“Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens…So our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!” Psalms 123:1-3 (NKJV)
What are you looking at these days? Where is your focus?
The other night I stood in the backyard, watering my garden. After a very hot, dry day in the Arizona sun, things were wilting a little more than usual. The trees, plants and bushes all needed a good dose of cool water. So, while I am doing that, our little dog was “helping.” This dog of ours loves water and mud and digging up mom’s flowers when she is not looking right at him. Max has also learned that he can try and bite the water hose. He will only do that when there is watering running through it. Now, he really cannot bite into that hose, due to his under-bite with his teeth. But he certainly tries and it is ever so funny to watch.
So, I’m watering, laughing at the dog, picking a few weeds along the way. And then….!
I just happened to look up into the sky. And, I saw it! The most gorgeous sunset was happening in the sky. I LOVE sunsets! There was the most beautiful mix of colors popping out of the sky’s canvas and were shedding their glare through the branches of our 40 foot pine tree. The scene was breath taking (yes, I WISH I had my camera, but didn’t!) I just stood there as color after color shot its beauty across the sky. An airplane flew through the color and the clouds. It looked ever so tiny upon that vast canvas before me. A few birds were flying in and out of the tree that provided so much shade for our backyard. Max was nipping at my feet, trying to get my attention to play a little. I glanced down and realized I flooded the flowerbed that I was supposedly watering. Ah, what’s a little extra water in the midst of Arizona heatwave.
My focus – my eyes, just kept going back to that sunset, to the colors in the sky. I was absolutely mesmerized by the constant change, the hues of color, the beauty as it stretched out over the night sky. As I watched, I thought of God. I always think of God when I watch a sunset. He’s the One who created such a beautiful scene on this hot summer’s night. God knew I would be in garden, and that I would enjoy watching His creative masterpiece take shape once more. It was so beautiful. It was definitely breath-taking and awesome to admire. For the longest time, my eyes were fixed on that sunset. My focus clearly appreciating the colors and the perfection of God’s creation within a sunset. I loved what I was looking at.
As the sun set further and further down and eventually going out of sight, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “That was a lovely sunset, a spectacular sight to look at!” My eyes had focused for quite a long time upon that sunset and my heart thrilled within me as I beheld its stunning beauty. And immediately, I had to turn my focus onto something else.
That’s the way it is, isn’t it? Something or someone captures our attention. We set our focus on that one thing. It may be for just a brief moment of time; it could be much longer. But our focus is set. And then, something else comes along that we need to look at. Something else that needs our focused attention.
What are you looking at today? Where is your focus?
I like Psalms 123. For within these few verses, the Psalmist is really asking us the same questions.
I hope that sometime today, in the busyness of your life, that you will take the time to set you focus upon the Lord God, your Creator. He will do something, say something, show you something that He wants you to focus on. Perhaps He will use a sunset to capture your look. Maybe its in the mountain that you hiked? Could it be in doing the job He gave you to do? Or perhaps, He got your attention in His written Word, a special bible verse He wanted you to focus on, when you sat down to read your Bible today.
Or, did you even do those things today? Did you look at God as He showed Himself around you? Did God get your focus at all? Did you set your eyes upon Him at all today?
The Psalmist says, “Unto YOU I lift up my eyes…So our eyes look to the Lord our God UNTIL….”
“Until He has mercy on us.”
Do you realize just how often the Lord God shows us His mercy? All the time! Every day! Every moment of the day!
Do we notice? Do we look towards Him? Do we set our focus at all upon His mercy towards us?
Here’s a few things I would like us to know about God’s mercy:
And…. We can cry out for His mercy at any time. “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us.” Psalm 67:1
The Lord God’s face shines upon His children in mercy. He has set His focus upon us. His eyes look upon His children, all the time. We can see His mercy, every day, every moment of that day, if only we would but look. And whatever might happen one day, we know it will be different tomorrow. For we can know that His mercies are new every day. Our God is a merciful God!
He wants every one of His creation, to set their eyes upon Him. Look at Him! With mercy and love, He is looks down from Heaven at YOU! Look up to the Heavens and fix your eyes upon the Lord God. The things that He will show you are beautiful, breath-taking and awesome. Set your focus upon Him. And in that moment of awe, between you and the Lord God, cry out for His mercy. “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, have mercy upon me!”
So, what ARE you looking at today? What or Who has your focus?
“I will make Your name to be remembered to all generations; therefore, the people shall praise You forever and ever.”
One of the many names of God is FAITHFUL. Our God is faithful. He always has been and always will be!
In this posting, I am calling on all my brothers and sisters, who believe in our faithful God, to help me with a special project for one of my students.
So, here’s the story: I have a 12 year old student that I have been teaching and mentoring in his new walk with God now for a few months. He believes in God and has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He is so eager to learn new things about God. He is like a little sponge, just soaking up new information and teachings about God all the time. Some of that learning is easy for him. But there are some things that he struggles to understand. What I love, is that he is asking LOTS of questions. Lately we’ve been talking about God’s faithfulness. He has said, “I don’t see God’s faithfulness in my life yet cuz I think I’m too little and God doesn’t seem to be answering too many of my prayers yet.”
