Worshiping in the valley

At the beginning of 2020, I chose a theme word. A message I heard at Christmastime moved me profoundly. It wasn’t about choosing a word or anything like that. Instead, the sermon was about worship.

After the message, the music minister led the church in worshiping quietly however each person wanted. We could kneel, remain seated, or whatever.

It was a beautiful time of corporate worship and met a need in my heart. As a result, I chose the word worship as my key word for this year.

So far, this has been a valley year. I don’t want to bother you with the details, but it has been one of the most difficult years in my life. Many uncertainties, awful trials, the passing of a loved one, and isolation in Spain because of Covid19 have turned me to the Lord, clamoring for help, praying with groans, not knowing even how to trust—not understanding what is happening.

I have quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to myself probably more than a hundred times, and I may make it two hundred before the year is out.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Lord, I acknowledge You. I know you’re in control, and you know exactly where You’re leading us, even when we are clueless.

How is your year going? Is it a valley?

Be encouraged.

God is still the awesome One who spoke and created the world. He is still the miracle working, history making God. He’s the One who loves you. He died for you. He rose from the grave, conquering death, and gives us hope and purpose.

Worship is praise.

Praising God for Who He is.

Just worship.

My friend, Jane, shared this poem. I asked the author, Nicole Madaus, if I could share it with you. She graciously gave me permission.

  • When you have been hurt and life is far from fair,
  • When your heart is breaking, choose to worship there.
  • When you’re overwhelmed by the burdens that you bear,
  • As you struggle neath the load, choose to worship there.
  • When the secrets that you carry hurt too much to share,
  • When you’re suffering in silence, choose to worship there.
  • When it feels like there will never be an answer to your prayer,
  • In the time of waiting, choose to worship there.
  • When you are grieving over an empty chair,
  • Even in your sorrow, you can worship there.
  • It may not change the trial, but it will change your point of view.
  • It may not change your suffering, but it can change you.
  • Worship can bring healing; it can set you free.
  • Move your focus off your problems, and put it back on Me!
  • Worship will remind you that I am in control
  • And that knowledge can bring comfort to your troubled soul.
  • Worship offers hope in the midst of deep despair,
  • So whatever you are facing, choose to worship there!

Let’s bless the Lord today. He is worthy.

*By Nicole Madaus

By the bootstraps

There’s an old saying, “pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” from back when men wore long riding boots that had handy dandy loops at the top for pulling them on. The meaning of this saying is the impossibility of pulling oneself up by oneself.

That’s where I was this week: vainly pulling on spiritual bootstraps and still feeling miserable.

It didn’t help that it rained all week.

Life circumstances—including the locked-in one—haven’t been favorable, either.

I have been praying, tugging on my old bootstraps, and vainly trying to smile … while wanting to throw things, cry, yell, and … you get the picture.

Where does one go for renewal?

Sanity?

Getting back to happy?

Having joy in the middle of several serious trials at once?

Need I mention having a good testimony—shut in with the one who matters most, my husband?

All the “better yourself, be who you were meant to be, bloom where you’re planted, and suck it ups” don’t work. I can tell you. Bootstrap pulling is totally useless, too—unless you’re a boot.

“When life hands you lemons…”

You can’t make lemonade without sugar.

I didn’t have any sugar.

The only remedy in the world for a rotten attitude and loss of joy is: Truth. The more the better.

Only Truth seeping into one’s heart can change the heart’s thinking and feeling.

I wrote up to this point before a death in the family this week. It’s amazing what focusing on what I know about God is helping me to deal with my emotions and our great loss.

Let me share a few truths that have helped me over the last few days:

  • What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me (Psalm 56:3-4).
  • Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9).
  • Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:26-28).
  • For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

Lord, help me focus more on You, and thank You for praying for me, being with me, and working in me. Help me to trust You completely when I am overwhelmed, afraid, sorrowing, and in pain. I want to trust You for those I love, as well. Thank You for your Living Word, that speaks to me exactly what I need to hear.

What Scriptures have helped you this past week? Feel free to share.

Let me out already!

I’m the kind of person that gets cabin fever after two weeks of rain, and during that period I go to church at least four or five times. When it’s raining day after day, I get antsy. I want to see people, be in normal life, just get out and walk.

So, when Spain shut me in—not just me, but all the country—and told me I could not go anywhere at all, it was like the beginning of a long rainy season. Only worse. No church, no grocery store, no nada.

I haven’t been on the inside of a car in many weeks, and I just found out we have at least three weeks more of this ahead of us.

Now, just so you understand, I have seriously enjoyed some aspects of this whole being-at-home adventure. I admit it. I’ve written about these advantages in past blog posts. You can scroll down and read them.

But it’s time to get out.

I feel like a prisoner.

Don’t get me wrong. My contentment hasn’t gone on vacation. I’m not mad at anyone. I wouldn’t even go and protest if I had the freedom to get out and do so. We have a large yard, and I go for a walk in it every day. Today, I took pictures of the neighbor’s cows, who were more than happy to model.

I have a terrific husband who treats me like a queen. We have plenty to eat and a warm house.

Our church services have been a blessing—even while being temporarily distant from our friends. We can even watch our home church’s services live and tune into various devotional thoughts each day.

I keep busy teaching. I always teach online, so there were no adjustments to make, only I pray each teaching day about the quality of connection, since the whole world has moved online.

I’m writing more, finally wrapping up my novel. Someday, I’d love to get it published. That dream seems more real now that the story is almost done.

