Stretched

gumby

Lately I have been feeling a little like Gumby. Not physically, although I really need to get to the gym; I probably can’t even touch my toes anymore. Ha!! I am talking about spiritually. It seems like the Lord just won’t let me get comfortable. Just this week, I got that familiar burning in my chest, coupled with anxiety when a thought popped in my brain that had all the characteristics of coming from the Lord. My immediate response was ABSOLUTELY NOT! No Way! Unfortunately, I am starting to learn that when that’s my knee-jerk reaction, it often means that I will absolutely be doing it. Can any of you relate?

There are many examples of individuals being stretched in Scripture. Aren’t you glad we can read their stories? One of my favorites is Moses. In Exodus 3, he is minding his own business tending sheep out in the wilderness, when he sees a random bush that is on fire but not burning up! Turns out, the bush is none other than Almighty God Himself who begins talking to him. Crazy! Moses has no idea what is ahead of him. He is about to be stretched big time. And his first response was no, nope, no way, yada, yada, yada… I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to Moses’ response. He gave God about as many excuses as he could, but ultimately, He took on the task of being Israel’s deliverer. And the rest is history.

When I was reading over this story again, I noticed something. In Exodus 7:14, When Moses went before Pharaoh, God told Moses and his brother Aaron 8 times to stretch out their hand so they could perform miracles before Pharaoh, that would show His power ultimately leading to the Israelite’s deliverance. It was God’s power at work, but Moses physically had to stretch his hand out in faith to perform the miracles.

The more Moses stretched out his arm, the more God displayed his power and glory to the Egyptians and the Israelites. He does the same way with us. We stretch outward, but at the same time we stretch upward to Him, because He is our strength. When we step out in faith and allow him to take us out of our comfort zones, He will lead us places we could never go on our own. It’s usually scary and uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, it is always worth it.

And when all was said and done, and God had delivered the Israelites, Moses never forget that it wasn’t by his strength. I’ll leave you with his own words to the LORD after the Exodus.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. Exodus 15:11-12 (ESV)

If the Lord is calling you to stretch out, do it! His power is at work in you! You just have to obey.

Natalie

 

Lessons from Standby

“Andy, I forgot my driver’s license.” This is not the sentence you want to say when you have just pulled up at the airport for your early morning flight. We were on our way to Kansas City for my dad’s graduation, and I had just thought to myself, “Wow, we are actually early! I can send some emails, get my Starbucks. This is great!” Apparently, I packed everything except the one thing that you MUST have to board the plane. After rushing all the way back to our house in the suburbs and then back to the airport, we missed our original flight to Atlanta that would take us to Kansas City. Let’s just say those moments were not my best.

As I cried at the ticket counter and listened to the options, it became apparent that our journey to Kansas City was not going to be easy. After hearing all of the possible scenarios, our best option was to get on STANDBY for the next flight to Atlanta, and then wait on STANDBY for the next flight to Kansas City. Well, that scared me to death. Even though there were a ton of seats available on the plane, I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in Atlanta!

HOME ALONE mom use this

At the end of the day, we made it to Kansas City. There were a couple close calls, and a reenactment of the Home Alone scene as we sprinted through the Atlanta airport with Ellie and James, but we made it to the graduation celebration.  And you and I both know that God made it happen.

The whole time this was going on, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the Christian life. Once we missed that original flight, we didn’t have control. We were on standby the rest of the way. And we had to take tiny steps of faith to get to our destination. Often, the Lord calls us to do something that is scary or uncomfortable. We may be OK with it, but the real problem comes in when we can’t see the step after that. We can’t see where or when He’s booked our next ticket, and so we don’t even get on the original flight. Because, what if we have to hang out in the ATL airport for the rest of our lives????

