Day 6 of Jericho

Growing up in Sunday school, I was very familiar with the story of Joshua and wall of Jericho. We’d sing the song, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the wall came tumbling down.” And we’d march around the room, like the people of Israel. (If you’re not familiar with the story, it can be found in Joshua 6.)

I’ve been trying to imagine what it was like for the people of Israel to march around the wall of Jericho. My first thought was that they would have been skeptical as they marched that first day or so. But after days of marching, their faith was built. But as I thought about it a little more, and thought about my own life, I can imagine that on those first couple of days, they were probably fired up. They imagined that wall crumbling at their feet with a big crash. But as the marching continued, day-after-day, I wonder if their enthusiasm began to falter. By day six, were they completely demoralized?

They knew the instructions they were given. They knew God said seven days. But like most people, I’m sure they had hoped they would start to see something that indicated their hard work of marching day-after-day was paying off. They probably expected to see cracks forming in the wall. But all they saw was the wall, unchanged and probably looking more daunting than ever.

I wonder how hard it was for them to get up on that seventh day. How hard was it for them to march again? Their feet and hearts probably heavy with fear and doubt. But they kept going. Was it out of obedience or curiosity to see if God was going to come through?

When God has given me a promise, in the beginning, there’s always excitement, expectation coursing through my veins. I can’t wait to see God come through. I stay faithful and encouraged for a while, keeping to the instructions He’s given. But as time waxes on and the wall hasn’t come crashing down at my feet, it’s easy to get discouraged or doubt the promise. Not only does it feel like the wall has not weakened, I’m pretty sure it’s somehow been fortified.

But I’m reminded of 2 Peter 3:8-9, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (ESV). The Lord always has a bigger picture in mind. We see how the wall is standing in the way of our promises. But God sees beyond the wall to the greater impact for His Kingdom. Our task is to not lose heart in the waiting, in the marching. As Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (ESV, emphasis added).

So whether you’re on Day 1 of the march to your promise or Day 6, keep marching, keep moving, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Where is Your Security Found?

As a woman, one of my biggest needs is security. It’s very important for me to feel secure in my relationships as well as financially. Before my divorce, I was primarily a stay-at-home mom. I worked a little here-and-there. But we never relied on my income for anything more than pocket change. When the divorce was finalized, I was suddenly thrown into a world I hadn’t been in for more than 17 years–working to support myself.

It was a scary thing to be solely responsible for paying for my life. Suddenly, I felt like my security had been pulled out from under me. But something happened early in my divorce process that gave me an assurance of God’s willingness and ability to take care of me.

As I was processing through the divorce and all the paperwork, I decided to consult with a nonprofit family law expert. They required a small fee for the consultation and I remember feeling unsure about whether to follow through with the meeting. I was worried about the money, even though it was a small amount. I shared my fears with my best friend. She prayed that I would have peace and that I would be able to have this meeting without it costing me anything.

With her prayers undergirding me, I went to the meeting. Indeed, they did ask for the fee, which I willingly paid. But later that night, at a church event, I woman pulled me aside. In her hand was a wad of cash. She gave it to me and said, “God told me to give you all the cash I had in my purse.” I was stunned by her obedience and generosity. I don’t know if I would have been as quick to obey. I graciously took the money and thanked her, but didn’t count it until I was alone. When I counted it, it was exactly the amount of the consultation fee, plus one dollar. I was overwhelmed. Not only had God answered my friend’s prayer by way of a supernatural “refund” but He provided more than I needed. In that moment, I could hear the Holy Spirit reassuring me that God would always meet my needs and then some.

Since then, I’ve had a confidence that God was going to take care of my kids and me. There have been moments when I’ve forgotten this and tried to take care of myself. But I’ve had a peace when it comes to my finances. And I’ve seen God provide in some pretty amazing ways.

Recently, I was looking into taking a step out of my comfort zone financially. As I was thinking through the ramifications of the decision I was facing, I started to question my security again. I was flooded with all of these “what if” thoughts. But that’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of the above story. He reminded me that my security is not in a person or a job. It’s in the God who made the heavens and the earth. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (ESV). He owns it all, which means He is the source of it all. Everything else is merely a resource, used by Him.

