One Word 2015 Update and Glory Days Book Review

Adoration has been my focus this year.  To spend an entire year with one particular word shaping interactions and focus can be a challenging thing.  I specifically chose Adoration this year because I knew it needed to be a deeper focus area for me.  I also knew that if I didn’t make it a focus area I would quickly slip into old habits.

Now that it is October and I have a clearer head I think it’s time to fess up.  Over the summer I walked away from adoring God.  In his newest book Glory Days, Max Lucado says that 11% of Christians describe their days as glory days.  “Nearly nine out of ten believers, in other words, languish in the wilderness.  Saved?  Yes. Empowered? No.  They waste away in the worst of ways- in the Land of In-Between.”  Being honest means I have to share with you that this summer I was again stuck in the in between.

Moving as quickly as we did to the mountains meant leaving behind the house we had owned for about 10 years.  We still own that house today, and although we have good renters who are taking great care of it, our former property manager had lead us to believe that our renters would be purchasing the house over the summer.  I couldn’t help but count down the months and my hope soared with every tiny bit of news about the progress towards finally selling the house…..news that was all lies.

This house has been a source of anxiety, fear, frustration and bad memories for me. Distance has brought up old wounds and deep hurts and many of those memories are attached to our former house and town.  The cruelty of a promise not kept was translated by me into a betrayal from God.  Of course, it was no such thing, feelings betray us all the time, changing our perspective on the truth God lays right in front of us.  The reality is, when we are wounded by someone it is hard to pay them a compliment, and adoration feels like compliments some days.

As I sat in the in between holding my breath wanting so desperately to have my most anxious and serious of prayers answered the lies from years past crept up. The voice in my heart told me God is not for you, He doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to provide for your needs.

“Storms are coming your way.  Winds will howl, your boat will be tossed, and you will have a choice.  Will you hear Christ or the crisis?  Heed the promises of Scripture or the noise of the storm?  Glory Days require an ongoing trust in God’s Word.  Wilderness people trust Scripture just enough to escape Egypt.  Canaan dwellers, on the other hand, make the Bible their go-to book for life. ”

I’m disappointed to tell you that just as Lucado describes the Israelites here, my faith these past few months has been one of just getting out of Egypt.  Thankfully though, God is so much bigger than my human flaws.  Even when I lost hope my Provider moved mightly.  Our house is not yet sold, and it will be over a year before this process is completed at the minimum.  Still, miraculously, financial stress has been lightened tremendously, we are now in an honest agreement, and God has proved yet again (although I in no way deserve it) He is FOR me, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

I’m striving these days to live the Glory Days and not to sit in the in between, the wilderness.  For me, Adoration is a large part of that, just as being reminded by those much wiser than me that the Glory Days exist. Lucado shows us how following the example of Joshua will help us boldly live there.

In exchange for an honest review I was given a copy of Glory Days by Max Lucado for free from Book Look Bloggers.  The opinions expressed her are my own.

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The Beauty of Rainbows

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Over the weekend this photo popped up on my facebook feed.  It was taken fairly close to our house, but I missed it.  I commented how cool it was, and the photo taker replied that it was actually a double rainbow, but the camera didn’t show all its beauty.  The next morning I saw a few other comments, and right under my conversation, someone had said “That’s the beauty of rainbows. They’re most beautiful for the people experiencing the storm.”

The first rainbow ever viewed was in a storm.  Actually, physically the rainbow was revealed after the storm, but for Noah and his family, life as they knew it had changed. Genesis tells us that Noah and his family were on the Ark for 150 days while God flooded the earth drowning everything still on land.  In Genesis 9 Noah’s family is charged with repopulating the earth.  Can you imagine the weight of having to restart your lives after everything and practically everyone you have ever known drowns?  That is a bit of an emotional storm no?

So, after God blesses Noah’s family, they are shown the first rainbow.  Genesis 9:11-13 “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.  And God said This is the sign of the covenant I am making between you and me and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

If you have ever been lucky enough to see a rainbow you know that it is quite a sight. They are the fuel for legends for a reason.  Rainbows honestly do seem to show up without reason and without end.  I bet that first rainbow was full and bright and clear.  God was making a promise, and he didn’t want Noah to miss it.

