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SWEET REUNION

Our son-in-law David is in the air, on his way home from Iraq, right now! He left Baghdad Wednesday and went to Qatar. Yesterday he flew to Ireland and from there he will fly to Baltimore, MD today. Tomorrow Julie and the kids will pick him up at the airport in Montgomery, AL! What a day of rejoicing that will be! I wish I could be a fly on the wall to watch that sweet reunion!
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So much has happened since he left. Many things have changed. I think David will be surprised at how much Julie and the kids have grown since he’s been gone—and I mean that more than physically. Benjamin and Joshua have both stepped right up to the plate and tried to fill their dad’s shoes as much as possible in order to help their mother. They’ve taken on chores they’d never done before, used their creativity to help to solve problems and been willing, encouraging supporters for their mom. Hannah, too, has been quite the little worker-bee, but she seems to have struggled the most emotionally without her daddy there. Believe me, though—tomorrow all will be right with her world again! Julie laughs when she says she has become an independent woman—learning how to mend fences, fix doorknobs, deal with car breakdowns, and drive across country on her own. She also says she can’t wait to hand it all back over to her husband again! It has left her with an even greater appreciation for those military wives whose husbands are gone for even longer and in more dangerous deployments.
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David himself has changed. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel over there, but more than that, his training and time in Iraq brought difficult challenges and opened his eyes to real suffering and a different world. He spent the last six months in a spiritual wasteland, receiving very little in the way of spiritual refreshment or fellowship where he was, other than whatever family and friends sent from back home. David has always been one of the most godly men I know, but I am sure the Lord will use these things to make him even more grateful, even more burdened for the suffering and lost, and even more willing to be used by God.
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There is so much for which to be thankful, as well. That David made it there and back again safely. That it was six months, not a year; Iraq, not Afghanistan; air-conditioned office and room, not a tent in the desert or hard duty in perilous areas. That they had Skype and cell phones with which to communicate twice a day. That although there were many challenges for all of them, none of them were life-threatening or so difficult that they could not make it through with the Lord’s help. Even little Pumpkin the pound puppy whom they adopted just days before David left to be a distraction for the kids presented them with one dramatic escapade after another and raised the stress level considerably, but she brought a lot of joy and they are so thankful for her.
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There will be such joy tomorrow! There will be sheer bliss on David’s part as he enjoys being back in the center of his loving family and the comforts of home again. There will be relief on Julie’s part as she turns some of the responsibilities of home back over to David. There will be adjustments to be made in the coming weeks as they get back to normal again. There will be new challenges, but at least they will be able to face them together.
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Julie and I have greatly admired my cousin Betty over the years. Her husband Brad is a Navy pilot and Commander. They have had many separations of months and even years, as Brad has been deployed, and through it all their family has prospered. Betty is a strong, compassionate woman who truly reaches out to others to help and encourage. Their children, whom she home-schooled, have grown into wonderful adults. Betty and Brad seem to have a close, sweet, loving (and fun!) marriage. I know Betty would be the first to say it is the Lord who made it possible.
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I Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God takes us through the hard times to change us. To make us better, stronger, more mature. To make us come forth shining as gold. To prove to us and to others that our faith is real. To bring praise and honor and glory to God.
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The Lord has done all these things in David and Julie and their three children through this difficult time in their lives. And now comes the time of great rejoicing! Now comes the time of sweet reunion! Praise and honor and glory to God! Thank you, Jesus!

LIFE AT "NORMAL"

The year got off to an inauspicious beginning for me, but suddenly this week things are happening. First of all I’ve rejoined the land of the living. After more than two weeks of being isolated in my back bedroom with bronchitis so that I wouldn’t get Bob or Robbie sick, it felt good to be able to come out and sit down next to Robbie and play with him. He couldn’t understand why Mommy had disappeared from his life – again – only to appear across the room once and a while for a moment and croak out a “Hi, Robbie” as I passed through to the kitchen. He’s happy to have Mama back. Bob’s happy to have Mama back cooking and washing dishes, too. I must say, he took very good care of house, son and wife while I was sick.

It feels good to be back at my computer, too. I hated missing out on my blog the last couple weeks. You know I’m really sick when I can’t even write! I’ve got three big writing projects to work on this week besides the blog, so that should keep me happy and very busy!

I finally felt well enough to take down my Christmas decorations, too. I felt sad every time I walked past the tree the last couple weeks. I keep the tree lit day and night when I’m around. The lights are so cheerful and festive, in my opinion. Bob’s not as emotionally invested in it, though, I guess, and wants to save electricity, so while I was quarantined the tree sat dark and forgotten most of the time. It was time to take it, and everything else down. *Sigh.* It’s always a little sad to pack it all away for another year, but on the other hand, it’s nice to have the house and life returning to “normal.”