One of the most unbelievable examples of faith in the Old Testament is Abraham. His whole life was like a giant leap of faith! And although he had his moments, for the most part he trusted the Lord. In Genesis 12, God revealed himself to Abram, calling him to leave his family and everything he knew. Taking God at his word, Abram obeyed. Verse 1 always jumps out at me,

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…”

God didn’t fill in the destination on Abraham’s ticket! He literally told him to pack up and go, and Abraham had to rely completely on the Lord. Sometimes we may think that it was easier for Abraham to obey because the Lord gave him these amazing promises in the next few verse (2-3). But I’m not sure that’s true. We have hundreds of promises in Scripture that apply to us, and yet we still have trouble stepping out in faith when we don’t have all the details planned out.

When Andy and I were at the original ticket counter trying to figure out what to do, the Delta employee could tell I was about to have an anxiety attack. She was so great and  was confident that we would make that connecting flight. As she was making the arrangements, she looked at me and said, “Just think of it as an adventure.” Y’all the Christian life is an adventure!!! And the LORD has all of our flights booked 😊

Natalie

 

When all the chocolate disappears…

Disappointment… You know the feeling. You realize something has not gone the way you had hoped, and your stomach drops. Sometimes it feels like an instant slap in the face. Other times it’s a gradual realization until you feel bamboozled. (Isn’t that a fun word?) And if you are anything like me, the following days can be worse than the actual moments of disappointment. The individuals closest to you might suffer the consequences, which COULD include: constant discussion about said disappointment, an increased atmosphere of irritability, and the sudden disappearance of all chocolate in the home.

crunch bag.jpg

The first definition that came up on my google search was this: “disappointment: the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”

Notice the word “feeling.” Wow! That struck a chord with me, because I get so caught up in my feelings, and they can get me in big trouble. Feelings are not bad in and of themselves, but because of the Fall (Genesis 3), they are tainted by sin and can (and will) lead us astray.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” We cannot trust our feelings to lead us through life.

Keeping in mind that feelings should not be the primary guides for our decisions and actions, is disappointment a positive or negative thing? Negative!! Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where we would never experience that horrible feeling in our stomach when we are let down in a situation, or fight back the tears when we are betrayed by the ones close to us?

The LORD brought to mind this verse from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

Look what Paul says about our hope. As believers, we do have a hope that does not disappoint. Here, Paul is building upon the hope he introduced in Romans 5:2, “the hope of the glory of God.” This is the promise that God will perfect us one day, and we will spend eternity with Him in heaven, if we are saved through Christ Jesus. That hope will NEVER disappoint us.

That’s great Paul, but how can this unbelievable hope on the promises of God help me handle the disappointments while I am here on earth? Can I apply this future hope NOW so that I don’t continue to lash out at everyone around me or stay in bed for the next six months? (That’s one of those jokes with a hint of truth ha!)

Look at Hebrews 11:1.Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) Some translations say faith is the confidence, evidence, even reality of things hoped for. Those words give such a strength and objectivity to this idea of faith. The author goes on to give us a list of heroes in the faith such as Abraham, Moses, and my personal favorite, Rahab 😊 who have gone before us living their lives with their eyes fixed on this future hope. They lived here on earth amidst major trials and HUGE disappointments, but continued living “by faith” because they believed the promises of God and placed their confidence in that future hope. In a way, they were celebrating their future hope while they were here on earth, almost like having a pre-victory party. Can you imagine being that confident in something? What a beautiful picture. We can (and should!) have that same level confidence, because WE serve the same GOD who has given us the same promises through His Son!! He will NOT disappoint us.

So perhaps there IS a correlation between faith and dealing with my disappointment. Maybe if I fix my eyes on the future hope in my Savior Jesus Christ, and think on who HE is and what He has done for me, I won’t get AS worked up when things down here make my heart sink. Could I train my mind to outsmart my emotions and start running to the One who doesn’t disappoint? Could I refocus on HIM and the glory He has waiting for me, instead of myself and the sadness, hurt feelings, and disappointment I feel?

Well, I definitely have a LOOOONG way to go. To give you an idea of where I am in this department, the family size bag of Nestle Crunch bars I bought from Kroger a couple of days ago is almost gone. And I’m the only one in the family who really eats chocolate. 😊

Natalie

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)