Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Lottery Ticket

Years ago, when my kids were young, my husband was laid off from the job he held for eighteen years. His unemployment and my part time job were not enough to provide for all of our needs and financial obligations. The financial wolves were circling and looked as though they would get in and destroy everything we had worked for.

I thought about the lottery.  I didn't desire, or dream of  millions, just a few thousand,  or several hundred.  I wouldn't need to worry if I could buy groceries, or clothing, or gas, or any of the other necessities. .

I grabbed my purse and headed for the market. I passed by the dinning table. My Bible still lay there from my morning devotions. Overwhelmed by an urge to open it and read the first Scripture I saw, I stopped in mid-stride, set my purse down and  picked up my Beloved Book. It opened to the Book of Wisdom.  The words rose, lifting from the page - impossible ignore.

Pray for wisdom as if it were money.

I did not buy a lottery ticket that day or any other day. We moved forward in faith. Not surprisingly, we always had enough food, plenty of clothing, gas and most of the other necessities we needed.

Later, I tried to find the passage. I searched the entire Book of Wisdom. I knew without question I had seen it, but I could not find it. While searching for that one, however, I found this one.

And if riches be desired in life, what is richer than wisdom, which maketh all things? Wisdom 8:5

I have never bought a lottery ticket.

Recently, with all the news reports about the super lottery winners, visions of a winning lottery ticket have returned. A hundred and twenty million. Wow. I could pay off my debts, my families debts, start numerous charities, and the list goes on and on.  However, all thoughts of the lottery vanished after the dream.

As with some of my other dreams (that have proven to be premonitions) all details are precise, clear, as if watching a movie or looking at a photograph. In this one, I was walking across the parking lot of our local grocery store. The wind was whipping up all kinds of debris, and a  small piece of paper hit the side of my face.  I peeled it from my cheek and glanced at it.  It was a lottery ticket - for that evening's drawing. I clutched the paper, convinced it was The Winner.

I never made it into the store. Something knocked me out. When I opened my eyes I was lying on the ground. I had been struck by lightening and my precious ticket had been destroyed. Only black ash remained.

It was obvious, once again, that winning the lottery is not in God's plan for my life. His plan is for me to trust Him, not wealth. I may hear wolves sniffing at the door, but they will not get in.  God has - and will- continue to provide enough for my basic existence (and often more) for as long as I walk this earth. There lies my wealth, far richer than anything the world can provide.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And Then Came a Lion

There have been a lot of references to lions in my devotions, once again. The most thought provoking was from 1 Samuel 17:34: And then came a lion.  When King David was just a boy tending his father's sheep, he fought off many wild animals, including a lion. David saw them as opportunities to trust God and either moved forward to meet the challenge or stood his ground, ready to defend, unlike myself. I am more inclined to run for the closest tree, even though I know it is useless. (I've seen pictures of lions in trees.)  

At this moment a major disaster is crouching, waiting for the opportunity to strike. My temp job is shaky. I do not have any form of health care, retirement benefits, or life insurance. I know it is useless to worry over something that might happen, and yet, my mind creates a myriad of what if scenarios. If I would only reflect back, I could recall numerous financial disasters diverted at the last moment, health issues mysteriously evaporating in spite of the doctors' prognosis, and more. Oh, so much more. But, my mind lists toward the negative rather than the positive and it takes a great deal of effort to reign in those scary images.

However, right now, at this exact moment, there are no disasters or crises, and I need to focus on that, ignoring what might be on the horizon. Storms (and lions) can change direction, or go away, never coming close. And, when the storm does strike (sometimes at the same time the lion charges) I need to remember God never changes. His promises never change, and He will give me the courage, the strength and the wisdom to find shelter in the storm, face my lion and defeat him.  For you, O Lord, singularly have settled me in hope. Psalm 4: 10

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Will Never Be the Same

I watched the movie, The Passion, for the first time this week. I had been warned it was brutal and was prepared for the graphic content. The viciousness with which Jesus was tortured was well portrayed by the actors. They laughed at His  agony, obviously getting great pleasure from His suffering. The old pun certainly applied: they added insults to His injuries. I couldn't help but think how He could have humbled them in an instant, but that wasn't His purpose. Not only was he atoning for our sins, He was setting an example of what true love is: how we are to love our enemies. 