Life for us is returning to normal in another way, also. Bob got a job this week after three and a half months of unemployment. It means he will be traveling a lot, but when he isn’t traveling he’ll be working from home and his schedule will be more or less his own. That will become our new “norm,” I guess. We are praising the Lord and asking God to bless his new endeavor with success. One thing I know about Bob – wherever he is or whatever he is doing, he never misses an opportunity to minister to those around him or give a testimony. It will be interesting to see how the Lord uses him now.

We are doing something a little out of the norm this week. We are leaving on Friday to go down to Alabama to visit Julie and David and kids. Bob has to be in Atlanta for a trade show the following week so, since they live only 150 miles from Atlanta, he will leave Robbie and me there while he’s working and then come back for us. We plan to celebrate Robbie’s and Benjamin’s birthdays a week early while we are down there. Fun!

For the most part, though, life for us gets back to normal and, though parts of it may be different, we expect to continue on in 2010 in much the same way that we did in 2009. Little surprises or fun things, like our trip to Alabama, are nice to anticipate and enjoy from time to time, but for the most part we like the routine. “Uneventful” is fine with me. “Boring” can even be good when you consider some alternatives. We all know that life can change in a split instant. We can make our plans and schedules and itineraries but when we get up each morning, who knows what that day will bring forth?

Last Tuesday when the people of Haiti began the day they had no idea their entire world was about to change. Life for them, which was incredibly hard to begin with, was about to become a thousand times more difficult, if it did not end altogether. Life for them will never be “normal” again – or at least there will be a new normal. The new normal for many weeks, months and perhaps even years to come will be trying to cope with the death, destruction, devastation and despair the earthquake left behind. We can only pray that from it many will turn to the Lord for strength and comfort and that eventually, as they rebuild, the result will be better than what they had before.

It only takes an instant for our world to change, perhaps even to crumble. When it happens – not if it happens, for one way or another we will be touched by change – will we crumble along with it? Are our foundations strong enough, our roots deep enough, to withstand the earthquakes of life? We sometimes go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop and fearful of that day when life will no longer be normal and we will be faced with the unexpected, the unthinkable, the unknown. Are we prepared?

A big part of the problem in Haiti was the poor construction of the buildings and infrastructure in the earthquake-stricken areas. If our lives have weak foundations we will be hard-pressed to withstand the major trials and changes of life.

Jesus said that He is the foundation upon whom we ought to build our lives. Luke 6: 47-48 says, “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” When we have given our lives to Him, and truly trust Him to do what is best for us, we can live our lives without fear now and face with peace and hope whatever comes in the future.

I cannot imagine going through what those poor Haitians are going through – to lose my family, friends, home, livelihood, world, all in one fell swoop. To sit by my little child’s side as she suffers terrible injuries and have no help coming. To watch my children cry from hunger, thirst and pain and have no idea where or how to supply their needs. When and if I ever have to face such a terrible calamity as this, I pray my faith would remain strong. Whether it wavers or not, though, I know this one thing, He is faithful and will never leave me or forsake me.

Who knows what a day will bring forth? God knows. We can choose to look forward to the future with expectancy and hope, as my husband likes to say, or we can live fearfully, afraid of whatever will rock our world. I like life at “normal,” but when it goes off-balance or crumbles altogether may my foundation hold.

