Choose how you will fight your battles!

“This is how I fight my battles! This is how I fight my battles! It might look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.”  (From “Surrounded” by Michael W. Smith)


Did you know the inspiration of this song came from the Word of God?  In II Kings 6:15-17, Elisha’s servant is terrified because a death squad has been sent out to kill his boss, Elisha.  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”  Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (NLT)


You can usually tell when someone is having a rough time. If you pay attention to body language, a person who usually walks around with their head hung low is probably having a hard time. This is how they avoid contact with others and it’s a defense mechanism. Elisha’s final words to the servant were “look up.” The servant literally lifted his eyes to the heavens and away from the armies. You can choose to look away from the armies you face and lift your eyes to the heavens in prayers, praise, and worship, in thanksgiving and adoration. 


Have you been “surrounded” by your enemies? Overwhelmed by bad reports? Tired of seeing sickness overtaking you and your loved ones? Surrounded in debt or in lack? Are you surrounded by accusers, persecution, slanderers? Like that servant, are you fearful of the “invading armies of the enemies”? 


Psalm 121:1-8  I look up to the mountains, does my help come from there?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!   He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.  The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.   The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.   The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.   The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.


It’s time to lift up your eyes once again! It’s time to remember. Remember who your God is. Remember His faithfulness to you in every situation. It’s time to worship again. I say again because fear will steal your worship, it will rob you of praise, and hinder your praying. Praise the chains off! Be thankful again, and again, every day. Pray again.

If you don’t know where to start, just begin by simply looking up. Become aware of the Lord God omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. The creator of heaven and earth has not forgotten you. He thinks of you. He knows what you’ve been going through.

For further thoughts on this, look up Gloria Robles.


The previous day had been difficult.  Then that night I had gotten too little sleep, the weather turned cold and rainy.  How comfortable my bed covers felt and how cold the apartment was.  Not a “zippity-do-dah” day!  I wasn’t prepared for what happened at work that morning when I ended up with two phone calls from what I will politely call “screamers”.  Definition: customers who assume if they don’t like the explanation that they should keep ratcheting up the volume hoping to beat the other person into submission. I was rattled.


After a few other things that went wrong, I finally arrived home and nestled into the couch.  Within ten minutes, the phone rang and it was just what Doctor God ordered.  My friend at the other end is also a believer who also finds the work world, especially in the existing culture, challenging. We had a lively discussion regarding what it means to be a believer in a hostile and increasingly virulent society.  If you still exist in a sunny bubble where life is not challenging, either the tide will soon turn on you or else Satan doesn’t feel he has much to fight over in your life, especially with the decisions you have been making.


What does God say in light of this? “Remember your roots.” It’s not an hourlong sermon. A common theme to the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of the Book of the Revelation is that church life can be really messy.  False teachers and heresies were coming out of the woodwork, people were getting caught up in following their culture, and a great deal of believers were drifting along with sin.  Many were floating along with the current without making waves over what was right and wrong.


In Revelation chapter 3:1-3 is the note for the church at Sardis: I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.  Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.


“Dead” is not exactly a stellar description. Goggle defines the word as: “deceased, extinct, lifeless, referring to something that does not have or appear to have life. Dead is usually applied to something that had life but from which life is now gone.” I don’t think anyone in Sardis ever got up in the morning and planned that day to live as if they were spiritually dead, however they had slowly adopted a new persona. God was fed up.  He was saying, “Run back to the basics! Remember what it felt like to be spiritually new in Christ?  Recall what you earlier would have staked your life on? Turn around back to Me.  If you don’t, things will definitely not go well.” (My paraphrase).


I recently read a well-researched novel about the persecution of the Jews in WWII. The plot’s location is Poland, where at least 3,000,000 Jewish people lost their lives.  This quote stayed with me: “There is evil and there is good and there is the space between.  We are given free will to choose where we stand. Evil thrives when good men choose the space between.” Barratt, Amanda. Within These Walls of Sorrow: A Novel of World War II Poland)


To those of us who have been merely floating along with the current, there is hope. In Revelation 3:19-21, Christ says: I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”


Yes, as a believer, maybe you are having a rough time right now.  I believe that life will grow increasingly difficult.  However, don’t just walk, but run back to your First Love, Jesus Christ.  Let Him give you the backbone you need and the wisdom for these times.  There will be lots of days ahead that will rattle the bones of all believers.  Remember your roots!


It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God? 

It was my first miscarriage.  We had been helping out at a summer camp and were hours away from home.  I ended up losing our baby in a strange hospital without any friends or family (other than Bill). The wounds were raw.  It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God?  We were faithful followers of Jesus. How could this be part of God’s plan? It was not my dream.


