There is an adorable little girl in our church. We love her so much. She is around 4 years old, and she is the cutest little thing you have ever seen. There is a small problem, though. She is undisciplined, so she can get into trouble quicker than you can catch her to stop her. One of the nasty habits she has picked up is rummaging through other people's bags at church. We guard our pocket books closely because if we don't we will find her wandering around the church carrying our sunglasses, water bottles, or wallets.
I have chosen to use the opportunity to teach her authority and respect for the property of others. When she goes to reach in my bag, with a firm but loving voice I say, "Dina, no. That's mine." Inevitably, she reaches in the bag again every time. I grab her hand, firmly push it away, and again say, "Dina, no. That's not yours. That's mine." Sometimes I will bring things to share with her like a toy. I will wait until she is looking and then I will reach in my bag. I grab the toy and give it to her. "Dina, here. Take this. You may play with this."
Sometimes she gets a pen from someone's bag. As I am sitting in church, I turn to see the young girl wielding the mighty object of destruction. With a songbook as her coloring book, the young child happily makes her mark in the world. I jump up and take pen and book from her. "No, Dina. That's not good." She must learn to take care of other people's things.
She is learning, but it will take time. She is worth the effort.
Psalm 24:1 "The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."
I am sometimes am just like Dina more than I realize.
Everything in the earth is the Lord's. It all belongs to Him. Sometimes I want to take things that are His, and He says, "No." I get upset and keep trying because I really want it. He continues to push my hand away and says, "No. That's mine and you may not have it." Honestly, I really would love a dishwasher, endless supply of cheddar cheese, Krispy Kreme donuts, and vehicles that never break down. I would love my oldest child sitting at the Thanksgiving table, and to hear my Dad's voice once more. But those things belong to God. He has chosen to say, "No, you may not have it." Do I keep grabbing at those things like Dina grabbing in my bag?
Sometimes He lets me have some things to "play" with. They are still His, though. Sometimes He finds me destroying His property and not taking care of it like I should. I think of my time. It's actually His time because I belong to Him. Sometimes I waste time. Much like Dina coloring in the hymnal, I abuse His property of time.
I think of my husband and children. They really don't belong to me. They belong to Him. Am I treating them with the respect I should? I would never color in the church hymnals, but do I color on the hearts of my family with my words?
I think of the home He has allowed me to live in. Am I taking care of it? Am I using it for His glory?
I think of the ministry. It's not my ministry. It's His. Do I give my best? Do I do damage to His ministry with my actions?
The "fulness" of the earth is His. That means whatever is in the earth belongs to Him. Do I respect His property? Do I take without permission? Do I damage His property?
Just as I think Dina is worth the time and effort to train, God also thinks that of me. I want to be teachable.
Years ago when we lived in the States, we owned a house. It was an old home that took a lot of work to get it looking nice. We added a master bedroom suite, remodeled the kitchen and main bathroom, added a deck, changed the siding, and more. One day a huge storm came through the area. There was thunder and lightning. There was also hail-- very large hail. It pounded our roof and damaged the shingles. When the storm was finished, my husband knew we better act fast in getting the shingles replaced. If it rained, there was a possibility of water damage from a leaky roof. We called the insurance company, and then we called a roofing company. The roof was replaced and our house was ready for the next storm.
A few years ago, our family faced a different type of storm. Its impact was intense. We endured a major earthquake of 7.8 magnitude. Our family faced months of rescue and recovery efforts. The physical, emotional, and spiritual strain began to take its toll on our family. We were drained. We needed to be restored desperately. It was at that point we chose to take a time away from ministry for a couple of weeks. We knew that if we faced another storm at that moment, we would not be ready. The potential for serious damage was greatly increased in our weakness. Just like when we took the time to replace the roof on our house years before, we took the time for repairing ourselves and our family. Just like we could not replace our roof on our house ourselves (we had to call a roofing company), we also could not repair the damage done during the storm of the earthquake. We had to call out for help.