HERE WE GO — AGAIN

Julie got a rude wake up call early Monday morning—and I mean that literally. It was her landlady. She had returned from Denver and had stopped by to see them—and the house, obviously—a few days earlier. Julie picked up the phone to hear a cold, hard voice say:
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“I want my house back. I know we have a contract and if I have to, I’ll finish it out but I’m just letting you know, I want my house back and the earlier the better. You’ve done a beautiful job with the house, but I’ve moved back here now and I want my house back.”
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Not a shred of apology or concern for them. Just a very nasty tone of voice and a spoiled child, adamant attitude.
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It seems she left her husband in Denver and moved back to Alabama. He is due to be deployed to Afghanistan in March, but apparently that doesn’t matter to her. Just three months after they told Julie and David they were looking for renters that would be willing to stay for at least four or five years, she was telling them that she wants her house back now.
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Of course, their first response would naturally be to say, “We have a lease that is good until the end of May 2010. We’re not going to uproot our family after just putting so much time and effort, not to mention money, into settling in this house. The costs of moving again, in every sense of the word, are just too great.” They love that house. It is so perfect for their family and they felt at home immediately, making the move from their beloved home in Shreveport almost painless.
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So why are they even considering conceding to her demands? Well, they have a problem. The very next day they were to go in for an interview for their adoption and set up a time for the caseworker to come out and do another home study. Being transferred from Louisiana to Alabama threw a kink into their adoption, causing more delays and costing a lot more money in an already extremely slow and expensive process. They must do another home study right now because of the transfer. If they move again in nine months it would mean yet another home study, which means more red tape, delays and money (about $1500 – $2000 for each home study.)
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They are caught in a dilemma. Do they bite the bullet now and try to find another house quickly so they can proceed with this home study and be done with it, or do they ride out the lease and go through their fourth home study in nine months?
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At this point they are out house hunting once again and asking God to give them wisdom and guidance in what to do. They have dealt gently with the landlady, not because she deserves it, but because they have tried to be a witness to her and all her relatives who live around them. They have some firm conditions that they will insist she accept if they let her out of the lease, but they refuse to respond to her ugliness in like manner.
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I couldn’t believe it when Julie called me that morning and told me what had happened. As you may recall, Laurie and Fernando are going through almost the same scenario. After they put forth a huge amount of effort and expense to fix up and settle into a house that is perfect for their family, their landlord, who lives in the States, decided he’s going to sell it out from under them, despite the fact that they had only gone through eight months of their two year lease. Because they had been trying to witness to the landlord’s father, with whom they deal, they did not want to fight it out in court. They have been house-hunting now for a couple months and still have not found a place that will meet their family and ministry needs.
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I guess our first question in both cases is, “Why is God allowing this?” Laurie and Fernando are heavily involved in doing the Lord’s work there in Cuenca. The Lord is blessing their labor in giving much fruit for the harvest. To draw away their time and resources into making another move seems like such a waste and a detriment to the ministry. David and Julie live their lives whole-heartedly for the Lord, and are raising their children to do the same. Their desire to adopt two or three more children stems from loving, generous hearts that want to rescue little ones in obedience to Jesus’ command to care for “the least of these.” Yet another obstacle in the arduous journey to adoption is difficult, to say the least. For both families, it is tempting to question God when we see the homes that they love and that seem so perfect for them taken away.
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To question God. Is it ever okay to question God? I think it depends upon the question. First of all, the question should never be “Why me?” As our Creator and Heavenly Father, He has every right to work however He wills in our lives. The question, rather, should be simply, “Why?” Even then, if we are questioning God’s love for us, then we are off base. He has said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) If we are questioning His wisdom, then we are mistaken. “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) If we doubt His motives are anything but pure, we do not know Him. He is not “tormenting” us, as if we were little bugs at His mercy, just for the fun of it. “As for God, his way is perfect.” (Psalm 18:30) When we ask “Why?” we should be asking, “What is God’s good and pure and loving and wise purpose in this? What is God telling me? What am I to learn from this?”
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There are many reasons why God allows us to go through testing and trials. I believe they boil down to seven basic purposes, but today I only want to look at three of them as they seem to apply here.
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The first is that He tests our faith—not for His benefit, but for our own. He already knows our hearts. Laurie and Fernando had to fight off weariness and discouragement when they heard the news that they were going to have to start all over again in moving for the third time in a year. Julie and her family were heartbroken at being asked to give up the home that they had come to love so quickly and rejoiced in every day. In each case they had to make the decision to set aside those very human feelings and choose to trust that the Lord had allowed this to happen for His very good purposes in their lives. They may not ever know the exact reasons, but they know that in His wisdom and love He will lead them when they trust Him enough to follow. In His omniscience He sees the beginning from the end; in His tender lovingkindness He has only their best in His will for them. Abraham trusted God when the Lord asked the ultimate sacrifice from him—the life of his only son, Isaac. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…” (Hebrews 11:17, 19) Job said, when God allowed Satan to afflict him, “Though He [God] slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15) It is when we cannot see the reasons for the hard things of life, and when we do not know what to do next that we need to put aside the discouragement and fear and make the choice to take the blind step of faith and simply trust in the Lord. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We grow in our spiritual maturity and strength as we grow in our faith.
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The Lord’s purposes in allowing testing in our lives may not be for us at all, but for the sake of others. How God works in our lives and how we respond is a witness to those around us. Fernando and Laurie had developed a relationship with the landlord’s father and tried to be a witness to him of true believers. Julie and David had been praying since they first met the landlords that God would show them how they could witness to them and their family who lived in the houses around them. In both cases they could have chosen to assert their rights and put up a fuss, but they decided even losing their homes was not worth marring their Christian testimony. I Thessalonians 5:15 says, “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” I Peter 3:11 tells us to seek peace by turning away from the evil others do to us, and do good, while Romans 12:21 says that the good we do will overcome their evil. Then, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:12) Our good response to testing is a witness to unbelievers and an example to other Christians.
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The third purpose I see in God allowing testing and trials to enter our lives is that it gives Him the opportunity to show us and all those around us His mighty power at work. We do not know yet where the Lord will lead my children and grandchildren to live, but I know He has a place for them and when He reveals it, I am sure we will be praising Him for His great provision and love. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” It is exciting and a blessing to us when we see Him at work in our own lives. “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:19) and when the Lord leads us through the fires and the floods, others are watching. Psalm 106:8 says, “Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.”
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We do not always understand why the Lord allows some things to happen in our lives, but it is comforting to know that they are there for a purpose and that He is in control. Psalm 92:5 says, “O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep” and Psalm 139:17 adds, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” It gives me peace to know that He is always thinking of me. It gives me joy and an eager anticipation to know that my future is in His hands. And it fills my heart with hope to know that He sees the end, and is leading me and my family to His best for us.
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“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)