Maybe this is also what Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered: how could they trust God?  When we are introduced to them in Luke 1:5-25: they were both very old. In other words, one foot in the grave.  Over the years how many births of friends and neighbors had they repeatedly participated in celebrating? Zech and Elizabeth would then return to their own home where their cradle just gathered dust, season after season. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive. When was the day they finally gave their unused cradle to another family? Or did they chop it up for firewood?  I think I may have done the latter.  It is hard to let go of dreams.


It may have seemed God was hearing everyone else’s prayers except the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Yet they chose to trust God and maintain a spiritual life that was: righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They were not only outwardly good, but decided to continue to follow God with all their hearts. In spiritual terms, this is the season where the battle is either won or lost.  The victory is when genuine faith becomes a conscious decision to continue to cling to God, regardless of the circumstances. Zech and Elizabeth still clung to the goodness of God, whether or not their cradle was filled.

It is understandable that Zechariah had a problem comprehending the message from the angel. At his age, it’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack when the angel appeared to him with the message: God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. At the back of Zech’s mind, maybe he was saying, “Yeah, sure, it’s about time…”


In the twilight of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to experience great joy and gladness.  This long-awaited baby would be everything they had ever prayed for: filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.  Their son John’s mission would be the ultimate answer to the prayer that any believing parents ask for their children. John would not only give them great joy and gladness, but he would also be a godly man, great in the eyes of God, and he would prepare the hearts of his fellow countrymen for the coming of the Messiah.  What more could a parent ask for?


God had never forgotten the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He felt their grief all those years, especially when the prayers of others were answered. He heard their laments. Psalm 5:1-3: Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help,  my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;   in the morning I lay my requests before you    and wait expectantly. It may have seemed that God’s timing was off regarding Zech and Elizabeth, but it fit perfectly into God’s perfect calendar for humanity.  God was with them even during the darkest times.  Our Father understands all about empty cradles. Are you waiting for the God Who can be trusted? He may not answer in the way you are expecting, but He is the God Who is good. How about giving Him your dreams?

For further encouragement, listen to the story of Loryn Smith


I was greatly moved as I watched the movie The Insanity of God. It follows missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken as they explore the persecuted church to see if all of the suffering is worth it. The Ripkens had a crisis of faith following the death of their son and their experiences with the struggling church in Somalia as relief missionaries. They were left with the burning question: “Is any of this worth it?”


Read Hebrews chapter 11 and ask that same question. All of the individuals listed had to accept great hardships while still under the providence of God.  Abraham had to wait decades for God to give him his promised son via a wife who was well past the age of child bearing.  Abe is ready for a nursing home when God chooses to make him a proud daddy.


Someone else on the list is Moses, the pride and joy of the Old Testament.  Moses endured the school of hard knocks: 40 years branded an outcast and a murderer. His new career was the dead-end job of herding sheep in the desert.  Finally, at age 80, Moses is commissioned by God to lead a people whose second nature was to continually complain and to question his leadership.  It would seem that God would give that kind of job to someone young and bursting with energy, not to a man with one foot in the grave. Did Abe or Moses ever wonder, “Is any of this worth it?”


Hebrews goes on to mention those who experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented(people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:36-38) Did they wonder, “Is this worth it?”


The Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Philippians from the isolation of a prison cell.  He was lonely, cold, missing and out of touch with his loved ones, not knowing if his stay would stretch into days or years. Yet he wrote in Philippians 4:12-14: I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general, and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. (J.B. Phillips)The secret is total dependence on the strength of Jesus Christ. One’s own natural strength is never enough.


What kind of season are you currently going through? Has the going been rough? Take courage, you have the company of heaven. You also have the fellowship of believers around the world. At this minute they are calling on the presence of Jesus to walk them through the dark. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] (Amplified).  The tough times may be the greatest gift of all.  It is worth it!


Has God sent a skylark to you during this past year?  Maybe you have forgotten to look up and to listen.

I talked to a friend recently about the shutting down of businesses in her home town.  Crime has gotten so bad that even the Walmarts have closed their doors.   Cracker Barrel has also shut down, however my friend didn’t even know they had a Cracker Barrel, so that point was moot. A spirit of fear can fill our hearts.


Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of Ravensbrück concentration camp. If ever there was a place for fear, it resided at that death camp.  The largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich, it was second in size only to the women’s camp in Auschwitz. The first prisoners interned at Ravensbrück were approximately 900 women in May 1939. By the end of 1942, the female inmate population of Ravensbrück had grown to about 10,000. In January 1945, the camp had more than 50,000 prisoners, mostly women. Can you imagine the despondency, terror, and desperation of the women interned there?