Storms in life can drain us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Lord refreshes us physically.
Psalm 23:2 "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."
He knows when we need physical rest.
The Lord restores us emotionally.
Psalm 23:3 "He restoreth my soul..."
Storms in life can leave us emotionally drained, raw, or even numb. He knows how to heal it.
The Lord revitalizes us spiritually.
Psalm 23:3 "... he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
He can get us back on the right path when spiritually we become weary in well doing during a storm.
Why is it so important to make sure these areas are well maintained? Why do we need to take the time to inspect the damage from storms? Why do we need to take it so seriously? Because the next storm may be just around the corner.
Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
The fact is that there are storms in life. How do we get through them? How do we survive? In our own strength? That would be like my husband and I climbing on the roof of our home and replacing the roof ourselves. I can promise you that if we replaced a roof, when the next storm came the house would be a disaster! No, the only way to survive storms is to call in the Professional. He prepares us for the storms of life and then leads us through the storms of life. (I will fear no evil: for thou art with me!)
As you go through storms, pay attention to the condition of your "roof." If you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually drained, go to the One who restores. Do not delay. Get alone with Him. Take time to be refreshed, restored, and revitalized. Prepare for the next storm. And when that storm comes, don't fear. He is with you.
There is something I miss more than I thought I would.
When we moved here, we knew life would be very different than in the States, but there are some aspects of life in the States that we just didn't realize are a large part of our culture and habits until we didn't have access to those things.
(I know. Silly to miss that, eh?)
As a mom, no matter what country I live in at the time, I am busy. In the States when I was busy on the go running errands, it was nice to drive up to a fast food window and order something. I really liked the pharmacy drive-thru window. When you have a sick kid with you it sure is handy not to have to get out of the car. But here? The closest I have to a drive-thru window is my fruit lady's little roadside shop. I can pull over to the side of the road and call out, "Can you grab me a dozen bananas?" She is kind enough to save me from having to get out of the car or off the scooter, and she delivers the bananas three whole steps across the sidewalk. I love my fruit lady drive-thru "window."
Psalm 23:2 "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."
The fact is, we can't always lie down in green pastures. There are times when we need to stop everything and rest, but the majority of the time we must be busy about the Father's business. How can we find rest and peace when we are always on the go? We have dishes to wash, mouths to feed, floors to sweep, shopping, and teaching Sunday school. It's not like there is a drive-thru window where we can pull up and order rest and peace to go. Or is there?
Actually, there is! That's what this verse is talking about. Sometimes we lie down and find rest and peace. Other times we are on the go, and we can still find rest and peace. The key is following where He leads. He takes us beside the still, quiet, peaceful waters. There is rest and peace when we follow His lead. Our problem is that we get ahead of Him, or we veer off on a path He isn't leading us down. When we stay right there with Him, letting Him lead, we can rest peacefully knowing that no matter what the terrain looks like around us, those still waters are right there. He will take care of us.
Do you feel like the waters are raging around you? Instead of still waters do you hear the gushing of whitewater rapids? Do you have the busy, on-the-go life and you struggle to find the still waters as you go? Check to see how closely you are following the Shepherd's lead. It may be that you are trying to lead. It may be that you have veered down the wrong path. It may also be that you have forgotten to roll down your window and order a Rest Combo Meal, Biggy Sized with a side order of Peace from the Still Waters drive-thru window. It's there for the asking if you are following His lead and trusting Him.
He leadeth me beside the still waters... are we following?
If you were to be able to be a fly on the wall in my home, one thing you would notice is that from the moment I get up I am a flurry of activity. I think I resemble an out-of-control pinball zipping back and forth. I got that from my Dad, I think. He was very much the same way. The best way to describe us is fireballs of energy always on the go. By the time lunch rolls around, I usually have checked off dozens of items on my to-do list.