Just the other day, while I was talking with him, he came up with a really great idea. As he told me the idea, I saw the excitement in his glittering eyes. I heard the anticipation in his voice as the words stumbled out of his mouth in an eagerness to get started. It is an idea that he hopes will help him in the process of learning more about the faithfulness of God. The idea? He would like to interview other Christians – those who also believe in God and have asked Jesus Christ to be their Savior and who want to live a good Christian life. He would like other brothers and sisters in God’s family to help him learn about our God’s faithfulness.
Here is what my student writes, describing his idea:
“Ms. Kathy, as you know I am really struggling to understand about God’s faithfulness. So I thought I would like to conduct an interview with other Christians in hopes they might share their thoughts and I might learn from them. Hopefully they will have good things to share with me as I learn. Since I cannot do interviews in person (thank you bad coronavirus) I thought I would do them on Facebook and Blog Sites. Ms. Kathy do you think that your friends on Facebook and all your blog readers might answer 2 simple questions for me? They would be helping a little guy learn more about God. Please ask them to help me learn. Please.”
So, what do you think of that idea? Any blog readers out there want to help me teach a 12 year old about the faithfulness of our great God?
Here are his 2 questions:
Well, I guess the challenge is on.
Ms. Kathy has already posted this on her Facebook page. And now, here it goes out on her Blog.
Hmmm, I wonder, how many responses will my little student and I get back? He wonders what countries those answers will come from?
Could one of those answers be YOURS?
A young student of mine recently wrote me a list of questions that he wanted some answers to.
“I have asked some other adults in my life to answer these questions, but they made clear they didn’t have time. So, Ms Kathy, I hope you will take the time to answer them for me. Take your time and answer them well. But PLEASE answer me.”
Personally, I think kids ask the greatest questions!
The type of questions they innocently ask us adults, confirms for me the fact that they are really wanting to learn. Kids learn best by asking questions. It breaks my heart when the adults in their lives don’t have time – or don’t want to take the time – to answer these precious questions. I have always told the students I teach, ask away! I’ll answer your questions. If I don’t know the answer, then together we will work on making a new discovery. It was my great delight to answer this student’s questions.
Let me share one of those questions with you, my blog readers. I wonder, how would you have answered this question:
Who is the greatest man in history?
My student also wrote: “I am just curious what your answer to this question will be. Teachers in my school have told me that there are many great people in the world. And the teacher tells us the story of some of them like the president of the united states, men who made big discoveries in medicine or space, men who are great sports players or music players and men who lives a really LONG time ago and are now too old or dead. I would agree with my school teacher. SOME of these are great men. But can I share a little secret with you I think some of my teachers greatest men are truly BORING. I don’t know what I would say if someone asks me this question. I have never met a truly great man yet but then I’m not that old. Some day I hope to shake the hand of a great man but that might not happen for a long time yet. But I was wondering Ms Kathy who do you say is the greatest man in history?“
I will be honest with you, I didn’t have to think about my answer to this one at all. I KNOW who the greatest man in history is. Would you like to know what my answer to my student was??? Read on, my blog reader, read on!
The greatest man in history had no servants, and yet they called him Master. He had no educational degrees or letters behind his name, yet they called him Teacher. He had no medicines or magic potions, yet he was known as Healer. He had no army, yet kings from many a nation have feared him. He won no military battles, yet he conquered the world. He committed no crimes, yet they crucified him. He was buried in a tomb, yet he is alive today.
Who is this great man?
This great man of history is my Savior; He died on the cross, paying the penalty for my sins, for the sins of the whole world. This great man is the beloved Son of God. This great man is the King of Kings over all the nations. This great man is the Lord of Lords in my life. This great man is my Redeemer, my Refuge, and my Rock. This great man is my Comfort, my Deliverer, my Help, my Strength, my Guide, my All in All. This great man is the most amazing and awesome man I have ever met.
And yes, I know this man personally, although I have yet to meet Him face to face. He is the absolute love of my life. This great man is my Friend!
Who is this great man?
His name is JESUS!
Do you know Him?
“God, my heart hurts right now!”
It hurts bad! Not from a broken relationship, not from a death of a loved one or friend, and not from some loss or even a great sorrow.
Instead, my heart hurts, pure and simply, from the misunderstandings and judgments of people.
While my intentions were good and noble, they were totally misunderstood by other people, who stand on the sidelines of my life, just watching me. While my words and deeds were carefully thought about, prayed over and gently delivered, they were judged incorrectly by self-appointed critics around me. While I completely knew and understood the set of circumstances that I was living out, others entered those circumstances only to find fault and criticize the pure intentions of my heart. Can anyone else relate to that kind of scenario?
There are no words to describe that kind of “heart hurt!” It just hurts! And it hurts bad!