Corrie recorded in her memoirs regarding Ravensbrück,“Once, while we were on a roll call, a cruel guard kept us standing for a long, long time. Suddenly, a skylark began to sing in the sky, and all the prisoners looked up to listen to that bird’s song. As I looked at the bird, I saw the sky and thought of Psalms 103:11. “O love of God, how deep and great; far deeper than man’s deepest hate.” God sent that skylark daily for three weeks, exactly during roll call, to turn our eyes away from the cruelty of man to the oceans of His love.”


Has God sent a skylark to you during this past year?  Maybe you have forgotten to look up and to listen.  Maybe you have forgotten to let Him drill into your soul these truths: “For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth. The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. (Psalm 33:4-11) Listen for the skylark!

For further reflection, read This is My Battle Cry


It was one of those weeks. Tired, frustrated, exhausted.  Bummer day after bummer day.  Days when I felt not only like I’m not hitting the mark, but I didn’t even know what the target was.  It’s not that bad to have an occasional “off” day, but a row of them takes its toll. I’ve been on this track before.  Discouragement leads to depression, which leads to darkness, which leads to the pit. The train’s off the tracks. I’ve been derailed.


How dare the psalmist write Psalm 96?  Verse after verse, he describes a party that is in full swing.  There’s a whole lot of singing, praising, exclaiming, offering, and worshipping.  Reading those words, I realize that God is raining on my pity parade.  He is transporting me from my circumstances to Who He really is.  It doesn’t matter what my friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or what the world news is saying.  The truth of the matter, in the midst of my mess, “The Lord reigns!”  God is not asking me my opinion or my take on my circumstances.  He reigns.


I’m to exist in the truth that “He will judge the world with justice and the nations with His truth.”  Can you hear this thundering in the distance? The roar of the angels? God’s purpose steamrolling down the tracks? Through the clouds He will lead us, straight into glory. Finally, all the evil and craziness of this world will be terminated because there He reigns, forevermore, oh, forevermore. We can endure!


Believers are offered the power to wait, by the grace of God, with patience so that not one minute is wasted that God gives us on this earth, no matter the adversity we face. As I’m writing this, the train has not arrived, but it is very close and I can see it in the distance. He will soon be coming. Yes, even though my vocal cords may be unwilling, I will “sing a new song to the Lord!” Read Psalm 96. Are you choosing to join in with the choir?

For Further Reading: Win the World With Singing


Perhaps the God we remember is small, distant, disconnected, uncaring, and seemingly unwise.

Carefully we had to navigate amidst all of the photographers’ tripods and equipment in the Longwood Conservatory for the magical event. The blue poppies bloom for such a short time and then they are gone.  Why in the world did God create blue poppies and also give us the gift to see their magnificent bursts of color?  Why in His power would He allow something to exist just because it is beautiful?


It’s easy for me to forget the blue poppies in my day to day life.  I often interpret the character, size and strength of the God Who rules when in my brokenness I judge by what I have not seen God do.  I sometimes exist as a “functional atheist”. Paul Tripp writes, “I have been struck that if I believed in the same “god” they described, I’d be in a panic too. Perhaps the God we remember is small, distant, disconnected, uncaring, and seemingly unwise.” I forget Who my powerful God and substitute Him with a mini-god. 


There is a wakeup call that God gave Job after all the explanations Job’s “friends” had given him for his extended disasters which included the death of all Job’s children, loss of all his wealth, loss of reputation, loss of the support of his wife, loss of health, and loss of peace of mind.  Job’s advisors began hammering away at him that everything was because Job had sinned and apparently Job had committed a whopper.  Job repeatedly told them that their words were meaningless, but Job also could not explain God. 


Everything comes to a dramatic head. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge? Get ready for a difficult task like a man; I will question you and you will inform me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding. Who set its measurements—if you know— or who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its bases set, or who laid its cornerstone— when the morning stars sang in chorus, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7) In other words, “Job, where were you when I created the Himalayan Poppy?”


We have the God who has the power to create the blue poppy and Who wants us to realize that the problem is not that He is small, distant, disconnected, uncaring and unwise.  The problem is that those words often best describe our own hearts: small, distant, disconnected, uncaring and unwise.

Do not forget the poppy!

Further reading: Ephesians 1:18-23


These past few weeks have been overwhelming.  I already had trouble comprehending the slaughter of over 1,200 people and the taking of hundreds of hostages on October 7th.  Then I saw on the news thousands of people not regarding October 7th as terrorism. Beg your pardon, but “terrorism” is defined as: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”.


What about October 7th was not violent, against civilians and not politically motivated?  What was the purpose of murdering women, children and babies?  I was stunned and am still stunned. 


As my soul was grieving over the senseless violence, I came across Psalm 146:3-9: Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but He frustrates the plans of the wicked.


In the midst of all of this, I often forget Who God is.  I have made the mistake of expecting governments to do the right thing.  The writer of the Psalm is totally accurate regarding powerful people: “There is no help for you there”.  