It’s easy to look to a husband or a job for security. But there is no greater sense of security than being in God’s care.

So my question to you is “Where is your security found?” Is it in your job or your relationship? Or is it in your particular candidate being elected? If you are feeling like you’re on shaky ground, look to see who or what you’re standing on. Because as 1 Samuel 2:2 says, “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (ESV, emphasis added).

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

We’ve all heard the Heraclitus quote: “The only constant in life is change.” It’s the kind of thing you say to a child who is upset because something they’d come to rely on has changed. Most of the time I’m that child digging my heels in when confronted with change, especially change that I can’t control or don’t understand. I like routine and consistency. And as much as I try to plan, life still has a way of throwing curve balls and being as changeable as the shifting wind.

As I was thinking about the changeability of life, and mostly thinking about much I hate it, I was reminded of the one thing, or rather person, that never changes–Jesus.

Every Sunday (before COVID-19 limitations), I read Hebrews 13:8. It’s displayed above the platform at my church. During worship or the pastor’s message, my eyes would inevitably wander up and read these words: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What a comforting thought to know that no matter how much life changes or is unpredictable, God will never change. Just meditating on that thought brings an overwhelming sense of peace to me. Deep breath in, cleansing breath out!

But this truth has to be more than a comforting thought, more than a mantra I recite when feeling anxious. It has to be the reality by which I judge all other realities in my life.

When life changes or people change or the weather changes (Who am I kidding. I live is Southern California. The weather never changes.), it can feel like the ground underneath me is shifting. That’s why it’s important for me to anchor myself in the truth that God never changes. It doesn’t matter what happens, I know I’m secure in my Father’s care. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (ESV, emphasis added).

As the old hymn says:
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote, 1834)

Doing What Only I Can and Watching God Do More

Being a single mom is not an easy task. There are so many challenges that come with it. And so many different messages that are given about how to be a single mom.

I am blessed that my kids’ dad and I have chosen to co-parent. But on days when I’m solely responsible for the kids and I don’t have their father here to do the dad thing, it can be easy to buy into the idea that I need to be Dad too. I don’t want the kids to feel any lack when it comes to parental input. But the reality is, try as I might, I will never be able to fill the role of Dad. It’s not how I was created. And frankly, it’s exhausting to even try.

I am Mom (or Mommy or Mama, depending on the day or the mood)! That’s who I am. From the moment life was given to my babies, I became a mom, their mom. There are things that only I can impart to them. There are lessons that only I can teach. And there are conversations that only I can have.

But I’m often burdened with the idea that the kids are somehow lacking something in me–that I’m simply not enough. The fact of the matter is, I’m not enough and never have been.

When my kids were born and their dad and I were still together, it was easy to believe that between the two of us, we had everything covered. But the reality is, even then, there were gaps in our parenting. And back then, whether we realized it or not, it was just as essential to rely on the Holy Spirit to fill those gaps as it is now. Our shortcomings are highlighted by single parenting, not created by it.

And I guess that’s where I find myself–with more deficiencies than adequacies. The good news is God doesn’t want my self sufficiency. He wants my dependency. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (ESV).

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus feeding five thousand with loaves and fish from a little boy (John 6:1-15). Andrew, the disciple who found the boy, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? (v. 9, ESV, emphasis added). That’s often how I feel. Lord, what can you do with the little that I have to offer? But most of us would remember what happens next in the story. Jesus takes the boy’s meager offering and multiplies it to feed five thousand. And at the end of the meal, where everyone ate “…as much as they wanted” (v. 11), the disciples filled twelve baskets with what was leftover.

God isn’t looking for me to be able to do it all. He just wants me to do what only I can do, be the mom He created me to be. Then He will take my paltry contribution and do what only He can do–multiply it and make it more than enough.