PATIENCE, MY CHILD!

Laurie and I had a conversation about patience the other day. They have been house-hunting for several weeks now, and so far have not found anything that will work for their large family, meet their home-schooling and ministry needs, and fit their budget and location requirements, as well. They’ve come close a few times, but always there is one lacking element—no study for Fernando, too few bedrooms, too expensive, too far out of the city and so on. The one house that seemed to have it all required a huge security deposit which was a problem for them. Someone else agreed to the deposit and so they were accepted and Laurie and Fernando were rejected. Laurie and Fernando were a little disappointed, of course, but still they know that apparently that is not the house the Lord has for them. He has something better for them, and in His time He will lead them to it.
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They would rather not move at all, but their landlord is putting their house up for sale. It is just the right size for them, and they have fixed it up a great deal, but they are not in a position to buy it themselves. The house-hunt goes on, therefore, and I must say, they are having a very good attitude about it, even though this is the worst time it could come when they are so busy in their ministry and it is so frustrating (not to mention expensive and a lot of hard work) to have to make their third move in one year. They are trusting the Lord to put them in just the right place for His purposes.
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Laurie said to me a few days ago, “I just wish we would find something, though, so this would not be hanging over our heads anymore. It’s hard to make decisions for the family or ministry when we don’t know when, if, or where we will be moving in the near future.”
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“Well, Laurie, the trying of your faith—“
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She laughs. “I know, Mom! ‘The trying of our faith worketh patience!’ You say that every time we talk!”
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“I know. And I know you know these things already,” I say. “I guess we just have to realize that when we can’t see the path ahead of us with all its twists and turns and obstacles, the Lord is looking down on the whole path from beginning to end and sees it all. We just have to have the faith and patience to leave it all up to Him and just take the next step on the path, and then the step after that, and step-by-step let the Lord lead us.”
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“Yes. And to tell you the truth, I am so glad we can’t see what lies ahead! We might be too overwhelmed to take the next step if we knew the things that were in our future.”
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“That is what is so great about living by faith. We can see life as a great adventure, if we have faith that God has great things in store for us, and that He will carry us through the hard things.”
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This whole conversation had me thinking about patience and faith for the next few days. I have been praying for Laurie and Fernando in their search for their next home, and for Julie and David as they are on the long, hard road to adoption, that God would give each of them the patience and faith to just rest in Him. Faith and patience go hand in hand. When we patiently wait on God, we are actually trusting God to act for our best in His time; having faith in Him to work it all out. “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3)
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I have always prayed, from the time that I was a teenager, that I would be a woman of faith. My mother was a godly example to me of this. What I have learned about faith, though, is that it is not something I can earn or develop on my own in my life. I Corinthians 12 and 13 tell us that faith is a gift from God and is not something that I can boast in. I am not a woman of faith because of ME, but because of HIM. True faith is not a result of my spiritual maturity, or dependent on my strength, or a testament to my spirituality. Quite the opposite. We can have faith in God because He is:
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F aithful – He is always there for us. “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor
forsake thee.”
(Hebrews 13:5)
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A ble – He can do anything. “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
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I nfallible – He is incapable of error, dependable, reliable. “As for God, his way is
perfect.”
(Psalm 18:30)
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T rustworthy – He always keeps His promises, He does not lie. “For all the promises of
God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”
(II
Corinthians 1:20)
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H oly – Everything He does is good and righteous and perfect. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all His works.” (Psalm 145:17)
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Think about it. Jesus said in Matthew 18:2-4 that we must have childlike faith: “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” What kind of simple faith does a little child have, say, for example, in his relationship with his mommy and daddy? He takes it for granted that mommy will always be there for him. Daddy is superman—he can do anything! Mommy and Daddy know everything. He knows they will keep their promises and wouldn’t lie to him. Daddy and Mommy are the best!
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Of course, it doesn’t take long for us as parents to stumble off our pedestal, does it? All it takes is for the first time that little one gets lost, or sees Daddy give up on some task, or have a question that Mommy doesn’t know the answer to, or to find out the truth about Santa Claus. We are humans, and humans fail. Thank goodness our kids love us anyhow!
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God, the Creator and Master of the universe, and our loving Heavenly Father, will never fall from His pedestal, though. We can have that simple child-like faith and know we will never be disappointed in Him. We can have the faith that does not depend on what we are or do, but solely upon Who He is, and when our faith is tested and tried we learn patience. James 5:10, 11 says, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” Job endured testing and trials that none off us will ever endure, but he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15) It was that faith in all that God is that fueled his patience.
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Hebrews 11, that great chapter on faith, tells us “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (vs 1) “Living by faith” would not be living by faith if we could see what lies ahead. When we choose to believe God is at work for our best and He will reveal His will in His time, we can rest patiently in Him and all that He is. What a blessed and exciting way to live!
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“Patience, My child! I am working in your life. Be still and know that I am God. I have loved you with an everlasting love. All things work together for good to them that love Me and if you have faith in Me you will see it come to pass. Have patience. Have simple, child-like faith, for I am your Heavenly Father and I love you.”

