The Bible and The Fleas

“ … give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

How special is God’s Word to you?

Have you ever wondered what life might be like if you didn’t have it?

Did you know that in North Korea it is illegal to own a Bible? And in many other countries, it is very difficult to obtain a Bible. In some places, owning a Bible might cost a person his or her life.

Corrie ten Boom was a young woman who faced some of these very difficult circumstances with bravery, hope and most of all, prayer.

Corrie lived in Holland during World War II. Her family were devoted Christians and when Nazi Germany began to arrest, deport and harm the Jewish people, Corrie and her family secretively hid as many Jews as they could in their own home. But in February 1944, the Gestapo raided Corrie’s home; she and her family were arrested and sent to prison camps.

In her biography, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells a story about her time in the prison camp and shares how very precious God’s Word was to her. She had managed to sneak a Bible into the camp with her, even though it was not allowed.

“Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible ‘like waifs clustered around a blazing fire…The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.’ ” (theprayercoach.com)

After a while, the guards moved the girls to a new barracks. They were filthy and infested with fleas. Corrie felt discouraged and hopeless, but Betsie pointed out that the Bible says we should give thanks in all circumstances. As they prayed together, Betsie thanked God for the fleas!

Corrie thought her sister was crazy, but a short time later, she joined Betsie in thanking God. Because of the fleas, none of the guards would come near the barracks where the two sisters were held with dozens of other women. In those cells, they held Bible studies freely, without fear of the guards catching and punishing them.

God, thank you for allowing us to own and read your Holy Word. Thank you for parents and teachers who have the freedom to teach us about you, and thank you that we are able to freely tell others about you, too. Teach us to be thankful always for this privilege and to pray for those who don’t have access to your Word. Help us to treat your Word with respect and honor.

This article was originally written for a young audience and published in ‘Tween Girls and God. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=tween+girls+and+god

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Well-Aged With Season

As with last week’s post, I’m going back through a handful of pieces I’ve written in recent years, but never published. I’m amazed sometimes at the things God once taught me but slipped to faint and distant memory. I hope this touches you today. 

“Be careful, parents! One day the little ones whose diapers you’re changing will be changing yours!”

I heard that humorous warning about aging in a sermon once. I don’t recall the rest of the lesson at all. That line was so catchy, I kind of got stuck there. But recently, the gravity and art of aging has intrigued me.

Maybe it’s because my refrigerator is camouflaged in pictures of my nieces and nephews. Kylie, the oldest, isn’t quite three; baby Acelynn hasn’t even had her first birthday. Right alongside images of first steps, yogurt-smeared chins and sparkly, wide eyes, is a photo of my grandmother. She turned 91 this year.

Granddad died a few years ago. Since then, almost spry as ever, she has lived alone a few hours from my parents’ house. The only signs of her age are fading hearing, a tremor when she tries to hold her head perfectly still and she walks a bit slower than she used to.

Or maybe, I’m contemplating these seasons of life because I volunteer doing pet therapy with hospice patients. I heard of a man who recently decided he’d like a visit. It took them months to convince him he would benefit from a few hours with a dog. Stubborn, he kept telling his son and nurses that he wants his own dog, not simply a visitor. He knows what they say is true, that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. He’s too old and ill to care for it properly. He may not live much longer and then who would take care of his furry best friend? Brave and I will meet Mr. Thurston next week for the first time.

Or maybe it’s because a few weeks ago Brave and I attended a grief camp for children who have lost a loved one in the last two years. However unfair, they were thrust into an unexpected season, one with a stark awareness of death. For many of them, the loss will mean a drastic change in their lifestyle. Who will tuck me in at night?

I might be thinking about birth, aging and dying, youth and the elderly, old and new because a friend just told me that he and his wife are finishing their basement so that his father can move in with them. It’s only been a few short years since they tenderly cared for his mother in her final days.

Whatever the reason, the seasons of life are turning in my head. But it’s much more than a solemn observation of finite lives. It’s more of an interest in how these season change us, not just our appearances and abilities, but change the way we live our lives. Passing years change our lifestyles, our priorities, our waking thoughts and unremembered dreams.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

It’s not surprising that Paul includes that sentence in, “The Love Chapter”. The most important way that time changes us, that age matures us, that the end sobers us, is that we fall more in love with the timeless. Time as we know it nears its finale, and our attention is swept up by the eternal. Our love shifts to things of an infinite nature—the promises of our Creator, the surety of seeing His face, the eternal spirits of our loved ones. Our lives necessarily change to accommodate these newly found truths.

Our bodies slow down as God allows age to limit our lifestyle, to force us to take closer, longer looks at what really matters. It is in the slowness, even the stillness, that we know He is God. And in that knowing, we are so much closer to all we’ve ever hoped for–to be fully real, fully known and fully loved.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Is God Disappointed In Me?

