Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Scriptures that expose the devil's lies, part 2

This is the third in a series of posts about the deceptive techniques of the devil.  He routinely lies, deceiving people in order to lead them away from the Lord.  In my first post of this series, I identified 12 common lies which he tells over and over.  Last time, we debunked three of these lies.  Today, we will debunk three more.

The scriptures below are all from the NIV unless otherwise noted. 

Devil's lie #4.

God doesn't care.

Truth:  God cares very much about his children.  He invites us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.  He is attentive to our prayers and zealous for our salvation.  He cares so much, He fights for us, on our side. 

  • 1 Peter 5:7 ~ Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
  • Psalm 55:22 ~ Cast your cares on the Lord
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never let
        the righteous be shaken.
  • Psalm 34:15The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
        and his ears are attentive to their cry;
  • Isaiah 26:11 ~ Lord, your hand is lifted high,
        but they do not see it.
    Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
        let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.
  • Exodus 14:14 ~ The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
  • Psalm 20:7 ~ Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
        but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
  • Psalm 33:16-22
    No king is saved by the size of his army;
        no warrior escapes by his great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
        despite all its great strength it cannot save. 
    But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
        on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 
    to deliver them from death
        and keep them alive in famine. 
    We wait in hope for the Lord;
        he is our help and our shield. 
    In him our hearts rejoice,
        for we trust in his holy name. 
    May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
        even as we put our hope in you.

Devil's lie #5.

God won't (or can't) help you.

Truth: God is for us, so who can stand against us?  He comes to the aid of His people.  Nothing is impossible for God.  God is sovereign, omnipotent, almighty, attentive and kind.  He has delivered His people from sin, and ultimately He will deliver us from eternal death.  God can and will help His people. 

  • Exodus 14:14 ~ The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  (~worth repeating!)
  • Psalm 3:8 ~ From the Lord comes deliverance.
        May your blessing be on your people.
  • Psalm 18:2 ~ The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Psalm 32:7 ~ You are my hiding place;
        you will protect me from trouble
        and surround me with songs of deliverance.
  • Psalm 34:7 ~ The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
        and he delivers them.
  • Romans 8:31 ~ What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Romans 8:32 ~ He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?
  • Matthew 19:26 ~ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • Luke 1:37For nothing will be impossible with God.   (ESV)

Devil's lie #6.

There is nothing to look forward to.

Truth:  There is everything to look forward to.  Home in heaven.  Restoration of everything that is good.  The end of everything that is bad.  A new heaven and a new earth.  A perfect relationship with God.  Perfect relationships with all others who, like you, will also have been perfected in eternity.   Eternal life in paradise.

  • Zephaniah 3:20 ~ At that time I will gather you;
        at that time I will bring you home.
    I will give you honor and praise
        among all the peoples of the earth
    when I restore your fortunes
        before your very eyes,”
    says the Lord.
  • Psalm 16:11 ~ You make known to me the path of life;
        you will fill me with joy in your presence,
        with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
  • John 14:1-3 ~ Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
  • Romans 8:18-21 ~ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 ~ Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ~ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
  • Philippians 3:20-21 ~ But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
  • Colossians 3:4 ~ When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • 2 Timothy 4:8 ~ Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
  • 1 John 3:2 ~ Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
  • Jude 24-25 ~ To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
  • Revelation 21:1-4 ~ Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
  • Revelation 22:1-5 ~ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign for ever and ever.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Scriptures that expose the devil's lies

This is a follow-on from my last post, which discussed the deceptive techniques of the devil.  He routinely lies, deceiving people in order to lead them away from the Lord.  In my last post, I identified 12 common lies he tells over and over.  Below, I've begun debunking these lies, placing them against the truth that counters them, and scriptures to illustrate what is true.

These are dense, so I'm going to break them down and address three lies per post, over four posts.

The scriptures below are all from the NIV unless otherwise noted. 

Devil's lie #1.

God doesn't love you.

Truth:  God loves the world.  God loves all people.  
And God loves you, specifically, infinitely, unconditionally. 

  • Lamentations 3:22 ~ Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
        for his compassions never fail.
  • John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
  • 1 John 4:10 ~ This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
  • Luke 12:6-7 ~ Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
  • Romans 5:8 ~ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Devil's lie #2.

