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Obstacles and Detours

 What do you do when you've spent a great deal of time, effort, energy, or even money on a plan and then it doesn't work out?  How do you handle it when a detour sign is suddenly placed in front of you?  Sometimes our plans don't work out at all, sometimes the end result of our plan still occurs but the path there does not follow the map we designed, and sometimes we are just going about our day to day life and suddenly we are hit with an unexpected obstacle.  The bottom line is that things don't always go our way, no matter how diligent we may be about calculating all the possible outcomes.

I have recently been faced with this scenario.  I thought I would share with you what I'm finding when I go back to God's Word to look at two men who faced unexpected situations themselves.  I read their stories again looking for the details of how they dealt with the unexpected and what the end result of their decisions were.

When David was but a child, he was small and not even the size or stature of an average Israelite soldier and yet when he was challenged by a 9'6" giant named Goliath, he did not waver for a second.  Was it because he was stronger than Goliath? Did he have more military experience than Goliath? No!

The fact was that David was prepared long before the battle ever arrived and his reaction was a reflection of that preparation. He was confident, not in his own power, but in the power of the God that he served and who protected him.  David walked on to the battlefield knowing that he would be victorious!  He had a solid confidence, but how was he able to get that confidence in the first place?  The answer comes from an earlier time in David's life when he was but a shepherd for him Father.

David had been required to fight off a lion and a bear while protecting the sheep.  He discovered through those battles that God had given him the wisdom and strength to be victorious over his enemy.  Because this had happened more multiple times in his life, by the time he saw Goliath, he expected that God would do the very same thing in this battle.  David had already developed an unwavering faith in God.

Once David arrived at the camp that day, he had no idea that a battle that would go down in history and be connected to his name forever was about to unfold.  And yet, once he saw what was happening, he quickly volunteered without much thought about the fear based comments that had been coming from the warriors all around him.  The only statistics he was concerned with were God's...and in his mind, those odds were more than sufficient!

David couldn't seem to understand why Goliath would think that he could defy the armies of God.  What human in their right mind would try to fight an immortal God?  David was also perplexed as to why the Army of  God would even spend one second worrying about Goliath's challenge.  No matter how large Goliath was,  David was focused on the fact that the Israelite army had God behind them to make them strong and bring them to victory!  Such a powerfully strong and innocent faith!  David had watched first hand how God had made him triumphant as a shepherd, and he had no reason to believe things would be different this time.

If you've read the story, you know that David volunteered for the job of battling Goliath and he faced this giant with confidence.  As I read the account again I was struck by the fact that David did not go to God and ask Him for His direction on the matter, he simply proceeds forward to protect God's people.  David had faith in God to conquer any task and overcome any difficulty that was placed before him....plain and simple.  How different would our lives be if we could have this child like faith when giants block our path?

The result was of course that Goliath was conquered with one blow from a a small boy....with an unfailing faith in his God!

Ezekiel had a wife that he loved deeply and he called her the "delight of his eyes", but God in His sovereignty suddenly called her to be with Him in Heaven.  In addition to this great loss, Ezekiel was instructed not to openly mourn for his wife.  He was not to cry, dress differently, eat differently, or cover the lower part of his face, all which were customary things to do while mourning in his culture. (Ezek 24:16-17) To say that this was an obstacle or detour to the plans he had for his life is probably a gross understatement.  How did Ezekiel respond?  The short answer is that the next day he did was he was commanded and proceeded with his duties without outwardly grieving his loss. (Ezek 24:18)

God used Ezekiels circumstances and his response as an example of what He was going to require of Israel.  Israel was about to lose their beloved city and like Ezekiel they would not be allowed to mourn. (Ezek 24:19-24)  Ezekiel went through tremendous trials not because of his own sin. He did nothing wrong yet he lost his wife and was not allowed to mourn because God wanted him to tell His people that what he had done in response to his great loss, was what they too would be required to do.
God allows certain things to happen to us for a purpose. He wants us to use those experiences for His purpose. We may be experiencing afflictions now because God wants us to be able to comfort someone in a similar circumstance, or perhaps to be an example of obedience in difficult times.  Sometimes we will see a glimpse of His plan and other times we are required to walk solely by faith, trusting in the character of God the Father.
We learn from Ezekiel’s life is that to following the command of God.  He did not allow his private sorrow to affect his public duty.  Even after he lost his wife, he went about his public duties the very next morning. Do we allow our trials to affect our ministry? Are we so engrossed with our old problems that we stop seeking the things of God altogether?

