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WHO CAN UNDERSTAND HOW POWERFUL HE IS?

He never reads instructions or watches videos. God just speaks and it is.

It was the pandemic. A lot of us were going stir-crazy. I looked around my living room and was bothered by a rather rough piece of furniture I viewed daily. There was no money to replace it so I thought “Why not refinish it?” I watched YouTube videos and read instructions on how to do the work. I redesigned it in my head.  Then I began the physical work: sanding, stripping it down, taking it apart, painting, and then adding the hardware and coats of sealant.  Never once during this time did I ever go to my back porch (that was my work area), sit there and expect a new piece of furniture to instantly appear.  I needed the materials, the ideas, the sweat equity and the hard work to put the piece together.

I AM POWERLESS

The Holy Spirit’s approach to creation is totally different than mine. He has the ideas, the sweat equity and the hard work, but He is so powerful that He speaks the words and it happens. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath [Spirit] of His mouth. (Psalm 33:6) God has never had to go to GR Mitchell for His materials. He never reads instructions or watches videos. God just speaks and it is. His words are limitless in their power: He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Psalm 33:7) I have never presumed that I could gather up all the oceans in a heap. I am powerless. Often, I have found plenty of furniture projects tedious and frustrating. The Holy Spirit has a different view of work. He doesn’t get burnt out in what He wonderfully creates.  He makes no mistakes, never fumbles, and whatever He does is awesome.  We are the ones that pour the refuse and junk on His creations.

CREATING A WORLD THAT WOULD GO SIDEWAYS

When our earth’s physical clock began ticking at creation, The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2) “Hovering” is the idea of a bird sitting in a nest, sitting and brooding over her eggs, caring for these new little lives. He cares. He cares eternally. Even then, He loved us, even though He knew He was creating a world that would choose to go sideways.

SOFT WHISPERS WE HEAR FROM HIM

If you want to know God better, I especially recommend you read John 38-42. Previous to this, there is one observation of Job regarding God that is spot on: His (God’s) breath made the skies bright and clear.    His hand wounded the serpent that glides through the sea. Those are only on the edges of what He does.    They are only the soft whispers that we hear from Him.    So, who can understand how very powerful He is? (Job 26:13-14 NIRV)

I AM CREATING FURTHER BROKENESS

God, The Holy Spirit, is hovering over your life.  He cares, even when your life goes sideways.  I have found it futile when I spend a lot of time reimagining my own life, stripping it down, taking it apart, painting with a big smile, and sealing it all under my own power. I can make all the resolutions I want, try my hardest, but I am creating further brokenness.  The only One Who can create truly new life in me is the Holy Spirit. He is hovering over me. Are you letting Him hover over you? 

ZIP IT!

Maybe the bar of my expectations was way too high for this conversation. My friend didn’t know when to “zip it”.

We had been worn to the bone by a weekend of health scares. Shortly after, I found myself on the phone with someone who I thought was a friend, not just an acquaintance.  The conversation began by my asking them how they were doing. I took care to listen to their upsetting news concerning their employment.  Apparently, their workplace was going down the tubes.  We meandered through the conversation, got stuck on the individual’s pet’s stomach issues and then finally they came up for air and asked me, “So how are you and your husband doing?” I paused and then gave them a brief synopsis of the turmoil we had recently experienced. 

DIDN’T KNOW WHEN TO ZIP IT

Maybe the bar of my expectations was way too high for this conversation. My friend didn’t know when to “zip it”. In response to my retelling our scary weekend, the person proceeded to inform me, in great detail, anecdotes not necessarily related to what we had experienced. They didn’t ask any questions whatsoever about how we were feeling or coping, and then had the audacity to go back to complaining about their job and animal situation. 

DID YOU NOT HEAR ME?

I wanted to wave a flag, saying, “Did you not hear me?  I’m on blood thinners, had my first significant fall while on thinners, and I was deathly afraid of hemorrhaging.  I was scared.  What you are replying with is telling me the last time you had a minor trip.  Didn’t my fear count anything to you?”

