I bumped into God on the toilet today…

Frog, Mobile Phone, Toilet, Loo, Wc Our house is 100 years old. It has some quirks as 100-year-old items do.  Most relevant to us today is that each year our plumbing gets wonky and we have to snake out the mainline. We schedule this each spring in April. My husband rents a machine that goes out 100 feet from the house and clears all the tree roots from the pipes. Apparently, trees get thirsty and they know they can get into the joints of the pipes and find water. In the spring, the toilet and sink in our downstairs bathroom let us know the time has come. When you flush the toilet, the sink will gurgle. Weird but true.

As time passes the time lapse between the flush and the gurgle will get shorter and shorter until we snake the main drain. This year, the gurgle started in January. January…months early. I didn’t want to believe it so for a few weeks I didn’t. But the gurgle started getting closer and closer until everyone in the house was talking about it, knowing what had to be done but trying so hard to deny it.

We groaned that it happened so early but eventually we called the company we typically rent the machine from. We couldn’t get the machine. I honestly don’t remember why, but it was booked or something. So we waited a little longer. February came and the toilets started backing up and we had to plunge them…regularly.  I called Roto-Rooter because I knew if we kept ignoring it we were going to really regret it.

It cost 3x as much to have professionals come out and my husband is a DIYer so it just pained him to pay someone to do what he knew he could do. We grumbled a bit and bemoaned having an unexpected expense. But we called and they came, and they were amazing, and they cleaned it all out in no time.  Turns out, our line is 130 feet, we were only cleaning out the first 100 feet.

And then the world was shaken up by a virus you may be familiar with and things unraveled a bit. Thoughts of the toilet were pushed far from mind, other than our slightly frantic search for enough toilet paper to sustain a family of six.

But today, sitting on the toilet, as we all must sometimes do, God reminded me.

“Remember when the pipes were clogged”

“Yes. I am thankful they aren’t now.” And then it flooded over me as if my eyes had suddenly been opened. If the pipes hadn’t clogged early, there is a good chance we wouldn’t have been able to get them cleared due to all the closings. We may have had a much worse situation.

But it wasn’t just the pipes. My eyes could suddenly see a thousand little things that had been “annoyances” over the last year that actually worked out to prepare us for this very moment. Things like delayed paychecks that had they arrived on time, we wouldn’t have had the extra funds to buy a little extra groceries so we could quarantine as our state has requested. Small changes that at the time seemed to be things “not going our way” that we now see made it easier for our children to be home finishing the school year online. All the little things that seemed like we just couldn’t catch a break – were actually EXACTLY the break we needed.

My heart was flooded with gratitude. I was so thankful for all that God had done to prepare us and I felt a little embarrassed that I had grumbled as each little thing had “gone wrong.”   Our view is so limited, our understanding so incredibly small. Sometimes it all seems to go wrong so that it can be right. So that something much better can happen, or so that something worse is avoided.

I am so thankful for the reminder that we can’t see the whole picture here. We can’t know. We just have to trust His word that ALL things work together for our good. ALL things, even clogged toilets.

The Crucifixion: from the perspective of a demon.

I felt compelled to share this today.  It is an Excerpt from The Seventh Angel and is the crucifixion story told from the perspective of one of the demons, (Morax). I hope it causes you to think about what you think that day was like.

An excerpt from Chapter 19:

The thought shocked Morax. It was not often that he allowed himself to remember the Lamb’s death. It had been a considerable blow to the demons and was something best forgotten, something never to be spoken of. It proved to be another example of their gross underestimation of the King and his plan.

There had been such celebration in the hours leading up to the death of the Lamb. Which of them would ever have expected the King to send his son to this fallen earth in the form of a human? It was unfathomable. That much might, and power confined in a human body? And to send him as a baby no less. So vulnerable. The demons had not seen that coming.

But the King had sent a mighty force of protection for the child. Warriors surrounded him and his family. Joseph proved to be very devoted to the King and no matter what tactic Lucifer tried he could not break-through. So, Lucifer waited patiently until the Lamb was accompanied by one that Lucifer could corrupt. Judas had been the obvious target. The King had provided a mighty Sentinel to protect him. The Sentinel had proven to be a worthy foe. But even the mightiest angel could not usurp free will; it was an unbreakable rule of the King. Fortunately, Lucifer had assigned greed to Judas at birth. His love of money was strong, leaving him susceptible.

