' Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? ' Psalm 56: 1-4
How many of us have felt beaten up lately? Just feeling kind of down in the dumps and not certain about what the future holds in many aspects of life. Personally, nationally, health-wise, there are a lot of uncertainties to things as of late and it can be draining.
I am reminded that in this verse, David had already been anointed future King of Israel by Samuel, but the current King, Saul, was very jealous and was seeking to kill him. David had to have a little pep talk with himself, reminding himself who is in charge. This passage illuminates the turnabout of his fearful thoughts. He prayed and acknowledged the problem (attackers and enemies coming at him) and he then laid it out:”I put my trust in you”.
I’d encourage you to remember this tactic when you find yourself fearful. It is referred to as thought stopping when used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it’s an effective, evidence-based tactic to help keep our thoughts under control.
Don’t let the fear take over. Acknowledge it and then remind yourself that God is in control and He will reveal the things you need to do in the process of the problem at hand.
Once there were two men who were in a competition to see who could chop more trees in one day. Both were experienced, but one was much older than the other. The younger man felt confident that he could take on the older one and as the day went on, his confidence continued to grow. He noticed that the man took breaks throughout the day and that just built up his confidence further as he was working steadily with simply quick water breaks.
As the competition came to a close, and the counts were tallied, the young man was stunned as the older man was named the victor. Astonished, the young man asked his competitor about this. “I don’t understand this. How did you win? You took a break at least every hour and I worked non-stop, yet you completed 40 trees while I only got 25 done.”
The older man responded that he took breaks to rest and also sharpen his blade. While his counterpart was grunting and struggling, he was resting and preparing for the next round. Let us remember that we must give ourselves breaks to replenish and also let us remember that we should use the tools given to us so that we can efficiently do what it is we need to do. Spiritually, this application can be looked at from a framework of prayer and rest. Don’t push yourself so hard that you forget those things.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
Building Castles In The Sand
This story that I wrote back in 2007, came up recently in conversation with a friend. I was cleaning today and came across this, and decided to post this. Maybe it is meant for someone, out there, the way it was for me when originally written. I shared this with my church on a Sunday morning way back in 2007:
About a month ago, our family went through a very dark time. We'd been through some very trying times before, but this valley seemed more hopeless than any we'd ever gone through. One night during this time, I was driving home with my 2 kids after a long day. We were all kind of quiet as we listened to the songs on the Christian radio station. Jimmy, 7 at the time, was sitting behind me, looking out at the city lights, when he looked at me in the rear view mirror, and said,
"Mom, you wanna know what I think?"
I answered, "What, Jimmy?"
Looking very serious, he said to me in the mirror, "I think that our problems are like a castle."
He paused, so I said, "A castle?"
And he replied, "Yeah, a sand castle. God is the water. He comes in and washes them all away."
I began weeping, and told him, "You know what, Jimmy? God is talking to Mommy through you. He just gave you those words to say because He knew how very much I needed to hear that."
It was such a simple statement, but jam-packed with so much truth. Here I was, carefully protecting my castle of problems. Day after day, minute by minute, I was tending to this thing that was useless, that took me away from the things that should be important in my life. I just simply could not take the "hands-off" approach. I thought that if I just kept coming at my little castle of worry from different angles, smoothing it's edges and hiding its cracks, that I could somehow control something. I could hold things together if I just fixed every crack I found in my castle as soon as I found it. Maybe if I kept circling my castle, I'd see something I hadn't before, and that would make all the difference.
As if it were all up to me. I thought that if I prevented each crack, I could hold all my problems together by just tending to them all the time, letting them consume everything I did, everything I thought. I had no control over my situation, but I could control my worry - letting it saturate my every waking, and often sleeping, hour.
But God, I'd forgotten, is the water. He is the wave that comes in and envelopes the sand castle in one single pass. He washes it back out with Him and away from us - out of our desperate reach and back into His. It's not to say that we won't have problems; in fact, He promises that we will. It's just that we don't need to build castles of worry over our problems. We don't need to let them consume us. We don't need to spend all of our time fixing the cracks, smoothing edges and otherwise taking matters into our own hands. We need to allow for God's tide of Love to come in and keep eroding any of our attempts to hold on to that worry, to create castles in the sand.
Once I let go, God was able to come in and show our family love in an overwhelming way. Through tremendous love shown by this church, God lifted us out of our valley. I can honestly say that I am glad for the valley now, for everything God has taught me through it.
He taught me humility by taking everything away from me for a while. He taught me to trust and be patient, even in the hugely overwhelming moments.
Also, God taught me how I can have appreciation for the little things in life that I used to take for granted: hot water, waking up in my own bed, a roof over my head, three meals a day.
In my valley, I met people some would consider "the least of these" - the kind of people Jesus would've surrounded himself with, but I'd always avoided. I learned so much from these beautiful people about the strength and character that comes out of our trials.
But most of all, He taught me how unconditional His Love is, especially when it is poured out on you through members of your church in the way it was for our family.
Sometimes God uses the simplest words through the tiniest mouths, to teach us the biggest lessons....
