A Better Normal

“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know. I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

We all have our breaking point. It might be different for you than me, but if we’re being honest, we all have a time when we just fall down. There’s a weight that overcomes us in that particular moment. It’s part of being human, and being humble. We are not completely invincible, and we were never meant to be. That is part of what makes life so precious, but the secret to it all is not to stay there too long.

I found my breaking point on Easter evening. Twenty-two tornados were swirling over the state of Georgia and around my home in the span of a couple of hours. I could handle Covid-19. I could handle the stock-market crash and the loss of my near-retirement savings. I could even handle the possibility of job losses. But now I was hunkered down in a corner of my home while a freight-train sounding wind just outside the walls threated my family and my home. At 2 AM. On the evening following Easter. I began to shake, and I began to cry. And I sure prayed too.

Gratefully and thankfully, there was no damage to our home and my family was all safe under one roof. It came close though, with one of the twenty-two tornados touching down about twenty miles north of us. Living in the South, we’ve had our share of tornado scares before, but this one was my breaking point. I was shaken, and there was a tiredness that stayed with me for days. I laid around the house without much motivation. And just a week later on the same Sunday evening, we had another threat for more storms and tornados. I froze. I had a PTSD-like feeling. I couldn’t sleep, and I was useless all day until the threat had passed. I finally understood how people with anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder must feel all the time. This feeling went on for a couple of weeks, until I realized this was no way to live. I had to get back up.

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

I began talking with God in my prayers and telling Him how I felt. “Lord, I’m tired”, I would say. God likes us to be honest in our prayers to Him. He can work with that. After a few days of me telling God how I felt, I noticed something when I went down to the kitchen in the morning for my usual cup of coffee. As I opened the pantry and reached for the coffee, I saw shelves stocked full of food. I had stocked up at the grocery store so I wouldn’t have to go out as often during this pandemic. My refrigerator and freezer were full too. Suddenly I was thankful we had enough food to eat during this crisis without worry. I looked around my house. I was thankful for my comfortable home that held so many precious lifetime memories, and for my family that was healthy and safe still sleeping upstairs. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but today, right now, was good. And every morning since, I’ve begun my day with honest and thankful prayers to God. In the quiet of the evenings after everyone else has retired upstairs, I do one last check around the house and then step outside on the back deck to look up at the heavenly stars and give one more “thank you” for the day and for peace during the night.

These are certainly trying times for all. Everyone in the entire world is affected. But what may become our biggest tragedy of all, is if we as a community and as a world, waste this crisis and go back to our normal lives when all of this is over. Sure, we all want some normalcy back in our lives, and I do miss those nostalgic carefree days we had only a few months ago. But I also remember other things: I remember people complaining about how crazy-busy they were and stressed out over things that don’t really matter; cutting each other off in traffic just to save a few seconds; being glued to our phones instead of enjoying each other’s company; and complaining. Yes, I mentioned that last one twice. And for those of us who are people of faith, we prayed for revival at Christmas time and New Year’s. Did we mean it? Most revivals and great changes in society come from some sacrifice or tragedy. Rarely do we change our behavior when things are going great. When we are comfortable, we often forget gratitude. We forget how to be creative and innovative. We forget the simple joys, and what is truly important in life.

So when we hear of the “new normal”, I hope we will strive for a “better normal” instead. It will surely be different, but how? We have a new start and a new chance with the reopening. Let’s not go back to the way we were or we will not have learned anything from our mistakes. Those who died will have died for nothing, the sacrifices will mean nothing, and our faith that has been put to the test will show we failed when it counted the most. We have a chance to do better, be better, show our true faith in times of trial! There is a hurting world out there, far more than just the virus. Let’s come out of this tragedy more compassionate, more observant, more kind, and not take the good things for granted. Let’s create again, let’s collaborate and put our brightest minds together to invent a vaccine, and let’s show the people who will be reading our history books that we as a people rose above this and made a better world for them. And through it all, may they also read about how we turned to God during this time for our hope, and He delivered us.

Just Keep Flying

Pilots are trained for emergencies. They are taught that when the unexpected happens, the number one thing you do is to keep flying. You may have to make some adjustments, but you keep flying the plane. And that’s where we are right now. We keep living. We make adjustments and be prepared, but we keep on living, and hopefully do it in a more mindful way. Slow down, spend more time with family, call an elderly friend, take a walk outdoors, or sit in your backyard and listen to the birds. Fresh air, sunshine, and God’s nature are all good, healthy things to enjoy. No one wants circumstances like we have right now to remind us what is truly important, but let’s not waste the opportunity either. Live now. Enjoy God’s beauty around us. Be kind. Pray more. Less sensational news and social media. Look up.
And now, I think I’ll go bake some cookies with all that extra flour, sugar, butter and eggs I recently bought. Live your fullest, my friend! Don’t waste a moment.

A nudge

from the walking trail in my yard

“You haven’t prayed yet this morning.” a little nudging thought seemed to say to me.

I know… I say back to myself in my thoughts, while grabbing my purse and phone and taking that last sip of coffee. … I’ve got to get going for my appointment this morning. I’ll pray when I get back. Besides, there’s nothing going on here in this quiet morning that needs urgent prayer. It can wait a few hours.

