Thank God for Fleas

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Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I was young, my favorite book in the whole world was The Hiding Place. It is the incredible true story of a Dutch family, the ten Booms, who hid Jews during the Nazi occupation in Holland, and it has probably shaped my life and faith more than I realize.

This year I am introducing my own kids to this treasured book, and rereading it myself I find it has the same power to inspire and humble me.

One part stood out to me in particular today. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom are sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, and it is dismal and terrible beyond what I think we can imagine, even in reading Corrie’s description. But Betsie’s response was surprising and inspiring…

We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.

..Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ’He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving [the prison at] Scheveningen.

…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’

She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–’

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

In the coming months in that crowded bunk the sisters held worship services, and they were never bothered by the guards. It didn’t make sense. But later they learned that the guards wouldn’t come into their barracks because of the fleas. Because of the fleas, they had had all of the time in there unsupervised to encourage their broken bunk mates openly with God’s love.

Thank God for fleas.

Thank God for Corrie and Betsie’s faith and faithfulness in such terrible darkness. Thank God the book is still in print. If you’ve never read it, or like me, haven’t read it since you were young, get a copy and read it. I don’t think you’ll be the same. In a good way…

What do you need to give thanks for right now that seems too hard to be grateful for? Have you ever had something that looked terrible turn out to be a blessing? Share your story in the comments! And I’m happy to pray for you if something is too hard to give thanks for.

You are never alone. No matter how deep the darkness around you. He is with you. He sees you too. Call out to Him and He will shine a light into your darkness.

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What Jesus Really Does

When I was little I loved to untangle things. Slinkies, knotted jewelry, shoelaces that had been too zealously tied. There was a great comfort and satisfaction in taking something that looked beyond hope and putting it right again.

So you can imagine my joy when I found out that that’s Jesus’ heart too. God didn’t look at a world that had gone terribly, horribly wrong and say “ugh. Let’s just start over.” He could’ve. But He loves what He made. And anything that can be fixed — that is, is willing to be– will be fixed. Made whole again.

I watched this fantastic video yesterday about the true meaning of the Hebrew word shalom. As you might know, it is translated “peace.” But it means so much more than just the absence of turmoil. This is the heart of God…

Enjoy!

The Trouble with Sabbath

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Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

“I lift my eyes up to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth!” Psalm 121:1-2

Well, actually the trouble is with me, trying to take a Sabbath… The thing is, anxiety is no respecter of time off. However much I free my calendar of activities I can’t as easily free my mind of worrying thoughts.

Anyone else?

Our family took 5 days in the mountains over our spring break (why there was no post last week) but I found myself unable to enjoy the quiet or the beauty or the freedom from chores and errands. My heart and mind were tied up in knots over things that couldn’t be solved (by me) in our life right now. And without the distraction of the busyness of life, I had to confront those things.

I went to the Lord pleading for help. I poured out my thoughts and doubts about the impossible situations we were (are) facing and how helpless I felt. I asked for more faith. Freedom from the anxiety plaguing me. And in the silence that followed my tears, I felt, or “heard” Him sing to my heart:

He’s got the whole world

In His hands

He’s got the whole wide world

In His hands

And He added my name and my children’s names and my husband’s name to the refrain.

And my anxiety faded like nothing but mist. Sabbath! Rest!

And can I tell you something? One of those impossible situations resolved the day we got back. God took something that seemed terrible and turned it into a blessing for us!! Something I didn’t know we needed came to us out of it all that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Ashes into gold.

That is the God we serve, so boundless is His power and wisdom and love for us!

What worrying thoughts do you need to pour out and entrust to Him today?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Praise Him

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Last week I shared that my family is going through a tough time. Of the many things I’ve been praying in this season, one I repeat to the Lord is that we would honor Him in this time with our actions and attitudes. But that prayer begged a question – what does that even look like?

One thing to do (and also something I wrote about) is to be brutally honest with God about how I’m feeling. Not to accuse Him or whine, but as an act of surrender of those emotions and desires.