There’s a line in an old song my mom used to sing, called “Ordinary People” (originally recorded by Danniebelle Hall) that captures this perfectly:
God uses people who will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Master’s hand

Raising Strong Kids

As a mom, it’s my instinct to protect my kids from the hard things in life. I want to keep them safe and protected from the harsh realities of this world. However, I’ve learned I simply can’t protect them from everything.

Last weekend, Faith fell and chipped her front teeth. As we walked through yet another challenge, it broke my heart to watch her process through this disappointment. She was upset and worried and embarrassed to show her teeth to anyone. But within a day, she was back to her smiley, joyful self (and this was before she had them repaired). Watching her, I realized something about my kids. They are tough. They’ve got a bounce back that is admirable.

Isn’t that ultimately what I want for my children, to be strong and resilient? But I don’t just want to raise strong kids. I want to raise kids that are strong in their faith–able to trust God no matter what. As I’ve seen in my own life, that kind of strength and steadfastness doesn’t come through easy living. It comes through adversity. Their faith is built by going through trials and challenges, and watching God answer their calls for help.

Romans 5:3-5 speaks about the upside of hardships: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (ESV).

James 1:2-4 also says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (ESV). This is the fruit I want to see produced in my kids’ lives.

As their mom, I never want to see them hurt or face hardships. But I must remember they’re not mine. They belong to our Heavenly Father and He loves them more than I do. He would never allow them to walk through anything that wasn’t designed to conform them into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). Everything they experience is helping to prepare them for the assignment God has for their lives.

It is my hope that, as God continues to meet them in the hard things of life, they can say as Job did, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5 NLT).

Thoughts on Identity and Contentment

If someone were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Seems like a pretty straight forward question. I would likely list: mother, daughter, sister, friend. But is that who I really am?

All of those adjectives describe who I am to other people. They describe a role I fill in someone else’s life. But if I define myself by the roles I fill, what happens when those roles change or go away? For example, I will always be Faith and Journey’s mom, but even that relationship will change. They will grow up and move out and start their own families. Who will I be then? Grandma?! (I’d choose a much cooler name like Gigi or something.)

Understanding who I am, outside of the roles I fill, is paramount to my contentment. Being secure in my identity in Christ and finding satisfaction in Him will allow me to weather the changing roles and relationships in my life. But can I be honest? I’m not always satisfied in Christ. I know I’m supposed to be. But the truth is, just like I try to find my identity in temporal things, I try to find my contentment in those same things.

The reality is, I know that none of those things will ever actually satisfy. But I keep looking to them to fill a hole that only God can. Romans 1:25 says, “…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (ESV). Every time I try to find my identity outside of Christ, every time I try to gain fulfillment and satisfaction outside of Him, I am exchanging the “truth about God for a lie.” I’m saying, “God, even though I know you are all sufficient, I’m going to see if this thing over here will meet my need instead.”

How do I break out of this? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). I used to look at this as a quid pro quo exchange with God. “If I give you this delight that you need, then you will give me the things I want.” So then I would manufacture enjoyment in Him only to be left feeling more empty. But that’s not what this is saying. I believe it’s saying that as I delight myself in Him, truly and completely, all the desires of my heart will be met in Him. He will not leave me wanting or needing lesser things.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to delight in Him on my own. I need the Holy Spirit. So my constant prayer is, “Lord, help me want to want You more. Help me to die to lesser affections, so that You are my one desire.”

I wish I could conclude this with a triumphant statement about how deeply satisfied I am in Christ and how I know my identity is secure in Him. But it’s an ongoing struggle for me. I have to be deliberate to change how I think in this area. As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV).

The Tweens Have Landed

I have a tween! If that’s not a scary thought, I don’t know what is. Journey just turned 11 and will be going into sixth grade this school year. And it’s almost like an alien invasion. Where did my little boy go?! Suddenly, I can see the next six or seven years flashing before my eyes. Soon, he’ll be in junior high, then high school. And I don’t even want to think about what comes after that.