THE BATTLE IS NOT YOURS

Have you ever gone through a period of time when everything seemed to be going so well, when progress was being made or you had experienced some great success, and you were excited over the all the good things that were coming your way—and you thought to yourself, “Oh-oh! We’re in for it now!” You’re holding your breath, just waiting for that other shoe to drop.
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That has happened often in our lives in the spiritual realm. We can be sure when we are seeing fruit for our labor, and victories are being won for the Lord, that Satan is not going to sit meekly on the sidelines and let it go without trying to shoot us down. The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle and …we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
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This week we’ve seen several examples of that in our family, although I’ll only mention one for now. We’ve been rejoicing that the work Fernando and Laurie are doing down in Cuenca is finally underway, and that already they are seeing souls being saved, lives being touched and a body of believers encouraged and excited and growing in the Lord. After months of struggling just to get their family settled and being assaulted by one delay, obstacle and problem after another, finally in this last month they have felt that they are accomplishing the work the Lord called them to do in Ecuador. I just said a few days ago to a couple of people when we were discussing their work, “Just watch. Satan isn’t happy about this. He’ll be throwing something else at them very soon!”
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Two days later we found out what it was going to be. They are going to have to move again—for the third time in less than a year. Since the owner of their house lives in the States, they’ve been dealing with his father, Señor Morocho. They came home the other day to find Señor Morocho on their doorstep with the news that his son is planning to sell the house, despite the fact that the Naranjos have a two year lease. Apparently contracts aren’t worth much more than the paper they’re written on down there. Oh, they could take him to court, but Señor Morocho is the one who would have to deal with it, and they’ve been trying to witness to him and don’t want to do anything that would turn him away—and it’s not his fault anyway.
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You can’t imagine how disheartening this was when they first heard it. The first move had been hard—moving a family of seven from the United States to Ecuador—emotionally and physically. The second move had been bizarre—being forced to move out of a brand new house because mold was growing out of the walls in every room. Now, after only eight months in a house which is perfect for the family as far as space is concerned, but in which they had had to invest a lot of time and money in order to make it habitable, they are faced with the prospects of having to start all over again. They had just finished a major repair job in which several of the cement walls throughout the house had to be opened in order to replace leaking pipes—and deal with mold again due to the leaky pipes. Laurie had said to the girls just a few days before, “At last, this house is finally beginning to feel like home, isn’t it, girls?” Now they, too, were upset at the thought of having to move again. And on top of everything, they will be forced to spend a huge amount of time and money and energy now on another move just when they need to be using all their resources on this new church work.
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A snippet of a verse came to me yesterday when I was thinking about this battle they are going through, and I looked it up to read the whole passage. The part of the verse I remembered was “the battle is not yours, but God’s.” To my surprise I found that it is from II Chronicles 20—the very passage Fernando sat down and read with the family that night when they heard this dismaying news. As I read this chapter, there were several things I drew from it that are so encouraging to realize and remember as we go through spiritual battles of our own. I’d like to share them with you:
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II Chronicles 20 gives an account of an alliance of nations (Moab, Ammon and the inhabitants of Mount Seir) marching to war against Judah and King Jehoshaphat. This army was “a great multitude,” we are told, and Jehoshaphat was afraid and called all of Judah together—men, women and even the little children—to fast and pray.
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First of all, they acknowledged God’s power and might. And [Jehoshaphat] said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? (vs 6)
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Secondly, they acknowledged what He had done for them in the past. Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever? (vs 7)
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Third, they acknowledge that He is their protector. If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help. (vs 9)
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And finally, they acknowledge that they are helpless without Him. O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. (vs 12)
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The Lord answered their prayers. First came His promise: Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. (vs 15) Don’t worry! It’s not your battle, but Mine!
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Then came His instructions: Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. (vs 17) What?! All they had to do was stand fast, be still and watch Him accomplish it?!
