about six years old and I surrendered for special service when I was eight. I thought I’d be a missionary, so I studied Spanish in school. I’m not sure why I chose Spanish. I really thought the Lord would send me to Africa. So why would I need Spanish? Ha! I have no idea what languages are spoken in Africa. The plans we make. Right? God had other ideas. He arranged for me marry a preacher. I’ve spent my life in Texas, well, except for that one year in Oklahoma. I’ve always wanted to serve and I’ve done a bit of everything. Teach. Write. Sing. Play keyboard. Rock babies. Clean church toilets. Name it and I’ve probably done it.  Writing is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t preach in my books. I use humor to tell a story and express teaching points.

Danele: Do you have a piece of advice for new Christians?

Gay: Yes! Hang in there. Life may get harder for you instead of easier. Satan wants to draw you away from your new commitment.

Danele: I think that’s a wonderful piece of advice for all Christians—not just the new ones. Personally, this summer has been extremely difficult for me—I’ve been very ill. And I know that this summer has been difficult for many people around our nation and the world. There have been floods, hurricanes, fires, tornados, and earthquakes. It seems that every time I turn on the news, I hear that another group of people is facing a serious problem. When we are in the middle of a trial, sometimes, it seems as if it would be easier to give up rather than keep going, but really, giving up isn’t an option. Hanging in there with Jesus is what we’ve gotta do!

Gay: That’s true.

Danele: Now, Gay, I know that this is an exciting time for you! Your latest book, Mattie’s Choice, is being released tomorrow, September 15, 2017.

Gay: Yes, and although it won’t be released until tomorrow, Mattie’s Choice is currently available for pre-order through Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075GFSXCS/

Danele: That’s wonderful! Can you tell us a little bit about your story?

Gay: My latest book, Mattie’s Choice, is a departure from my Sarah Series. Sarah is filled with humor. She’s such a klutz, but Mattie’s Choice is a bit more serious, although there is humor mixed in. It’s a historical novel set in 1925 and the saga continues to the war years. There’s an epilogue in 1975.

Danele: That sounds really interesting—please, tell us more.

Gay: The premise for Mattie’s Choice concerns choices, the way we interpret Scripture, right or wrong, and the choices we make based on what we perceive the Bible to say. The choices we make have a ripple effect on the lives of others. I wrote this book to help abused women realize they have choices. Mattie Colby didn’t have many choices in 1925, but more exist today. Mattie believed her husband’s behavior was her fault. Women today often feel the same way. I’ve heard more than one say, “If I could only be a better wife, he’d love me more and he’d be kind.”

Danele: Abuse is such a terrible problem. How did you come up with the idea for Mattie’s Choice?

Gay: Mattie’s Choice is based on a few family experiences. My mother-in-law was married to a controlling man. He refused to allow her to see her family—even her twin brother.  One of my daughters married a man who physically attacked her. Talk about a shocker. That one was. I have a niece who also married a nutcase. This guy forced her to sit on the toilet all night long and read Scripture. He watched her through the night to make sure she didn’t fall asleep.

Danele: That’s awful! I’m so sorry that the women in your family went through such horrible things!

Gay: Weirdos are out there. What choices can women make to change an ungodly situation? I hope this book will help them realize God has better plans for them.  There weren’t many resources in 1925 to help abused women, but they exist today, and I hope women will search for them.

Danele: That’s lovely, Gay. I hope that Mattie’s Choice helps many people! I want to thank you for being with us today. I really enjoyed talking with you!

Gay: I’m happy we had a chance to visit.  Thanks for inviting me. I loved it.

 

Friends, Gay is such a wonderful person! If you would like to learn more about her, or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a terrific day!

http://www.gaynlewis.blogspot.com

https://www.amazon.com/author/gaynlewis

www.facebook.com/GayNLewis and also on Twitter @GayNLewis2.

Love Expressed Spider-Style

I have two older sisters, Darla and Donita. I love them both very much. My stylish sister, Darla, taught me how to wear makeup and put on nylons without destroying them (not an easy task). And my adventurous sister, Donita, taught me how to skip rocks and make alfalfa flowers stick out their tongues. My sisters balanced each other out. Darla could cook gourmet meals at the drop of a hat, and Donita could skateboard and throw a baseball like a dream.

Although both of my sisters taught me many things, Donita taught me perhaps one of the most important lessons of all. She taught me the definition of love expressed spider-style. You see, when we were growing up, although Donita was incredibly brave, there was one thing that struck fear into her heart—spiders. Even an itty-bitty spider was enough to scare her to pieces. If Donita saw a spider on the wall—and someone wasn’t around to kill it for her—she would squash it with a wad of Kleenex roughly the size of basketball (anything smaller than a HUGE wad of tissue would risk accidental flesh/arachnid contact causing the earth to fall into the sea).