The plan had been beautiful in its simplicity, Judas would betray the Lamb into the hands of the religious. The religious! Morax chuckled aloud as he remembered it. What better irony is there than that? Titus would have appreciated that had he been there.

That part of the plan had at least worked, and Lucifer continued with that tactic….

For just a moment Morax allowed himself to recall how happy they had been to see the Lamb stumble from the crowd bloody and torn. Each step toward Calvary had been taken in great physical pain. Lucifer had walked beside the Lamb goading him, mocking him, celebrating. The Lamb had never uttered a word in response. His mother walked not far behind them, her heart breaking; her strength faltering.

Lucifer walked along the dust-covered road and listened as Mary wept for her son. He listened to the taunts and cries of the crowd. Taunts his demons had inspired. He walked along celebrating the distinct smell of the Lamb’s blood as it dripped from his broken body and hit the dirt beneath his feet. If only Lucifer had realized just how powerful that blood was.

But as history had shown, the plan had not gone quite the way Lucifer had expected. The demons had seen to every possible detail. The Lamb had stumbled out exhausted, weak, and anguished. Blood poured from his mangled body, the flesh on his back shredded. Flies attracted by the fresh wounds swarmed around him landing on his back and head, his face swollen from the beating. The demons celebrated their victory. Their shouts of joy assaulted the Lamb’s ears. His tired, sad eyes met theirs. But even then, even as he staggered toward his death, Morax was sure he saw a hint of fire in those eyes. A glimmer of something bigger, something more.

The thought made Morax feel nervous. Bile had risen in his stomach as he considered that maybe they were missing something. Perhaps this was a mistake. After all, how many times had the King surprised them with the unexpected? Hadn’t it all been too easy? Why hadn’t the Lamb called in warriors? Instead, there were ministering angels lined up along the dirt path near him, tears glistening down their cheeks. But the Lamb had signaled them to stay back. This was a trial he must bear. Each of them had knelt before him as he passed watching as the King’s son was lead to a criminal’s death.

Morax began to worry. But the celebration continued as they placed him on the cross; Morax could not control the jubilant cheer that erupted from him when the Lamb screamed out as the nails pierced through his flesh securing him to the rough bark of the tree. It dug deep into his already tattered back. For three hours, the demons had danced around the Lamb calling out insults, mocking the King’s son. For three hours, he said nothing to them. He did nothing to defend himself. All that power confined to a frail human body. The power to give and remove life with nothing more than a word, and yet he did nothing.

They should have known it was a trap. They should have known that the King would never have allowed the Lamb to be treated in such a way unless there was a very good reason. The Lamb could have merely uttered a word and destroyed them all. Instead, he hung there in humility as the demons and humans alike mocked him. Morax sighed heavily, they really should have known.

But who could have ever imagined the truth? It was preposterous. Eventually, the Lamb called out to his father, but his father had turned away.

The demons, unable to contain their joy, had erupted into celebration. Surely this was a blow to the King. Surely the death of his beloved son would weaken him enough that Lucifer could gain ground. But that was not how it had worked. Once again, they had not expected the King’s next move. They had played directly into his hand.

I bumped into God while running in circles today.

Image result for young girl boxing I have been on vacation in the mountains with my family, so I haven’t worked out for two full weeks. Today I went back. I decided I would run a 5K then do some weights. I labored up the 5 flights of stairs to the running track at the gym to discover there were people in the basketball court below.  This is a pretty rare thing. I have been running there for about 9 or 10 months and there is rarely ever anyone else there. (It could be the 5 flights of stairs required to get there, or the early hour I go, or perhaps because it is a little creepy up there).

The track is small (22 laps = 1 mile) and it goes around in endless circles. The center is open to a basketball court that you look down on. On the basketball court was a family of five. Mom, dad, two sons and a daughter.  The dad was busy teaching the boys to box which gained my attention because in my twenties I boxed competitively.  The mom was on a wooden bench against the wall. The daughter came up to the track and was walking with a few jogs thrown in occasionally.  She was a plump little girl of about 10 or 11 years old and she couldn’t run for long before she needed to stop and walk again. I smiled each time I passed her hoping I was encouraging her to keep going because in those few moments of running she would throw her arms out like an airplane as if it were the best feeling in the world. I, on the other hand, was just trying to keep my pace steady and my breathing regulated.