Easter week, I dug into some boxes and sorted and pitched. Oh, the joy of it!

So, you see, I am fine.

But, get me outta here, already!

Truth is, people weren’t meant to huddle and hunker. They were meant to get out, make friends, enjoy life, interact, and be a blessing and testimony. We need each other.

I don’t know what to make of this whole situation. I firmly believe we probably saved lives by sheltering in place for a few weeks. I certainly hope so.

After a while, though, vulnerable people will be adversely affected mentally. I am wondering what will happen to a population like we have in Spain where many do not know the Lord. Few are readers. I am guessing they’re sitting in front of their TV sets watching whatever news and trash is to be seen.

How will people deal with the death toll? Over 21,000 lives have been lost to Covid19 thus far in Spain. That means probably all their families are mourning—plus others who lost family members to other causes. Christians have hope, and we still sorrow. But few Spanish people know they’ll see their loved ones again.

If the way not to get this virus is to be exceptionally careful with personal hygiene, then we need to do that.

What can be wrong with exercising outside of one’s home? Why keep people from parks and workplaces? Should we further cripple the world’s economies if all the curves are going downward?

I don’t know.

All I know is …

I want out already!

So, I open my Bible and read:

  • My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
  • Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
  • Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:11).

Good soldier? Perfect and entire? Happy, patient, and enduring?

I see I have a lot to learn.

Maybe that’s why the Lord’s giving me three more weeks.

How are you doing in confinement? What are you learning?

What I’m learning in confinement

What am I learning? You might be as surprised as I am.

Quite a few years ago, a friend sent our co-worker a cassette tape with a song about the “First Jeroboam, come-as-you-are” church. We listened to it with friends and laughed and laughed. It mentioned casual dress, drive-in church, etc. Absurd! We would never stoop to such.

Just a couple of years ago, when another country banned the face veil and other facial coverings in public spaces, I was all for it. A person’s face tells so much about them, and when you can’t see people’s faces, it’s depersonalizing (if that’s a word).

I can almost hear myself telling a young Christian that it is so important to physically assemble for church services, quoting Hebrews 10:25—and it is. And now, our own church is making herculean efforts to assemble virtually, as this Christian lady was doing at the time.

A global virulent pandemic with no known cure and no vaccination has changed the ways we do things. We all hope and pray the restrictions and lockdowns pass as quickly as is prudent and that we, indeed, can save many lives by giving up some of our liberties for a relatively brief time.

I balked those first few days. The prohibition that I couldn’t leave my home—not that I necessarily would have—bugged me. I have to admit, there are pros and cons. I love having more time with my husband, since he can’t go anywhere, either. Having time to work on a project adds to my happiness.

I’ve never been so thankful for our yard.

My church family has become dearer, not more distant—although we can only meet through social media and communicate by texting and phone.

I confess to not dressing up for every church service. (Don’t be harsh on me, please.) We can watch our home church live, a real plus. On Sundays, we can enjoy four services, instead of two.

My secret hope is that most churches begin to livestream regularly from now on. They will reach more people and minister more effectively to their shut-ins. It’s a great mission tool that must not be ignored.

So, I laugh at myself for encouraging my husband to wear a mask and gloves as he grocery shops. He doesn’t look sinister or personless to me; he looks wise.

I’m chuckling when I read about my friends outside of Spain who had drive-in Easter activities and services.

Knowing it is truly important to gather the church—its people—together for corporate worship, I have come to appreciate the outreach of livestreaming and Zoom meetings.

I am learning patience—at least I hope so—in a time of real trials. This has been one of the hardest periods in our lives for several reasons besides the covid virus. Yet, God is faithful. He is accomplishing something in us. And, we worship Him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him (Psalm 28:7).

What are you learning, if you’re confined? Please share.

Wack-o mom

I am a wack-o mom. Just ask my kids. They’ll wholeheartedly agree.

Part of my crazy momness was what I least enjoyed—saying no. I said no to my kids about: outings, participating in sports teams, reading a few of the available books, “real” card games (like Poker), and a few movies. Do I regret it? Not one bit. I would’ve said no to cell phones, but we had flip phones back then. I still have one. See? I told you I was wacky.

I also kept track of their movements—usually traveling with them and driving the car. If they were terribly embarrassed that Mama was with them, they never showed it.

We homeschooled. That fact, all by itself, is reason to dub me wacky. But, believe me, homeschooling didn’t give me one of my gray hairs. It was the ride into church on Wednesday nights, during rush hour.

I always have fun. My jollies come from people, walks in the woods, visiting new and different places, eating ice cream, pondering architecture, music, photography, and a myriad of other delights. I enjoy life big time, laughing a lot, and sometimes even dancing all by myself in the kitchen.

Wack-o. I know it.

No one enjoys life more than I do. They don’t see the beauty, smell the roses, and rejoice in the way trees sway like I do.

But, my deep, abiding joy is the Lord.

He’s the why of my happiness. He’s also the reason I notice the little things others may miss. I look for beauty.

Jesus said, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). That abundant life begins with salvation in Jesus. I truly believe it increases the quality of life. Paul admonished Timothy, Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).

Because of salvation we can have deep joy. The psalmist said and Luke quotes, Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance (Acts 2:26, 28).

Being a Christian has never meant joyless, prunish, always sad-faced “piety.” Instead, it means a life of joy and praise.

Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness (Psalm 150:1-2).

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

C. S. Lewis once said, “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”

Maybe that’s me.

So, call me a wack-o mom. I don’t care.

Are you wack-o, too? Feel free to share your wacky joys.