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Jehoshaphat and Judah did three things then before the battle had even begun. First they worshipped the Lord. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD. (vs 18)
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Second, they went forth believing and trusting God. And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (vs 20)
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Third, before the battle began, they praised the Lord! And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. (vs 21) It was while they were singing and praising God that He fought the battle for them, causing the alliance to turn on one another and destroy themselves. And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. (vs 22)
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The results of this battle? Victory, of course, but also afterwards there were blessings far beyond what they could have dreamed. (…they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much. vs 25) There was thanksgiving. (…on the fourth day…they blessed the LORD. vs 26) There was rejoicing. (Then they returned…to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. vs 27-28) God’s name was glorified among the nations. (And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms… vs 29) There was peace and rest in the Lord. (So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about. vs 30)
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Did you see in each of these points what we can gather for ourselves when it comes to the battles we must face? We begin with prayer, acknowledging that God is our Protector and Defense and that He is great and mighty and powerful. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world! We recall in prayer what He has done for us in the past and confess that we not only don’t know what to do, but cannot do anything without Him anyway.
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God’s answer to our prayer is “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be dismayed! Don’t worry! Stand fast. Be still and know that I am God. Watch Me fight this battle for it is Mine, not yours!” When we are truly believing and trusting Him, we are free from worry and fear and free, then, to worship and praise Him. The result is victory, for who can stand against Him? And with the victory come blessing, rejoicing, thanksgiving, peace and glory to God!
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Prayer and faith are the key. As the old saying goes, Let go and let God… Be encouraged—we do not go through our battles alone. He marches before us, and in Him, victory is sure. Just stand back and watch Him do it!

REFRESHMENT—THE CURE FOR WEARINESS

I have been soooo tired all week. Tired to the point that I couldn’t even write, which is really unusual for me. I kept falling asleep with my computer on my lap, and my brain felt fuzzy when I was awake. I finally gave up and decided to take a break for a couple of days. I feel much better now and ready to get back to work.
I know one of the reasons for my exhaustion. Robbie has his days and nights mixed up again. He sleeps a lot, anyway, because of all the seizure medicines he takes, but all week he’s been sleeping all day and evening and then staying awake through the wee hours of the night. When Robbie doesn’t sleep at night, I don’t get much sleep, either. It’s hard to accomplish much when you’re only getting three or four hours of broken sleep a night.
I stagger out of bed in the morning, my eyes barely open, hair tousled and standing on end (trust me, it’s not a pretty picture!) and go out to the kitchen to get Robbie’s food and medicine and take care of his needs first.. Then, at last, I look forward to my coffee in the morning. No, not because I need that caffeine rush (I drink only decaf, even in the mornings) but because my husband has prepared my coffee for me the night before and all I have to do is push the button to start the cofeemaker when I get up. It is one of his little tokens of love for me that I appreciate the most. Doctor it up with a little Sweet’N’Low and some flavored creamer, and Ahhhhh…
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My cup of coffee, my Bible and notebook, and some time with the Lord—and I am ready to start the day. In the winter I feel all cozy in the warmth of my living room, but once the weather breaks I can’t wait to enjoy that time out on our sun porch with its sunshine and breezes, the birds entertaining me in the neighbors’ rain gutters and an occaisional squirrel peeking through the windows at me. This is my time of refreshment—and we all need some refreshment to get us going from time to time.
Refreshment is the cure for weariness. Just as there are many causes for our weariness, the Lord has provided many ways for us to be refreshed. I’ve taken the letters of the word refreshment and made an acrostic of it to look at some of those ways. We’re also going to take a little look at Elijah (read I Kings 17-19) and see what we can learn from a period in his life when he was just plain weary and needed the refreshment of God to lift him up.
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R – Rest This is the obvious one. I’ve never been real big on sleep, anyway—until now when I’m really lacking it, that is! I’ve been a night-owl all my life and still managed to be an early riser. In my younger years I always felt like I was missing out on something when I was sleeping. As I got older I appreciated those hours to myself when everyone else was sleeping. Now I know that the lack of sleep is one of the culprits in diabetes and heart disease (I have both) and a host of other physical ailments.