Something about her stirred my soul. As I made my way around and around the track, I started to pray, as I normally do when running.

God interrupted me very quickly and said, “ask her if she is going to box.”  It was a weird thing, but I felt fine doing it. So on the next pass, I smiled at her and said, “are you going to box next?”  She cast her little eyes to the ground and didn’t answer.

She only went around the track one more time before going back down to the basketball court and joining her family. I kept running in circles. I don’t know if you have ever run 70 circles around a creepy “room” but it can be pretty mind-numbing if you let it be. So I typically use the time to pray and think through the plot of the book I am working on. However, today this little family filled my thoughts.

I watched as the dad worked arduously with the boys on their boxing. He was so intense I thought they must be going up against Mohammed Ali soon. I watched as the mom surfed through her phone until eventually going over and helping the dad. I watched as the daughter sat on the bench, bored, doing nothing. Looking sad and forlorn.  And I began to write their story.

Now keep in mind that this is what I do. I write stories. But even outside the novels I write, in life, I make up stories for people. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I make up a backstory for their day to help excuse it. If someone is rude to me, I make up a story to explain why. It helps me see people with compassion – most of the time. So I painted their story with my brush and soon I found I actually was feeling anger towards these parents I did not know, based on something I had totally made up in my head.

You see, I wanted her to box but it seemed like I was the only one. So as I ran circle after circle I filled in her story and convinced myself that her parents wouldn’t let her. I felt hostility towards them.

Then, finally, she sheepishly went over and said something to her mom. I couldn’t hear what – I had in earbuds. But immediately her mom started working with her on boxing.

Soon, her dad was working with her too. And then, the brothers. Her face lit up and she was punching and kicking her way around the court sparing with her mom, sparing with her dad, sparing with her brothers.  Her dad had all three running drills and she was right there in the midst of it and her face shined with joy.  Her eyes caught mine and I smiled at her and gave her a little thumbs up. She smiled sheepishly and looked away. But I could see the excitement in her eyes and I felt overwhelmed with joy for her.

Then, God gave me the smackdown I deserved.  “You judged them,” he said.

“I did,” I admitted with shame.

“That’s my job,” He said.

“I know,” I said.

“You were wrong about them. She needed the prompt,” He said.

I started to explain. To make excuses, to offer reasons. But I stopped myself. He already knew all that.

“I’m sorry,” I said instead.

I don’t consider myself a judgemental person. Of course, most people probably don’t.  But today I rushed to judgment over this family and convinced myself of something that obviously wasn’t true. I don’t know anything about them. I have never seen them before and most likely I will never see them again and yet I made judgments. Judgments that caused me to feel anger towards them.

In school, we are taught to use context clues to assess situations and draw conclusions and this is a very valuable skill. But, when you use that to draw conclusions that cause you to react to people in a negative way you have crossed a line. Today, I got a gentle reminder from God that it is not my place to judge.

Bumped into God pumping iron.

Image result for person struggling to lift weightsNine months ago, my children started a new school and I started working out at the gym. I promised myself I would go Monday-Friday the entire school year and do my very best to get fit.  Nine months later I wish I could say I am thin and muscle-bound, but that would be a lie. I did run my first 1/2 marathon and I can now bench press more than just the bar and I even worked my way up to doing 20 push-ups – which for me is pretty amazing, but I still have a long way to go.

Despite the gains in endurance and strength, I have felt discouraged by the lack of weight loss and one of the hardest days came when I needed to go into the “guys” side of the gym. You see, my gym is divided in 1/2. One one side is all the weight lifting machines along with some dumbells (up to 20 lbs).  On the other side is the free weights – it is what I refer to as the “guys” side because I never see any women over there. But the time had come that I needed to go over there.

The first day when I walked in,  I felt like a wounded fish jumping into a shark pond. Ok, so there was only one guy on that side but he made it clear that I did not belong. I ignored his mocking gaze and overt laughter and eye rolls and just kept my head down and did my workout. But it felt awful and I wanted to run from the room in shame. While I tried to seem as if I belonged,  like this was normal and I was completely comfortable, it wasn’t true and he and I both knew it.