That's just my average Monday before lunch to-do list. Like I said... flurry of activity. The after lunch list is just as crazy. The most difficult thing for me is to be forced to sit and do nothing. Last year when I had to have my pacemaker installed (yes, I have a pacemaker at age 40!) the first thing I asked the doctor wasn't "How dangerous is this?" or "How long will I be in the hospital?" My question was, "When can I start running again?"
Here's a problem, though. We have a tendency to equate this flurry of activity and long to-do lists with spirituality. God puts a high value on learning to rest.
Psalm 23:2 "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."
Sometimes to get me to rest, God has to make me lie down. When I had the pacemaker put in and when I had my gall bladder removed are good examples. Sometimes I struggle to hear His voice when He says, "Go lie down." I am more like Martha than Mary. I am Martha on overdrive. I don't usually complain about not having help. I enjoy the work, but sometimes I forget God wants me to stop and rest at His feet. Why? I have to admit that sometimes my truck load of a to-do list is a source of pride. I am a highly productive person, and it makes me feel spiritual, important, and useful. I equate productivity with spirituality. When my husband asks me how my day was, my day is judged on how productive I was. If my to-do list was accomplished I smile big and say, "It was productive!"
Yet Jesus praised Mary's choice to sit at His feet. He didn't have to force Mary to sit still. She chose to lie down in green pastures.
Luke 10:42 "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Me? He seems to repeatedly have to physically make me lie down. I am that crazy sheep in the pasture running around sweeping up leaves, inventorying the blades of grass, bopping from sheep to sheep asking how their meal is, checking the sun in the sky to see what time it is, and preparing for when it's time to move again.
All the while, the Shepherd, in His kindness and wisdom, is saying, "Rest!"
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Don't equate productivity with spirituality. Spirituality is following the Shepherd's lead. When He says work, it's time to work. When He says rest, lie down!
My son moved back to the States in July. That left his bedroom available to create a guestroom. I have never had a guestroom before, so this was pretty exciting. We host a lot of people in our home throughout the year including nationals, foreigners, and visiting Pastors. Having a room dedicated to housing them is perfect!
We cleaned out my son's room. That was no small task! I bet there was three pounds of popcorn kernels. I organized the wardrobe with bedding, towels, and washcloths. Then on top of the wardrobe was a collection of blankets that needed to be organized. Since we house a lot of people, and since our house is not heated in the winter, we had accumulated many blankets.
Oh how pleasant it is to see God's provision!
Psalm 23:1 "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."
I shall not want! I will not lack anything. The blessings of God were overflowing in our home in the form of blankets.
A few weeks later, I was speaking with someone. I knew it would be there first winter here so I just bluntly asked if they were ready for it. They were not. They were in need of blankets. As I thought about our abundance of blankets at home, I realized that I had "built bigger barns."
Imagine a farmer. It's harvest season, and he has an amazing crop ready to be harvested. It's way more than he needs this year and next year, and it is even too much for his barns to store. So what does he do? Does he build bigger barns and hoard it all for him and his family? Or does he choose to be a funnel for the Lord? A funnel passes on the blessings.
So here we were with our abundance of blankets. We have so many blankets that we have blankets downstairs just so we don't have to walk upstairs to get our other blankets. We have blankets for warmer months and blankets for colder months. We have blankets of different colors in case I want to change the color of the bedding to make it more decorative. So I had a choice... bigger barns or funnel of love?
1 John 3:17 "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
The Shepherd's provision is amazing and abundant. We are blessed! There is no shame in that. That's something to be celebrated. I shall not want! God is really good to us! But how tightly do we cling to those blessings? It is good to plan for the future and to be prepared, but when we trust in our barns full of goods instead of trusting in God's provision we are doing wrong. Sometimes God blesses us abundantly so that we can minister to the needs of others.
The Lord really is my Shepherd and I shall not want. Neither shall I hoard and close up my bowels of compassion.