(Try it!)

But yesterday I also learned (or rather, finally understood) another way to honor Him during hardships. I was all set for one of those super honest prayer times while driving home from a meeting at church. I shut off the worship CD for quiet when the Spirit grabbed my heart. Turn it back on I felt Him put in my heart.

Spend time the time praising Me.

So I turned it back on. I listened to the words for a minute, considering deeply the words I had sung often more absentmindedly than thoughtfully.

It’s all Yours, the day and the night, the earth and the sky, God it’s all Yours. … God You reign…

I began to sing, choosing to mean every word. A declaration to the angels and the wind flowing past my window (and any other drivers who can read lips) that despite the quaking of my knees at life circumstances, God, the maker of the universe, was the author of my days as well.

I stopped thinking so much of my own circumstances and troubles. I couldn’t – after even five minutes of thoughtful heartfelt praise I was consumed with Him, in awe of Him. And I realized more than ever that praise is His due. All the time, no matter what.

It was an act of faith, and it bolstered my faith.

And I think it was an answer to my question – how do I honor Him in this hard, heavy season of our lives? Same as always. I praise Him. Because He hasn’t changed! And the amazing wonderful things He has done stand forever worthy of our adoration and proclamation.

And that God who parted the Red Sea on behalf of the people He loved and called? I know He will also part the sea I’m facing.

Amen. And praise the Lord!

Go on – do it…

🙂 👏 🙌

True Contentment

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“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

We’re in a season of loss in my family. Nothing like the tragic losses that Habakkuk was lamenting, but we are grieving and wondering “what now?” and crying out to God. Each day that passes without relief or even relief in sight, the emotional burden is getting heavier.

How long, O Lord?

Contentment has become a hard word. I know I’m supposed to be content,

Yet true godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

But how can you be content when you are lacking things you need? When you have lost something or someone dear to you (or both)? And I have no interest in faking it.

How long O Lord?

I take comfort in David’s psalms of lament. Here was a man anointed by God to be king, yet he was being hunted down by the current king like an animal. Where was God? I wonder if David doubted God’s promise. Circumstances weren’t confirming the call he’d been given.

Yet, no – when you read David’s story you see a man who trusted and waited for the Lord. Who praised His goodness in the face of loss and danger. A man who delighted in God no matter what.

And that is the secret, I’ve learned in these hard days, to contentment.

It’s not about your earthly circumstances. It’s not a cup of coffee in your favorite cafe with your favorite book in hand. This contentment is in knowing that God is good and faithful and wonderful therefore in Him you have enough. In knowing that He promised never to leave you, and He never will.

I woke up this morning with the same heaviness and anger I’ve had for awhile now. But as I began to pray and thank God for what He has provided and for His goodness and presence with me throughout my life, as I worshipped Him and accepted that life won’t always feel good but He will never forsake me, I experienced peace. He is enough. Therefore I can be content no matter the temporary losses of this life.

I am His and He is mine forever, and therefore though I am weak, yet I am strong.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have learned the secret to being content whatever my circumstances: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Are you in a season of loss or uncertainty? Take a few minutes to reflect on God’s promises to you, on how He has met you in the past, and thank Him. Praise Him as an act of faith and trust that He will never leave nor forsake you!

Brutal Honesty that Frees

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Our relationship with God isn’t like the ones we have with most people. We hold back from others, rarely showing all we really think or feel. And that’s probably a good thing. But what happens when we hide from ourselves too, and from God?

What if what we’re feeling and wanting or have committed is too dark, too ugly even for us to face?

We hide, like Adam and Eve did. When confronted, Adam still couldn’t face what he had done and blamed it on Eve. It was too scary to be honest with God or himself! I get that. But what can we learn from that story?

Remember when Eve talked to the snake, how the devil planted the idea in her mind that God was actually holding out on them? That God knew that if they ate from the forbidden tree they’d become like Him, so that’s why He forbade it? Stingy God he whispered to her heart. She believed the snake. And instantly a rift grew between the human and her Maker.

