Afraid of the Dentist

Mark 4:37-41...And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  And He Himself [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.”  And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, “Why are you so timid?  How is it that you have no faith?”  And they became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Please forgive me, all of you in the field of dentistry.  I fear (to the point of a phobia) going to see the dentist.  I go only when pain or problem drives me to submit myself to this unpleasant experience.  I am more afraid of the dentist than I am of the pain in my jaw.  On top of the discomfort, you have to pay for the privilege!  Don’t write to me--I do go when I have to, sweat pouring and blood pressure elevated.  God bless the person who came up with sedation dentistry.  Knock me out, fix me, then wake me up.

The disciples were a little like me.  Notice that they were “timid” about the storm, enough so that they woke Jesus.  But after He calmed the storm, they were “very much afraid” of this amazing person who controlled the wind and sea.  They were more afraid of this Jesus than they had been of the storm!

After all that this crew had been through together, and after months and years of watching and listening to this unique Man, the disciples still didn’t grasp fully who He was.  With each new miracle He performed, they became more awe-struck, and often fearful of such power.  So don’t feel less “spiritual” if you don’t always understand what God is doing in your life.  His closest followers didn’t even get it sometimes.

Hang in there!  Marvel at His wonders, trust in His power, and lean on His strength.  Oh, and brush twice daily, and floss only the teeth you want to keep. J

Father, You are an amazing, awesome, powerful God.  Help us to marvel at Your works, not fear them.  When our faith is weak, please step in with Yours.  Please calm our storms and ease our fears.  We thank You from the bottom of our timid hearts.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Proven Storm-Calmer.  Amen.

 

 Lois Lang, freelance writer for jennifercadamore.com

Extravagant Lord

...[Andrew said to Jesus] “There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves, and two fish; but what are these for so many people?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about 5,000.  Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.  And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.”  And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left by those who had eaten.  John 6:9-13

As I sat through a class on parenting, one of the speaker’s points really caught my attention and has stuck with me through all my years as a mom.  He said, “Nothing you do for a child is wasted.”

In reading the “loaves and fishes” story, isn’t this just like our Lord Jesus?  He knew the people were tired from following Him around and standing for hours on end, so He provided a soft, grassy place to sit and relax.  He also knew they were hungry, and wanted to feed them.  He was able to take those five loaves and two fish and feed 5,000 men.  After His giving of thanks, He was able to stretch that meager meal into enough food to fill everybody up, with basketfuls left over.  But He did not let the leftovers go to waste--He had the disciples gather up what was not eaten.  Twelve baskets full were left, from what wouldn’t even cover the bottom of one basket!  Jesus was (and still is) extravagant in His giving, but He’s never wasteful.

Yes, our God is extravagant.  Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.”  And we are reassured in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things [food, clothing, life] shall be added to you.”  Extravagant, yes.  Wasteful, no.  Nothing He does for His children is wasted.

Father, thank You for Your extravagance, for the innumerable blessings You shower us with day after day.  And we really don’t deserve a single one of them.  Yet You love us, and through the shed blood of Your Son You see us as perfect.  Help us to recognize and appreciate what You have done for us, and what You continue to do.  Thank You for meeting our needs.  We love You and want to bring You glory, for You alone are worthy.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, our Savior.  Amen.

Wisdom Shouts

Proverbs 1:20-23...Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity?  And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?  Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”

 

How do we miss it?  Why are we not all full of godly wisdom?  I know that almost daily I include in my prayers a request for wisdom.  As I sit quietly at my desk requesting wisdom, Wisdom is shouting in the streets, in the square, at the entrance gate.  It’s like I’m sitting down at table and praying earnestly for a bit of food, when there is already a banquet laid out right in front of me.  Wisdom is not hiding, or obscure, or hard to find.  She is out in the open, yelling to get anyone’s attention, and promising to pour out her spirit on us.

She also grieves for us.  She cannot understand why we prefer naiveté and scoffing and ignorance.  She continues to try to get our attention, to save us from our stupid selves.  She knows the result of living a life without wisdom, and yearns to deliver us from that fate.