The Psalmist knew that kind of “heart hurt.” Please, read and hear his heart in these words:
“I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long…I am feeble, and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.” Psalms 38: 6 and 8 (NKJV)
When you are the recipient of someone else’s misunderstanding, judgment, faultfinding and criticism, it does something awful to your heart. It is hard to recover from. It tears your heart into pieces. It destroys intentions. It discourages. It weakens confidence. Especially when what you intended to do or to say was planned and meant to help, to encourage, to embolden others. When others come behind those efforts with their self-appointed criticism, intense fault-finding and “better than you” attitude, it relentlessly crushes your spirit. Your heart is broken!
Why do people think its okay to do that to another human being?
One thing I have learned from the Psalmist is that I can come before my God and simply lay my hurting heart down to Him. Whatever my heart holds at that time, I can give it to God. And my God, graciously, accepts that heart, with an abundant measure of LOVE! I do not fully understand God’s love. I just know that God loves my heart! He cherishes it!
The Psalmist says, “Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.” Psalm 38:9-10.
I may not always be able to talk with another human being about how badly my heart hurts at the hand of the self-appointed critics in life, but I can always talk to my God! He is right there for me. He saw and heard what transpired. He clearly knows the intentions of my heart. He saw and heard the reaction of others. He has seen and heard my reaction to them. God knows what happened. He cares!
And yet, as a child of God, He wants to hear from me. He awaits me coming into His presence with the desire to talk with Him. He longingly waits to hear what my heart will say to Him. As I lay before Him my hurting heart, I instantly feel His compassion. I am wrapped in His comfort. I can rest in His care. I can trust my heart to Him.
“For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God…Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” Psalms 38:21-22.
No matter what people do (or say!) around me, when my heart is hurting, I want the Lord my God! I want to talk to Him. He alone will truly understand my heart. He looks upon my intentions and decides whether they are good. He picks up the pieces of my crushed heart and begins to bring healing. His love heals. His love knows and understands my heart.
My heart is in good hands! Today and always!!
“In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind; shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.” Psalms 11:1-7 NKJV
In my hometown, right this very moment of time (at the writing of this blog) we daily watch a fire burning in the Catalina Mountains. It’s a bad fire. It’s scary.
This fire started on June 5th as a result of a lightening strike. I’ve been watching it for over a week now as it has burned 10,367 acres thus far. That tally rises every day. Evacuations have happened. The fire is only 10% contained. Several hundred firefighters from five different states are battling this fire day and night. Their work, however, is limited due to the fact that the fire burns in rough terrain – too tough to get boots onto the ground within that area. They rely upon air support planes dropping gallons of water onto the fire from above. Their work is complicated due to our hot temperatures, gusty winds and dry lightening within the area. At the writing of this blog, it is 107 degrees Fahrenheit and expected to be hotter over the next few days. We badly need rain! But the weather forecasters repeatedly say, “No rain in sight!” We pray for rain!!
Wildlife is at risk. Homes and other structures are at risk. Peoples lives are at risk. Although, we have to rejoice in this; at the time of this writing, no injuries, no deaths, no major losses have been reported. But, we all know, with fire, things could change in a heartbeat. People we know have had to leave their homes, not sure if it will be still standing whenever they receive the signal to return. Like I said before, “It’s scary!”
From our home, we watch the fire. We can see that surge in flames, knowing that its getting worse by the hour. More acreage is burned. More of the mountains beauty is marred. More danger. More risk. Every time I look at that fire, I pray! At night, I go out to the front of my home. From that vantage point, I stand and I watch the glow of fire. It’s wide. It’s bright. It’s scary. I watch it. I pray! That’s all I can do.
But my blog readers, it’s not just the fire that I am experiencing. It’s all the other injustices and fearful things that we are seeing around us every day. There’s the world-wide coronavirus pandemic, there’s earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires throughout our country. Daily there are abortions happening that snuff out the very breath of a precious life. Mental health issues, depression and suicide are at staggering numbers. Millions of people have now lost their jobs and some wonder where their next meal will come from or how they are going to pay the bills. You turn on the news feeds – only to hear yet more bad news. Fake news vs. real news is a constant. It’s disheartening to hear some of our politicians fighting and arguing so much with each other instead of caring for the people they serve. Daily news is rife with unfairness, selfishness, greed, misunderstandings, fear, and hopelessness. I long to hear a good story for a change. BUT, …!
There is so much anger and hatred and emotions running a muck in my country, around my world. Protests, killings, riots, lootings, buildings and cars set on fire, businesses destroyed. People have lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs, their health, their morals, their dignity and their lives. People are scared, about today, about tomorrow, about their future. Our history is being desecrated as monuments and statues reminding us of our past are daily being destroyed and taken down. Our morals are melting before our eyes as everyone does what is right in their own eyes. It is sad! It is scary!
Our very foundations (physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual foundations) are being destroyed all around us!
I sadly hear the cries of some of my fellow people: “Where is your God now?” “God, yes, he is a joke too!” “We don’t need God.” “God? He is about as useful as our politicians.” “We don’t want God. We don’t want….! We will do this ourselves.” These comments, I will be very honest, cut to the very heart of me. They crush my spirit. But yet, these comments motivate me.