This is new territory for me as a parent. I’m trying desperately to keep up, but I’m having a hard time. It always seems to take me by surprise when one phase ends with the kids and a new one begins. I’m having to learn new ways of relating, new ways of disciplining, new ways of getting my message across, new ways of letting go.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). It’s a wonderful promise until I start to think about whether or not I have what it takes to “train him up in the way he should go.” I can’t do this parenting thing on my own. I need support and encouragement. I need input from people who have walked this road before. And most importantly, I need the Holy Spirit.

As I was praying for my tween-ager the other day, I was reminded of what God’s word says in Isaiah 54:13: “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV). It’s inevitable. There will be things I miss as I parent my kids. But this verse comforts me by reminding me that God will teach them what only He can.

My prayer is that, as my children continue to grow and go through their phases, I will be able to meet the challenges with the strength of the Holy Spirit. Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” I’m praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I need His power to parent in this new stage. But I also want to see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of my children.

Parenting well is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I’m thankful that I’ve not been given this assignment to do on my own. I’m grateful for the people in my life, including their father, who are walking this road with me. And I’m most thankful for God, the ultimate Father.

Broken Pieces or a Masterpiece

When I was in the fourth grade, my class created a large mosaic mural of the Nativity. We used scraps of colorful paper that my teacher, Ms. Peterson, had painstakingly cut up. I remember, while working on it, not knowing what we were creating. We were just instructed to paste our scraps here or there. But as the project progressed over the weeks, we began to see the picture that was being formed. Suddenly those bits of paper became a masterful work of art. It wasn’t until we took a few steps back to see the whole thing that we could see what was happening.

Traditionally, mosaics are made from bits of regular and irregular pieces of glass, stone, tile, etc. Individually, these pieces don’t create much beauty. But in an expert’s hands, a magnificent masterpiece can be created.

Looking at the broken and misshapen pieces of my own life, and I’m sure yours too, it can be difficult to envision anything beautiful coming out of it. Just like the pieces used in a mosaic, in the wrong hands, these pieces can be, at best, discarded trash, and at worst, jagged shards that can cause harm. But in the right hands, they can be fitted together into something beautiful.

These broken pieces are being expertly and lovingly placed into the beautiful mosaic God is creating in my life. But I have to remember that I’m not the center of the artwork, Jesus is. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV, emphasis added).

Forgetting whose image I am being conformed into (Romans 8:29) makes it easy to become disappointed with what I see being created. Isaiah 45:9 says, “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (ESV).

Like my fourth-grade self, I can’t always see the full picture of what God is accomplishing in my life. I can become so focused on the one little section that looks like a mess of mismatched pieces. But I’m so thankful that the Master Artist knows the vision and sees where each piece fits.

Quieting the Noise

I am an introvert and a homebody by nature. So when the pandemic began and we were all put under stay-at-home orders, it was like a dream come true: You mean, the government is telling me to stay away from other people and I get to be home all day without anyone thinking it’s weird?!

But as the stay-at-home order was extended, I found myself battling loneliness. This is not really an emotion I’ve struggled with in the past. Sure, I’ve had my moments, as we all do. But this time has been different. And as you may recall from a previous post, we had an uninvited guest in our home. Suddenly, my place of security was not only lonely, but it felt unsafe.

When I first started living by myself, I struggled a lot with fear when I was home alone. I would practically barricade myself in my room, not leaving it until morning.  The pandemic and mouse sent me back to that very bad place.

A quiet house became scary to me. So I became pretty good at avoiding the quiet. I would constantly have some distraction going, whether it was music or TV. And if I wanted to paint a “spiritual” face on it, I’d listen to a Bible teaching. But all of it was to avoid the quiet.

But what if this loneliness isn’t a curse, but a call from God to my heart? What if being in a place of isolation isn’t a punishment, but an opportunity to remember where true comfort is found? Second Corinthians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (ESV).

Paul, speaking about the hardships he and Timothy faced said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received a sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV). I won’t be so dramatic as to say I “despaired of life itself.” But there have been times when I’ve wondered how I would make it through the day. I love how Paul says that they were put in their predicament so that they could learn to rely on God. In the same way, I choose to believe that God has allowed this time of being set apart for a greater purpose.

