In Tears.

I have often said that God must have a whole room for the bottles and bottles and bottles of tears I have cried… it seems I’ve cried that much in my lifetime so far.

But today, studying Psalm 126, my heart and mind were encouraged.

“He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him”. (v6)

Through all the frustrations. The disappointments. The discouragements. The times of feeling hopeless. The times I’ve wanted to give up and quit. The times I didn’t think I could make it, or even wanted to make it. The times my dreams were shattered. The times I failed.

I still had something. Something important.

Inside of me was a desire to know God and to share Him with others.

A seed.

Yes. Life is hard. No. Things don’t always work out how I wanted or thought they should. People are mean. Situations are bad. Things can be very ugly at times.

You cry. Sometimes you cry bitterly and desperately. You hurt.

But don’t lose your seed.

Don’t lose the desire for God and the desire to keep doing good. Don’t lose the desire to serve Him and to serve others. Don’t lose the treasure He has planted inside of you.

You may sow with buckets and buckets of tears.

But He promises that you will reap in joy!

Healthy Body. Healthy Spirit.

My blood pressure was a bit too high a few weeks ago at the doctor office. And by bit I mean it was a lot too high. He gave me medication which I decided not to take… at least not yet… I prefer to try and control it with diet and exercise. I decided I needed to get back to my clean eating regimen. I used to do really well, but it’s easy to let myself slip.

“You worked out hard today… you deserve that burger and fries”.

“You’ve have a tough day… go ahead and eat that candy bar”.

But you do that too many times without stopping to count the calories in versus the calories out, and it’s easy to let a few pounds creep on.

And as I get older, those pounds come on quickly and take forever to go away.

So, I’ve made myself become more diligent about what I eat, how much I eat, and the ingredients of my food. I lean toward the Mediterranean Diet which is less “diet” and more about clean eating and being heart healthy. As a result, I’ve been trying a lot of new foods, like tonight’s dinner. Ravioli with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, and capers. It was very good. My girls wouldn’t even try it. They said no to everything on the ingredient list.

Our spiritual lives, if we are not careful, can pack on a lot of weight too. We can carelessly digest bitterness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and all kinds of unhealthy things when we become lax in our efforts.

“Well, they shouldn’t have acted that way toward me first”.

“It’s ok to watch this stuff online, nobody knows and I’m that only one it affects anyway.”

“I can’t help it… it’s just the way I am”.

And we pack on the pounds. Heaviness that weighs us down and depresses our spirits.

We must be diligent about our spiritual lives. We must be diligent in prayer and spending time in the Word, and putting ourselves in places where we are encouraged and taught and lifted up spiritually. We must watch what we allow ourselves to see, hear, think, and speak. Our soul and our eternal life is at stake. We must be willing to try new things, learn new lessons, and feast on new revelations. Just because we’ve never heard it before and we’ve never seen God move that way before isn’t a good reason to not let Him be God in our lives that way now.

I believe with all my heart we should take care of ourselves physically. Being in shape and losing weight isn’t quick and easy. Everybody wants a magic solution to go to bed tonight and wake up skinny and muscular tomorrow. My experience is that it takes work, diligence, and effort. It isn’t quick or easy and once you achieve a level, you have to work to maintain it. Our spiritual man demands the same attention. We have to be dedicated and diligent, putting in our time and effort, giving ourselves over to prayer, studying, and fasting. Keeping ourselves in His presence so that we can continually eat the right foods from His table.

Sometimes the Storm Wins.

Sometimes when you rush to make it work, you really only make it worse. I am bad about this because when stuff starts going wrong, I want to make it right and I want it to be right, right now. Not tomorrow or next week. Now.

On one of Paul’s many travels, they set sail with fair skies and smooth sailing conditions. But the weather changed abruptly. They found themselves right in the middle of a northeaster, with typhoon strength winds. The sailors were unable to turn the boat the way they wanted, so they gave up and let the wind drive them. Continuing to battle the storm and attempt to turn the ship would not have produced any better or different results, it would have just worn them down, and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. The storm was too much, too overpowering.

Life comes like that some days.

It’s smooth sailing, fair skies, and things are going well.

Until all of a sudden, something abruptly changes. A doctor’s report we didn’t want to hear. A car wreck. A job is lost. A friend turns their back on us. Whatever it is, the storms of life come and they usually come when we aren’t expecting them. They come and they overpower us, overwhelm us, and overtake us.

Our prayer is God calm this storm. Stop this mess.

That may not always be the answer we receive.