I am motivated to read my Bible and pray more. I love God! I love his Word! I love to spend time with Him in prayer! My relationship with God is such, that I can talk to Him about anything. He listens. He hears. He answers. I may not always like the answers He gives me, but I trust Him and know His answers are for my good. I may not understand His plans and purposes for things that happen in my life or in my world. But, I listen when He talks with me and shows me from His Word what He wants me to know.
In reading God’s Word (the Bible) lately, I have been reminded once again of what God thinks about all that is happening in the world around me. I read in Proverbs 6:16-19 of the 7 things that God hates: “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
Sadly, I think that describes our world of today! All the different problems and injustices of our world is not God’s fault. It is the result of the sinful heart of mankind. Listen to the words of Genesis 6:5-6, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” The Lord God is grieved in His heart when He sees what mankind is doing right now. He has been grieved since the days of Adam and Eve, when sin first came into the world (Genesis 3). He is grieved for the sin that has gripped generation after generation. I read from the Book of Habakkuk 1:13 what God does with that sin and evil. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness..” God cannot even look upon our sin, our evil doings, our ever growing wickedness that we allow to run rampant in our world. Man wants what He wants. Man goes after what He wants. Sin prevails in this evil world. And God, while He is greatly grieved by it, He cannot even look upon our sin. He is too pure; Holy is He! We are His creation, created in His image. He loves us. And yet, the sin that we do, separates us from God, from His great love. He cannot – He will not – look upon our sin. He will not tolerate our sin. He allows it. He allows the consequences of sin to play out as needed. But, God hates sin!
I am motivated by the truth that GOD LOVES THE SINNER! I read from God’s Word, the Bible, the most infamous verse within the pages of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)
God loves us so much that He provided a way for us to resolve the sin issue. He tells us about that plan in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ did for us.”
Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, died for my sins, for your sins and for the sins of the whole world. He willingly took our place on the cross, shed His own blood, so that we might have forgiveness from our sins. And, whoever among us sinners, who believe on Jesus Christ, who confess their sins to Him, who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, will be saved from the guilt of their sins. We will still have to endure the consequences of those sins; but God, because of His great love, mercy and grace, forgives us of our sins. Forever forgiven! Never to be remembered by God again! That’s God’s love in action!
My friends, each and every one of us, as sinners, standing before a Holy God, have a choice to make. We can choose to remain as sinners, choose to dwell with our sin, choose to continue in evil ways and wickedness. Or we can choose to give our sins to God’s Son, Jesus. We can choose to acknowledge our wrong doings as God does – name it as sin. We can acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins, and choose the gift of everlasting life that is so freely given to us by God. The Bible tells us very clearly in Romans 10:9 and 13, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved….For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Have you made your choice of what to do with your sin?
I am motivated by one more thing. As I live in this world and I see, every day, the evil, the wickedness, the sin about me and I hear about the hopelessness, the fear, the anxiety that so many people are dwelling with right now – all that motivates me to do something. And some might just say, “But what can you do, you are just one person?” True, but, I believe one person can make a powerfully big difference in their world.
We all have choices to make as we dwell together in this world. I have made mine. My choices are based upon and settled firmly upon the foundation of God’s Word, which cannot be destroyed, demolished, and deceptively taken away from me. My choices are pretty clear as I live out my days in this world. I have to tell you truthfully: this world is not my home! I’m just a passing through. My home is secure in heaven, provided by my Heavenly Father, God, gifted to me through His Son, Jesus Christ, through the shedding of His blood. And one day, only God knows when, I will leave this world of evil, wickedness and sin behind to join the God and Savior I love so much in heaven and there to spend all of eternity.
Until that day, I choose this –
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this…But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” I Peter 3: 8-17.
Blog Reader: Thank you for taking the time to read this particular entry into my blog. It is my hope that you will give great consideration to your own relationship with God. He loves you! He invites you to talk with Him – either as a sinner confessing your sins to Him or as a sinner saved by grace who is following after Him. I also give you an invite: like my blog entry, leave a comment for others to see, contact me in private if that is your choice. I’m here to listen and to pray for you. In fact, I’m praying right now!
“Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.” Psalms 27:11
Have you ever had a time when something happened in your life and you are left feeling like a total failure?
Perhaps, every one of us can say, “Been there, done that one!”
That could actually apply to so many different things in our lives. But, what is most important is what we do with those moments.
I have been a bible teacher for many years now. I absolutely love teaching kids and women the Word of God! It is my heart’s passion. But, several years ago, God asked me to step out in faith and begin to do something that was totally out of my comfort zone. He put it in my heart to start writing and sharing my thoughts and teachings with the world. Daunting as that thought can be on my best days, I decided to take that proverbial “leap of faith” and give writing a try. So, my readers, I am brand new to this world of writing and publishing. And, while I am confident in what I am writing and publishing these days, I have already had my fair share of days when I feel like an absolute failure and am tempted to give up writing altogether.
Does anyone else ever feel that way?