HOW TO RESPOND TO HURTING PEOPLE

Want a handbook on how to respond to hurting people? Let these verses be a foundation:

  • Romans 12:12-15 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. … Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 
  • II Cor 1:3-4 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (Our pain MATTERS to God and should matter to the family of believers)
  • I John 3:18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  (Actions speak louder than words)

TALK LESS AND BE PRESENT MORE

Rev. Liz Danielsen, Chaplain, and Founder of Spiritual Care Support Ministries says the best gift we can give to the chronically ill (whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually) is time. “Simply saying, ‘I would just like to be with you.’ Jesus did that,” she says. “I think we need to talk less and be present more.”

WITH THEIR MOUTHS SHUT, THEY SEEM INTELLIGENT

Even if my friend did not know what to say during that phone conversation, they could have been so helpful by just listening.  Sometimes just zipping one’s mouth is gold. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)

THE RECIPE BOX

I began to question my purpose.  How was I supposed to continue educating these little ones, giving them the love, attention, and care they deserved when my whole world was turned upside down?

Sunday was a good day to make some soup.  The pitter patter of rain on the roof, the gray gloomy clouds darkening the sky, and the cooler temperature made me crave a delicious meal of homemade soup and bread.  I reached for my old-school recipe collection, ready to search for the spinach tortellini soup given to me by a colleague years ago.  My collection is a hodge-podge mess, housed in an old rectangular tin.  The recipes are haphazardly tucked inside following no structure or organization:  hand-written index cards, computer printed papers, recipe cards neatly written from my wedding shower 30 years ago, and many torn from magazines and newspapers.

SUDDENLY THE SEARCH FOR THE RECIPE DIDN’T MATTER

Then I came across a treasure far more outstanding than the tortellini soup recipe I was searching for.  It was a clipping from My Daily Bread dated Sunday, April 27, 2008 entitled “Following God’s Plan”.  Attached to it was a handwritten note from my mother who died ten years previously.  Suddenly the search for the soup recipe didn’t matter. 

TELLING GOD WHAT HER PLAN WAS

The Daily Bread message was about a high school teacher who taught eight years and wanted to quit her job. She needed the money for her family but felt depleted by the pressures of grading papers, lesson planning, and testing.  Feeling desperate, she took off the day from work to evaluate her career.  As she prayed, she realized that she was trying to follow her own lesson plans for her life instead of God’s plan.  All along, she had been telling God what her plan was, instead of asking Him to help find her purpose. 

CHALLENGES BECAME OPPORTUNITIES

She began changing her prayers from “Help me get out of teaching” to “Help me find your purpose for my life.  If it is to be a teacher, help me to accept it.”  Over time, her attitude toward her job began to improve.  Challenges became opportunities for growth.  Even though many days still brought stress and exhaustion, she had a renewed sense of hope knowing God’s purpose was clear. 

I BEGAN TO QUESTION MY PURPOSE

After my son died two and a half years ago from leukemia, I went back to the classroom teaching second grade.  I began to question my purpose.  How was I supposed to continue educating these little ones, giving them the love, attention, and care they deserved when my whole world was turned upside down?  How was I supposed to compartmentalize my grief so that my children didn’t see this side of their teacher? 

MEANT TO BE SHARED

While I continue to wrestle with these challenges, I know God hears my cries.  Sending me this little reminder tucked inside the recipe box was His way of telling me that He is in control and His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 reads, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Gifts given to us are not meant for us to keep, instead, they are meant to be shared.

GOD’S PURPOSE IS CLEAR

My mom, who had left the note, who was also a former teacher.  She wrote, “Kimmy, I know you were meant to be a teacher and God’s purpose is clear. Peace. Love, Mom.” 

ASK GOD TO HELP YOU

Are you struggling with your job or circumstances in life? Give up trying to make your own plan for your life.  Instead, ask God to help you to know the plan He has for you.  May you find fulfillment in the work that you do, knowing God’s purpose is clear. As the soup simmered on the stove, I thanked God for nourishing my soul with an unexpected message from my dear departed mom.

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

This ordinarily would not be that big a thing, but I am on blood thinners for my pulmonary embolisms.  Bleeding out internally is always a danger.

The series of unfortunate events began Friday.  We found ourselves again in Urgent Care because Bill’s blood pressure was spiking for unknown reasons.  Immediately I commenced sending out distress texts to my friends who know Jesus. They prayed. The hospital eventually released Bill.  This time we got to drive home together, rather than the previous time when they kept him overnight for observation.