I walked out that day discouraged and defeated and I didn’t want to go back.

The next day, I went back into the gym and did a run before standing awkwardly outside the locker room trying to justify doing anything other than weights.  That’s when I bumped into God.

“Go.” He said.

“I don’t want to.” I answered honestly.

“I know. Now go.” He replied.

“I don’t want to be mocked.”

“Yea, that is hard, it happened to me too. But I went anyway.”

Sigh….how do you argue with that?  I stood there a minute longer contemplating, dreading.

“Go.” He said, a bit more forcefully, an edge of impatience coming through.

So I went. God’s interest in my workout routine encouraged me that perhaps today was the day I would turn it around. Perhaps today I would walk into that room a middle-aged woman in need of a good exercise program and walk out a stunning 20 something, a warrior with muscles to spare.

The room was empty with the exception of one man. It was evident this wasn’t his first day. He glanced up at me as I entered the room, our eyes met briefly and he nodded as men do and then went back to loading weight on the bench press bar.

I found the weights I needed and set to work feeling self-conscious and trying not to make any further contact.  Less than a minute after I entered the room something happened.

The guy was doing bench press and he was lifting a LOT of weight. I don’t know exactly how much but it was a lot based on the number of plates on the bar and the size of those plates. Out of the corner of my eye, I had registered the bar raising and lowering multiple times. But apparently, he had attempted one too many lifts and the bar was now on his neck pinning him to the bench. This took a few seconds for me to register.

I stopped what I was doing and paid attention, I wasn’t 100% sure he was in distress and I didn’t want to rush over and offer aid if no aid was needed. He would think I was a lurking loon. But within a second or two it was obvious he needed help. The bar was on this throat preventing him from calling out but his eyes were wide and staring right at me. That realization startled me into action. I put my weights down and began moving toward him while asking, “do you need some help,” but of course he couldn’t answer.

When I reached him I reached out for the bar and started to lift. Then several thoughts entered my head at once.  1)I realized just how heavy that weight was and that my contribution to lifting it was not going to be very much. 2)I became overly aware that I was standing over his face and 3)I worried about how stinky I might be because I had been sweating.  Now I realize these are stupid thoughts in the midst of a life and death situation, but they were what I was thinking.

I wish I could say that I said a little prayer and God gave me Samson like strength to lift that bar off the guy, because wouldn’t that be awesome? But that isn’t what happened. Instead, I pulled with all my might and said to the poor half dying guy, “you are going to have to push because this is a lot of weight.”  I was at a very awkward angle so I was trying to pull the weight up from off center (ok fine, I admit I stepped beside his head so I wouldn’t be straddling it). Between us both, we barely got the bar back up and in position.

I quickly walked away with a muttered apology for being so sweaty.  He sat for a minute and rubbed his throat before offering a raspy thanks to my back and then moving on to his next exercise. I didn’t look at him again, I did my workout, he did his and then he left.

It was not until later that night that I had a chance to reflect on what had really happened. God had known that guy would need help and He had arranged for help to be there, even if that help came in the form of a woman who at the time was only bench pressing the bar. Certainly not the obvious choice for the job.

I had hesitated to go into that section of the gym out of fear. But God pushed because He had much bigger plans than my personal workout, He had a life to save, He had a child in distress, a child that needed saving and I was to be the tool He would use.  That man pushed his body past his own capabilities that day and God sent him help when he needed it most. Had I refused, had I let my own fear and pride stop me….how could I have lived with that?

I was busy thinking about myself, my feelings, my shortcomings but God was busy ignoring all that and using me to accomplish His will in His way simply because I was obedient.  I was reminded that sometimes the things God calls us to do have nothing at all to do with us.

Sometimes he calls us into unfamiliar surroundings and uncomfortable situations not to make us better but to help someone else.  Sometimes, we aren’t the recipient, we are the tool.  Don’t let fear or pride keep you from showing up.

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Image result for 3 wise menAs Christmas approaches, I find myself full of the Christmas spirit.  As such, I have been pondering the birth of Christ and what it must have been like for each person. It has been a fun thing to consider and I hope to share more of those thoughts as we get closer to Christmas. But today, I thought I might share some ponderings on the gifts of the Magi.

