"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 26, 2014
To be honest, I have been experiencing an extended period of time of spiritual dryness and feeling like I've been wandering in the wilderness or desert. I have prayed, but it has felt like my prayers have been bouncing off the ceiling. I have experienced the occasional church service where I've been blessed or my heart has been touched, but even then, it has felt short-lived and as if it were just a sip of water from a cup to keep me going from day to day, when what I really needed was a bucket and a well to drink from.
I knew that I had fallen into the habit of sometimes complaining and being negative, but even though I repented and wanted to change my attitude, it felt like I was stuck solidly in a rut and couldn't get out. I didn't like the person I had become inside, and was unhappy with how I felt and how I occasionally sounded when I took the time to listen to my words. I would try to do better, and I even prayed that God would help me do better. The best way I know to describe it is that it felt somewhat as if I were lost in a forest and couldn't find my way out. I would see a clearing and think, "Perhaps this is the right path," then after a short reprieve, realize that I was still wandering about.
I have been in church all my life, have served in the church in different capacities for many of those years, yet found myself struggling to feel the presence of God in my daily life. Perhaps this has been a time of testing to see how strong my relationship with Jesus really was, and what I would do when put through the fire. I've been a christian since I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of five, but I think it had become something I took for granted and didn't really appreciate. It became easy to coast through life, knowing that God was there, but never really being put through a test to see what our relationship was truly built on -- the sand or a strong foundation.
Granted, there have been tough times in my life, like when my mom passed away when I was fifteen. I remember struggling with my faith and feeling as if God had let me down in not healing Mama. But I was surrounded by family, and went to church with family, and sang with my sisters, and that helped get me through.
But this time, even though I have a godly husband to pray with and support me, I felt like I just wasn't having a spiritual breakthrough and couldn't escape the dryness of the desert.
I think there are times when what brings us out of that spiritual dryness and barren desert is when our faith is tested and we consciously have to make a choice regarding what we're going to do. Something happened that caused Jon and I to have an initial moment of fear. Our minds immediately began thinking of all the possibly "what ifs" and worry began to momentarily take hold of our minds.
I was sitting at my nieces house shortly thereafter and was rocking her baby and praying. At first I was crying and saying, "God I don't understand why this is happening! We have prayed and believed and trusted and now this has happened......" But as I heard my words, something within my heart changed and I began saying, "I choose to continue trusting You! I choose to believe that You are in control! I refuse to give into the fear and doubt and unbelief that satan would try to put into my mind. I choose You, God!"
That is what prompted me to post these words on my Facebook page later that morning: "Sometimes we have to consciously choose faith over fear; choose to trust God when circumstances seem overwhelming; and not waiver in our belief that God is greater than any attack satan would try to bring against us. Satan wants nothing more than to get our focus on our problems and off God; he wants us to worry and fret and live in fear; and he wants to destroy our faith and peace of mind. But today I CHOOSE to not give into my feelings and how the situation may look, and I CHOOSE to trust God and know that His favor has been upon us this far, and He's not going to leave us now.... or ever. Satan is a liar and I'm not going to give him the satisfaction of stealing my joy. I CHOOSE to keep my focus on God!"
2 Timothy1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Fear is not from God. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Since my dad died from a heart attack a few years ago, there have been times when I've had the fear that I'll have a heart attack. That is fear from satan! Since my mom died from cancer, there have been times when the fear of cancer has attacked my mind. That is fear from satan! We can also fear going through doors that God opens; fear the future and not knowing what may happen; fear the loss of a loved one and how we'll cope; fear losing a job; fear the lack of finances; fear for the safety of children or grandchildren; and the list could go on and on and on. But fear is not from God; for His Word tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear.
"Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You." (Psalm 56:3)
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
So when we feel fear or worry fill our heart and mind, we can go to God's word and read His promises. We can consciously choose to trust God and refuse to listen to the lies that satan would try to fill our minds up with. We may have to make that same choice again in an hour, or the next day, or next week..... but as soon as fear or worry or doubt comes, we have the weapon of God's Word to combat those fears.
I've never entirely felt like I knew God's voice. Too many times, when I thought He was speaking to me, it wasn't God speaking to me. About the only times I've been entirely confident God was speaking to my heart was when I felt peace which surpassed all understanding. It's also when I've needed God that I've felt closest to Him.
Those other times, I've wished I could hear from God, but was also looking for the least I could do to get by. What is the least I can tithe? How much time praying or reading my Bible is enough? Can I watch this funny show, even though it gets pretty vulgar?
Today, I heard a message on the radio that mentioned that if we really understood and embraced what a wonderful thing it is that God has forgiven all we've done wrong, we wouldn't want to do anything even questionable. We ought to be asking different questions. You really want me to keep 90%? Which part of the Bible should I read today? Who should I pray for, today? Why am I watching this? How can I be an honor to You?
There are recipes that seem as if they should be simple, but sometimes may not be to some.
For instance: boiling an egg. How long do you boil to make sure the yolk is done? I used to not be sure, so would often overcook and end up with the white being somewhat rubbery or the yolk overdone. I have a cousin, Danny, that is known for his sense of humor and joking; but he is actually the one who told me how to boil an egg, and since that time they've come out perfectly (I'm sure he probably learned it from his mama).
Put the desired number of eggs in a pan of water and turn the heat on medium. When the water comes to a full boil, set the timer for 8 minutes. Drain the hot water off and rinse with cold water. If I want/need to cool the shells quicker, I will pour off the hot water, then put some cool water in the pan, then put in several ice cubes. Some say that the ice treatment helps the shells peel off easier. Also, older eggs will peel easier than fresher ones.
Another quick tip: When making potato salad, put your eggs in with your potatoes when you cook them. When the potatoes are soft, the eggs are done. It saves on using another pan. I've used this method many times and it always work very well.
Have you ever got into the wrong vehicle? That happened to my niece recently, which make others confess their mishaps.
Janee' was picking Jax up at his school. Parents have to park, then walk up to the sidewalk to pick their child. Janee' had gone to get their dog groomed prior to picking up Jax, so had the dog in the van. After picking up Jax, she went to a tan van with a dog inside.... and wondered why Jax's car seat had been moved from the back to the middle.... and couldn't really recall their dog's new haircut looking like it did.... and was buckling Jovie in a black car seat (hers is pink)..... when a lady yelled and said, "Don't let the dog out of the van!" Janee' wondered why the lady would care if her dog got out of the van.... then realized she was in the wrong van!
That led Jon to confess that the last time he worked offshore he and his co-worker had landed at the helicopter pad. Jon was loading his bag of tools and luggage into a van when his co-worker walked up and asked what he was doing. It was then that Jon remember that they weren't in a van -- they were in his co-worker's truck!
My nephew's wife also confessed to her mother-in-law that a while back she got into her car and called her husband telling him that the key wouldn't fit into the ignition. He asked if the vehicle had Texas license plates, because theirs still did from them moving from there to Oklahoma. Nope! She was in the wrong car!
Loving unconditionally doesn't mean you only love if conditions meet your criteria.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon