Friday, July 29, 2011

Signs

And God desires that we grow in our ability to see Him in everything and to realize the importance of seemingly insignificant circumstances if they are used to deliver a message from Him....The world says that "seeing is believing," but God wants us to believe in order to see. The psalmist said, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman.

This quote from Psalm 27 reminded me of the many signs God has used to convey His messages to me, messages of love encouragement, hope, and comfort. Lilies, alluding to Luke 12: 27, Consider the lilies of the field, and Psalm 27:13-14 were the among the first of the repetitive signs. Gradually this list expanded to include Psalm 37, especially verses 3-5: Trust in the Lord and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shall be fed with its riches. Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of your heart. Commit thy way to the Lord, an trust in him, and he will do it, and the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, along with rainbows themselves. Over a span of years, just the numbers representing the Psalms, pictures or references to lilies, and any form of rainbows symbolized and reminded me of His promises and past miracles.

On one occasion, my husband and I were desperately house hunting in a new town in a new state. We had a U-Haul filled with furniture and only three days left before we were to return the truck or face additional fees. A mistake appeared on our credit report, damaging our credit score, which in turn impacted the decision of the property managers we contacted. The time restraint would not allow us to rectify the error before qualifying for a home. I prayed, or should I say, begged God for a miracle.

We followed up an ad for yet another house, actually the better of all the others in the same price range. However this time, when I looked at the address, 2837, I knew we would be approved. We received the keys two hours after filling out the application.

I have already mentioned in other posts how lilies and the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, have announced upcoming miracles, solutions to other issues, or sometimes, as it has been recently, reminders not to lose hope when circumstance seem to be going in the opposite direction of His promise.

The appearances of these signs are always unexpected, and from an unusual source, such as my alarm suddenly playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow instead of its pre-programmed sound, or the post master giving me stamps with lilies instead of the Statue of Liberty at the last moment, or the number 37 appearing on a billboard entirely by its self just before an unexpected financial windfall.

I am not alluding to superstition, or indicating magic in these symbols. They are only signs, reminders of God's promises and compassion, sent to a struggling Believer when she needs that little extra encouragement. I never look for them, but remain vigilant in case one should appear.  The Bible is full of stories where God sent affirmations through signs, from Noah through the New Testament, and so it is nothing new or unusual.

Has God sent you repetitive signs, signifying and reminding you of His promises?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Unlike Abraham

Unlike Abraham, when my daughter was born prematurely, and it appeared we would lose her, I waged a desperate fight for her survival.  I argued with the doctors  when they refused to stop my labor, repeatedly emphasizing it was too early. They just as vehemently disagreed, stating the baby was too big to be premature and my dates had to be wrong.

My dates were right, and my daughter was born with underdeveloped lungs, unable to breathe on her own, and was whisked away to an incubator before I could see or touch her. A pediatrician was called in to access her condition. He determined she was at least five week premature, and her weight (5 lbs 3 oz) was due to excessive water. Within hours Danielle's weight dropped to 4 lbs 3 oz.

The hospital was not equipped to handle a preemie in that much distress and an ambulance was requested from the closest neo-natal center, seventy miles away. The specialized van was equipped with a huge metal incubator and was staffed with a respiratory specialist and a neo-natal nurse.  Acutely aware I had yet to touch or hold her, I watched the team place Danielle inside the incubator, hook up all the tubes and wires, close the lid and wheel her away. I wanted to follow the ambulance, but the doctors insisted I remain in the hospital until the next morning.

It was one of the longest, hardest nights of my life. Fearing my grief would upset the other mothers, I was placed in a private room. I slept sporadically, spending most of the time turned toward the wall, crying.

Ron picked me up early the next morning and we drove the hour and a half through the mountains to the neo-natal center. The doctors wanted a consultation before we could see Danielle and we were ushered into one of the small offices.  While waiting for the doctor, Ron and I held hands and prayed.

The news was grim. "Your daughter has a fifty-fifty chance of survival. I wouldn't even give that much if she were a boy. For some reason, girls fight harder to survive than boys. However, as she is already on 100% oxygen, there is no place to go if her body cannot absorb enough oxygen, and in addition,  we only have a seventy-two hour window before we risk  irreversible brain damage."

Ron and I were too stunned to respond.

Intuitively the doctor did not press us.  "Now, if you will follow me, I will take you to your daughter."


Studies had proved babies fought harder when aware of their parents' presence, and the nurse encouraged us to touch her and speak to her. I didn't need much encouragement, and I gently picked up her tiny hand. In response to my voice and touch, Danielle grasped my finger with amazing strength. I looked up at the nurse.