Let God be your water and let go of your castle of sand.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 New International Version “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Meet My Friend: Michelle:
Some of you may not have met Michelle Davis, but I know many of you have seen her up front singing with the choir or serving at Ruth’s Boutique. If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting her, you’d find she is positive and funny, but also a deep thinker. She is a wife, mother, artist and student and she is pretty awesome.
Michelle shared a piece she wrote with me and gave me permission to share with you. Stay tuned tomorrow for this great snippet of her faith journey.
Remember: I would like to chat with you and talk about where you were and where you are with God’s help. You do not need to write the piece, unless you’d like. I know we all have a beautiful work that God has done in us and it’s helpful to both tell others about it as well as to hear other people’s stories. Please get with me to chat and we can get to know each other and see if we can help others know God better too.
Tomorrow, we will meet Michelle and I think the story she has will inspire you!
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Genesis 1:2 NLT
'And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer. '
Acts of the Apostles 2:42,44
How many times do we carry things that are too heavy for us when we don’t have to? I once was carrying my bag and struggling while rushing to get to work. Only after a ridiculous amount of time, did I remember that my bag had WHEELS!! I quickly put this burden to the floor and began to roll it and no longer had sweat on my brow. My burden was exponentially lightened by simply putting it down and allowing the built- in structure to help me get what I was hauling around. The same concept can be applied to our daily burdens. God has given us the safeguard of His desire to carry our burdens for us. He wants us to give Him what we so begrudgingly carry around. Because we don’t hand it to Him, we often are struggling and perspiring, when God is right there waiting for us to hand Him that which hinders us. He never said we will not have struggles, but He did say that we can hand them to Him and in His perfect Power, he will carry the load for us and give us the peace that passes all understanding.
“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”
― Najwa Zebian
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life. John 3:16.
I am going to start a new series of devotions this year. I have had in my heart a desire to share people’s stories of faith and perseverance for a long time and I have gone back and forth on who to start with. I have prayerfully come to a decision and will share his story, but have a favor to ask you: would you consider sharing your story with us? It can be as in depth as you’d like, or just a snippet of what God is doing or has done in your life. I’ll be approaching some folks, but would genuinely encourage you to consider this and let me know if you have something you’d like me to share.
Meet My Friend….Scott
I always referred to Scott as my older cousin who was my brother too. He was raised by his mom, but spent large quantities of time with our family, especially in our very early years. He was so very special to me. We did everything together as kids! I never felt he was disabled because in so many ways, he was more able than most people I’ve ever met.
Scott was born with a condition called Rickets which is a deficiency of Vitamin D. He inherited this condition from his mother who also suffered from this debilitating disease. It can be hereditary and often is passed from father to daughter and mother to son. In later years, he told me he also had Rheumatoid Arthritis which seemed to fit his condition as well. Every day for Scott was painful. He had several surgeries before he was 10 years old and many more to come as his years progressed.
Scott was born with pain and often told me that he tried to make sense of it. One of the things he shared always resonated with me.....he believed that maybe God allowed him to go through this to show others that he was able to handle all this pain and suffering-his role was to teach them that it can be done. He truly believed he had a mission on Earth and I was grateful that I was one of the select few he could be real with.
We would sometimes joke because Scott was one who would call you and ask if your refrigerator was running and when you’d roll your eyes and say “yes, he’d giddily laugh and say “you’d better go catch it”. He never tired of this and I don’t think people gave him the credit he deserved or took him seriously. However, he would often call me to talk about spiritual things and though I think he thought of me as a spiritual mentor, he was one of mine. Always a giver...to a fault sometimes. He would never hold things against others if they were unkind or took advantage of him.
When Scott was 12 or 13, he was hit by a car and spent the SUMMER in the hospital.
This injury further added to his pain and he became reliant on crutches, but never let that stop him. He really was unstoppable!
Starting in 2014 or so, he began telling me how he wanted his funeral to be. He knew he would not be here forever, but we did not expect him to be gone so soon. Scott would quiz me periodically on what he wanted to be sure that I never forgot (I never did) and he made me promise to follow the requests he’d made. You see, Scott was a Christian, but he also had an edge, so when he passed in 2020, we all sat at his funeral in tears as we listened to Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and Elvis’ version of My Way.
Later during the service, Pastor Vicky, who had the opportunity to meet Scott several months before read his favorite verse:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. John 3:16.
The gospel was given at his funeral and people who saw Jesus in him all those years heard about Him and I believe put a few things together that day. I believe they saw all the strength that Scott had wasn’t his, but was God’s. Now, Scott had to allow himself to be that vessel, but when he did, God took over and changed lives with his testimony.
Still waters run deep. He knew more than he let on about his lot in life and instead chose to smile and make people laugh.
God is blessing him right now with a new, glorious body. He is able to dance and run and do superfly wrestling like he always wanted to. For that I will try not to be selfish and wish him back here, but I will never forget him and am so grateful that he was my cousin, brother and friend.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows
I took the blows
And did it my way (My Way, Paul Anka)