The storm raged for Paul and the sailors for several days and the ship wrecked. But all the men on board lived. Not only did they all survive, they ended up on an island they had never planned to sail to. On that island, people were healed and their hearts changed to believe in God. When the time came to set sail again, the island people provided provisions and help to Paul and the men.

God doesn’t always fix the storm right away. We can try, but we usually only make things worse. Sometimes He lets us ride through the storm because He has a different plan and purpose that brings glory and honor to Him and grows our faith in the process. We have to learn to trust that He sees us and knows what we are going through and that He has us in His hands always. His plans for us are still good even when the storm is raging!

More Questions Than Answers…

The past few days, weeks, and months have brought about more questions than answers. Not just with what is going on the world… but personally too. So many people I know are struggling with how, why, and when. More questions than answers.

Job asked questions.

And for 37 chapters, God was silent.

While Job’s “friends” put him down and accuse him of all kinds of sins… to the point that Job calls them “miserable comforters”, God is silent.

And then God does answer Job.

He answers with questions. 77 questions.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Can you explain how the foundation is fastened and held together.

Where you there when I put the stars in the sky?

Or when I held back the sea and commanded it to stop from taking over the whole earth?

Can you send lightening?

Did you create anything in nature?

And can you explain how the life cycles in nature in exist?

Then it is Job’s turn to not have an answer.

The only way Job can finally respond, is to say…

“I know that you can do every thing and no purpose of yours can be withheld. I spoke words about things that I really didn’t understand. Your knowledge that is too high for me. I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Isaiah’s response to seeing a vision of God, high and lifted up, was to cry out that he was a man of unclean lips and he lived in midst of people with unclean lips.

Because who can really stand in the presence of Almighty God.

How is there any other imaginable response to God but to realize that He is God and we are not?

How can we do anything but submit to God’s will and His authority?

We may not have any of the answers… but we know the One who does!

But Why?

But why?

But why do I have to go to bed?
It’s not that late.

But why can’t I eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast?

But why do I have to load the dishwasher?
It’s unfair.

But why do I have to go to school?
I’m tired and I just want to sleep.

But why can’t I wear flip-flops?
It’s not that cold outside.

I found this journal entry I wrote several years ago when my kids were much smaller.

But why?

It’s a question all kids love to ask.

And, as parents we get frustrated and our response typically becomes something like “because I said so”. Otherwise we’d end up spending hours and hours explaining that they have to go to bed because their bodies need sleep. They need to go to school because they have to learn and get an education so they can better themselves in the future. They can’t eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast because it give them a sugar high that will cause them to crash and be sleepy in just a couple of hours. And, they can’t wear flip-flops when it’s snowing and ten degrees outside or they will find themselves with frostbitten toes.

Because I said so is just easier and cuts off additional questions.

But why?

But why God must I smile and be polite when that person was rude to me?

But why God must I pay my tithes and give when I was saving to buy something nice for myself?

But why God must I teach the children’s church?
They never listen anyway.

But why God must I step out in faith when you haven’t given me all the clear instructions yet?

It’s just an adult version of children’s questions. Things we are told to do that we don’t want to do and we look for a reason, an excuse, and a way to get out of it. We look for a way to get our own way.

As parents, we want to raise reliable, healthy, respectful, obedient adults who will make positive contributions to society.

God is raising His sons and daughters to be reliable, healthy, respectful, obedient adults who will make positive contributions to building His church.

Apparently when I explained that you can’t wear flip-flops when it’s ten degrees and snowing outside or you will end up with frostbite, my then five-year old replied with, “Well, can I still wear the flip-flops if I promise not to get frostbite?”.

Sounds like me sometimes. Trying to reason with God over what He’s told me to do. I wonder if He gets as frustrated with us as we get with our kids.

God help us to not lean to our understanding… and our wants and our desires and our wishes… but to trust You with our whole hearts and be willing to simply follow Your will.

Come Up Higher.

Have you ever watched someone climb a rope? Or a ladder? Or a pegboard. I can’t do it. I can go up a ladder, but only so far because I’m scared of heights… but a rope, not me. I can jump, grab it, hang on for a few seconds and that’s about it. You watch some of these athletes though and they are like monkeys scurrying up and down ropes and pegboards.

The thing about climbing up, is you have to be willing to let go. One hand must be free in order to reach up higher. Then, when you grasp with that hand, the other hand must be free to reach up even higher.

In order to get higher, you must first let go of where you are.

And, your hand must be empty. You cannot grab and hold onto the rope if your hand is holding onto something else. When they climb the pegboard, the only thing in their hands is the peg. You couldn’t securely hold onto the peg and move it in and out of the holes if you were trying to hold onto to other things as well. Your hands must be empty.