I pray today that we deepen our relationship with Christ, drawing nearer to His heart and as a result we strengthen our faith so that we too can respond to obstacles, detours, and heartache with an immediate obedience and faith that  is stronger than our other human senses.


These past few days I've been distracted from my regular day to day patterns.  What I thought was a bug bite on Sunday ended up being poison oak and was way worse by the next day.  If you've ever had poison oak, you know that the itching and burning are almost unbearable at times.

The past few days I haven't been able to think of anything but itching one of the 4 spots on my body that are inflamed (I even have a small spot on my face).  I know that scratching might feel good for a second but it will ultimately hurt and I can also cause a secondary wound which would just make things worse for me and make my recovery longer.  So I'm trying to focus my brain on something soothing that might help me to relax in spite of the pain and discomfort I'm feeling.  I confess that I m having trouble with this today.

For whatever reason, as I was thinking, I realized that Satan is sort of like poison oak (or anything painfully distracting).  He likes to disable us whenever possible.  If he can cause pain and discomfort he will, he also tries to get us to be so focused on that pain that we feel as though we can't think of anything else.  If he gets his way, we will be so consumed and overwhelmed by our circumstantial pain that the truth will fade and hide in the recesses of our mind.

I know that the poison oak will go away after a couple of weeks and there are treatments that can ease the symptoms, this is the truth, but in the worst of it...I feel it's terrible NOW and my mind thinks that I can't take it another minute....even though I can, and I will.

I am finding that Satan will use things such as financial strain, health problems, broken relationships, rebellious children, and other situations like this.  These problems can become like the painful sore that feels all consuming.  When these unfortunate life circumstances pop up, we can easily become completely absorbed and find it difficult to focus on other aspects of life, including God's truth.

We know that in the end, God win's and Satan is bound to the pit for eternity.  Thankfully, we have a God that sent us a remedy for the suffering that happens due to Satan while we're here on earth....the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are often the best 'treatment' for our painful suffering!  And we don't even have to wait in line at the pharmacy to get it!

Just as I know I won't suffer with poison oak forever, I also know that God is on my side and He goes before me in all circumstances.  He is my defender, my protector, my friend, and my Lord.

I am challenged today to focus on TRUTH.

I am not weak, but strong! - "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil 4:13

I am not a timid coward, I have to ability and power to do what is right! - "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Tim 1:7

I am not helpless against Satan's schemes against me! - "With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him." Dan 11:32

I am not destined to always lose, I am triumphant! - "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." 2 Cor 2:14

There is no person or company that is bigger than my Defender and Protector! - "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Rom 8:31

Be blessed and reminded each day to draw close to Him and set your focus on truth.

Songs of the Heart

As most of us know, the Book of Psalms in the Bible were written as Songs, and not just songs that made it on the weekly top 40, but songs that were designed to Worship and to share our deepest emotions from the innermost part of our being.  So many times we can somehow say more with the same words in a song than if they are merely spoken.  Recently I have been reminded that there was singing when God created the the dawn of our earthly world and the surrounding universe there was music!  How wonderful!

Like many people, I can look back over my life and find music that I listened to at each phase.  When I hear those songs I often have an emotion attached to it, the music can bring back a specific memory or an emotion that might not otherwise come to mind.  And why is it that I can remember all the words to a song that I sang in Jr. High, but if you ask me what I did a couple of weeks ago I might not remember?  I believe it is because music is truly a divine gift.  Just imagine, it is something that God loved to do even before he created Adam.  The Bible tells us that the Angels love to sing but it also tells us that song is not simply just for humans and angels.

Rev 5:13
"Then I heard every creature (emphasis is mine) in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,  forever and ever!"