So, this past month or so, I have been going through something within the world of writing and publishing that I didn’t see coming, didn’t expect and certainly didn’t want. I cannot and will not go into any great detail other than to say that it rocked my writer’s confidence with an almighty tough blow. Perhaps the blow was more to my ego than anything else. But yes, perhaps a little to my writing ability. But then, it could also just be the “jerks” behind the whole scenario of what happened. I don’t know. It just kicked me! And it hurts! Bad!!
In all honesty, I am feeling very much like a failure right now. And it’s not pretty!
One day, I want to give up writing. The next day I get a new inspiration and writing seems a breeze. And then, a really nasty comment is posted about my writings and I am determined to quit again. Then someone reminds me that I do have a voice and what I have to say is important. Then someone else comes along to share what they personally have learned from my writings. Their comments encourage my heart and brings my passion back to the forefront. I feel confident to keep on writing despite…!
I wanted to share one comment I received from a special person in my life. He happens to be a good friend, a financial donor to my ministry with kids, and a godly man that I have greatly admired for years. I recently sent him a copy of my first book that was published in April of 2019. My friend spoke about the book and what he thought of my sending it to him. He had already started reading it and was enjoying it. He said, “I’ve taught on this book’s subject in the church for years, but reading this now, I am learning some things that I never knew before. It’s an awesome book. You did a great job with it. When are you writing another?” My heart was encouraged by his words in one second, and then my heart sunk down to my toes when he asked about another book. Sadly, this newly published book, is already being taken out of distribution due to circumstances beyond my control and thus my hurting heart and a true sense of failure on my part. I talked with this friend about what all had happened. He listened to my words, and understood. But greater still, he was listening to my heart for the words my mouth was not saying. He understood that too.
Then he said, “And knowing you like I do, you probably feel like you are a failure right now.”
But, it was his next statement that was just the encouragement that I needed. He lovingly said, “Don’t feel that way! You are not a failure! Fail means first attempt in learning. You just learned something about the reality of the writing and publishing world you probably couldn’t have learned any other way. Let me tell you something girl, you always have something valuable to say. Write what is on your heart and then give it to God before you give it to the world. God will take care of the results.”
I needed to hear that! I was listening to his words and heart too.
I like that part – “fail means first attempt in learning.” I like it, in part, because I like acronyms. But, I like it because its true. Oftentimes we do fail at our first attempt of learning something new that brings us out of our comfort zone. At least, I know I usually do. Yet, just because its our first attempt at something, that doesn’t have to mean that we failed at it. Nor does it mean that we should quit and never try again. Try again is exactly what we need to do. It’s what I need to do.
All this reminds me of the Psalmist David. Now, here is a bible character who knew failure. People failed him, circumstances of life brought failure his way, he failed himself. I am certain there were times in his life when others, and perhaps even himself, were all too happy to remind David of the failures in his life. Satan, for one, is notorious in reminding me of my many failures in life. Our enemies are always all too happy to point out our failures to us. Question is, “Are we listening?”
David has this to say of his enemies: “When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident…” Psalms 27: 2-3.
Our enemies are out there, to fight against us, to entice us to quit and give up the battle, to remind us of where we have failed in the past. And when they do come for us, it is possible to rise up confidently and look them in the face.
David goes on to say, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me. Therefore, I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praise to the Lord.” (verse 6). We don’t have to react to those who say we “failed” and we don’t have to give up our dreams just because our “first attempt in learning” didn’t go all that well. We choose the next step!
The Psalmist David, chose to cry out to His God in the midst of the hurt and accusations of “failure”. But pay attention, dear reader, to what David asks of his God. “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me and answer me. . . Teach me Your way, O Lord and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.” (verses 7 and 11).
I love the example of David here. Instead of allowing the enemies to get the best of him, he turns to his God. He lifts up his voice and shares with God what needs to be shared – his heart. And then, David asks his Lord, to teach him. David is able to look past his enemies, look beyond their words and actions towards him and see that there is a God who cares. David didn’t settle for the cries of “failure” from those who rose up against him. He didn’t entertain “failure” as an option. David turns to his God in a “first attempt in learning” moment and asks God to be his teacher.
I believe that God’s first words to David would have been, “You are NOT a failure!” Those are the words God spoke into my heart too. And from there God teaches us a new reality. Yes, we can learn many valuable lessons from the hand of God. He is a great teacher. As He teaches, He would encourage confidence, He would inspire us to use the talents we have, and He would challenge us to keep trying for “I am here to help you.” God wants to be our greatest “cheerleader” as we take the not so good things that happen in life and turn them into learning opportunities that build our character and grow us as a person.
The last thing God wants is for us to listen to the voice of our enemies when they attempt to tell us “You are a failure! Let me show you what you did. . . ” Listen not to those voices. They will only bring us down.
I choose not to listen. For in my head and in my heart I KNOW that I am not a failure. God reminds me of that every day. He loves me for who and what I am. He gave me the talents and abilities that I have. He instilled in me the ability to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. He has created me and is helping me to be something amazing in His sight.