Yes, pray for wisdom from God--then get into a position to receive it!  Wisdom “shouts” from God’s Word, from godly preachers, from trusted friends, from prophets and teachers.  Hear the shouts, and respond.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get smarter!

 

Heavenly Father, we do seek Your wisdom.  Forgive us for not hearing Wisdom shouting all around us.  Help us to hear it and live it and share it.  No good gift does the Father withhold from His children--thank You.  Wisdom is a very precious gift, and we are grateful for it.  Thank You for Your patient love.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Faithful Witness.  Amen.

Unless I Had Believed

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13

In chatting with a new friend at church, she (knowing I was a widow) asked when my husband had died.  I told her my first husband died in 2000, and my second husband died in 2008.  She was aghast at hearing that I had suffered the loss of not one, but two husbands, and she asked, “How did you get through it all?”  I was able to answer her that God had been (and still is) my strength and my comfort.  Her husband had just undergone some serious heart issues, and she said she had been faced with the fact that her husband may die and she would be left alone, and she was unsure what she would do without him.  I didn’t have any magic answers for her.  All I could tell her was, “You will do all right.  You love God, and He certainly loves you, and He will lead you through whatever you face, day by day, sometimes minute by minute, gently upholding you.  You will hurt, and you will grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).”  That seemed to reassure her a bit, for which I am so glad.  She is a dear woman of God, and my heart goes out to her as she ponders how to handle what life throws at her at this stage of her life.

I was blessed to have had two wonderful men in my life to love.  Yes, I still grieve, and yes, I still hurt.  But I do not despair, because I believe--in God, who is my strength and my song, and who has become my salvation (Psalm 118:14).

Dear loving Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing us with very special people in our lives, who loved us and whom we loved.  But because the love was so good, it hurts so much to have them gone from our earthly lives.  We know they are safe with You, and for that we are so grateful.  But we miss them here.  Please wrap your strong arms around us and give us comfort and strength and peace.  Thank You that because we believe, we need not despair.  We love You, and worship You, and thank You.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life.

Plow Straight

Luke 9:57-62...And as they [disciples and Jesus] were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  And He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.”  But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I grew up on a farm in northeast Ohio, in the time before women’s lib and equal opportunity became part of our society.  In those days, women did women’s work, and men did men’s work.  My dad ascribed to that for the most part, but he did let us womenfolk do a few of the more “manly” chores--we could feed cattle, run the tractor to rake or bale hay, grind feed.  But there were some tasks that were “men only”:  driving tractor on the road, forking silage, planting crops, cultivating those same crops, and--most important--plowing.  Dad was hesitant even to let my older brothers plow.  The furrows had to be straight, and it took an experienced hand at the wheel to make that happen.  To plow straight, you had to find a spot ahead of you in the distance and aim for it, fixing your eyes firmly on that spot.  If you looked anywhere other than at your target spot, you would jeopardize your straight line.

Jesus knew this.  Even if, as in those days, you were pushing the plow by hand or dragging it behind a horse, you had to focus on what was ahead.  If you turned, your plowing was spoiled.  Look what happened to Lot’s wife, when she turned to look back at the home she was leaving.  She turned into a pillar of salt.  Jesus Himself, just a few verses before these, “when the days were approaching for His ascension, He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  He did not waver, even when tempted to by His own followers.  He had His focus, and nothing was going to cause Him to deviate from His goal.  His furrow was straight.

Lord, we are bombarded on all sides with temptations and diversions.  Help us to fix our focus on You, and to head straight for You.  Help us to forget what lies behind us, and to reach for what You have ahead for us.  Please forgive us when we plow a little crooked.  Help us to get back on track, and to press on.  We pray in the Name of Jesus, who resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem despite knowing what He would have to endure.  Amen. 

