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

Best Laid Plans

Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It’s printed on coffee mugs, T-shirts, and inspirational journals. I’ve even written on it in this blog. Isn’t it such a comforting verse? But sometimes, I think we miss the point.

As I’ve shared before, this verse is part of a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to the Babylonian exiles. The exiles had been carted off to Babylon, all the while thinking they would be returning home soon. They were making their plans, much like we all did when 2020 began. Like many of you, I made goals and plans for this year. And also like many of you, a global pandemic, violent protests, earthquakes and fires were not part of that plan.

The exiles felt as I’m sure we’ve all felt: “This isn’t going to last. We’ll be back to our lives in no time.” But this letter from Jeremiah arrests them of the idea of a quick return to normal. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to give up on the idea of “normal.”

It’s hard to give up the plans we’ve made. I’ve seen many of my dreams, plans, and expectations go unfulfilled. It’s really disappointing. I’m sure the exiles felt that same disappointment in learning they weren’t returning home for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).

Isn’t it funny how when we normally hear Jeremiah 29:11, it’s rarely in the context of disappointed expectations? But that’s exactly where it fits. You see, the comfort in this verse is not in the promise of good things, even though that is very comforting. The comfort is in the promise that even when our lives aren’t going according to plan, God has plans for us that are even better than anything we can imagine.

Letting go of our plans and expectations is never easy. But we can take comfort knowing that even when our plans go awry, God’s plans for us are right on schedule, no matter how it looks.

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).

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.

Higher Ground

You know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? It’s a phrase that is often used to describe a myopic point of view. Sometimes, we are too close to a situation to be able to see clearly.

In a recent battle with anxiety, which makes everything feel too close and overwhelming, I was reminded of Psalm 61:2, “From the end of the earth I will cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (NKJV). I’ve heard this verse many times. And it’s always given me comfort. But it wasn’t until recently that I truly understood it.

In a spiritual battle, we need to gain perspective. We need to see things from God’s point of view. From our vantage, we may not be able to see a way forward. We may only see the “trees of the forest.” That’s a common ploy of our enemy. He likes to bombard us with things that distract us from seeing the bigger picture of what God is doing. His tactics are designed to cause us to lose focus on God’s promises. But if we just let God lead us to “the rock that is higher” than we are–Jesus–we will gain a whole new outlook.

aerial photo of winding road
Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

I’m reminded of the Old Testament story of Elisha’s servant. “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15 ESV). Seeing with his natural eyes, Elisha’s servant couldn’t see any way of escape. But Elisha had a different view of the situation: “He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17).

We must always remember, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b ESV). When we are facing a battle and it seems like the enemy will overwhelm us, let’s ask God to lead us to higher ground, to get a clearer viewpoint. Then we can see that what looked impossible for us, is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).

 

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

It’s been a tough couple of days. I’ve disappointed myself and been disappointed by others. I’ve felt overlooked and underappreciated by people. And I’ve found myself believing that God too had forgotten to notice me.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God sees me. It’s easy to feel invisible to the Creator of the Universe, especially when I perceive some injustice or unfair treatment by others. But the truth is, God sees me. He sees my struggles, my pain, my good days and bad days. He sees it all! I received a beautiful reminder of this today.

I  had taken a break at work and gone outside to warm my bones and clear my head. I sat in my normal spot, enjoying the view and soaking up the sun. As I was sitting, I noticed quite a few little birds flitting from tree to tree, singing their happy, carefree tune. I have sat in this spot a half dozen times, but I’ve never seen so many little birds. I’ve seen butterflies and crows, even a colony of ants. But never these birds and certainly not as many as I saw today. So I decided to enjoy the scene and their sweet song. As I was watching them, the Lord reminded me of two verses:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26 ESV, emphasis added).

“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” (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV, emphasis added).

In both of these verses, Jesus makes it clear that we, you and I, are more valuable to our Heavenly Father than the birds. And yet He sees each one of them, provides for them and even notices if one falls to the ground. How much more does He see me, care for me and provide?

The rest of the world may not take notice of me. I may be easily forgotten by those around me. But God has never ignored me and He never will. Even when He seems quiet, I can be assured that I have His attention.

As the old song says:
Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant Friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me
(His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Civilla D. Martin)

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