Being the sweet, angelic, supportive little sister that you know I was, I would take particular glee in pointing out spiders to Donita and then giggling like crazy as she attempted to squash them. I would cheer her on enthusiastically while pointing out helpful details like how creepy the wiggly legs were, and how HUGE the ghastly spider was, and how gooshy the guts were going to be when she finally managed to squish it. It’s funny, but Donita didn’t seem to appreciate my support at all. Regardless, I also enjoyed taking the newspaper out of the box, squealing, and tossing it Donita’s direction while shouting, “Spider!” Since spiders tended to live in our newspaper box, a proclamation like that ALWAYS got a reaction. I took great joy in seeing my brave older sister screeching and jumping sideways to get out of the way. Truthfully, I was a pest…but Donita loved me anyway, and one memorable day, she proved it.

It was a cold, crisp autumn day when Dad told Donita and me that he wanted us to help sort some cattle. Time with Dad was special, so I immediately ran to the garage and took a hooded jacket off a nail. I was zipping the jacket up when Donita came into the garage. When she saw me, she froze. Her eyes became as huge as saucers. Her face turned white. Making a strangled sound in her throat, she lunged at me, grabbed something off my chest, threw it to the floor, and then stomped on it.

I felt shocked. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but from the look on Donita’s face, it was something awful.

“What’s going on?” I demanded.

Donita didn’t say a word—she just pointed at the floor. A dead spider was curled up on the cement. It was a horrible wolf spider that would’ve been about the size of a half dollar when it was alive.

Donita’s voice shook. “It was crawling up your jacket toward your face. I couldn’t let it stay on you. I just couldn’t!”

Suddenly, I realized that Donita—with all her fear of spiders—had just grabbed a huge spider off my jacket with her bare hands and killed it for me. Donita had shown me an example of true love—and it was one that I never forgot.

Some people think about bunnies and eggs around Easter, but I think about spiders. In fact, I think a lot about Donita and the spider around this time of year. You see, Jesus hated sin just as much as Donita hated spiders. And yet, just like Donita grabbed that spider with her bare hands, Christ dealt with my sin by dying on the cross in my place.

What is the definition of true love? I think true love shows itself when someone is willing to put aside their own comfort and help in spite of the discomfort it brings them. Donita showed me an example of true love when she grabbed that spider, and Christ showed me an example of true love when He died on the cross to save me from my sin. I think true love is selflessness in action—and I think selflessness is the definition of Easter. Love when it is expressed “spider-style” is such a beautiful thing.

 

Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And He humbled Himself even further, going to far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.” –Philippians 2:6-8

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:8

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

 

Directionally Challenged

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a klutz. Unfortunately, I have to confess that I’m also directionally challenged. When someone tells me to turn right, I’m totally confused. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to figure out which way is left and which way is right. When told to turn left, I usually end up looking like a bobble head doll with a bouncing head as I simultaneously try to look in both directions at once. Naturally, this shortcoming gave me lots of problems when I was learning how to drive.

When I received my learner’s permit, my father got around my directionally challenged brain by telling me to “turn at that tree” or “turn at that barn.” But the day of my driving test, I knew I was in trouble. When my father let me drive around town for some final practice before test, I was in a nervous tizzy. And when we were in the church parking lot practicing parking, I finally voiced my fears.

“Daddy,” I wailed in rising panic, “I’m never going to pass if the examiner asks me to turn left or right. I’ll go the wrong way, I know I will!”

Suddenly, I heard my father chuckle. Without saying a word, he grabbed my hand and kissed it. I stared at him in surprise.

Dad smiled. “Just remember that I kissed you, and it’ll be okay.”

“How so?” I asked.

“When you’re taking your test, picture me sitting RIGHT beside you instead of the examiner. Picture me being RIGHT here. Can you do that?”

Still feeling confused, I nodded. “But how’s that gonna help me with directions?”

“Easy,” Dad said. “Which hand did I kiss?”

“This one,” I replied, waving it at him.

He nodded. “Could I have kissed your other hand while sitting RIGHT beside you?”

I shook my head. “Not without climbing over the steering wheel.”

He laughed. “The hand I kissed is your RIGHT one. And I’m RIGHT beside you. If you’re told to turn right, just turn in my direction. Turn in the direction of love.”

Thanks to Dad’s advice—and his kiss on my hand—I passed my driving test. And down through the years, I’ve cherished his advice to turn in the direction of love. You see, I’ve realized that Dad’s advice could’ve been echoed from the mouth of God. Whenever I’m faced with a puzzling decision, I always try to remember that God is RIGHT beside me. I try to always remember to turn in the direction that makes me feel God’s love and peace. Turning in the direction of love—I think that’s lovely advice.

 

God grants good sense to the godly—His saints. He is their shield, protecting them and guarding their pathway. He shows how to distinguish right from wrong, how to find the right decision every time.” Proverbs 2:7-9

 

Amoebas and Big Boots

When I was in fifth grade, I had a truly wonderful science teacher. I thought she was AWESOME. One day, my science teacher taught us about amoebas. She told us that they lived in ponds, streams, and lakes. She mentioned that if any of us could get a jar of lake water, and if there was an amoeba in the water, we could look at it beneath a microscope. I was so excited! I lived on a farm, and I had access to that type of water. Quickly, I raised my hand and volunteered. As my teacher and my classmates smiled at me, I felt like a celebrity.