I AM ON BLOOD THINNERS

The next day was Saturday.  We stopped at a roadside stand.  Who would have known disaster could strike at Meck’s Produce? While I was looking around outside, Bill was already inside the building.  As I went to enter the store, there was an older lady with a cane trying to exit.  I stepped out of her way, clueless that directly behind me was a pallet of pumpkins (or large gourds).  I tripped and fell headlong into the display.  Did you know that the necks of pumpkins can be rock hard?  One of them gave a direct hit to my ribcage.  This ordinarily would not be that big a thing, but I am on blood thinners for my pulmonary embolisms.  Bleeding out internally is always a danger.

WHAT TO DO?

The pain was intense and I hobbled into the store.  Happy shopper Bill had missed my pumpkin collapse.  He looked up and quickly got us into the car. I didn’t know whether to go to the ER or to go home.  The pain was about a level 15 on the scale. What to do?  I needed help.  Immediately, I sent out more distress texts, especially since the next day I was scheduled to give a speech for the bride at a wedding reception.

I JUST HAD TO WHISPER “HELP!”

My friends were praying, but even more powerful is that the Holy Spirit was already praying for us.  Romans 8: 26-27 has some wonderful things to say about these prayers:  Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. I didn’t have to text the Holy Spirit.  I just had to whisper: “Help!” He knew what to pray for even when I had no clue.  He interceded for us. 

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

Right now, Bill’s blood pressure is getting better. I am no longer in excruciating pain, consumed with fears of bleeding out. Best of all, today was the icing on the wedding cake – God gave me exactly the right words to speak at the reception.

HE KNEW HOW TO PRAY

I didn’t know how to pray. I cling to for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us.”  Without even a text, He knew how to pray, even during a series of unfortunate events.

MY DISMAL JUGGLING SKILLS

I can’t even juggle tennis balls.  I am hopeless at juggling life.

Recently, I have been juggling a lot of different responsibilities.  Alas, I will never be on America’s Got Talent, juggling chainsaws in the air.  I can’t even juggle tennis balls.  I am hopeless at juggling life.

THE RIPTIDE OF RESPONSIBILITIES

As last week progressed, I felt pulled out by the riptide of responsibilities.  I was failing at juggling them all. Then I came across a wonderful quote by the wonderful man of God, Charles Spurgeon. “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”  Hmm, kissing the riptide?  That’s quite foreign to my mindset. It is helpful to know the context for this Spurgeon quote. Michael Reeves in his book Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ wrote:

HIS MIND WAS NEVER THE SAME AGAIN

Aged twenty-two, as pastor of a large church and with twin babies at home to look after, Spurgeon was preaching to thousands in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall when pranksters yelled “fire,” starting a panic to exit the building which killed seven and left twenty-eight severely injured. His mind was never the same again.

STRESS BEGAN TO TAKE ITS TOLL

Then, from the age of thirty-three, physical pain became a large and constant feature of life for him. He suffered from a burning kidney inflammation called Bright’s Disease, as well as gout, rheumatism, and neuritis. The pain was such that it soon kept him from preaching for one-third of the time. Added to that, overwork, stress, and guilt about the stress began to take their toll. And all this was in the public eye and was jumped on by his many critics, not making it easier to bear. The suffering, they argued rather predictably, was a judgment from God.

JESUS FEELS WITH THE WEAKEST OF HIS CHOSEN

Again and again Spurgeon, returned to the theme of Christ’s compassion for his suffering people. In an 1890 sermon titled “The Tenderness of Jesus,” for example, he spoke, while feeling his own weakness, about Christ as the High Priest who feels for us in our infirmities. He said: “. . . . Jesus is touched, not with a feeling of your strength, but of your infirmity. Down here, poor, feeble nothings affect the heart of their great High Priest on high, who is crowned with glory and honor. As the mother feels with the weakness of her babe, so does Jesus feel with the poorest, saddest, and weakest of his chosen.”

CHRIST DRAWS NEAR TO US

In suffering, then, it is not only the case that we get to draw nearer to Christ, becoming more like him and leaning more fully on him. In such times Christ draws near to us to walk with his people in the furnace. And not only to walk with us but to bear us through.  https://www.crossway.org/articles/did-you-know-that-charles-spurgeon-struggled-with-depression/

HE WANTS TO HANDLE THE JUGGLING

Yes, the chainsaws of life are still there, but as I lean into Christ, He wants to handle the juggling.  He may have three chainsaws in the air, He might have only one, or He might say, “Let’s take a break from the chainsaws right now.” Jesus is walking with me and will bear me through.  What a wonderful Savior Who can handle the handle the stressors of life.

AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS

I shared with her briefly about the pulmonary embolism.  Her eyes kind of glazed over and she changed the subject

Recently I was talking with someone I had not seen for quite a while.  In the course of the conversation, she asked me how I was doing.  I shared with her briefly about the pulmonary embolism.  Her eyes kind of glazed over and she changed the subject.

WHY DOES PAIN FRIGHTEN PEOPLE?

Why does pain frighten people?  Are they afraid of asking an awkward question? Are they fearful of not being able to come up with the right words? If the person is a believer, are they nervous regarding a God Who will permit a great deal of pain in another believer’s life?

THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE

I have come across at least three groups of people. There are those who back away quickly from pain being experienced by others. Then there are those who are like the disciple Peter. When Peter witnessed the transfiguration of Christ, he kind of flew into a panic and decided to build little houses for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  That was kind of weird, but Peter thought he had to fill in air time and be busy.  Then there are those who enter the pain of the other person and encourage.  These are the warriors.  They have chosen to obey Galatians 6: 2: Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 

YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT!

Don’t forget the zinger written in verse 3:  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Do I consider my schedule so important that I can’t talk to someone who is in pain?  Am I willing to go beyond my comfort level when I feel at a loss to help the other person feel whole? My God is big enough to handle my fears regarding situations filled with pain.

THE GOLDEN TICKET

For a believer entering into such conversations in which the other believer is in pain, we have the “Golden Ticket” from Jesus as promised in John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID

If you truly are a believer in the words of Jesus Christ and consider them totally true, then you don’t have to be afraid of those awkward conversations.  It isn’t just you and the other person. It is you, the other person, and the Holy Spirit.  What a lovely set-up for what could be a life-changing encounter!

FEELINGS OF DREAD BUT CHOOSING TO BELIEVE

He immediately scheduled Bill for an emergency deep tissue brain MRI. Feelings of dread filled out hearts.

It was 2004 when we visited the eye specialist. Earlier that week, Bill admitted that when driving, the single car approaching him on the right now appeared as two separate vehicles.  Not good.  The doctor talked to him for about twenty minutes and immediately scheduled Bill for an emergency deep tissue brain MRI. Feelings of dread filled out hearts.

THE BRAIN TUMOR

Bill is claustrophobic and it took 3 tries before they were able to get him into the narrow tube for the 45-minute-deep tissue MRI.  The technician told us Bill had a brain tumor.  It was Friday, which meant a very long weekend until the appointment with the neurologist Monday morning.  The irony of the situation was that just a few weeks before, Bill had decided to take a huge step of faith and resign from his ministry position.  He wanted to be open to wherever God wanted him. This was an unexpected development. 

WHERE WAS THIS HEADED?

Monday came.  The tumor was a benign pituitary tumor pressing on the optic nerve which was causing the double vision.  It was inoperable.  Hence, the doctor prescribed drug therapy to shrink the tumor. Where was this all headed?

STILL CHOOSING TO OBEY

My husband is not one to jump into decisions (whereas, I often just want to know which particular cliff to jump off of) ……So, in the car, I told Bill I was okay if he wanted to reconsider his previous decision to step out on faith regarding his ministry career.  I still remember the certainty and strength in his voice when he replied, “No, I’m still going to obey.”  That my dear friends is faith.  Stepping into the what may be unknown, but taking God at His Word. 

JESUS WALKED WITH THEM THROUGH THE FLAMES

Psalm 91 kept going through my head.  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  When Daniel’s friends were in the fiery furnace, it wasn’t like God said “Oh, my goodness!  How in the world did that one happen?!” Jesus walked with them through the flames. 

WE COULD TRUST GOD, REGARDLESS

God was not walking Bill and me around the fire, God was accompanying us through the fire.  We could trust God, regardless of the diagnosis because He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” 

WE KNEW WHO WAS TRAVELING WITH US

We chose to get our focus off the fire and look up to see the face of our Traveling Companion, Jesus. We chose to obey. “The person who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  The future was unknown, but we knew Who was traveling with us.