But what if Eve had run to the Lord instead? What if she had shared what she was feeling and asked God for His perspective?

I’ve often been in this kind of situation, believing lies about God or about my friends, family, or self. And what I wanted or did as a result of believing those lies was usually pretty ugly and definitely not something I was going to be honest about with God or myself. Hiding was much easier.

But one day some years ago I read a book about the Psalms and my eyes were opened to how brutally honest David was with God. He wanted death and misery for his enemies, or even his own death and he didn’t mince words. Whoa there dude – that’s God you’re talking to! But then you see how David ended up worshipping God every time. Surrendering his needs or fears to God. The honesty was freeing and an act of worship!

I tried it one day when I was struggling too much to hide anymore. I knew I was going to fall into sin without God’s help. So I went to Him in prayer and told Him in graphic detail what I was feeling and wanting, as an act of surrender. Help me want what You want. Give me your heart in place of this ugliness. Redeem this mess, Lord.

And in flooded wisdom, a fresh perspective, true love for the others I would have hurt. Truth grew and lies suddenly dissipated like a formless mist! It’s amazing how, like Eve, we’ll believe ugly things without ever going to the Source of truth or questioning them. But God took every ugly bit from me and redeemed it, transformed my heart and mind. All I had to do was be honest and hand it over.

Not my ugly will be done, but Your excellent and good will.

Now I’ve learned to share boldly and bluntly with God what I’m thinking and feeling and desiring as an act of trust and worship. I come to Him quickly when I’ve done wrong because I know that all things committed into His hands become beautiful even when I thought they were irredeemable, even when I thought I was irredeemable. Hiding is useless and prolongs the life and effect of the ugly. He heals all things.

What are you feeling today? Take some time being deeply, brutally honest with the Lord and approach Him not as though He’s someone stingy or who will destroy or tsk tsk you – but as a loving Father, full of grace toward you, who delights to fix what is broken and point you toward true wisdom and deeper, richer relationship with Him! Being honest feels bad at first; it wounds the pride. But that broken up ground in your heart is the place where new, good, healing things can grow by His hand.

The God Who Sees Hagar, and Me

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I have a son on the autism spectrum. In the early years of his life, when he was newly diagnosed and I was reeling from the fear and strain of it, it called into question the goodness of God for me.

God if you love me and my son, why at 4, can he barely talk?

Why can’t I go to church because my son gets too scared and overstimulated in Sunday school? Don’t You want me in church?

Why does he attack me?

Where are You in all this?

Help my little man. Help us.

It reminds me of the story of Ishmael and Hagar in Genesis 16. She too was in an impossible situation. She too cried out. And God heard.

An angel appeared to her, encouraging her that God had heard her crying, and that He would bless her and her son.

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are the God who sees me.'” Genesis 16:13

Many times I prayed and cried to the Lord for help, too and He answered. He sent a new friend who “happened” to work with kids on the spectrum. She taught me how to teach my son and walked with me through the therapies. She saw my little man as a person, not a diagnosis, and she was Jesus’ hands and voice to me many times.

The Lord had foreseen it all and the school district where we lived had an amazing special ed department. I felt the love of God for me and my son through the people there. As I prayed He continued to show up in the form of loving souls, including the church we started attending (expecting it not to work out), where still more people saw my son as a person and during the service would walk with him in the lobby or draw with him so I could go worship and he could be seen and loved.

Or the times I prayed for his speech or social delays and every time after I prayed he would suddenly make a leap forward in his abilities.

Friends I could go on and on, literally. God doesn’t take away the hard things, but in His great love He sees us. He walks with us. He meets our needs. Hard circumstances don’t alter His goodness – they are where He meets us and we see His love and goodness in action. They are where our faith forms and refines. And they, therefore, are blessings in the end.

My son is doing so well, and every new challenge we bring to the Lord because He is the answer. Because He is good and generous.

Where do you need to know God’s goodness this week? Cry out to Him, the God who sees you, too.