So, I might be new to this world of writing and publishing AND I might have a lot to learn as I walk this journey of adventure, but I am confident, with God’s help, I can be an amazing writer for His honor and glory!
“Teach me Your way, O Lord!”
“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.” Psalm 33:1-22 NKJV
I stand in awe of somebody bigger than you and me!
I had the great privilege of teaching Bible classes in a few of the public schools while I was a missionary teacher in Scotland and England. It was an amazing experience. Through it, I met some of the most precious kids. Each so different and yet, they all shared something in common; they wanted to know more about God. We talked about God’s great love for us every time we met together. As we talked, the questions would come. And week by week, we would learn as much as we could about what the Bible told us of God’s love for each one of us.
I still remember one little girl in particular. She captured my attention as a teacher in so many different ways. It was her cuteness; every day, dressed in her school uniform along with pigtails and ribbons. It was her accent and the way she said certain words. It was her laughter. It was her kindness shown to other children. But, most of all, it was her dimple-highlighted smile that absolutely melted my heart. She was always full of questions. About everything. I can still see the frown that would come across her face every time I had to say, “I don’t know!” Well, for her, that wasn’t good enough. She wanted to know. If I didn’t know, and I admitted that I didn’t know, well, she would insist on my “learning until I found the answer for her.” It was through her, that I learned the art of creative and investigative learning for kids. I enlisted the kids to help me learn so that we could learn something new together.
One particular question that she insisted knowing was, “What does God look like?” She was not one bit happy with my answer. “Sorry, but I don’t really know what God looks like. No one has ever seen God.”
Oh no, here it comes! With a furrowed brow, widened eyes and a flat-line smile, she delivered that infamous frown to her teacher. “Teacher,” she would say, “you have to know the answer to that. You know a lot about God. You just have to know what He looks like. I want to know what God looks like.” She crossed her arms over her chest and just frowned at me. Stumped for words, I floundered a little, trying to decide just what to say. Then, she cracked a little smile and said, “Can we discover the answer to my question together?”
Okay! We started by doing a search of Scripture to find Bible verses that talked about God, His character and His doings. Every one of those students were hoping they, personally, could find a description of what God looked like. Each one, wanted to be the one to find that precious little gem. For days, they searched the Scriptures. We wrote these special Bible verses out on colorful paper and hung them on the wall all around the room. What was the outcome of this type of investigation?
The room became very colorful. There are lots of Bible verses telling us about God’s love, God’s character and God’s work. And the children learned a lot about God in this search through the Scriptures. But, no one found a physical description of what God looked like. But then, I kind of knew that no one would. You see, I remember looking for the same thing when I was just a kid.
Even when I shared with them Bible verses like: John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time…” and John 6:46, “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.” These children still did not believe that no one really knew what God looked like.
As this truth began it hit the understanding of the kids, there was a little bit of disgust that filled that classroom. And then, there, – – there it is! The frown came out again. Glancing at this little pig-tailed, cute girl, I almost burst out laughing at the expression on her face. It was now combined with the folding of the arms across the chest. Several others students around, began to do the same. Before this teacher could say a word and gain control of her classroom, one of the students stood up on a chair and made a loud proclamation.
“Well, I think we should all draw pictures of God. God is bigger than all of us and the world deserves to know what God really looks like. We should draw his picture.” stated one student. Many others about the room, nodded their heads in agreement. The classroom had made up their mind.
Well, okay then! Let’s get some paper and lets get to drawing.
Crayons, markers, and pencils, in the hands of kids, can create some of the most interesting, most intriguing and most priceless creations. Their imaginations run wild. Their creativity shines forth in each stroke of the pencil as it draws. Their brightness pops as color is added in new dimensions. And the final picture, to each child, is truly a masterpiece.
As they worked, I walked around the room, just looking at their busyness. I couldn’t contain the smile that wanted to etch forth on my facial tablet. Each child was determined, in their own way, to show Ms. Kathy and the world what God really looks like. I was intrigued by their imaginations. I was impressed with their drawings. It was incredible to see such creativity.
I just wished that I had kept those pictures. So many times, in the years following, I would have loved to look once more at the handiwork of some talented kids. Some of those images, though, have remained etched in my memory. One day, I will go to Heaven and see God. Then, I will truly know what God looks like. But for now….!
The Psalmist has drawn for us a picture of what God looks like – of His love, His character, and His deeds of wonder. Instead of using crayons and markers to create his drawing, the Psalmist uses words. Psalm 33 gives a verbal shout out, with an abundant amount of joy, to the greatness of our amazing, wonderful God. As we read this psalm, we realize that we are reading about Somebody bigger than you and me. Somebody whose picture cannot be drawn, but whose image shines forth in brilliant colors. Somebody who is worthy of a ton of praise from the inhabitants of the earth. Somebody whose “word is right and all His work is done in truth” for this God loves righteousness and truth. Somebody “who spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Somebody whose “counsel stands forever and the plans of His heart are known to all generations.” Somebody who looks down from the heavens to see all that He has created; He knows each inhabitant of the earth by name. Somebody who “fashions their hearts individually and considers all their works.” Somebody bigger than you and me.