I'll Carry That For You

I have a tendency to be extremely frugal.  Okay, I’ll admit it—I’m cheap.  I want to get the most for my money, so I shop    carefully.  For instance, I buy dog food in the 50# bag, because the price is usually much better than buying smaller bags.  This has not been a problem until lately.  For some reason, those 50# bags seem a whole lot heavier than they used to be.  It’s not a problem at the store—there’s always a helpful person who carries the bag out and puts it in my car for me.  But when I get home, it’s just me and a large awkward heavy bag.  I have to get it down the hill to the house, and then to the basement.  Angie, the beloved dog for whom I go through all this, does her bouncy enthusiastic best to cheer me on as I carry/drag/roll the bag to its spot.  I know she’d carry it for me if she could (although she’d probably have it half eaten before she got it to the basement).

Lugging around all this stuff that seems to get heavier and heavier as time passes made me think of Jesus.   He said in Matthew 11:28-30,Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I don’t know about you, but this old lady likes the idea of a lighter burden.

So whether your burden is dog food or despair, He is with you to carry the burdens you cast on Him (because He cares for you—1 Peter 5:7).

Prayer:  Lord, You are so good to me.  You let me cast all my cares and burdens on You, and in exchange You give me love and a lighter burden.  How do I thank You for such a wonderful gift?  I am in awe of, and so grateful for, Your amazing love.  Amen.

 

Grab A Spoon

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”  (The rest of Psalm 34 is pretty good, too—why not just read it all?)

 With summer weather, I enjoy eating cool, sweet, refreshing ice cream.  Don’t you?  But don’t let me kid you—I enjoy ice cream no matter what the weather!  Or the time!  Or the flavor!  My favorite is vanilla, followed closely by butter pecan.  Even more special is a big dish of vanilla with a decadent dollop of butterscotch sauce and a handful of chopped nuts sprinkled on the top.  Maximum yum!  But if I don’t grab a spoon and dig in, that bowl of frozen confection might as well be sawdust.

God’s Word is like that sundae—He’s prepared something wonderful for us, and graciously served it to us, but we have to “grab our spoon,” so to speak, and dig in.  And not just His Word—He’s prepared salvation for us, ready for the asking.  And there is the life He’s promised, and the benefits He’s provided, and the plans He’s made for us—all ours.  Yes, all ours, but useless if we don’t respond.  I don’t know about you, but whether it’s ice cream or God, I’ve got my spoon in hand and my bib tied around my neck, ready to indulge wholeheartedly and enthusiastically!  And gratefully.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do love ice cream, You know that.  But even more, I love You, and I thank You for preparing and “serving” me Your Word, Your salvation, Your blessings, peace, and joy.  Help me to participate fully in all You have provided for me.  It’s all so very good. In the name of Your Son, and my Lord, Amen.

Prayers and Pecans

Philippians 1:3-6I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Each morning I pray after a little Bible reading, and there are certain people, mostly family members, that I pray for every day.  I don’t want to forget any of those folks especially dear to me, so I have memorized the “basic list” of those for whom I pray.  It’s not hard for me to add a name or two as the Lord nudges me.  The hard part comes when a name has to come off the list.  I noticed it after the passing of my mother-in-law.  She was a very special lady in my life, and I miss her dearly.  I’m pretty sure it was her prayers for me that got God’s attention and got me saved!  Plus, she and her husband raised a Godly man with whom I spent nearly thirty amazing years.  Those are just two of the “big” things for which I loved her.  There were also innumerable little ways she demonstrated her love, like how she always had black olives and pecans on hand when I visited, because she knew I liked them.

She’s been home with her Lord for almost a year now, and yet her name still pops up between Kay and Jeanette if I’m not paying strict attention.  When that happens, I just praise God for Mary Ellen being such a positively influential part of my life.  And I’m pretty sure there will be pecans and black olives on that great Heavenly banquet table, if she has anything to do with it!

Prayer:  Lord, You have filled my life with so many wonderful people—people who have loved me and prayed for me and discipled me.  May You reward them all, and bless them all, as only You can.  And I ask that You help me to be a blessing to those around me, whether by prayer or kind words or a hug or even a bowl of pecans.  Thank You, Lord.  In the Name of the One who loved best, Amen.