At His death, the earthquake shook the ground, and thunder and lightening rent the sky. His tormentors were no longer laughing. I laughed. "Ah ha! You aren't laughing now, are you? Serves you right!"  The moment I uttered those words, I remembered His words, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Jesus forgave the men who took pleasure in torturing Him, laughing as He lay in agony.  His words of forgiveness must have astounded those standing close enough to hear. Tortured beyond what was humanly possible to endure, and yet asking God to forgive those responsible. In a culture conditioned to an eye for an eye it must have seemed unthinkable. Even in our kinder, gentler society this is hard.

Imagine a Holocaust survivor forgiving the camp commandant and their guards. And what about the men who tortured Daniel Pearl in such a horrific manner? Forgive them as well? I struggle with the idea, yet, this is exactly what Jesus has done. As for myself, I forgave my ex-husband for those years of abuse - and meant it - but I did not ask God to forgive him, nor have I prayed for him. I fell two steps short of God's example.

Easter will never be the same. I can no longer just pass off the mental idea of  they mocked Him, or deny the other reality: had He had died in any other way, it would not have been so life changing, thought provoking, heartrending. It leaves me with no other choice than to work harder at truly living my Christian faith.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It Happened On Easter

After years of exposure through the flower shop, I became extremely allergic to Easter Lilies.  My eyes watered, my skin broke out in hives, and breathing became difficult. Even walking past them in the grocery store elicited a reaction. Easter Sunday would be a huge challenge as my church would be filled from door to altar with lilies.

Having never missed an Easter Sunday service, the thought of not going was unacceptable. Yet, how was I going to overcome the issue with the allergy?

A good friend, and fellow florist, mentioned her church used silk lilies in deference to her. She sang in the praise team and was highly allergic to the beautiful flowers as well, and invited me to attend services with her and her family. Simple solution? Not really.

My church frowned on attending other services and I had never been to another church except for a wedding. Yet, I was already in turmoil with my church. My new husband was not a member of the church, nor wished to be. When I approached the church to have our civil vows, said in front of an African magistrate, repeated before a minister, my husband and I were the recipients of an inquisition. By the time we left the church I was in tears and my husband was further alienated from the faith.  I continued attending services, alone, but felt isolated and unaccepted. Then came Easter Sunday.

After a night of agonizing, I accepted my friend's offer. I sat with her and her family, and should have been delighted to be with someone, and not alone as I would have been at my own church, but I wasn't. Looking around at all the families celebrating and worshiping together, broke my heart. Why had my life turned out this way? How did I end up in this mess? Because I chose to marry someone who did not share my faith. Certainly the marriage was perfect in every other aspect, and all the miracles surrounding it were undeniable, at that moment I felt Africa was my downfall.

The pastor started his sermon with a story. And old man and a young man were discussing faith.

The old man asked the younger one, "Would you follow God anywhere?"

"Yes," the young man replied.

"Would you follow Him into the deep south?"


"Would you follow Him to Albania?"


"Would you even follow Him to Africa?"

My heart stopped. To Africa? Yes. I would follow Him even to Africa.

The following day 1 Peter 3: 1 was in my devotions: In like manner let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives.

I still don't pretend to fully understand this verse, or the reason for my life's path. All I can do is trust Him even though I am still attending Easter Services alone. Yet, there has been a slight change. My husband asks every Sunday if I am attending services. He asks afterward about the service, the music, and the sermon. I answer his questions, careful not to preach or push.

Easter Sunday is a day of hope, of belief in the impossible, and realization that we belong to a Father who loves us more deeply than we can love Him back. Can I not trust such a love and follow Him wherever he asks, even to Africa?