God isn't good.

Truth:  God is good.  He is the very essence of goodness, the definition.  
Everything good comes from God and from nowhere else.  God is good. 

  • Psalm 31:19 (ESV) ~ Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
        which you have stored up for those who fear you
    and worked for those who take refuge in you,
        in the sight of the children of mankind!
  • Psalm 86:5 ~ You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
        abounding in love to all who call to you.
  • Psalm 16:2 ~ I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
        apart from you I have no good thing.”
  • Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ~ And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
  • James 1:17 ~ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.   

Devil's lie #3.

There is no God.

Truth:  There is a God.  He made the Universe.  He reveals Himself through creation, scripture and Jesus Christ.

  • Isaiah 44:6 ~ This is what the Lord says—
        Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
    I am the first and I am the last;
        apart from me there is no God.
  • Isaiah 44:24 ~ This is what the Lord says—
        your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
      I am the Lord,
        the Maker of all things,
        who stretches out the heavens,
        who spreads out the earth by myself,
  • Isaiah 45:18 ~ For this is what the Lord says—
    he who created the heavens,
        he is God;
    he who fashioned and made the earth,
        he founded it;
    he did not create it to be empty,
        but formed it to be inhabited—
    he says:
    “I am the Lord,
        and there is no other."
  • Psalm 19:1 ~ The heavens declare the glory of God;
        the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
  • Romans 1:20 ~ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
  • John 14:9 ~ Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?"
  • 2 Timothy 1:9-10 ~ He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.   
  • John 20:31 ~ But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
  • Genesis 1:1 ~ In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

For the next post in this series, click here.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The devil's schemes and the God of truth

Somebody recently brought up the question, "What has Satan been hurling at you lately?"

We've been studying Revelation, specifically (over the past two weeks) Revelation 12-13.

I would like to point out that in Revelation 12, it is not Satan who is doing the hurling. It is Satan who is being hurled, hurled down.  This makes him very angry, furious, in fact.  It spurs him on to pursue and attack, because he knows his time is short.

He's a cornered wild animal.  He can't escape his doom, but he's going to chew up everything he can possibly get his teeth into on his way down.  So, although he is not the "hurler," he is a force to beware.

In October, I wrote a couple of posts on spiritual warfare which turned out to be surprisingly fortifying to me.  I'm so squeamish about these things, I guess the Lord had to allow me to write about the subject in my own way, in a way that didn't frighten me, in order for me to learn something about it.  You can go back and read them, if you wish:

Spiritual warfare

Spiritual warfare, part 2

While working through this subject, I noticed that the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 begins with the Belt of Truth and ends with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  At the time, this seemed significant.  After consideration, it seems even more significant.  Our protection from the evil one is the Truth, and we find the Truth in the Word of God.

When we go out to do spiritual battle, we need to be careful about what we attribute to the devil.  We are tempted to attribute to the devil everything we don't like.  Cancer, car accidents, war, marital conflict, debt, hunger, fear, death, loss; we blame it all on Satan.  "Satan is really after me," we say.  "Satan is getting me down."  However, these things are natural results of living in a fallen world.  Many of the "bad" things that happen are either natural results of living in a fallen world, or natural consequences for our own, individual, sinful choices.  Now, obviously it was Satan who ushered sin into the world in the first place.  He jammed the gears so things don't work the way God created them to work.  Hence Murphy's Law.  Weeds.  Uphill battles.  Satan is not necessarily assailing us with trials; he just bent the system so it does these things on its own.

We should expect trials and trouble.  God warns us about this repeatedly. Trials and troubles should not surprise us.

Our spiritual warfare is not necessarily to be carried out in response to trials and troubles.  Our spiritual warfare is to be carried out in response to the devil's schemes.

I'm going to tell you what I think the devil's schemes are, what we need to watch out for, what we need to learn to triumph over:

The devil has one objective or goal, and two tactics that are really one and the same.

Satan's goal is to diminish the glory of God.  He thinks he can do this by hurting God's people, stealing the Shepherd's sheep.  Satan is out to cloud our minds and understanding so that we will not see God's glory or respond to it.