Just as I stood, years ago, and admired the drawings of young children who tried to portray what God looked like in their minds eye, so now the Psalmist has drawn an image of God that we can stand back and admire. While, no one has ever seen God and no one can portray vividly enough what He looks like, we can, in same small manner, understand who God is and what He has done, in our minds eye. Who is God to you? What does He look like to you? More importantly, what has God done for you? What’s the picture being drawn, right now, in your mind’s eye of your God?
With that picture in mind, might I suggest that we join the Psalmist. “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”
As for me, I know that whenever I think of God, whenever I consider His greatness, His workings in my life, His amazing love for me, I am moved to stand. Stand in respect, yes! But more so, I stand in awe! Simple awe! There are no words, no drawings, no imaginations that can develop that kind of picture of God.
For now, only my heart holds that true image of God. It’s an image to behold in my heart and in my minds eye. That image becomes clearly drawn with every heart beat, with every breath of life that God gives to me. That image is being etched upon my heart in the mirrored image of the God who created me. That image becomes more colorful with every act of love, grace, mercy and kindness that God places upon my life. That image becomes deeper in dimension with every heartache I experience in this earthly life, and every time I cry out to my God for His help and wisdom. And, some day soon, when I stand in His presence, in heaven, I will see my God for who He really is. I will know for sure what He looks like. I will know Him. He will know me. No pictures will be needed. My eyes will clearly see Him as I stand before Him! Forever in the presence of my God!
And, in that heavenly moment, I will stand in awe of Somebody bigger than you and me!
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. . . ” Psalms 37:7 (NKJV)
Just mention the word “Walk” and the ears on our little dog, Max, spring right up. Excitement is more than he can contain! You don’t usually have to say the word a second time. In his eagerness to get started, he races through the house. If he could talk, I’m almost certain that I would hear him say, “Hurry up and get my harness and leash on!” He is ready to go for a W – A – L – K!
This morning, Max and I went out for a walk. This dog LOVES his walks! Each and every one holds a new adventure; for him and for the person who is hanging onto the leash. He stops often just to take in the sights and sounds around him. He is busy poking his little nose into just about every nook and cranny along the way. He has a friendly greeting for each and every person he meets along the path. That tail-wagging greeting is the best thing ever to brighten up your day! And then, there are all the stops at the houses where his “friends” live. A quick little bark to say “hello!” and we are off walking again. Today, he was especially interested in chasing the birds. It seems he is listening for their special song and when he hears it, he stops and assesses where it is coming from. Should he have the pleasure of seeing that bird – well, that is when the real fun begins. Catch me if you can! Thankfully, he has never actually caught one, yet, he certainly gives his very best try. The birds are always quick to fly away. Today, I almost lost my grip on his leash, when unexpectedly, he lunged after a rabbit. I sure didn’t see that one coming. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the rabbit or me. Perhaps Max thought that cute little rabbit was “lunch” but, happily, the rabbit wasn’t interested in Max and he quickly disappeared out of sight. Max let out a little growl of disappointment. Poor Max! Nonetheless, it was fun to watch the little guy. A little while later, a big gust of wind caught him totally off guard and he began nipping at it. I chuckled at the thought of trying to catch the wind. As if you really could Max. I tell you, walking with this dog is a new experience every day. And yet, I must admit, when I think about it, there are plenty of life lessons to learn from walking my dog.
First time ever, today on our walk, Max got tired out! I mean, totally exhausted kind of tired! Not really surprising though. Worn out by the adventure, he plopped himself down. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk, Max sits down. He refused to move. “Really, Max? You have to stop right here? Right now?” At least, he had picked a shady spot to sit down in. I am afraid, he is down for the count. He lets out the cutest, most exhausted sigh that I have ever heard from my dog. No amount of tugs to the leash, no amount of petting, no amount of “That’s a good boy!”, no amount of promised treats, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING was going to entice him to move forward and finish our walk. Nothing!
At first, he just sat there, looking all around him. I’m trying to figure out what he is watching. What might he be preparing to go after next. But, there is nothing; nothing that I could see! All of the sudden, instead of sitting, Max lays down on the cool, shady sidewalk and spreads out all four legs. One, Two, Three, and Four! Then he drops his head, allowing another sigh to escape. He closes his eyes. Nope, he’s definitely not moving. He is totally exhausted! It was time to rest!
What’s his favorite dog walker to do?
In that moment, I simply chose to sit down with my favorite dog, on the sidewalk, and take a rest. I know. I could have picked him up and carried him back home. But why? It was a lovely day. And while I’m out walking my dog, Max, unknowingly, he teaches me a very simple, yet valuable life lesson.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and rest!
Life can be extremely hectic. Very often we find life to be fast paced and super busy. We tend to always be on the run. Places to go, people to see, things to do, deadlines to meet, dreams to fulfill. Life can be filled with many challenges, many problems, many things we seem to chase after, many different scenarios of drama, and occasionally comedy, play out day by day. All too often, there is something, someone “tugging at our leash” to keep us moving forward. Let’s get this thing called life done. Let’s finish our walk.