Suddenly, after having read the story many many times, my brain wondered what Mary and Joseph did with the gifts.  As a mom, my children have received many gifts over the years and as I think of gifts they received near their birth (or within the first 2-3 years), there are very very few that are still around.  We handed things down to other babies, either our own or those of friends. We gave things to charities such as the Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Very little of it was kept, only a few choice items such as a favorite teddy bear or blanket. Would Marry and Joseph have done the same?

The gold is easy, and yet absolutely soul drenchingly amazing.  The Magi brought with them news that Herod was seeking the child. Joseph had a dream and their lives changed, yet again. This part of the story is so powerful to me.  I had to stop to think about it….what if my husband had a dream last night and woke up today and told me we had to move? Not just move, but leave our country.  That would be hard.

Imagine the scramble as Mary and Joseph clamored to decide what they should take as they fled. I am reminded of the scene of people leaving their homes during a natural emergency. What do you take? What do you need? What do you leave behind in your haste?

Did they tell anyone they were leaving? Did they have a chance to say goodbye to their family?  Do you think either of them scribbled a hasty note on parchment hoping their loved ones would find it and read between the lines. Something simple, like, “Fear not, God is with us.”  Who do you suppose was the first one to discover they were gone?  Did their family search for them? Did Mary’s mother cry herself to sleep with worry, desperate to know where her daughter and grandchild were?

How did they travel, on foot? By donkey? Did they join a caravan or stay to themselves?  Where did they sleep along the way?  What do you suppose they took with them? What would you take?

By all accounts, Mary and Joseph weren’t wealthy. Now they had to flee to a new country and start over. They would need provisions and a place to stay when they got there.  Can you imagine the stir in Mary’s heart as she heard the news and then glanced at the gold the Magi had brought only the night before? God had provided for their journey. They would have the means to do that which must be done. Can you imagine the comfort that had to bring as she gathered up her young child and fled her country? It makes sense that the gold served as a very practical gift that helped them make the journey God knew they would be on.

But what about the Frankenscense and Myrrh?  What do you think they did with it? Frankincense is a scented oil that can be used as a perfume but it also has anti-inflammatory effects. It was often used by priests in the Temple and was expensive. We know the symbolism – what I wonder about is what did Mary and Joseph use it for?  Can you picture Mary dabbing some on her neck or rubbing her aching feet with it? Do you suppose they sold it to buy Jesus new shoes when his old ones wore out? Can you picture her massaging it into Josephs sore hands after a long day of carpentry? Do you think instead, that she wrapped it up carefully and nestled it to the bottom corner of a trunk where she left it, only removing it for special occasions?

What about the Myrrh? It is well known that Myrrh was used in burial, Mary and Joseph would have known this. But it also had other uses, in the Far East, where the Magi were from, it was used to promote digestive health, wound healing and even women’s health issues.  Combined, Frankenscense and Myrrh had an antimicrobial effect. Do you think Mary used it? Do you suppose she and Joseph discussed it long into the night wondering what to do with it? Perhaps she saved the Myrrh, getting it out only after her beloved son had been crucified. Or perhaps, she and Jesus decided to use it when Joseph passed. Maybe. Maybe it was long gone before then used in some much more practical way years before.

We have no way of knowing really, but I have enjoyed thinking about it and wondering.


Rearview Mirror

Image result for rear mirrorDriving to pick my kids up from school today I glanced into the rearview mirror, as you do, and I was stunned at what I saw.  The landscape behind me was beautiful, something worthy of being painted. My brain did a little double take and immediately I thought, “I don’t remember it looking that beautiful as I was driving by.”  And then I had a God moment.  Instantly I thought of the last year of my life, a difficult one by all accounts.  That year wasn’t very beautiful as I fought my way through it. You see, one year ago, I was praying fervently that God would find a way for me to stay right where I was. Our family was facing a pretty big move, the type that completely disrupts your life. We had considered it from every angle and we just couldn’t see how it was what was best for us or how it would ever work.

So I prayed. I prayed daily and begged God to find another way. I liked where I was, I liked what I was doing, I liked the support network and friends we had and my children were doing very well, I didn’t want to disrupt things. Nothing about it made sense, nothing about it seemed like the “right choice” by earthly standards.