James urges us to draw nearer to God. To approach Him. To come higher. But so many times our hands are so full of stuff that we want to hold on to. We refuse to let go so that we can reach out and grab the next rung or reach up higher. So we are stuck there… hanging on for dear life because we don’t want to let go.

Heartache. Heartbreak. Discouragement. Disappointment. Hurt. Sickness. Addictions. Sin. Grief. Loss. Bad decisions.

We hold onto these things, but as long as they are in our hands, our hands aren’t useful for climbing.

Let them go.

Cleanse your hands.

Ascend higher.

Go further.

Be nearer.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” ~ James 4:8

This Isn’t Naked and Afraid.

TV contestant shows like Naked and Afraid are popular now-a-days. Something like Naked and Afraid is totally not for me. I am not even a big fan of camping. I like having a real potty, a real shower, and a real bed. I also like air-conditioning. I don’t like bugs, snakes, lizards, or other creepy crawly things. I like outdoors, but I also like to be able to come inside, clean up, and eat a meal in comfort away from wild animals that might want to make me a meal. I honestly don’t think I could survive in a wilderness by myself catching and cooking food… I just don’t have the survival skills necessary.

The contestants usually get to pick one item to take with them. How would you decide what was the most crucial? Some type of fire starter seems necessary. But so does a knife. And so do shoes. You could maybe make a pair of shoes with a knife. But then how would you start a fire? A fire sure would be nice to keep warm and keep animals away and cook whatever you found to eat, but how would you kill it without a knife? That’s where my lack of survival skill knowledge comes into play. I would never make it.

I wonder though, how the disciples felt when Jesus sent them out to witness and minister and told them to take nothing for their journey. He told them not to pack a bag, or food, or money. He told them not to take extra clothes or anything on their journey. Just go.

The original naked and afraid? Maybe. Almost.

He was sending them out to be completely reliant on Him. To trust Him that in every step of their journey He would provide. He would make sure they had food and shelter and clothing. He would keep them safe as they walked the roads and went from town to town sharing His love and His Word.

I know when I travel, I like to plan my route. I like to have an idea of where to stop to eat and use the restroom. I like to know I have enough gas and where I will be able to get gas and how many miles until the next gas station or rest area. I take clothes to sleep in and clothes for each day I’ll be gone. Most of the time I take extra clothes in case I change my mind about what I want to wear. I have a hair straightener, makeup, personal care supplies, and all kinds of other stuff I may or may not need. And, of course, if I have forgotten anything important, like my toothbrush, I can just run into what store is around and buy a usually overpriced one.

Imagine getting up one morning and packing nothing, getting no money out of the ATM, leaving your debit and credit cards behind and just walking. Forrest Gump starting on his run comes to mind. You have no idea what you will eat that day, when you will eat that day, or where you will sleep. You just go.

Into the wilderness.

With no supplies.

Almost like naked and afraid.

But instead of a camera crew filming you and ready to call in help for an emergency, you have something so much more powerful.

Because Jesus might have told them they didn’t need extra clothes and luggage and baggage weighing them down on their journey. He told them they didn’t need money and food. They didn’t need planned out, reserved in advance hotel rooms, or other things we think of as necessities. They only needed Him.

And, He gave them something so much greater than any of those material things.

He gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. What He put in them was so much greater than anything on them or around them. What they carried inside of them was so much greater than anyone or anything they were going to come into contact with or anything they could have possibly packed to carry with them.

Some days of our lives seem like we are walking into the wilderness with nothing. We’ve got problems and heartaches and situations that we have no answers for, no resources for, no supplies for, and no solutions for. We look around and we wonder how we can possibly survive. If only we had the knife instead of the fire starter. Or we wish we had the fire starter instead of the knife.

We need to walk with the same faith the disciples had.

They went.

They didn’t go grudgingly or whining. They didn’t complain about the lack of snacks or the temperature or the fact that their clothes were dusty and they needed a shower. (My hand is totally up on that one). They went with full faith knowing that what they were carrying was great. It was great and it was greatly needed by those they were being sent to. They went knowing that the same Jesus who they had seen do miracles had given them supernatural ability and power to overcome any obstacle they faced.

They didn’t go afraid.

They didn’t go naked.

They went clothed in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ because they knew that without faith they couldn’t be pleasing to God. They went in obedience and they went preaching and teaching and healing and sharing the good news with everyone.