He uses two tactics to do this.  (1)  He uses deception, delusion.  He is the great deceiver.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  (2)  He uses accusation.  He loves to accuse the redeemed of their sins, which are already washed away by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus' shed blood.  Of course he wants to render Jesus' payment for our sins as useless and wasted; it was his ultimate undoing, so he wants to try to undo it back.  But he can't really, because it truly happened, once for all, and the saints stand forgiven.  The only way Satan can accuse us is by going back to his first tactic, and lying to us about what Christ has accomplished and whether God's grace could apply to us.

That stubbed toe you got in the grocery store, the scary result on the CT scan, the car breakdown... those weren't necessarily the devil's work.  God uses pain and suffering to drive us back into His own arms sometimes.  Your illness, your divorce, the termination of your job... these can be used by God to remind us to look to Jesus for our hope.  On the other hand, things we assume are blessings:  the child who is a prodigy at sports or music, the demanding but lucrative job, constantly beeping computers and smartphones, a calender chock full of dates and events... these can be provided and used by Satan to draw our eyes off our heavenly Father, to distract us and fill our time so that we neither pray nor read our Bibles nor fellowship with the community of faith.

I'm going to give you a list of some of the devil's most commonly used lies.  It's good to know what his lies are, because the best way to fight him is to name his lies and say, "That is not the truth!"  And then, of course, we need to review what the truth is, ideally by finding it written in the Word of God.

Lies of the devil:

1.  God doesn't love you.
Truth:  God loves the world.  God loves all people.  And God loves you, specifically, infinitely, unconditionally.

2.  God isn't good.
Truth:  God is good.  He is the very essence of goodness, the definition.  Everything good comes from God and from nowhere else.  God is good.

3.  There is no God.
Truth:  There is a God.  He made the Universe.  He reveals Himself through creation, scripture and Jesus Christ.

4.  God doesn't care.
Truth:  God cares very much about his children.  He invites us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.  He is attentive to our prayers and zealous for our salvation.  He cares so much, He fights for us, on our side.

5.  God won't (or can't) help you.
Truth: God is for us, so who can stand against us?  He comes to the aid of His people.  Nothing is impossible for God.  God is sovereign, omnipotent, almighty, attentive and kind.  He has delivered His people from sin, and ultimately He will deliver us from eternal death.  God can and will help His people.

6.  There is nothing to look forward to.
Truth:  There is everything to look forward to.  Home in heaven.  Restoration of everything that is good.  The end of everything that is bad.  A new heaven and a new earth.  A perfect relationship with God.  Perfect relationships with all others who, like you, will also have been perfected in eternity.   Eternal life in paradise.

7.  You are worthless.
Truth:  You are so valuable to God that Jesus was crucified to buy you back from the devil who temporarily owned you.

8.  You are hopeless.
Truth:  All things are possible for God.   Nothing is ever hopeless.  God has infinite power to restore and renew.  God has infinite grace to to pour out on you in forgiveness in response to repentance.  There is hope.

9.  It's too late.
Truth:  Although there will be a point when it will be too late, it is not too late as long as you have life and breath.  Ask Jesus to heal everything that is amiss in you today, while you can.  If you can consider it, it is not too late.

10.  It doesn't matter if you just sin a little bit.  You can always stop when you want to.
Truth:  Sin always hurts you, always robs you of something that would have been better.  Sin takes you farther than you planned to go, and costs you far more than you ever planned to pay.

11.  You have to take care of yourself and put yourself first, because nobody else cares about you.
Truth:  God cares about you.  He works on your behalf, and He takes care of you, protects you.  When you trust God and die to selfishness, you will find that you are the most free you have ever been because you don't have to worry about yourself.

12.  This is way more fulfilling than anything God has to offer.
Truth:  Although Satan works hard to convince you that he has something worthwhile to offer, it is all a sham.  Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God.  Everything that has real value comes from God.  Everything that that lasts comes from God.  True fulfillment is only found in Christ.

These are some common lies that the devil tells people every day.  If you sense his voice trying to get one of these messages into your head, immediately identify it as a lie and say, "That is not the truth!"  This is the beginning of spiritual warfare.

