Thank God for Fleas

HPcover

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.

deeper quote

 

Praise Him

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

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

Photo Katie McNaught on Unsplash

“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

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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.

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

Sometimes another person’s journey with God speaks into your own, reminding you that no, you are not crazy, or alone: that God, the same One who’s been guiding and blessing your life, is also at work in those around you. My friend Courtney is one such person in my life. It’s amazing and wonderful to hear her God stories because they not only reflect my own but speak into my life too. She also happens to be a pastor and an author (the kind whose work you WANT to read because it’s fun and filled with meaning and poignancy hiding just below the humorous surface).

Today’s devotion is from her. And can I just add my Amen to her post?

P.S. And today, happy day, her book Uncluttered is out on Amazon! I’ve been so blessed by that book. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post and you’ll be hearing about it again. Please check it out and support her. ☺️

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

By Courtney Ellis

1. Please fix this immediately

We’ve all prayed this one, haven’t we? The job loss, the colicky baby, the years of singleness, the financial strain.

Yet the lessons learned in the waiting often cannot be learned any other way.

Continue reading…

Sinking Lifeboat

Our sweet and stressed out fluffball, Muppet.

My dog is playful and fun and sweet with people, but on walks… well our walks are proof positive that you can love and hate something at the same time. Our 25 pound fluffy buddy gets so excited as the leash goes on but becomes an anxious and sometimes difficult to manage companion once we hit the pavement. I don’t know what he went through before we got him, but I don’t think being a stray was fun for him. He startles at noises and falls apart when he sees another dog. I’ve done my best to build his confidence, hired a trainer, watched all the Dog Whisperer, but I guess there’s only so much I can do. He needs healing in his doggy heart.

And a better world to live in.

Today as we walked (ran, startled, cowered, bolted…) I sighed and longed for the day to come when all things will be made new. When there’s no more anxiousness or fear. When there’s nothing left to cause harm in all creation.

And I asked the Lord what He had to say to us, as we suffer many difficulties and fears in this present, broken world, and I felt His kindness toward us. Then in my mind I saw us in a sinking lifeboat – the world as we currently know it – and Him holding out a hand of rescue to us from a mighty ship passing by.

“Behold I am making all things new…” Rev 21:5

He’s going to make everything right, friends! Hallelujah!! And He offers us all to be part of that new world. That is the gospel, the GOOD news! Good wins, evil and death and suffering are cast out forever, and a remade creation thrives in peace, justice, goodness, and perfection under the kind and wise rule of a leader, Jesus, the Creator whose very essence is Love.

Hallelujah!! What a God, what a hope!

Reach out Him, friends! Pray! If you’ve never taken His hand of rescue, today is the day.

“What I mean brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. … For the world in its present form is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29a, 31b

Though She Be But Little…

Meet the stoat. He’s fluffy and adorable… and as fierce as they come.

Mr. Cuteness here can take down prey ten times his size. The secret: perseverance. He grabs on, holds on tight, and keeps biting till his prey bleeds too much to go on. Kinda gruesome, but it made me think – what an awesome picture of perseverance in prayer!

We see something (even something huge) that needs healing or fixing and we take it to God, knowing that He is bigger than this thing, and wise enough and good enough to bring good about. But doubts creep in. Fears begin to loom bigger than faith. We think “this beast will never go down, I am too small.” We think about letting go of Him, letting go of trust.

But here is what the stoat can teach us. It’s not the size of the problem (or the tininess of the pray-er), it’s the surety of the method! And prayer marked by patient, faithful trust in the good God Almighty is our proven method. The moment a doubt rears its head in us, we run back to God and seek Him, surrendering the problem to Him again. We keep running back to the Lord – asking His good will to be done in this situation, remembering all the times He’s cared for us. Affirming to Him again that we know He is unchanging and always good and infinitely powerful. And we wait on Him to act.

And the beast bleeds a little more.

A friend of mine right now is battling a sudden illness and the doctors don’t know how to treat it. Of course I went right to praying for her, but when I didn’t see immediate results, I got discouraged. Why wasn’t God answering? Should I stop praying? But God, knowing my heart, sent two messages (an email and a text) from two different people I’d recently prayed for, telling me how God had answered the prayers and how encouraged they were. Then my ill friend herself texted me to remind me of something God had shared with her in our prayers together that was keeping her encouraged.

And I realized – God is at work, right now. He is the God who hears. The God who never lets go of us, never stops working all things for the good of those who love Him.

Jesus said:
Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matt 7:9-11 GNT

The beast is bleeding, I just need to keep hanging on. Just wait in trust, and I know I will see my Father’s goodness and mercy and love win.

What can you bring before the Lord in patient trust today?

Lord, just like the weasel help us to never let go of faith in You and Your goodness. Bolster our faith in the promise that You give good gifts to Your children! In Jesus Name, Amen