Some days it seems hard to make it and we don’t know how or when or how we can possibly make it. You may be struggling and feel like you’re in a wilderness alone and without any resources. But know this… what is inside of you is greater than anything around you. Speak to and stir up the power that Jesus has put inside of you and keep walking, keep preaching, keep teaching, keep relying on Him, and He will see you through.

You may not know how… but you do know Who!

And you are never alone.

He goes with you.

I love Jesus. I also love CBD Oil.

When I bought my first bottle of CBD oil, I was afraid to tell anyone.

I am part of the ministry team at my church. I used to be the youth pastor. What will they say? What will they think? Will they accuse me of doing drugs? Should Christians even use CBD oil?

All these questions and more flooded my mind… so I kept quiet and silently started using this little bottle of oil that I had purchased.

From day one I noticed a difference.

I didn’t get high. I didn’t feel weird. I didn’t feel sick or jumpy or strange in any way.

I used to get like that. Jumpy and nervous and oddly feeling with a thumping heartbeat every time I tried to drink something labeled for “energy”. I remember the first and last time I tried Spark. I drank it at 6:00 am and at 10:00pm my heart still felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I can’t (and won’t) drink energy drinks. This oil didn’t make me feel that way. It didn’t give me any jitters. It didn’t make me nauseous or make me feel out of it. I used to get like that too, when I had to take Benedryl, or even Nyquil, to sleep.

I didn’t have a headache. I was used to having headaches. All day long. Sometimes I would take five, or ten, ibuprofen just to get the headaches to stop and go away.

I slept through the nights and noticed that I just felt better overall. Even after some of the hardest gym workouts, I might be sore… but I didn’t hurt. I wasn’t in pain with my knees or my back.

But I also didn’t want to tell anybody.

I have learned a lot about CBD oil, hemp, and marijuana since buying that first bottle.

I’ve learned that plants are grown and bred to either produce low or high levels of THC. While marijuana plants are groomed to produce high levels of the chemical that gets you high, hemp plants are groomed to have very low levels of tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC).

I’ve learned that the cannabis plant has over one hundred different unique compounds that are good for your body and your body’s endocannabinoid system. These different compounds, terpenes, and phytonutrients are good for your overall health. Your body is actually built to respond to them.

I’ve learned that your body has receptors and neurotransmitters throughout it that are stimulated by CBD. Stimulating these transmitters reduces pain sensation, decreases inflammation, and promotes homeostasis. You have receptors in your central nervous system, your immune system, your gastrointestinal system, your metabolism, your hormones, your muscles, and your bones… all designed to respond to CBD.

So, instead of asking if Christians should use CBD oil… shouldn’t we be asking…

Why aren’t Christians using CBD oil?

God, who created our bodies and knows everything about us inside and out, also created a plant that can treat our bodies naturally and help keep it functioning properly and healthy, and we are afraid to use it?

Yes. I know people smoke marijuana and get high.

People also use money to buy alcohol and get drunk. They use television and movies to showcase porn. They use music to promote violence and hate. People get online and quote scriptures in the name of Jesus all while trying to shame someone else into submission or convert them to their beliefs.

You can take anything good and use it for evil. People have been doing it for centuries… basically since the beginning of time. Our sinful nature and lusts and wicked hearts have been sinning for thousands and thousands of years, taking the good things God gave us and using them to fulfill ourselves and our pleasures and our wants and our longings.

My walk with Jesus is ultimately my walk. As long as I am walking and talking with Him, I want to do so in the best health possible. I try to eat healthy, workout, sleep, and take care of myself… but as I get older, I have found that different things happen to our bodies that we can’t control. Our metabolisms slow down. We stop producing as much of some hormones. Things change. Some of us have other problems with anxieties or worry. We live in a society that is good at promoting fear and stress. There are chemical imbalances, chronic pains, and other issues that some of us fight… and if a plant will help us live a better life… then we shouldn’t shun away from it simply because someone else chose to use that plant in the wrong way. That would be like me refusing to own a computer simply because someone else uses their computer to watch porn, or refusing to ride in a car because someone else chose to drive their car over the speed limit and cause an accident.

I believe as followers of Jesus we set an example with everything we do and say. Our actions and our words and our lives may be the only Bible some people read. I would rather them see me use a natural, plant based solution that helps to keep me healthy than to see me live in constant pain, struggling physically and mentally and emotionally. I want to be healthy so I can do more with Him and for Him until He comes or He chooses to bring me home. I choose to take a vitamin and a dose of CBD every day, go to the gym, eat as well as I can, and spend time reading and praying. I choose what goes into my body just like I choose what goes into my mind.

I am not ashamed to say I love Jesus. I am also not ashamed to say I love my CBD oil and I am a proud promoter and supporter of its use. You can check out my site and the products I use at www.thrivewithoil.com.