And yet, every time I prayed, the answer was always the same – we needed to move.  I asked for signs, I asked others to pray, I petitioned God daily convinced that I could change His mind. He sent me a song…God Help Me, by Plumb.  I felt like she was singing my heart. I was convicted that my prayers lacked one very important element, a request that He also help me to move – should that be His will. So I changed my prayers asking Him to help me to go if that was what He really wanted while making it very very clear that it was not what I wanted.  I cried, I begged, I prayed, and eventually, we moved.

Fear gripped me because I knew the impossibility of what we were doing, things began to crumble around us, just as I had feared they would. There was nothing we could do to help ourselves out of the mess I knew we would encounter. So I had no choice but to set aside my fear and laid all of it at the feet of the King of Kings.  I simply refused to worry, each time it tried to creep in I stopped and prayed. I would say, “God, this is an issue. You brought us here, we knew this was going to be a major issue and we have no way to overcome this, you are going to have to take care of it.”  And then I walked away.  I don’t know how, but I found a way to honestly leave it right there on the floor of the throne room and walk away.

We have been in our new home for nearly 6 months and God has worked some serious miracles to make it all work out. My children adjusted much faster than I could ever have hoped and I have found myself overwhelmingly grateful to be here. I have been overwhelmed by His provision of things that one might think God was too busy to be concerned about.  Truly trivial things like a refrigerator. And yet, He provided in ways that were nothing short of miraculous. And that refrigerator serves as a daily reminder to me that He sees us, He knows our needs and He will meet every single one. I find myself giving thanks not only for His provision but for the move itself, the very thing I had begged Him not to make us do.

You see, looking in the rearview mirror, I can see that it was a beautiful journey.  But it certainly didn’t look beautiful as I drove through it. Today, when I glanced into my rearview mirror and saw the amazing scene behind me, I was instantly reminded of my own journey and how sometimes, you miss the beauty around you until you look back.

I drove that same street on the way home later and it still didn’t look as beautiful as it had in the mirror and I was reminded that at some point, I will once again be pushed by God to do something I don’t want to do – and once again I will struggle and wrestle and I may not see the beauty in it. But now, I have a very tangible reminder that the beauty is there, even if I can’t see it.

He also reminded me that looking back too long can cause you to crash. It is best to glance back, see the beauty, take away the lessons you were to learn and keep moving forward reminding yourself that the path behind you is indeed beautiful and full of purpose, even when you can’t see it.

What if….

Image result for fruit of the holy spiritAs I have been working on book 3 in the series, I find myself once again attempting to create scenes in heaven. Some things are fun to consider. What will it look like, what will we do all day?  What will we wear? Will we get our hair done?

Others are more serious. What will judgment look like? I know there are lots of theories on that, and I do not presume to have the answer. I can only promise to muddy the water.

I have heard preachers say many many times how they were taking some action or another because when they stood before God they wanted Him to say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  In fact, I just heard that from the pulpit this week.

The pastor was going to change a ministry offered by the church and he acknowledged that it would upset some people but that he had to do what needed to be done because one day he would answer for it to God and he wanted God to say, “well done…”

But…what if….what if, when we stand before the King of Kings, our judgment has nothing at all to do with any of that. What if instead, it is based entirely on our fruit?

If God were judging you based on how patient you were today, how would you do?  Gulp.  I will be the first to admit that I am not going to do too well on this one.

The pastor mentioned how historically churches measured their success by attendance. But does God?  What if, instead of measuring based on attendance at church, He judged us according to how well we loved those who were there? Would your love stand up to the God test?  Did you show God’s love to anyone today?

Instead of judging us according to our sins, what if He judged us on our joy?  Would He say “well done,” to you based on your joy?

What if, instead of measuring us according to how many people we shared the gospel with, He measured by our self-control, would He tell you, “Well done?”

Would your kindness earn you reward in heaven?  Would He congratulate you on how well you did demonstrating peace?  What if that was all that mattered. If you knew that that was what He would measure you on, would it change anything?

What if you knew that when you stood in front of the King of Kings for judgment it was your gentleness He would use to decide if He said, “Well done” or not?

It would change things for me. Would it change anything for you?

I bumped into God on the porch Today

A week or so ago I ordered a replacement mat for our trampoline. Today it arrived. The box was upside down (i.e. the top of the box was on the ground) so I could only see the bottom of the box, which seemed odd. But the really weird part was that God was there – on the box.