Not only is rest essential to our physical health, but we also need it for our mental and emotional health, as well. In the book of I Kings we see the prophet Elijah serving the one true and living God in a land of idolatry, even when he felt he was all alone. He faced the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, he challenged the king, he fled the wrath of Jezebel until finally he sat down under a juniper tree in the wilderness and said, “Lord, why don’t You just kill me now?” Elijah was just plain weary. He had worn himself out and now he was drained. He needed a time of rest and refreshment.

Jesus Himself needed rest from His labors. He encouraged his disciples to rest, also. Mark 6:31 says, “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Rest is necessary for our physical, mental and emotional health, but there are other things that will help to refresh us, as well.
E – Encouragement Elijah isolated himself when he was depressed. We often do the same thing when we are feeling discouraged and down. This is the time, though, when we need encouragement, whether it be from our brothers and sisters in the Lord, Christian radio, a good Christian book, or whatever. Sunday mornings, when we are tired and weary after a long, hard week, Satan is right there whispering that we need to stay in bed. What we truly need, though, is to get up and find encouragement in the fellowship of believers at church, in the preaching of the Word and singing praise unto the Lord. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
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F – Faith Weariness affects us spiritually, as well. When our defenses are down, Satan is right there, looking for the crack in our armor that makes us vulnerable to his attacks. Elijah allowed his faith to be shaken and so he became fearful. He feared Jezebel’s threats more than he trusted God at this point and fled for his life. Hebrews 11, which is commonly called the “Hall of Faith” lists heroes of the faith, “who, through faith…out of weakness were made strong…” (vs 32-34.) Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon [trust in] the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Faith in God will make us strong. When we are truly trusting Him we can rest in His faithfulness and love.
R – Refocus Elijah indulged in a little pity-party. When he whined to God that he was the only one left in Israel that was faithful to Him, God told him there were seven thousand others who had never bowed their knee to Baal. When he fled to the desert he threw himself to the ground and said, “You may as well kill me now, God, because I am as good as dead anyway.” He took his eyes off the Lord, he forgot about the others in Israel who were still faithful, and focused on himself and his own problems. When we are weary and discouraged we need to take the focus off ourselves, quit indulging in our self-pity, and refocus on the Lord and others around us. “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1,2) “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
E – Ever-Thankful Nothing is more revitalizing to me than praising God for His many blessings. When we start to count all the ways He has blessed our lives it is impossible to stay down in the dumps. Apparently Elijah forgot to count his blessings. The Lord sent ravens to feed Elijah morning and night, He provided for him through the widow, and later even sent an angel to minister to him. Through the Lord, Elijah miraculously raised the widow’s son from the dead and defeated Baal’s prophets by calling down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice for the true God of Israel. You would think these occurrences would bring a spring to his steps and a smile to his face as He rejoiced in what God had done. When we are thankful and praising God there is no room for depression or discouragement. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things…” He promises peace and rest when we are thankful. “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
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S – Scriptures Elijah heard the voice of the Lord in the middle of his weariness. God did not speak from the mighty wind, or the earthquake or the fire, but in a still, small voice. It is in our times of discouragement, when we are laid low by weariness, that we can hear the Word of God bringing us encouragement and refreshment. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be…” (Deuteronomy 33:25) “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31) “…always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58) Having these words of comfort and encouragement in our hearts, and being in God’s Word daily means that His refreshment and renewal is right there for us when we need it.
H – Help We need encouragement from our fellow Christians, and sometimes we need their actual, physical help. Our self-pity or pride may cause us to refuse help when it is offered. Sometimes we think we can handle things ourselves and don’t want to bother others, but when we do that we are cheating our brothers and sisters in the Lord out of a blessing. The Bible tells us to “Bear ye one another’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2) I Thessalonians 5:14 says “…encourage the fainthearted, support the weak…” In Galatians 6:10 we are told, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We need to share the burdens—not only others’, but on the other end, our own. Elijah had helpers along the way to minister to him—the widow, an angel and Elisha. God sends helpers to us, also, to refresh and encourage us and we need to be willing to accept that help.