When you identify the devil's lies and counter them with the truth, you are wearing God's Belt of Truth, His spiritual armor.  When you counter with scripture, you are wielding the Sword of the Spirit and driving the enemy back.  Next time, I will put together a post with scripture references you can use to counter the devil's lies that I listed above, to back up the truths I've outlined.  If you are aware of other lies that you've found the devil using against you, please list them in the comments section, and I'll work on including scriptural truths to counter them in the next post, too.

 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)

Follow on posts from this series:
Scriptures that expose the devil's lies.
Scriptures that expose the devil's lies, part 2.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A tea party with myself

Today I had tea and cookies, and it was delightful.

The title says, "A tea party with myself," but actually Shawn was here.  He came home for lunch so we could drive the van over to the service station, which is why I made cookies in the first place (because Shawn was here, not because of the van).  However, while Shawn was home, he had to take a business call upstairs in the study, so I enjoyed the first cookie and some tea by myself, before he was available.

These cookies are from my niece Esther's blog.  Her way of making them is delicious.  I've followed her recipe exactly, and they are delectable.  With her method, they are both gluten-free, and dairy-free.  (Also, her pictures are artistic, unlike mine, which are utilitarian.  This is because she is an artist and uses a real camera.  I am not an artist, and I often just use my phone because it's so much faster.  If you want to see how truly beautiful these cookies can look, be sure to check out Esther's blog.)

I've developed some alterations to Esther's recipe, mainly to make the cookies easier to fit with my own kitchen habits, and not to improve the flavor, which was spot-on to begin with.  Shawn's philosophy is, "Make them however you are happiest making them, because if you are happier making them, you will make them more often, and that is good."

For starters, I just use butter instead of coconut oil.  I don't need to be dairy free.  At our house, I am always slathering the coconut oil on my body for a moisturizer, so we are often short of it, and what we have has been stored in the bathroom and exposed to many fingertips.  Hence, there is butter in my cookies.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Delicious Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 & 3/4 cups oat flour (optionally, you can sub 3/4 cup almond meal for 3/4 cup of the oat flour, and it is delicious)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (this is more than Esther uses)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (Esther uses sea salt, but I have used both sea salt and plain and don't detect a difference.)
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (Esther calls for an egg and an egg yolk, but I cringe at throwing away an egg white, even for a good cause.)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • (opt. 1/2-1 cup flaked coconut)
  • (opt. 1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans)

Mix dry ingredients (flours, soda, salt) and set aside.
Beat the butter until fluffy.  Beat in the sugar, and then the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the extracts.  Carefully beat in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the chocolate chips (and coconut and walnuts, if you use them) by hand.

Form into balls with a soup spoon (make fairly large cookies).  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Chill or freeze until firm.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, then rotate cookie sheet and bake 4 more minutes.

I like to keep the dough in the refrigerator and just bake up one tray of cookies at a time.  The other day, I served this recipe to some friends, and they said, "These are really good. Nobody would ever have to know that they're gluten-free, because these are really good."

Confession:  Sometimes I tell people that stuff is gluten-free, kind of hoping that they will think it's going to be gross, and then they won't take any, and then I will get to have more.  I feel that this somewhat balances out the sadness of my not being able to eat any glutenous treats. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Blessings in turmoil

Yesterday I was looking for a particular passage of scripture.

Often, the Lord blesses me miraculously by leading me to the passages I am looking for, even when I am not sure where they are.  Sometimes I feel that this is a sort of game we play together, God and I: I pray and ask Him to help me find some verses, and He answers and leads me to them.

Yesterday, He took me on a detour along the way, which I am writing about on Seeking Wisdom, Craving Grace (please check it out; it's a another really great story).

But eventually I did find the verses I was looking for:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?"

~Luke 18:1-7 (NIV)
The assurance I was looking for was right there in verse 1:  We should always pray and not give up.  That's what I was looking for, and there it was.  Encouragement to persevere in prayer.  Even when it seems like nothing is happening, like nothing is going to happen, like nothing could possibly happen, we should still always pray and not give up.  Nothing is impossible for God.

The rest of the passage reminded me that God loves His children and graciously gives good gifts to those who ask.  I thought of the place where Jesus says, "Which of you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake?"  So I went looking for that.

Guess where it was?

Luke 11:11.  11:11.  (Please click on that link if you don't already know about the significance 11:11 has for me.)  This discovery was a love letter from God to me, a special kiss.  Dark chocolate and diamonds.