How big is my God? He “frustrates the plans of the wicked. He keeps every promise forever”. Afterall, He “made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them”. It can’t get any better than that! In the midst of this, I have become blind to seeing the Hand of God.  I dearly need the One Who “opens the eyes of the blind”. 


What is going to overtake my heart and mind?  Is it fear? Anger? Frustration? This is the God Who knows where the weapons are, Who knows where the hostages are, and the God “Who lifts up those who are weighed down.” I have to pause.  I have to let Him open the eyes of my blind heart.


The print on the pages of Bill’s open Bible became a little smudged that day when my dear husband’s heart was broken

The first major death in my immediate family.  Four days previously my mom had dropped over dead in the church sanctuary. Now in that same room in which her heart had failed, we were having her memorial service.  Daddy asked my husband Bill to preach for the funeral. 

And so we began.  From my perch on the pew I could barely see Bill’s face.  The resident pastor gave the introduction.  It was then Bill’s turn to speak. He rose to the pulpit to commence giving the words he had worked so hard on. Understandably due to the strain, his voice was a little distorted. 

What Was That Noise

I then began to hear a kind of rumbling sound from the platform.  What was that noise?  I couldn’t hear Bill’s voice; there was just a long silence punctuated by that low choking sound.  Then it dawned on me.  My stoic husband was sobbing.  I had never heard him cry before. Grief was wracking his body. I prayed, “Dear Lord, please calm him down and give him the words.” Bill’s message was the only hope we had for the Gospel to be preached at my parents’ church where the Bible was rarely shared.  A miracle was needed.


We quietly waited and waited some more.  The peace of God finally drifted down on my husband’s heart and mind. Bill took a deep breath and began to share about his mother-in-law Hazel and about the grace of Jesus Christ. The death, resurrection, and hope of salvation was clearly laid out for an audience who had rarely heard the Good News. 


The truest words are those that have been pierced by the hand of God. The print on the pages of Bill’s open Bible became a little smudged that day when my dear husband’s heart was broken but the story of our Savior was clearly told.  “It was not rain that smeared the words.”


Are you familiar with the expression “pulling back the curtain”? It comes from a scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz. Yegor Bugayenko writes: “the intrepid band of adventurers confront the seemingly all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who proceeds to unleash a bombastic tirade on Dorothy and friends. Only, the dog Toto ends up pulling back the curtain, literally, to reveal that the Wizard of Oz is nothing but an ordinary man in a machine.” 


By nature, I am an idealist.  I will always be a “Toto”.  Over the years, I often innocently pulled back a lot of curtains. To my surprise, I discovered individuals who have become lost in believing their own press, their own sycophants.  In their pride, they have become deaf to the voice of reason. Maybe some of you are also “Totos”?


I once worked for a large corporation.  Someone in charge had decided that a way to build up morale and teamwork was plan to celebrate an exceptional employee.  Quarterly, a committee appointed by company management, would decide who to give such an honor. A group of management would then parade to the employee’s cubicle, decorate it with balloons and give the individual their congratulations.  On paper, this seemed like a great idea.  However, over time, the committee kept repeatedly recognizing the same people and some of those winners were actually on the committee itself which appointed the winners. The system was rigged and bound for failure.


As a Toto, I often assume that if you tell someone that there is a flaw in something, that it will be exposed, there will have dialogue on it and resolution will be found. In the case of the corporation, I wrote the CEO an email regarding the program.  I assumed that he would want to know, as the saying goes, “there was something was rotten in Denmark”. 


Within days, I found myself having to personally meet the CEO in his lavish office. His assistant ushered me in to the inner sanctum where for the next half hour I was informed by the CEO why the employee award program was a terrific morale booster. I had no idea going in that the program was the CEO’s own brain trust.  It was like I had attempted to murder his favored pet.


I left his office a little dazed, not realizing that his long harangue was to be the same speech, word for word, that he was going to give at the next company quarterly meeting the following week. At the podium, he publicly patted himself on the back. However, within one year his morale booster hit the dust, being found completely useless in improving the company. “Pride goes before the fall”. Toto had discovered the wizard.


In the Christian community, it is not fun to be a “Toto”.  We question inconsistencies, pet projects, and possible fallacies in thinking.  Totos are not popular, no matter how innocently we may enter a conversation with those in power.  I think being a woman Toto encountering male dominated leadership can be especially hazardous.


As a Christian Toto, I pray, “God help us in these days of darkness and uncertainty.  Please open the curtains, let the Holy Spirit air out our hearts, and drive us to our knees. Expose those who are sadly lost in believing their own press, listening to their own sycophants.  Open their eyes to their pride, as they have become hard of hearing to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”  And so, little Toto continues to pray.