I try to read my devotion and pray every morning, but honestly, it sometimes gets away from me. I always feel better when I do. It’s like getting dressed in the morning. When I rush, I don’t always look my best. Those shoes I grabbed in a hurry don’t really go with my outfit. I may get through the day ok, but I don’t feel great.

On this morning, I’m dressed but don’t have on great shoes. I head out for my appointment downtown, and afterwards I check my phone. There’s an urgent text from my son – COME HOME NOW. I call and text and wait to hear back from him as I’m madly driving home. And praying, urgently praying.

It all turned out ok, just some scary scammers that he wasn’t sure how to deal with. But it got me thinking. That nudge earlier this morning. God was giving me a heads up. He knew what was coming. He knew the evil that was lurking in people who are ready to pounce on the unsuspecting or vulnerable. When we least expect it. God wanted to talk with me that morning through my prayer, to reassure me, and to help clothe me for what my son would be facing in just a couple of hours. God was already preparing his angels to surround my son from such evil.

I was reminded there is nothing more important in getting ready for our day than starting the day talking to God. So this morning when I opened my devotion, I found this:

As Soon As You Prayed
God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer. Daniel 9:23
God answered their prayers because they trusted him. 1 Chronicles 5:20

God starts to answer us the minute we begin praying. And many times for things we don’t even know about.

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 1 – God’s answer to man’s sin

dovepeaceatchristmas

Please join me for the 31 days of December, as I will be posting a Christmas series which looks at the Christmas story and season in a slightly different way. The story of Jesus and the meaning behind the celebration of Christmas are woven throughout the entire Bible – from the beginning of mankind in Genesis to the resurrection of Jesus as told by the apostle John some 4000 years later.

Genesis 3:15
I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This is the first sign of hope that God gives us in the Bible. Adam and Eve have just rebelled against God, and sin is now introduced into the world and humankind. God curses Satan for it. “Your seed” refers to Satan and unbelievers who are called the devil’s children in John 8:44. “Her seed” refers to Christ, a descendent of Eve through the virgin Mary and includes believers in Christ. This first prophecy of a Savior to come says that Satan will strike Jesus’ heel, but Jesus will give the final blow to Satan’s head and destroy him.

In Genesis 3:13, just prior to this prophecy, God asks Eve what she has done. In verse 14, God curses the serpent, and just one verse later in Genesis 3:15, God provides a way for redemption and hope. God has never left us without hope, even when reading from one verse to the next in the Bible. Through all the suffering that sin has caused in our world, God has always and will continue to, offer a way of hope for those who seek it.

May God touch your heart this Christmas
and show you what His Hope feels like.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 2 – God chooses a man to begin a nation

abraham-jesus

Two thousand years have passed between the time of Adam and Eve and when Abraham arrives on the scene. That’s a long time from the first prophecy given in Genesis 3:15. God was certainly patient! Almost everything we know about these first 2000 years of humanity is recorded in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. While God didn’t give us all the details of what occurred and why, there are some very interesting people and events during this time.

Genesis 5 records the genealogy starting with Adam. Adam lived 930 years. Enoch, the father of Methuselah, walked with God and lasted 365 years until “he was no longer there”. He never died but was taken up by God. Methuselah, the oldest man, lived 969 years. But after Methuselah’s time, the world is significantly changed forever. It had become extremely evil and violent, and there was only one righteous man left – Noah, and his family. They were saved by God from the Great Flood which wiped out all the evil and started humanity over again. Life spans were decreased, and the world and climate was changed. Some 700 years later, the people tried to build a monument to their own greatness (calling themselves gods) and worshipping creation instead of the Creator, so God scattered the people into different groups by separating their languages. This became the beginning of different nations.

By the time Abram (later called Abraham) arrived, around 2000 BC, he was living a life of luxury in the city of Ur, now modern day Iraq. The culture had advanced extremely well since the years after the flood and beginning of nations. They were advanced in the areas of arts and sciences, and had been writing for about one thousand years. Their standard of living was high, with the average middle-class home having 10-20 rooms and over 2000 square feet (Archeology and Bible History, Joseph Free, p. 49). But God called Abram out of this life of luxury to lead a nation who would carry God’s story forward through history to all nations. God was ready to begin the prophecy stated in Genesis 3:15. Abram left his former life behind, all for his faith and obedience to God, and the first covenant was created between God and His people. This changed everything. It changed the history of mankind forever, and religion as we know it today was first established.

This is the second prophecy, the Abrahamic Covenant:

Genesis 12:1-3
Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
 I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

God promised three blessings to Abraham: land, a great nation, and all people will be blessed through you. We are still living out this first covenant today. The land and nation were fulfilled in the later chapters of Genesis, and the third promise – a blessing to all people – has been fulfilled through Jesus Christ, who was a descendent from this nation and the One who came for all people.

May you get to know the God of Abraham this Christmas season.
He is the One who establishes a covenant promise with His people
to never leave or forsake them, and to be a blessing to all people.  

* Merry Christmas *