Let me start at the beginning. Yesterday I read an article about spiritual gifts and the author made the statement that women are only given gifts “appropriate” for women – and if God gives you a gift that is “inappropriate” for a woman it is so you can help your husband in that area. Not married? Well then bury that gift girl!  (insert vomit emoji here)

I am not here to debate this. But this was the backdrop of my encounter with God.

Because I really really hate this topic, I tried to ignore the article and go on about my day. But stuff like that tends to dig deep and claw at my mind. So it bothered me. It bothered me as I went to bed last night and through the day today.

It bothers me because of all the women and girls I have encountered in my life who have amazing spiritual gifts they are “hiding under a bushel” because they have been taught that those gifts are “inappropriate” for a woman.  I could tell you horror stories but I won’t because this isn’t about horror stories but hope.

Back to the story – the doorbell rang and I bumped into God on the back of a trampoline mat box.  I bought this trampoline through Amazon from a company called Skybound. I knew/know NOTHING about them except they sell trampoline replacement mats and I needed one. I checked out several companies and picked them because over 1,000 Amazon reviewers can’t be wrong…right?? lol.

But there on the back of that box sat God. It was the only thing on the entire bottom side of the box. And if it hadn’t been upside down on the porch I would never have seen it.  It said: 1 Peter 4:10. Box

Of course I looked it up:

1 Peter 4:10 New International Version (NIV)

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

I don’t think it was an accident that the same day I was being “attacked” with messages about spiritual gifts, a box arrives on my porch with a Bible verse on the bottom. He wanted us (me and Him and Me and you) to think about this. Here are some things He whispered into my soul.

Despite what the author of the article I read said, the BIBLE says that God has given us all spiritual gifts and that we are to use them to build each other up, and/or serve each other.  And Nowhere in the lists of spiritual gifts does the BIBLE specify that “these are the ones for women and these are the ones for men.”

It does say that our gifts are to be used to SERVE others, not to advance yourself, not to demean others, not for anything at all except to serve others and build up the Church (capital C intentional).

You see, the conversation should never be about who can have what gift. That is not our decision to make, God already made that decision and nothing we can EVER say about it will change anything. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. God didn’t include this in the Bible so we would debate and agree upon who could have what. He doesn’t care what we think, He already decided that. Instead, the conversation should be about helping each person use their gift(s) in the fullest possible way.

Perhaps the most important thing I need to convey is this: You have a gift and you have a God-given mandate to use it. So do that. Don’t let fear or anything else stop you. Use the gift(s) God saw fit to give you. Gifts He knew were perfect for you.  So what are you doing with it?


Need more encouragement? Check out The Prophet.

Visit me at http://www.andeedwards.com/ 

Lessons Learned from a Chicken Bone

God teaches me things in some pretty strange ways, so it shouldn’t really surprise me that yesterday He used a chicken bone.  You see, I made a statement to someone that God could do amazing things in our lives far beyond what we would ever ask for or imagine. This is a true statement and I believe it with all my heart. But the person was going through some hard times and so they asked me, “If God can do that, why hasn’t He?”

This was a really good question that deserved a really good answer.  In fact, I started thinking that probably lots and lots of people have that question. “God can do anything, so why doesn’t he seem to be doing anything in my situation?”

An easy answer is “Patience.”  While patience is super hard to actually practice (at least for me) it is equally easy to say. And it often brings little comfort to those who have been sinking for a while. So I didn’t want to throw out the patience answer. I really wanted something better.

I prayed about it and then moved the question to the back of my mind while I moved on with my day.  At lunch, I reheated a chicken leg from the previous night’s dinner and had just sat down to enjoy it when the doorbell rang unexpectedly.  I set my plate down on the end table next to the chair where I was sitting and went to the door.

When I returned, my chicken was gone. Eaten by my dog that needs some serious training. My first thought?  “Ugg”

Next? “Stupid dog.”  There was no great revelation until I went to bed. Then, I bumped into God.

“Let’s talk about the chicken,” He said.

You see, the dog wanted that chicken. He wanted it badly.  And in his little dog mind, there was zero reason he shouldn’t have it. All that stood between him and a tasty meal was me. Why would I withhold something so magnificent from him?