She smiled, "Of course she knows your voice."

Ron and I stayed at her bedside until the nurses insisted we leave.  It was another long, agonizing night, sleepless  and filled with worry.

At first light, I crawled from bed and fell to my knees. I begged and pleaded with God to spare Danielle's life, finally letting go and placing her in His hands, after realizing I really had no other choice. 

Three days lataer, the nurses greeted us with the announcement Danielle had been removed from 100% oxygen levels down to only 20%  - and she had incurred no brain damage. She continued to improve daily and a week later, when the oxygen hood was not needed as much, we were allowed to hold her for the first time.

She continued to improve until finally, after a total of fourteen days,  we brought her home. Danielle weighed 4 lbs 11 oz and was eighteen inches long. She still had a few residual physical problems, normal for preemies, but she gradually grew out of them and by three months of age Danielle was a healthy, growing little girl. 

This experience only deepened the mystery of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  I could not fathom how Abraham could concede his son's life so easily. It was St. Paul who finally gave me an answer to Abraham's great faith in Hebrews 11:17-19:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac: and he that had received the promises, offered up his only begotten son; To whom it was said: In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Accounting that God is able to raise up even the dead.

So, the root of Abraham's faith was his trust in an all powerful God who would never fail to fulfill a promise, even if it meant raising the dead. No wonder Abraham is called the Father of all Nations.

Coming to my present situation, I don't think it was coincidental that Genesis 22: 16-18, the story of Abraham and Isaac, was in my morning devotions. God wanted me to remember Abraham's example of faith, and remind me of how He has rewarded my faith during my own difficult trials. I am not to live in fear, worried and miserable. Instead, I am to step back and watch with wide eyed wonder as He directly intercedes on my behalf, and I know for certain it will be  nothing short of miraculous.

Friday, July 15, 2011

When the Brook Dries Up....

Elijah waited beside the brook, watching the gushing water slowly dwindle to a tiny sliver and then disappear entirely. The birds flew away and the animals left, seeking water elsewhere. Elijah stayed, following God's instructions to wait until He was told to move on.  He did not grow impatient, make His own plans and then rush off in search of other streams. He left only when God told him to.

It is hard to wait, even harder to do so patiently, especially when your brook , your resources, are diminishing. Our culture demands action. "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going." In reality, the super strong exercise wisdom, prudence and trust. They wait until a full plan is developed and a clear path is visible. It takes more self-control and strength to wait, than it does to run.

In the movie We Were Soldiers, Lieutenant Hal Moore, played by Mel Gibson, refused to panic and run when faced with overwhelming enemy numbers. He ordered his soldiers to hold their ground while he formulated a course of action. His men trusted him, and obeyed.  According to the movie version, Lieutenant Moore stood still, perfectly still, ignoring the raging battle until his plan was fully developed, a plan that not only saved the platoon, but defeated the entire enemy force as well. That greatly impressed me.

I have yet to develop that amount of will power. My first inclination is to run, or at the very least pace in near panic, unable to think clearly. This time around I am trying a little harder to remain focused, patiently waiting for the next step to present its self.

I am not inactive during this waiting period. I search the job ads twice a day and send out my resume to every one I feel I am qualified for, and I pray - a lot. However, I am striving not to worry and ruin every moment of everyday, missing out on the blessings God sends: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, morning coffee and conversation with my husband, warm summer afternoons on the patio, and visits with friends - to mention only a few. I do my best, then wait with expectant hope it will be enough. With God, it will be.

Of course, God isn't sitting by idle either. He is working behind the scenes and sending me comfort and encouragement through signs, particularly scripture. This week my bible fell open to Jeremiah 42:10-12 as I was paging from one listed reading to another. The words seemed to float off the page.

If you will be quiet and remain in this land, I will build you up, and not pull you down: I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for now I am  appeased for the evil that I have done to you. Fear not because of the king of Babylon, of whom you are greatly afraid; fear him not said the Lord: for I am with you, to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will show mercies to you, and take pity on you, and will cause you to dwell in your own land.

The next morning my bible fell open to Daniel 3 in the same manner. The story of Sidrach, Misach and Abendago in King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace has always given me comfort and encouragement. Interesting how the two scriptures are related in meaning.

I don't know what the future holds. All I can see is today, an hour at a time - stepping stones leading me toward the fulfillment of God's plan for my life. Regardless of where the path leads, what sorrows I will endure, I can be sure the path will also be filled with great joy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Under His Wings

There are millions effected by the economy, struggling without jobs, worrying how they will provide for their families. Why should I be any different? Why should God bother to help me? 