I remember it like yesterday, but I can’t read his expression any better in my memory than I could 15 years ago.

It was somewhere between a mix of frustration, disappointment, reservation, compassion and confusion. We’d covered this ground so many times before, Granddad and I, and he was nearing the point of wondering if things would ever change.

Oh please, don’t give up on me, my mind whispered, even as I held back the tears and held my ground—“I’m not going to eat chocolate ice-cream.”

For all of my fifteen years, a visit to Granddad and Grandma’s house had been synonymous with the frozen treat—preferably chocolate and served in a bowl pulled fresh from the freezer. But since anorexia had dug its deceptive claws into my mind, I refused to participate in this sacred tradition.

Looking up at Granddad that night, his unreadable expression branded my heart. I felt like a failure, a stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious failure.

Unlike many others in their battles against an eating disorder, I was blessed to have male authority figures who did their best to represent the Heavenly Father. They loved me, disciplined with gentleness and according to biblical principles. But they weren’t perfect. For a time, I translated that pained expression from grandfather’s face to my belief about God; it hindered my relationship with my perfect Heavenly Father.

In I Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul opens a letter of stern rebuke and uncompromising correction. As I studied those verses, I began to see the truth about how God corrects His children.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (emphasis added)

The Corinthian church had a lot of problems. They were abusing the Lord’s supper, and engaging in and tolerating sexual sin among other things. However, Paul begins the letter with: “Grace to you.”

That’s how God always addresses us, even in the middle of our failures and repeated mistakes. Even when we’ve sinned and broken His heart, God sees us as the righteousness of God in Christ, simply because we believe in the perfect sacrifice of His Son. Even when we need correction and training in righteousness, God always reminds us that He has given us grace in Jesus Christ, we are enriched in every way because of Jesus, God confirms that Jesus is within us and He will keep us firm to the end because He is faithful.

A Teachable Heart, Humility and BIG News

I have BIG news!

I’ve kept quiet for about as long as I can … we’ve passed 14 weeks now and so (drum roll please … )

We are expecting again! Yes! Praise God, He’s gifted us a baby girl! She’s due on August 21, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! So far, all her little black and white pictures are perfect; labs are just as expected and we’re anticipating her arrival with all the jitters that might be expected. I’m not sure if I want time to fly (or if it is) or if I wish it would take a deep breath and slow down.

I’ve been praying for a long time that God will continue to soften my infantry officer husband’s heart. His job is such that it reinforces discipline, structure, stoicism everyday, but I long for the gentleness he shows at home (sometimes) to take root and flourish within his strong, stable personality.

And as I’ve added a new little one to my daily, desperate prayers, I’ve heard God whisper to me, “You’ve asked me to soften his heart. She is all a part of the plan.” But that’s not all God said:

“And if I’m going to soften his heart, I’m going to humble yours.”

Umm … well I have to be honest, I’ve asked God to do that. But am I ready for this? I’ve tried to adopt a more humble heart, to identify selfishness, self-righteousness and slippery, undercover arrogance, but I was not prepared for God to highlight my pride in the way that He did.

Anyone who’s been pregnant can tell you–advice is instantly flying from every direction, at all times, with all kinds of conflicts, in all form of tones, with all manner of conviction and from individuals with all levels of experience–from none, to aged to those not so much more experienced than myself.

Now, I’m not one to internalize all of this and find my head swimming and panic beneath the onslaught of suggestions. I have specific people that I ask specific questions of, and blessedly, I have a doctor I greatly respect. I’m covered. But …

Does God care how I answer those who offer unsolicited advice?

On several occasions lately, and one specific one even today, someone I dearly love and respect has offered advice that I didn’t not ask for nor require. My immediate response was one of coolness. At the time, my hackles raised invisibly. I tried hard to keep my bristling hidden.

“You know, I really think you should … ”

“Did your doctor tell you that … ”

“I’d advise against that … ”

Their advice, while sincerely intended, addressed things that I have already thought through and come to a conclusion regarding them in my own pregnancy. And I said so.

“In all due respect, here’s what I think … ” (And basically, I think you’re wrong.)

God let me get away with it in the moment. But when I sat down this afternoon, God brought to mind His precious word.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

Abby, I didn’t say you have to apply their advice, but as you pray for humility, my word instructs you to receive it. Don’t counter with your own opinion; receive well-intended counsel and seek me for wisdom in prayer at home. 

I don’t think my response to these individuals was disrespectful. I do love these people and worked hard to hold my tongue. But, I can’t say that my heart wasn’t railing with frustration and indignation at their assumption that I might not know something. And then God concluded His whispers with this reminder:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

No matter my words, expression or the impression I give to others, God knows my heart and He judges my intentions. It is for my heart that I’m held accountable.