He Hears Your Cry.

“Then I heard the Lord speak in His holy splendor. From His sanctuary I heard the Lord promise: In my triumph I will be the One to measure out the portion of my inheritance to my people, and I will secure the land as I promised you.” ~ Psalm 60:6-7 (TPT).

Also Psalm 108:7-9 (TPT).

What?

If you read Psalm 60 and Psalm 108, you find the last few verses almost exactly, word for word, the same.

What is drastically different is how each Psalm begins.

In Psalm 60, David is fighting a great battle. This Psalm was written while he was in the middle of a battle and his outcome still uncertain. David starts the Psalm with “God, it seems like You walked off and left us! Why have you turned against us?”

Psalm 108, also written by David, begins with “My heart, O God, is quiet and confident, all because of You. Now I can sing my song with passionate praises!”

Doesn’t that just seem like our life sometimes too?

One day we are filled with passionate praise and just dwelling in the sweet, sweet presence of God and life is good.

The next day it seems like God has abandoned us as enemies and trials and circumstances and struggles come at us left and right and we don’t know if we will even make it.

Take courage and take heart. You are never alone because God has promised to never leave you or forsake you! There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling hopeful one day and helpless the next… you are human and this is life. We all go through valleys and we climb up mountains and we face deep waters.

The wonderful thing is that in both of these situations… in his praising and his crying out in distress and needing help… David heard God. In both places, in both circumstances, God came to David and reminded him of His promises. His Word was “I will… as I promised you”.

He hears you.

He sees you.

He knows where you are.

Call out to Him in your suffering. Call out to Him in your questioning. Call out to Him in your shame. Call out to Him in your praise. Call out to Him when it all feels good. Call out to Him in your thankfulness. Call out to Him when it all feels like it’s falling apart.

He answers.

He keeps His Word.

He says “I will… as I promised”. 

Standing Firm.

One time, when I was younger, I was part of a teen board at my local mall. We got to participate in public relations, advertising, and local events for the mall and some of it’s stores. One year, for a back to school promotion, we held a fashion show followed by mannequin modeling. Mannequin modeling, I learned quickly, was not a lot of fun. You had to strike a pose and then stand in that pose for several minutes without moving. You had to control your body, your breathing, your facial expressions… they didn’t even want you to blink… so you could appear as lifeless as possible. It was hard. It was especially hard when people purposely tried to make you laugh, breathed in your face, touched you, and tried to get you to move out of your position. Friends were the worst because they tried harder with sly comments and distractions to make you move.

I saw a picture of some policeman dressed in uniform and holding their assigned positions while rioters threw trash and hurled insults at them. One protestor was right up in a mans face and I can only imagine what she was shouting at him. But he stood there firm and unwavering.

I’ve seen pictures of soldiers on duty, their vision fixed, unaffected by crowds and laughter and anything else going on around them. They stand strong and unwavering in their position and post.

This is how we see Habakkuk, standing firm, unwavering, his vision fixed… in the middle of some very uncertain and dark times. He’s asked God some difficult questions. He sees lawlessness. He sees hardship and treachery. He sees violence and plundering. He sees a lack of justice and he sees a lack of God’s intervention and he asks how long is it going to take and how long will God let all this stuff happen before He intervenes? Hard and painful questions.

He cries out in his despair and then he says…

“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.” (Habakkuk 2:1)

And I see him as a watchmen standing on the city walls at night, looking out over the land, waiting for and looking for any threat or enemy to come so that he can protect the people. I see him as the policeman standing there unflinching in the face of lies and hurls of insults knowing that God has heard him and the answer is coming. As the soldier standing there with fixed vision looking for and waiting for the Redeemer. As the mannequin with a fixed pose even though friends and family may be trying to get him to move… he’s taken his stance and he says “I will wait to see what God says first”.

We don’t always get our answers immediately and when we don’t… we can be tempted to back down or go a different route. We can give in to untruths and let the insults and lies of the enemy take us down the wrong path. I wished we always could understand why some things happen and others don’t, or why God doesn’t always intervene when and how it seems like He should, but not all answers are given to us.

Friends and family may have good intentions, or think they are telling us to change our minds for the best. The enemy may be hurling all kinds of insults and sly comments our way telling us to just give up and quit. But, its up to us to guard our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts. We are the watchmen standing over our eyes, ears, and mouths. We need to be unwavering and stand firm and say, as Habakkuk did, “I will watch to see what He will say to me”.

He will come and He will speak and He will make the vision plain.