I asked this question once before, during another financial crises.  After eighteen years with one company, my late husband was laid off when the timber industry in the Northwest collapsed.  His only hope of employment was to train in a new field. Nearing fifty, this was not going to be easy, and in spite of the anti-discrimination laws, an older worker faced more challenges.

I fretted and worried, much like I am doing now, and the question why should God bother with us turned in a turbulent spiral around and around in my thoughts, like buzzards waiting for their opportunity to descend and feed. I sought distraction, mainly through reading. The book of choice at that moment was Fried Green Tomatoes by Fanny Flagg. About the middle of the story, one character tells another to read Psalm 91 everyday.

I was not familiar with the Psalm and went immediately to my bible. I was stunned. The beautiful words were exactly what I needed, especially verse 7:  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee. And verse 10: There shall no evil come to thee: nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.

And, it didn't. When my husband could not find employment with another company, we opened our own business. Things were tight at times, but we maintained our home, raised our children and upheld our financial responsibilities - God provided.

Now, once again I am thrown into a financial fire storm, and the same questions beat against my sense of worth and peace. Again, God sends His messages of hope and encouragement.  My readings at the beginning of the week included Psalm 91, with an emphasis on verse four: He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust. Streams in the Desert had this: O you of little faith, God has not failed you yet!

This morning my readings included Psalm 37: 3-4,18-19,39-40.  Trust in the Lord and do good, and dwell in the land and thou will be fed with its riches. Delight in the lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart. The Lord knoweth the days of the undefiled; and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be confounded in the evil time; and in the days of famine they shall be filled. But the salvation of the just is from the Lord, and he is their protector in the time of trouble. And the Lord will help them and deliver them: and he will rescue them from the wicked, and save them, because they have hoped in him.

Isaiah 40:31 is also among my morning devotions: But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

I still I squirm and fret in spite of my best intentions, letting go only when I don't have the strength to worry. When I finally concede and stand still, God pulls me unscathed from the fire. It will be the same this time.

And yet, it is hard to ignore the fire when all you see are flames. Perhaps I should close my eyes, or look away and search for something else to focus on. I may be feeling some heat, but the fire has not consumed me, and the temperature is much cooler underneath His wings - as long as I stay in His shadow (trust) and not run in panic right into the fire.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Sour lemon - Do I Have Enough Sugar To Make Lemonade?

Our poor economy handed me a pretty sour lemon this week. I joined the ranks of millions in the  storm tossed boat named The Unemployed. Reacting to the effects of a slow economy, the company I worked for downsized. But, as Saint Paul said, I fought the good fight (worked hard), ran the race (remained faithful to my superiors and job until all options to obtain the necessary budgeting for my position was exhausted) and have kept the faith (trying to remain hopeful I will find other employment).

The day after my notification, my morning devotions included Matthew 8:26: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Well, I am terrified I won't be able to find another job in this economy. My supervisors, co-workers and friends are encouraging, but there are no guarantees in this life. The only things we can be certain of are death, taxes and change. With the tough employment market, the competition for the few available jobs is rough. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat.

However, not being one to just sit down and give up, I rolled up my sleeves and immediately set to work. I updated my resume, resurrected my cover letter templates, asked for current references, and re-loaded all of my job search engines. I am sending off my resume and an application for a position today. My fingers are crossed, hoping this will be a good fit for me and my employer. As I poured over the on-line classifieds, a pop up blocked the center of my page. I couldn't help but laugh. God does have a way to get His message across. The pop up said: 


God Has Big Plans for You.

Be Encouraged.

Genesis 18:14 was listed in my next morning's devotions: Is there anything too hard for God? Well, no.

I have to be honest though. I am still reeling and feeling overwhelmed, but working hard at being optimistic and hopeful. This little test will prove whether I really have enough sugar (faith) to make a sweet tasting lemonade out of this bitter lemon. I think I do.

This morning's Gospel reading was from Matthew 11:25-30. Verse 28 -29: Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.

And that is exactly what I need to do, rest. Rest in God's promises, rest in His comfort and encouragement, and rest in the literal sense -  letting go of all my worry, anxiety and fear. An anxious heart won't find a job any quicker than a heart filled with peace and trust in God's providence. It will only make me miserable, along with everyone around me. So, I raise my glass of sweet lemonade with a toast to God, our Heavenly Father. I thank Him for sending encouraging words and vow to trust Him through this ordeal. I will follow Mary's example when the Angel Gabriel announced she would become the Mother of God, "Thy will be done."  And of course, my little problem will be easier  to solve than the redemption of mankind through a virgin birth.