Oh Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart!

Can I Trust God In the Little Things?

Croce in montagnaThe other day, a fried of mine wrote an article honoring the late Elisabeth Elliott. She spoke about living a life of faith, one such as characterized by Elliott. But one quote in particular stuck out at me:

“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things.”

You see, this is the very hardest thing for me. I’ve known that for a long time–my willingness to trust God with eternity, and fearfulness to trust Him with tomorrow.

Take a peek at my thoughts:

“Sure, God. I know you can heal cancer, take me to Heaven, deploy angels, perform miracles, turn water into wine, change hearts, walk on water and even move on my spirit bringing joy, peace and hope. And I thank you for that.

But God, I’m not really sure that you can help me with body image. I don’t know that you’re all that interested in my decision about whether or not to get a dog. I’m probably on my own when it comes to deciding if I should go to that event next weekend and what I should say to my co-worker who really hurt my feelings.”

Can you identify?

So you can see why Elisabeth’s quote hit close to home. But then, God turned it on its head.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).

While I have difficulty trusting God with the little things, He is pleading with me to simply start there. When He finds me faithful to listen to Him concerning these little things, then He can invest me in big things.

The beauty of it is that the beginning is the same. The kernel of my faithlessness is the small things; the starting line of His plans for me is the little things.

God is asking me to dig deep, to plant that mustard seed of faith–tiny as it is–in the littlest situation. Then, if that soil is fertile and I truly believe in the God of the Universe, I will find He cares about the little things. And, when I get my footing in the little things, my faith will begin to grow and God will send me out into greater things for His glory.

What little things do you have trouble trusting God with?

First published at http://www.tblfaithnews.com

Do I Have What It Takes to Face Persecution?

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to suffer persecution?

Yesterday, I heard a Christian talk show host field a question from his listening audience. The caller asked, “I’m afraid that if I ever had to suffer persecution like some Christians in other countries, I won’t be able to stand strong. That terrifies me! What if I fall apart? What if I can’t take it?”

You can read the rest of my article here at The Bottom Line …

Why Would God Wait for You?

I seriously miss my family. My husband is in the Army, so for our twelve-plus years of marriage we’ve lived at least 500 miles away from them. After we visited them last time, I printed off dozens of pictures and covered every square inch of my refrigerator. Now, whenever I open the freezer, my heart catches a little. I long to cuddle with my nieces, play games with my nephews, sip coffee with my dad and walk the dogs with my mom. Even though I’m so blessed to have a family who loves me, missing them hurts sometimes.

There are many Bible verses that instruct us to wait on the Lord, but did you know that God waits for you?

Isaiah 30:18a says, “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”

The word for waits is “chakah”, and can also be translated “to tarry or long for”. If you have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He is not far from you (Acts 17:27), and He is anxiously waiting to be merciful and gracious to you.

(first published on http://www.swagga4christ.com)

 

CS Lewis and Complete Freedom from Anorexia

I hereby designate C.S. Lewis “My Favorite Author”. But then, maybe by simply reading Predatory Lies, you figured that out before I did.

This morning, I got an email called, CS Lewis Daily. Never one to disappoint:

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

When I was fighting for freedom from my eating disorder, I ran up against this conundrum.

Could I not retain “myself” or the habits I had established that afforded me some imaginary modicum of control?

Could I give up counting calories but continue obsessively exercising?

What if I was willing to get treatment, as long as I could weigh myself everyday?

Could I continue to pursue the self-centered desires of my heart and keep personal “happiness” as the great goal of my life and at the same time surrender my will, my life, my eternal salvation to a God that I claim to love and trust?

And this is what I found: Just like cutting the grass can keep it short, but will not produce real, nutritious wheat; managing aspects of my eating disorder might keep me alive but would never result in freedom.

To mature and blossom in freedom, I must necessarily uproot the  grass and allow Christ to remake me–to make all things new. The change must be complete, a destruction of the old to allow the new to take root and flourish.

A National Debt of Gratitude

This is a phenomenal post by Melinda K. 

Have we become ashamed to show patriotism?

It may depend on where one lives and whether or not one was raised to appreciate our military and our freedom they protect. I wonder, however, if most of the holidays established to celebrate our heroes and our country have not been reduced to nothing more than picnics and parties. Have burgers and hot dogs replaced flags and memorials? Do we now ignore their sacrifices and hold “sacred” the three-day weekend?

While we enjoyed the freedom to gather with family and friends for cookouts, did we soberly consider the sacrifices that were made to give us our freedom?

Please read this whole article at The Bottom Line …