When I came home from Bible Study a couple weeks ago I posted something on Facebook about this verse and one of my friends from High School mentioned that he might get a little freaked out at the thought of a singing cockroach.  His comment made me laugh but as I contemplated singing bugs, slugs, and all sorts of things; I just marveled at the thought that even the rocks will cry out!  Every single thing on our earth was created by God and if I let my thoughts fly without boundaries it makes sense somehow that everything would praise He who created it!  If you've ever taken Biology class in school you know that even a simple plant was created with complex structures all working perfectly together....and that even goes for plants that we identify as 'weeds'.  Everything was created with a divine purpose.
I love the idea of worshiping in song, and to me, this is one of the most personal and connected ways to worship.  My son and I like to attend a Christian music festival in the summers called Spirit West Coast - Monterey, and each year we make it, I have a brand new experience.  My first year at our favorite festival was the most impact-full for me, I remember the first evening like it was yesterday.  It was dark out, the sky was black with a generous spatter of stars across the sky and as the mist settled into the area, and the lights from the stage were filling up the sky above.  Thousands of people who didn't know each other were standing together all singing the same song raising their hands in worship.  There were so many people singing that you could sing your heart out and no one could distinguish your voice from the voice of the whole crowd.  At one point I was so overcome with emotion and as I paused I just stood there in awe of the sound of thousands of voices singing together, it was as if we sang with one voice.  I got goose bumps and tears of abundant joy ran down me cheeks.  I just closed my eyes and let the sweetness of that moment sink in.  Even though I didn't know any of those people, I was struck by the fact that we all knew the same song, we were all praising the same God, and I remember thinking right then that it would be the best time ever for Jesus to return and take us all home....I was ready!

Whether I am standing in a crowd of thousands, at my church, or singing in my car, it is all worship to me.  I'm so thankful that our God loves music and that He has given me a love for it as well.  I always knew that music spoke to my soul in a deeper way than mere words but when I had the realization that music struck my God in a similar way I found myself thankful that He shared such a wonderful gift with me.  It makes me smile to think that God knows exactly how I feel when I hear a song that I love and sing it out, or when I quietly listen to a song that moves me beyond God not only knows, but he created the very thing that gives me so much pleasure.  As Beth Moore said (this is my own paraphrase from memory), "I can't wait to get to Heaven to hear the song that Jesus will sing to His Father as He worships at His feet!"  I can't even fathom what that tune will be......Rap?  Nah! (Sorry, I couldn't help offense to Rap fans!)

Next time you are singing your favorite worship song....imagine it being sung by a choir of angels as your backup singers.  And if you don't have a favorite one,I would encourage you to find one and sing it often!  A good song can make your heart sing even when life's road gets a little bumpy.   There is an old saying in business which is 'fake it until you make it' and I think that this is an area where you can apply this principle.  When you feel sad or grumpy, start praising God for being so you sing the words (even if your emotions don't 'feel' it at first) it will become harder and harder not to shift your mood into one of thankful praise.  You may not forget about all your worries, but you might just find that they don't seem so bad in light of remembering just who created you and how much He loves you!  Try it for yourself and see what you think.

God Bless and Happy Singing!

Here are the lyrics to a song by The David Crowder Band that reminds me of that sweet night in Monterey, CA (and I was privileged to see him perform this song live that weekend!  He has the best hair ever!):

Open Skies
Praise Him under open skies
Everything breathing praising God
In the company of all who love the King
I will dance, I will sing
It could be heavenly
Turn the music loud, lift my voice and shout
From where I am
From where I've been
He's been there with me
He's built a monument
His very people
So let his people
Sing, sing, sing

And it's so wonderful
Just to be here now

Praise Him under open skies
Everything breathing praising God
In the company
Of all who love the King

Praise Him under open skies
Everything breathing praising God
In the company of all who love the King
Let us dance, let us sing
It could be heavenly
Turn the music loud and sing

Lift your voice to heaven
Lift up your head and sing
To the One who gave his love
This is our offering
Lift your voice to heaven
Lift up your head and sing
To the One who gave His son
Here our lives we bring

From wherever you are
Wherever you've been
He's been there
So let his people sing

And it's so wonderful to be here now
Wherever you are wherever you've been
He's been there

? WHY ?

Recently, I seem to be thinking a lot about the circumstances of life and how they end up the way that they do.