M – Music I’ve got to confess, I’m not finding any music here in the story of Elijah. Perhaps the lack of music is significant, though. If Elijah had whistled a little tune or plucked on a harp and sung, maybe he wouldn’t have been so blue! Okay, I’m being a little facetious here, but seriously, I believe music is a special gift from God to bring comfort, peace, joy, encouragement and yes, refreshment to our weary souls. Even if I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I can still enjoy all the benefits of music. David used music to minister to Saul when an evil spirit came upon him, and the Bible tells us Saul was refreshed and was well. (I Samuel 16:23) The New Testament instructs us, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Ephesians 5:19) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) Good news for those of you who think you can’t sing—it says in your hearts. Whether we’re listening to music, singing in our hearts or simply singing where no one can hear us, there’s no excuse not to use music to refresh ourselves!
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E – Enjoy Life See the humor…the beauty…the wonder in life around you. When your spouse has you frustrated and your children have worn you down, look for the positives, the good in them. They’re there somewhere, trust me! When you’ve flubbed up—again—learn to laugh at yourself. When the hair dresser bothches your cut, or you’re cleaning up a dozen eggs that hit the floor, or you’re trying to stretch the spaghetti sauce by adding ketchup and hoping no one notices, don’t let it get you down. Move on. Life is too short and too precious to let the little things wear on you. Elijah was not a very humorous fellow. He wasn’t paying attention to the beauty and wonder of the world around him. Good reason why—he was facing down four hundred and fifty false prophets, a mad king, a wicked queen and running for his life. Maybe, like him, we’ll be weary, too, when it is the major things that hit us—a serious illness, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, the straying of a spouse or child— but don’t let the little things drag you down, too. Proverbs tells us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (vs 17:22) and “…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (vs 15:15) Sounds good to me!
N – Nourishment The Lord specifically tells us in these chapters in I Kings how He provided nourishment for Elijah during these difficult days in his life. He sent ravens to feed Elijah bread and meat twice a day when he was beside the brook of Cherith. He miraculously provided food for not only Elijah, but also for the widow and her son. When Elijah was at his lowest God sent one of his angels to bake a cake for him and give him a cruse of water. Wow! God must feel nourishment is pretty important when we are weak and weary. The angel said to Elijah, “Arise and eat for the journey is too great for thee.” (Isaiah 19:7) When the journey is too great for us, we need to remember that we need physical nourishment, and we need spiritual nourishment, as well. Some people have trouble eating when they are under great stress. Then there are the rest of us who do nothing but eat under stress. We need to take in proper nourishment to refresh our bodies when we are weary, and we need to take in the milk and meat of God’s Word to refresh our spirits.
T – Time We become weary many times simply because we are not using our time wisely. We procrastinate, and when we procrastinate we feel the pressure of things hanging over our heads. It makes us weary. We fail to prioritize so we end up running in a million different directions. The important things don’t get done, but we’ve been working all day—and things are still hanging over our heads. Then there are the times we run ahead of the Lord, failing to wait on His timing and will. Things never go well then, and we are once again stressed, frustrated, discouraged and weary. Learning to use our time wisely, learning to allow God to work things out in His time and way will bring about rest and refreshment in our lives. We are told several times in the Bible to redeem the time, which means to use our time wisely. (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5) Ephesians 5:17 also says, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” That includes the timing of His will. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the LORD… and He shall strengthen thine heart…” Again, Isaiah 40:31 tells us, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Elijah waited for God’s perfect timing when he went up against the prophets of Baal. All day long they had called upon their god to hear them, but when there was no fire from Baal, when the four hundred and fifty prophets were worn down and bloodied from their efforts and when the people of Israel had seen for themselves that Baal did not hear them, then at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah called upon the Lord God and He heard him and answered with fire from heaven.
Elijah was a great man of God. Let’s not forget that. But in a time of weariness, stress, loneliness, and fear, he succumbed to discouragement, depression and even wishing for death. If a man like Elijah can fall like that, certainly we, too, will curl up in our little fetal ball now and then and have our little pity-party or be too exhausted to even move. The Lord has given us many means of refreshment and when we let Him—and others—help us, He will lift our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our spirits in strength, faith and joy.