In Angie Smith’s study Seamless she says “Now, maybe you just saw an image in your mind of a pretty little rainbow and it’s taking the edge off the whole mass destruction part, but you’re not all that inclined to be moved by the gesture. But what it signifies is something profound and entirely indicative of the enduring love that God has for His people, and a reminder to us that He has chosen to be in relationship with us.”

Think about it for a minute.  The rainbow is revealed by God after he wiped out ALMOST the whole earth.  God could have completely started over, but something in Noah and his family made God decide that he would keep Noah around to restart things.  So, when we see a rainbow today, we are not only being reminded of God’s covenant promise after the flood never to destroy the earth in that manner again, but we are being reminded that as Angie Smith says “Even when we didn’t deserve it, God gave us another chance.”

I’ve written about it already, but life has been a bit of a storm personally the last few weeks.  This last week in particular things seemed to amp up even more.  The truth of the matter is, I’m tired.  I’m sick of the loudest bully getting to control the story.  I’m exhausted from the emotional beating that others seem to think I’m asking for.  I’m tired of prayers going unanswered.  If I pause to boo-hoo long enough, I can easily rabbit trail down the wrong thought path.  I wonder if Noah and his family felt the same while tossing around in an ark filled with animals.  I wonder if they got sick the heavy stench that was a constant reminder that they were stuck on a boat, with a whole lot of animals and not enough people.

The trauma of those 150 days at sea was likely not quickly forgotten.  Similarly, nowadays, wounding words are not easily forgotten.  Just like present anxieties are not easily forgotten, God knew that Noah and his crew were shaken up.  His response was to give them a visual sign that He was moving forward.  God promised a new process and way of doing things.  He promised that never again would the whole earth be wiped out.  You know how we know God keeps his promises?  That was one of the earliest ever recorded, and he hasn’t gone back on it yet!  Not only that, but every once in awhile, we get to see that vivid reminder for ourselves, and sometimes, it’s exactly when we need it most! And if we can trust that promise, I guess we could easily make the step that God keeps all His promises.  Like the promises to hear us when we cry out to Him or the promise to carry us through our hardest times.  “That’s the beauty of rainbows. They’re most beautiful for the people experiencing the storm.”  

Thoughts on Doubting Thomas

This past Sunday the sermon was on Thomas.  Thomas is often referred to as Doubting Thomas because of this passage of scripture in John 20:24-29

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Every time I’ve heard this passage of scripture referenced it is used to teach that we should believe what God says without being a Thomas.  God says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  But here’s the thing.  Thomas was asking for Jesus to show up.  Thomas’ faith was at a point where he just needed to see what everyone was saying could be true for his life as well.  And the thing is, Jesus showed up.  Thomas wasn’t unlike any of the other disciples.  They had all believed after Jesus had appeared to them.  Thomas wasn’t less faith-filled than the other disciples, he just wasn’t present when everyone else got to see Jesus.

Personally, the last few weeks have been a series of crazy scenarios that have left me shaking my head.  To begin rehashing the month of insanity, I must first explain that we have a house for sale and although it is being rented out, 2 years of hanging onto bad memories has been enough. The strain and stress of having this house has been the source of much pain and frustration for me in my relationship and understanding of God and has caused a lot of stress for our whole family as well.

Back in February, I had made my intentions known to our property manager that we would begin the process of listing the house late April/early May.  I put in a few requests with our property manager asking for her to 1) arrange a showing of the house  2) speak with the renters regarding their intent to purchase 3) find out if any repairs needed to be made before listing the house.  To say that she did the exact opposite of what we requested would be saying it as nicely as possible.  To say she flat-out lied to us more than once would be as close to being specific as I will get.