And honestly, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with giving him chicken. But I knew that this chicken was on the bone and chicken bones are not good for dogs. In fact, they can be deadly.  So I knew what he did not, what he could not.

Not because he isn’t smart but because he is a dog and his capacity for knowledge and reasoning is more limited than mine.  No matter what dog school I sent him to – he would ever actually be able to understand. I could train him not to eat chicken but I could never explain to him why.

Then I got it. Not all, of it but at least a little hint at it. Let me start by saying I am not likening us to dogs. I am simply using that story because that is what God used to teach the lesson to me.  But sometimes, we want things. Those things seem good to us and try as we might we cannot find anything wrong with them. And in fact, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them.

Sometimes we pray and pray for those things. These things may be material but more often they are not. They are things like peace, direction, rescue, or just answers.  And there is nothing wrong with those things or with asking for them. In fact, the Bible tells us to.

But sometimes there is a proverbial bone in what we want. We can’t see it because we are not all knowing, but God sees it because He is.  He isn’t denying us our request because He is mean, or ignoring us. He is saying no because He knows what we do not.  No matter how educated we are, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord, no matter how much Bible we know – we simply cannot understand.

Sometimes, buried deep within what looks and seems good to us – is a chicken bone. Maybe it is because we need to weep before we can truly appreciate laughter. Maybe it is because we need to master being alone before we can be together. Maybe it is because we need to be afraid so we can learn to be brave. Maybe we need to be poor to learn to be generous. I don’t know. That’s the whole point, we can’t know because we can’t see the bone beneath the beauty.

So….if you have been praying for something and begging for an answer but you feel unheard or forgotten; if you are questioning why a God who can do ANYTHING seems to be doing NOTHING maybe, just maybe, there is a chicken bone in your request.

Or maybe you just need to be patient.




Bumping into God – in the Grocery Store

I hate grocery shopping. No…I HATE grocery shopping. So today, when I found myself on the way to the grocery store I groaned down in my soul.  I grumbled a little on the way. As I walked through the aisles I moaned because for the first time in a long time I had to really watch what I spent.

You see, five years ago God placed me in the furnace. It was hot. I am not Shadrach. I survived, and it changed me, but wowzers it was hot in there.  Getting out of the furnace meant a pretty substantial cut in pay.  So our family is adjusting to life in a new state, a new home, new schools and new spending habits. Things are tight, much tighter than we are used to. So I walked around the store aware of that.

Eventually, as always happens because I am a terrible grocery shopper – I needed to leave. I didn’t care if I had what I needed, I just needed to be done. So I pushed my full cart to the front and got in line.  That was when I bumped into God, right there in the check-out line at the grocery store.

As I stood waiting, the woman in front of me unloaded the few things she had in her cart. I busied myself with putting the little plastic thing on the conveyor and starting the process of unloading my own cart. Then I heard it – I heard her say to the cashier, “I am not sure I have enough for that.”

I glanced up and noticed it was deodorant. The cashier said, “Let’s ring it up and see.” So she did. It was $1.47, which pushed the woman’s total bill over $50.  That was apparently more than she had. So she asked the cashier to remove the deodorant because she didn’t have enough and she needed the food more (her words, not mine).  My heart ached.  I looked in my bag for cash. I found it. I bought the woman deodorant because my heart longed to.

The woman was touched and she thanked me saying, “Thank you for blessing me in this way.” And I nearly cried.  It cost me $1.47 to show her the love of Christ but more importantly, she had it all wrong. The blessing was all mine.  The idea that every day that woman would use her deodorant and be reminded that God saw her standing there in that aisle and He rescued her gave me such joy.

But it wasn’t just that. God used that little moment to remind me that He has this. He sees us and He knows our needs. He knew that I would stand there behind that woman today and her need for deodorant would be taken care of, and my need for being reminded and reprimanded would also be taken care of with that one simple act.

He gently reminded me that I was being a baby. Yes, money is tighter than it used to be. So what? We aren’t going hungry. We have a warm bed, electricity, a full fridge and everyone is healthy. There are lots and lots of people who can’t say that.  I needed a reminder to get over myself. I needed a reminder of how amazing it makes you feel to help a stranger. I needed a reminder that God is sufficient for all my needs-even deodorant.  He’s got this.