Why are some people healthy and others suffer with chronic sickness? Why do some people leave their spouses and their children? Why do parents who want desperately to have children struggle to get pregnant? Why do some people seem to lash out and hurt the only people who have reached out to them? I have seen these things and I find myself wondering.... Why?

As many of these questions have bounced around in my head over the past several weeks, I am reminded of a lesson that God began teaching me many years ago when my life looked much different than it does now.

You see, several years ago I went through a very tough time physically. I suffered for years in intense and unrelenting pain. I went through multiple surgical procedures in that process and as a result I was not able to keep working to support myself. I went on disability and had to move in with family. (This by the way was a very hard blow to my ego) In this process I had to give up most of my material possessions and leave all of my remaining 'things' in a storage unit while I lived in someone else's home. I was not able to do the things with my son that my heart desired so desperately to do. I was blessed with helpful family, but heartbroken over the lost memories with my son.

After a couple of years of life like this, I found myself trying to make a 'deal' with God. "God, could you please just tell me how long life will be like this? If I could just know that an end is in sight, even if it is still a long way will be so much easier for me." God did not answer my question. So, after a few months I tried a different approach, "God, if you will just tell me HOW things will turn out, I won't ask WHEN it will happen. And that will help me to make it through this time." Again, God did not answer my question. Sadly I must admit that this wasn't the end of my questions....the next one was, "God, I don't even have to know HOW it will work out, just tell me IF it will work out?" (Oh the things we do in desperation) And yet again, God did not answer my question.

I found myself wanting DETAILS....I pride myself in being logical and so it seemed to make perfect sense to me that if I could just have some of the details....not even all of them, I could cope, I could find hope and joy and peace to make it through whatever was ahead of me....if only God would give me some details.

God did not answer me the way I so desperately wanted him to, but he did begin to teach me something totally different.

One day Regan was at school and I was in my room all by myself. I was in a lot of physical pain that day and I was curled up in the middle of my bed with my knees and my face on the mattress. I was crying....I was actually sobbing but my face was in the mattress because I didn't want anyone to hear me crying. As I pressed my face into the bed I cried out to Jesus and said to him, "OK! I get it, I give more of ME Lord.....You don't have to give me answers to my questions.....I need to trust you no matter how LONG, how TOUGH, or what the OUTCOME. You are Sovereign, Always, no exceptions.....I must lay it down at your feet and T-R-U-S-T! Please Lord give me the strength to do this!"

I would love to tell you that I had an immediate sense of peace and healing, but it was not that fast. God began a journey with me that focused on showing me that I do not need to know ANYTHING except for who He is. I can see that if God would have given me what I was asking for originally, I never would have stretched my FAITH muscle. I had nothing to hold on to but Jesus.....and it was truly all I needed.

Today it is almost 7 years since that day I cried my eyes out, and although I have experienced victory over most of the ailments that plagued me at that time, I am fighting new health battles.

My most recent issue had me worried for my life and I found myself once again crying .... because I was afraid ..... because I didn't know what would happen .... because the unknown is still a very difficult place for me to be. Oh how I wish that once God teaches us a lesson that we would never forget it in our 'faith muscle'!

I can say that I felt the still small voice inside of me reminding me that this was no different than the fears and trials before. I was reminded that God doesn't love me any less that he did 7 years ago, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever......and He will lead me and guide me whatever should come my way! He will not leave me or forsake me. In Him I find my Peace, Rest, and my Eternal Security.

Because of who He is, God is patiently working the "Why, When, & How Long" out of my regular conversations with Him. I am a stubborn student, but He is a wise and merciful Teacher.

After that long story I am brought back to the questions that I typed out in the beginning of this post. My questions didn't all have to do with health. I'm discovering that often when I find myself wondering 'why', I feel as though God is leading me to stop 'asking' and just trust Him. No matter what the puzzling circumstance, I can and should seek God to see how I should respond to the situation but then I need to quite my urge for answers and trust that as God sees fit, He will provide me with what I need to know at the exact time that I need to know it.

"Lord, teach me to learn how to completely trust in YOU and in Your timing, despite what I may see and hear. Search my heart Lord and help me to learn from the examples that you have given me both in your Word and in my life. Less of me, and more of YOU!"