In the midst of emails, texts and phone calls asking for simple requests like putting a for sale sign in our yard (which never happened) I accepted a job at our local Y.  This job brings me back to my aquatic roots and is a good fit.  There was a lot of work that needed to be done preparing for summer, and I also needed to chase down my WSI certification.  The American Red Cross branch I had worked with back in IL was never the best and actually keeping up with things, so I placed a call to national.  To summarize, 3 very lengthy phone calls where both myself and my certifying instructor were given at least 10 different stories lead to an email to the support center where I got the following response:

“At the Training Support Center processes are created, discontinued, and modified all the time. The Learning Center is not programmed to verify instructor certification before entering, or approving a course record. This is something that must be done by an agent at the Training Support Center. Unfortunately, having agents verify instructor certification before entering, or approving course records did not exist until recently. The course records entered, approved, and paid for prior to this process are valid, and will not be canceled, and refunded.”  Essentially what this means is that the American Red Cross was very happy to take my money for providing swim lessons for the last 14 years, but they didn’t have the correct stop gaps in place to actually record the information accurately.  They have decided I’m no longer certified because I missed a webinar that they didn’t email me about.  So have no fear people who I taught all these years, your records will show I knew what I was doing, but my records must reflect that I don’t.  Of course, ARC has a solution, I can give them about $500 to re-certify.

On top of all this, I needed to rent a car for a work trip.  A comedy of errors on their part including charging me double, dropping the car off almost an hour later than promised and not being able to get me a receipt that reflected the correct amount I would need to submit for reimbursement left me on the phone with customer service for over an hour only to be told that if I had accepted the rental car they would have upgraded it for free….WHAT?  Twitter actually got a rep to supposedly accept a true complaint as the previous 2 customer service reps didn’t record anything I said, only listened. Twitter is the reason my refund took 24 hours, not 5 days.

Then, to top it off, for the second year in a row a significant leader on our college campus resigned.  Both years this has been someone my husband works closely with, who’s family we have become to love.

I know the above scenarios could all seem petty.  I mean, who cares if we have signed a contract and monthly pay a property manager to manage, and she does nothing.  Boo hoo that I no longer have a WSI on record. Bummer that transitions in leadership above your husband at work are happening.  The fact is none of these scenarios were life ending and yet they were certainly things that had me reeling.  For an entire week day after day it was as if every phone call, email and conversation ended in my being told that essentially “Yep, we screwed up, but oh well, you are on your own.”  And of course, the fact that these scenarios were all piled on top of each other made each feel more stressful than they would have individually.

As the exhaustion built from having my days filled with frustration and restless sleep I found myself spiraling down a path, I began last May which took me months to crawl out of.  You see, none of my situations seemed like things that needed to go against me.  They were actually pretty simple fixes if the people I had to work with would have simply done what they promised to do.  And even bigger than that, all of these situations seemed like things God could have easily remedied if He desired.  These frustrations (just as months of unanswered prayer had created last year) caused me to begin to wonder if God had forgotten about me for a bit.

There are times in our lives when our faith is weaker.  When it feels as if God has forgotten us, or has decided we need to step away from his favor for a bit.   The reality is that we are warned over and over in the New Testament that we will see hard times.  We are even given reminders on how to respond in those times.  James 1:2-8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Yes, I agree it’s best if we handle trial times by clinging to what we know about God’s character, but the reality is, we often don’t.  This isn’t always because we don’t have a true faith, it’s because faith is hard.  Jesus understood Thomas needed a little boost, so he SHOWED UP, and because Jesus showed up in a way that Thomas could do nothing but accept that it was Jesus’s actions he saw,  Thomas had a heart change.  Thomas had the chance to do what he had demanded, to put his hand in Jesus’ wounds, he didn’t need to.  Seeing Jesus was enough.

I don’t know why Jesus chose to appear to the disciples without Thomas.  It could have been to simply be able to have the scenario happen that occurred.  I do know that he didn’t forget about Thomas.  I’ll be honest, I sat through that sermon and wished I could jump up and point out that Thomas believed because Jesus appeared to him. Instead, I prayed for God to show up.  On the ride home from church, I got a text message from our renter.  With our property manager now out of the picture, we were free to negotiate the house sale on our own.  Within an hour a price was agreed upon, and as I type this, we wait to hear about bank approval.  I don’t know if things will work out or if we will have to list the house again this summer, but I do know this:  I needed to know that in my time of weakening faith God would carry me, not leave me hanging, feeling as if He was silently observing.    I needed to know God could hear me, and when I  asked, He showed up.  It may not have been as spectacular as Jesus appearance to Thomas, but I think we felt the same relief.  This same answered prayer is what gives me the strength to hope that heading into the future God will bring the people to our campus that need to be there, and that as life continues He will show up, just as He did for Thomas.