On the bus ride home, I made my plans. I thought the best place to catch amoebas would be the back pasture of my family’s farm. Overflow from my father’s irrigation lake was slowly flowing through part of the pasture, and the lazy stream was full of moss and algae. It seemed like an amoeba paradise.

Being a confident fifth-grader, I didn’t tell my mother what I was doing. After all, I was practically grown up, and I thought that amoeba catching was a fairly harmless pastime. I didn’t think I needed Mom’s help or advice. Sneaking out of the house, I collected a canning jar from the shed. And feeling very smart, I tucked my father’s rubber overshoes under my arm.

My walk to the pasture was beautiful. Birds were singing and butterflies were flying. But my jaunt took a different turn when I finally reached the sluggish stream. My nose twitched at the dank, mucky smell. The stench of the water wasn’t exactly pleasant. Looking down at the murky depths, I could see all kinds of bugs swimming beneath the surface. In spite of the stench, I knew I’d hit gold.

Although I could stand on the bank to collect my sample, for some reason, I decided that the best amoebas would be in the center of the stream. Tugging on my father’s overshoes, I wadded into the water. Dad’s overshoes were about a gazillion sizes too big, and they kept trying to fall off my feet. The bottom of the stream was mucky, and the mud kept trapping my boots. Being stubborn, I kept going. After several instances of stumbling, whirling my arms like a windmill, and catching my balance, I thought about stopping. But I decided that my teacher and my classmates were worth some extra effort. Tenaciously, I made my awkward way to the middle of the stream.

When I arrived, I looked down at the water. Plodding around had disturbed the muck, and the water was murky. I frowned. I was afraid that the amoebas had skittered away because of the mud. Patiently, I stood still, waiting until the mud settled and the water was clear again. I’m not sure how long I stood with my hands on my knees, anxiously peering down at the water, but it was quite a while. Finally, when all the muck was settled, I held my breath and filled my jar with water. I felt a rush of triumph as I screwed on the lid. I had done my best, and I knew it!

Smiling widely, I decided to walk toward the shore, but when I tried lifting my foot, it wouldn’t budge. I was horrified! Looking down, I realized that my boots had sunk in the mud while I was waiting for the water to clear. My boot tops were now only a few inches above the stinky waterline. With all my might, I tried lifting my feet. My boots wouldn’t move. Bending over, I tugged on my boots with my hands. They still wouldn’t shift. Frozen in place, I tried thinking my way out of the silly situation. I hadn’t told my mother where I was going, so I couldn’t expect immediate help…

Suddenly, I felt my boots sinking deeper into the muck. Desperately, I made a violent lunge toward the shore. I felt sure that my momentum would free my boots, but it didn’t work that way. One foot popped out of its boot while my other foot held fast. I almost toppled into the water—only my extreme distaste for the stinking muck kept me on my feet. If Olympic judges had been watching my improvised twists and shimmies, they would have given me a 10.0 for flamboyant style!

Standing on one leg, and trying desperately not to get wet, I tugged at my empty boot.  After a momentous struggle, it finally came loose with a squelching, sucking sound. I could feel my captive, booted foot sinking further into the mud. Wiggling like mad to keep my balance, I tried to put the freed boot onto my freed foot…

I am not a gymnast, nor am I an acrobat. I’ve never claimed to be graceful or even reasonably coordinated. What happened next was inevitable. I ended up flat on my back in the mucky water. Few things are quite as stinky as stagnate pond water. And not many things are as gross as being immersed in it.  The only good thing about that incident is that I did come away with a jar of water.

The next day, I proudly presented the jar to my science class, and it did yield quite a few excellent amoebas. As my teacher praised me, I smiled shyly and said that gathering the water hadn’t been a problem at all…

Down through the years, my memory of amoeba catching has always made me chuckle. And believe it or not, I’ve found a correlation between my pond adventure and my current life. You see, when I was in fifth grade, I didn’t tell my mother where I was going because I didn’t want any advice. I thought I could do everything on my own. If Mom had been with me, she would’ve told me that a water sample from the edge of the stream would be just as good as one from the middle. She also would’ve told me that wearing big boots in a muddy area wasn’t exactly a brilliant idea. But I didn’t want advice, and I suffered the stinky, smelly consequences.

I find that sometimes I still don’t like asking for advice. And many times, when I go blindly on my way, I make stupid mistakes that could’ve been easily prevented. This holds true in my spiritual life as well. Sometimes, I don’t pray over my plans. I have lots of excuses for this lapse, but usually it boils down to three reasons:  I think I have everything figured out, or I think that the decision I’m making is small, or I’m feeling pressed for time. I’ve found that when I don’t pray over my plans, disaster is just around the corner. Usually, the small decisions that I don’t cover with prayer end up being more perilous than the big decisions that I commit to God.

Over the years, I’ve learned that asking advice from others—and especially, asking advice from God—isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength. I’ve found that seeking advice is the one thing that can keep me from ending up on my back in the middle of a mucky stream desperately clutching a jar full of amoebas.

 

“A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others.”  Proverbs 12:15