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~Luke 11:11-13 (NIV)
I hope this means that the Lord will also give the Holy Spirit, somehow, to those we intercede for, who are too blinded and bound to ask for themselves. Hope itself is from God; He is the source of all hope, and the power of His Holy Spirit fills us with overflowing hope (and joy and peace, Romans 15:13).

God is in the business of rescuing and restoring. That is who He is and what He does. He cares for the lost. He seeks wandering sheep. He came for the sick, not the healthy. He died for sinners.

I know all these things, and yet I still find myself doubting and despairing. So He reaches into my world, takes a verse that encourages me to pray with hope in His goodness, and He connects it to a number He has already made meaningful to me. Obviously, He didn't just do it last night. He set it up before the foundation of the world, amongst every other detail of His plans for the Universe, knowing (imagine this) that I would discover this particular connection on that particular night and be comforted by His unfailing love for me. The thought boggles my mind. How can I doubt a God like this? How can I despair, when He is in control?

Then, Shawn was on another trip this past week. He was supposed to be coming home today, flying from Pittsburgh to Newark to Chicago, and then finally to here. He was supposed to get home late in the afternoon. The morning began with snow in Pennsylvania.

Last night, I steeled myself for the worst. I told myself, "It's okay. There might be weather and delays. I will just be thankful if he gets home by Saturday." And then I had a talk with God (being home alone all week, I had lots of talks with God). I said, "Please bring him home safe. You know, even if there is snow on the east coast, maybe you could cancel his flight to Newark and let him go straight to Chicago." Then I remembered that it doesn't generally go well for me when I make suggestions to God about what He could do, so I gave myself a small, mental swat and got on to other things.

Guess what? This morning I got a text from Shawn saying that they had canceled his flight to Newark and booked him straight through to Chicago, and he would be getting in three hours early. None of his flights were late. They were all on time. He is here now, working from home in his study.

This is my God, the one who hears my prayers and rejoices to give me good things. I can trust Him. He loves me.
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. ~Psalm 86:17 (NIV)
Our enemies are not people. "Our enemies" are the devil. He will surely be put to shame, while justice, mercy and love will prevail. Hallelujah.

(disclaimer: I am having trouble getting things written in a timely fashion due to computer access issues. This did not happen "yesterday." It happened Wednesday Thursday--I am really struggling with accuracy for some reason. It probably makes no difference, but since it is part of a memoir, it matters to me.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dreaming of vacation

After Christmas, once the house-guests have all vacated and the decorations have been stuffed back into basement boxes, the house is stripped of warmth, cheer and community.  When I leave home in the morning, I back out of my driveway-- trying not to notice my cold, bare porch-- dreaming of a vacation in the south seas.

Fiji may not be in the budget, but maybe I could take a road trip to see one of my kids.

Road trips are funny.  You can plan and plan, or you can take off on a spontaneous adventure.  Sometimes, it doesn't seem to matter very much which way you go.  Sometimes, the most quickly embarked-upon trips produce the best memories.

Even if you are taking off in a rush, you do need a few key things.  I have a triumvirate, that I check anytime I am getting into my car:
(1) keys
(2) purse
(3) sunglasses

Of course, my purse contains both my phone and my billfold, and these are the essential items therein.  So you could instead call it a quadumvirate, and make it:
(1) keys
(2) phone (with GPS)
(3) billfold/wallet (with cash and credit cards)
(4) sunglasses

I find it a useful exercise always to count to three or four as I think through these essential items whenever I leave the house.

Honestly that's all you need.  Unless you have prescription medications.  Remember your prescription medications if you are going to be gone for more than a day!

That's all you need, but there are many things you can throw into the car to make yourself more comfortable on a long drive.

Here are six of my favorite

Road Trip Comforts

1.  Bottled water and almonds.  You can keep going for a long time on bottled water and almonds.  They are healthy, and they are not very messy if you spill.  I always take a stock of bottled water and almonds, and I have been very thankful for them on many occasions.  Emergency breakfast, lunch and supper.