But, sometimes, we just need to stop where we are, stop what we are doing, lay down and rest!
REST is a gift that we can give to ourselves in the midst of our very hectic lives. My dog, Max, reminded me of that little lesson today, out on our walk together. Rest is good. Rest is necessary. Rest is restoring to our body, soul and mind. Rest is not idle. It is not wasteful time. Sometimes rest is the most productive thing that we can do in a day. We all need rest.
Here’s four things that I have learned about REST. (I built an acronym so that I remember it better!)
R – Rest gives me the opportunity to RETREAT. I love that word retreat. It means to pull away from something or someone for a designated period of time. To separate from something and rest or relax. It’s that idea of stopping one or more actions in life for a time to concentrate on something else. I have learned to schedule times of retreat into my life. If I don’t intentionally schedule it, then it usually doesn’t happen at all. I actually look forward to my times of retreat. I intentionally put my work aside. Yeah, no housework, no laundry, no fixing of meals (they get done ahead of time). At my personal retreat, there are no people, no problems, and thus no potential disturbances. During many of my times of retreat, I intentionally retreat from technology, and so, no phones, no computers, no television will be allowed at my retreat. Just me and quiet! It’s best for me to retreat somewhere away from home and thus, away from temptations to rush back into life’s complicated chaos. When I’m away from home, I cannot pick up my baggage or my work and bring it into my retreat space. My retreats can be for a few hours, a full day, or even for several days – whatever I deem my retreat to be. Sometimes that retreat will include a good, well-deserved nap. Retreat for me is all about rest. Resting from the normal pace of life, resting from my work, resting from technology that zaps so much of my time and energy, resting from my worries and concerns, resting my body, soul and mind.
E – Rest gives me the opportunity to ENTER God’s presence. Pulling away from the demands of life, pulling away from responsibilities, pulling away from everything else, gives me the privilege of retreating with my Creator God. It’s an opportunity to come into His sacred presence and just dwell there together. To enter and enjoy His presence fully. I don’t bring anything else with me. It’s just me and my God! It’s quiet in His presence. It is so peaceful and there is no one else to disturb us. His presence brings calm to my tired, troubled heart. In His presence, I can lay down everything – my hurts, my pain, my anxiety, my concerns, and my fears. Everything I have, everything I am is His when I am there, in His presence. He takes everything from me. I willingly surrender everything to Him. I can completely, totally, and fully rest in His presence. I can have that long over-due nap, while He tenderly watches over His child. In His presence, I can find a special place of refuge. I am safe there in His presence. I can be restored, renewed and revitalized in my body, soul and mind.
S – Rest gives me the opportunity to SPEND quality time with my Best Friend, My Lord, My God, and My Savior! Together, we choose how best to spend that time. I can spend time talking to Him. Tell Him anything that I want to. He will listen intently to my every word. I can spend time listening to Him as He speaks softly and gently to me. I want to listen to His every word. I desire His words to wash over my spirit, to cleanse and refresh my heart and soul. My God and I can be silent in the presence of one another. We don’t have to feel awkward in that silence. The silence is blissful and beautiful. As we spend time together, I can read His Word. Out loud, I read His Words back to Him and from the very pages of my Bible, my God speaks to me. I can ask Him questions. He will explain His truths to my open heart and mind. I want to hear only His words in this special time together. I can worship Him. There will be no fear that my worship isn’t good enough, isn’t pure enough, isn’t worthy for Him. I desire my worship to be heart-felt and holy. I want my worship to be glorious to the ears of My Savior. In that worship, I want to sing to Him. No worries about making “a joyful noise” for my worship will be beautiful in His presence. As I spend this special, sacred time with my God, my Savior, I will find that true rest comes flooding over my heart, soul and mind.
T – Rest gives me the opportunity to TRUST my God. As I’m resting in His presence and as I’m spending quality time with Him, I loosen my grip on everything else. There is no baggage. There are no problems. There are no fears or doubts. There is nothing that comes between me and my Savior God. As I rest, everything else fades from view. I have found my place of refuge. I am receiving His refreshment. I am seeing my heart being renewed right before my eyes. I am learning to totally trust the work that my God is doing in these moments of retreat and rest. His work is good. No, it’s better than good, it’s awesome! It is perfect! It is complete! I am learning to trust Him! My trust grows bigger, deeper, more fuller with every moment we spend together. It’s more precious than ever before. I want to trust even more. I want to trust Him with all my heart, soul and mind.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and rest!
Dear Father, This world seems to move faster and faster and I’m trying to keep up. But God, in this whirlwind, instead I get caught up. Like an unbeatable force, it pulls me in but I know eventually, I cannot win. I must learn to rest in Your perfect peace, and though good, let all endeavors cease. Oh, that my feet would mimic Your pace, so Your joy would be set upon my face. Help me Jesus, to slow down when You would; Help me Lord, to rest as I should. Thank you for loving me God, and helping me to find, that rest is so good for my body, soul and mind. Amen.”