So I’m learning not to avoid the silence. I’m learning to quiet the distractions so that I can hear what the Holy Spirit wants to speak to my heart during this season. This mean less TV and an extended break from social media. It means, being comfortable enough to sit quietly, without background noise, and wait for God to come visit with me. It also means more time digging into the Word.

It’s still a little scary to have so much quiet time on my hands. But I’m hopeful that this is a season of preparation for whatever God has for me next.

When fear is the loudest voice you hear

I set out to write a very different post today. I had a plan and a schedule. And then life happened. I had hoped to tell this story on the other side of victory, but I’m struggling to get there.

You see, we had a minor mouse problem. For some, this may be a small thing. But for me, it’s been paralyzing. I always knew I wasn’t a fan of furry little critters that belong outdoors. But it wasn’t until I had to deal with one in my own home that I realized how incredibly afraid I am. I know it’s irrational. But here we are.

Can I be honest? I have had to fight against feeling let down by God. I’ve found myself questioning Him, “Why this? Why now? With everything else that I’ve been through, can’t I just get a break?” I even told a friend, “This feels more stressful to me than my divorce.”

I find myself easily believing the lie of the enemy that says God is either impotent or indifferent. I should know better. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in more ways than I can count. But yet here I am trying to combat these age-old lies.

I wish I had a magic bullet for these moments of doubt. But the only way I know to silence fear is to actively oppose the lies of the enemy. And the only way I know how to do that is with the Word of God. So for my sake and yours, I’m going to share the truth of who God is.

  1. He’s a promise keeper. Joshua 21: 44-45 says, “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (ESV, emphasis added). God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you read the book of Joshua, you can see the fulfillment of that promise. But I don’t need to look much further than my own life to see that God is a promise keeper. He promised, “I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). That’s a promise I have walked out. I remember when I was meeting with a lawyer regarding my divorce. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing by meeting with someone. I was afraid and confused. But it was as if God sat with me and took my hand and guided me through the choices I had to make. His promise to never leave me was so palpable in that moment.
  2. He loves me. All I need to do is remind myself of the cross to remember that I am loved more than I deserve to be. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believers in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV). Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (ESV). Not only does God love me, He sent His Son to this broken world so that He could understand and empathize with me. If I can hold on to this truth, I won’t ever believe the lie that God is indifferent to me or my pain.
  3. He’s in control. God is sovereign, which means He’s in control of everything that happens to me. I’ve heard it said like this: “Anything good or bad, must pass through His fingers first. There are no accidents with God” (Dr. Tony Evans). Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows” (ESV). Lamentations 3:37-38 says, “Who do you think spoke it and it happened? It’s the Master who gives such orders. Doesn’t the High God speak everything, good things and hard things alike, into being?” (MSG). He uses all of it, good and bad, for our good and His glory. Which leads to my next fact about God.
  4. He is working all things for my good. The Bible is full of examples where things looked pretty bleak and as if somehow God wasn’t working. One of my favorites is the story of Joseph. It seemed that everything in his life was working against him. But I love what he says at the end of his story, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV). The Resurrection is another example. I can only imagine how hopeless the disciples felt after Jesus had died on the cross. I’m sure those three days felt like an eternity. But just as He promised, Jesus rose again. Once again, a dark and seemingly hopeless situation was miraculously turned around for the blessing of those involved and the glory of God. An often quoted verse is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). In my younger days, I always thought this meant, “God will make your life good.” But that’s not what this verse is saying. It’s not saying that everything I encounter will be something good. But it does promise that it will bring good out of my life. Verse 29 goes on to say, “For those whom he foreknew he predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (ESV). I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a greater good than for everything I walk through in life, good and bad, to conform me into the likeness of Christ.

I wish I could write and tell you I’m not afraid anymore. But what I can say is that I know God is working on my behalf. I feel less afraid now than I did a few hours ago. And I know I will be okay as I continue to rehearse for myself the truth about who God is and who I am to Him.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