2.  Oranges are another fabulous car snack.  I discovered this when I was the mother of young children.  Oranges are like a food and a drink all in one.  Because they are juicy, they don't make you thirsty.  But, because they are a piece of fruit, and not a liquid beverage, they don't increase your need for bathroom stops!  We spent many a long car ride peeling and sectioning oranges for the kids all the way across NY, PA, OH, IN, IL and WI on our way to Minnesota.  (Caveat: if you are sensitive to acids, too many oranges can upset your stomach.Carrot sticks and peppermints are good snacks to stock as well, and can help soothe carsickness and keep you awake when you are driving late into the night.

3.  Baby wipes.  Again, back when I was the mother of young children, I discovered the amazing versatility of a good baby wipe.  Besides wiping babies, baby wipes are good for
  • cleaning stains out of upholstery
  • getting stickiness off hands (for instance, after you have peeled a number of oranges)
  • sanitizing certain objects at a rest stop
  • washing your face after a full night of driving
  • freshening your armpits (in a pinch)

4.  Plastic bags.  I use recycled ones, and if I forget to throw a few into the glove compartment, it's somewhat crippling.  Plastic bags are good for many things, but most especially for collecting garbage (orange peels, and used babywipes, to name a few).  If I take a nice supply, we can toss out the current garbage bag at every stop. 

5.  The Atlas.  Yes.  I am old.  But seriously, there's often no substitute for a bird's eye view of the terrain.  Whether you need to plot a detour, or you just want a visual picture in your head of how much farther you have to go, an atlas is a wonderful thing.  Also, the GPS sometimes fails.  It happens.  I've experienced it.  Once my husband's GPS took him into the heart of a frightening neighborhood in an unfamiliar city, and then froze into a completely unresponsive state.  When the GPS fails, it's exceedingly nice to have the back-up of a good old-fashioned atlas.

6.  A towel.  This is my personal favorite.  Ideally, it should be a nice, fluffy, cozy beach towel.  I used to have a pink-on-pink floral one, but it got lost when we moved to Illinois.  I haven't completely given up hope that one day we will find it in the bowels of our basement.  I loved that towel the way a baby loves her blankie.  I could lay it across my body if I was cold, or roll it up like a pillow to cushion my head against the car window.  I could make it into a sunshade.  Folded, it makes a nice pad to sit on.  Obviously, it works well for wiping and drying things.  All this, and super easy to launder besides.

So I started out dreaming of Fiji and ended up remembering my beloved lost travel towel.  That's a lot like how life is, isn't it?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The difference between grace and mercy

Since my last post, I've been thinking about the difference between grace and mercy.

I already wrote out the standard differentiation:

Mercy is when we escape a consequence that we deserve.
Grace is when we receive a blessing that we do not deserve.

It occurs to me that we appreciate mercy a whole lot more than we appreciate grace.

This is, of course, because where mercy is concerned, we realize what we had coming, and we are thankful to escape it.  However, where grace is concerned, we humans often operate under the assumption that we deserve all the good things that randomly fall into our lives.

We are not thankful to wake up in a warm bed, swaddled in clean sheets and blankets.  This seems normal to us.  We take it for granted.

We expect there to be hot water flowing from the shower, a working coffee-maker for our coffee, and plenty of clothes to provide us choices in what to wear.  We expect our cars to start, our credit cards to work, and our computers to connect efficiently to the internet.  We expect the stores to have milk, bread, socks and ibuprofen.

We are not generally thankful that we are breathing, that we are not running a fever, that our family members are around us, alive and well.  All these things are graces, but we do not even notice: we are frustrated that the room is chilly, or our neck is stiff, or somebody else is in the bathroom slowing down our morning routine.  We get grumpy because the pair of slacks we'd intended to wear is dirty, and we forget to be thankful that we have a number of other pairs of slacks to choose from.

On the other hand, when something bad brushes into the edges of our world and mercy prevents a calamity, then we are thankful.  When we lose control of the car on the ice, but regain it before we crunch any metal, then we are thankful.  When we get sick, but doctors help us heal up, then we are thankful.  When one job ends, but another is quickly provided, then we are thankful.  When we fear that we are not going to be able to pay a certain bill, but God provides what we need, then we are thankful.

When I think about how much more we appreciate mercy than grace, I realize how impossible it would be for God to teach us anything if He didn't allow trials in our lives.