Food for Thought

In 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah on the run.  He has witnessed an incredible number of miracles in previous chapters, but right now those things are a distant memory.  Queen Jezebel sent a messenger to let Elijah know that she had his number and he would be killed within the next day.  Even with all the times he has witnessed God’s provision, this lady got to him.  He fled the area with a servant, then left the guy and traveled another entire day by himself.  Elijah didn’t just have a pity party but a full on celebration.  He found a cave to hide out in and heard the voice of God asking what he was doing in no man’s land.  He responded with a string of whining phrases like, “I’ve done all this stuff for you Lord, where are You? Everyone has turned against You and I am the only one left.  Now they are trying to kill me too!”

There are a couple of things that struck me here:

1.      How arrogant of Elijah to think that if he were wiped out that would be the end of the mission to tell people about God.  But when we throw our personalized tantrums is that not the same kind of thing we say?  Newsflash!  We are part of the body of Christ, but again have to be reminded it is not all about us.  If we don’t carry out what God has asked of us, He is quite capable of using someone else.  That stings and is raw to hear, but we need it.  There is a lot to be said for humility!

2.     If God asks you, “what are you doing” that is probably a huge red flag we are not where we are supposed to be.   I’m not sure how much expansion I can provide there, I think that is pretty self explanatory.

Before Elijah found the cave he fell asleep under a tree.  An angel woke him up two times with instructions for him to get up and eat.  The second time the angel woke him up he added, “…for the journey is too great for you.”

Food for thought:

1.      Elijah had this really dramatic Scarlett O’Hara moment.  (Okay, so I am ad-libbing a little here, stay with me.)  He throws his arm to his forehead and says, “It’s over God, just take me now.  I’m no better than my ancestors who tried to tell people about you and failed.”  Then assuming that God is going to listen to his instructions, Elijah takes a nap.  Welcome exaggeration!  I’m sure we are very familiar with this process.  We don’t get the promotion we thought we deserved and it is the end of the world.  We don’t even consider the possibility that God has something way better in store for us in 6 months.  Maybe we would have been miserable in that new position?

2.     Why did this angel say that this journey was too much for Elijah?  Um, hello, he was nowhere near where he was supposed to be.    He jumped at Jezebel’s bark and ran off with a servant to hide.  Then he dumped this guy so he could truly be a legitimate victim and traveled for another whole day to separate himself from any indication of civilization.  We are very skilled at setting our pity parties up.  Step one, isolation.  Step two, relive every bad thing that has ever happened to us and play the blame game.  Step three, blow up a few balloons, get some party hats and get comfortable.  We want to enjoy being in misery.

There is a great ending to this story.  God allowed Elijah to witness how nature reacts to His presence.  He saw wind break mountains apart and experienced an earthquake followed by fire.   But God knew exactly what Elijah needed, a still, small voice that could go right to the core of his being and heal it.

It’s easy for us to say what Elijah should have done and point out his faults.  I don’t think that is the point of stories like these.  We are all going to behave like this at some point in our lives.  What a great illustration of hope and comfort.  God could have zapped Elijah because He got tired of his whining.  He could have let him die there under that tree, but He didn’t. He showed Elijah just a glimpse of His power to say, “Let me handle this, I’ve got it.”  Then He soothed Elijah with peace and comfort from within to restore him.  God knew exactly what Elijah needed to see, hear and feel.  Elijah is no different from you or me.  He was just a guy trying to share God with the people God put in his path.  If God knew what He needed why would it be any different for us?

Office Supplies

In our church, we talk a lot about being stretched, allowing God to use you in new ways or expanding the territory of your influence.  It gets compared a lot to a rubber band.  A simple little rubber band can take on the shape of lots of things.  It can assist in holding stuff together or keeping something organized.  Personally I feel a lot more like a paperclip.  I have been programmed into thinking, acting, or believing a certain way.  I can change my shape, but then I look funny and I really am not that useful anymore.  Even if I try to bend back, my original shape can never be quite achieved again.

I think I’ve also been more like a binder clip at times.  I can hold stuff together with a death grip that will pinch the fire out of you if not used properly.  I wonder how many times I’ve pinched someone who may have only been trying to help me.

No matter what office supply you feel more like, the great news is that God loves you just as much either way.  There is nothing we can add to our lives, take away, do or say that can separate us from His love.

Psalm 103:6-18 (The Message)
God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet. He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up his plans to all Israel. God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, Making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said.

None of us are worthy of Jesus’ death, after all this passage speaks to God keeping in mind that we’re just made of mud (rubber band, paper clip, etc).  He doesn’t treat us how we deserve to be treated.  If so, there would be no hope for anyone to spend eternity with Him.  God is not looking to punish any of us.  If that were the case that would be all He could ever do!  Instead He is always showing us His mercy, His favor and His love.  Most of the time we either ignore it, overlook it, dismiss it or buzz right by it in our busy lives.

He loves us enough to be gentle when we need it and a little more raw when that is what it takes to get our attention.  These scriptures also remind us that our faith has an effect on the generations after us.  Society is so focused on doing whatever you need to be happy.  As long as you are not hurting anyone it’s ok.  This is such a tragic trap we have fallen into.  The next time you are out in public, try smiling at a stranger and see what happens.  Most of the time they will smile back.  If we can have that kind of effect without speaking a word to someone we don’t even know, what greater investment we must make into the lives in our legacy.

I, for one, am glad that God loves me, a small little piece of metal that gets a little bent out of shape sometimes, but really wants to keep changing.

Oversized

The Everhart house has been subjected to some serious spring cleaning over the last few weeks.  Yes, please ignore the fact that is now summer time!  We all have those rooms/spaces in our homes where everything that does not have a designated place seems to pile up.  It is an ongoing joke that I consider my husband and son to be pack rats, while they think I don’t keep anything.  Our son wants to keep every scrap of paper he has ever doodled on, every paper airplane he has ever made and every dried up marker or ink pen—just in case we need it to make something else.  My hubby keeps junk mail, every notebook he has ever written in and clothes that haven’t been worn in 10 years.  I guess all the stars were aligned recently because we tackled our extra bedroom, which is our personal junkyard.  We organized, put things in the attic and my personal favorite…threw some stuff away!

This bedroom also serves as our home office.  We had this massive desk that was too big for the space and really ended up being nothing more than a shrine to all things that we refused to find a place for, throw away or give away.  After getting some help from our wonderful brother-in-law, we found a great new home for the desk at our church.  We then purchased a much smaller desk that has no places or room to be a fancy trashcan.

As I thought through how I wanted the room to look, what its function needed to be, etc. it made me realize how junky some areas in my own life had become.  There were some spaces that I allowed to be overtaken by oversized memories, loaded down with traditions and even misused.  It was just easier to close the door to those spaces than to deal with them.

It’s not easy making a decision to let go of things from our past.  It is uncomfortable to realize that you have settled for a pothole in your life rather than climbing out, dusting off and moving forward.  I find it much more comfortable to look into the lives of others and determine what they need to do.  I could tell my son that life is not fair and you just have to deal with what it hands you.  I could be the wife that tells her husband just to quit fighting Lyme’s Disease because there is no cure.

I could be the woman that stays under the thumb of the legalism she was raised under.  Shedding things that hold onto us is either a process or an instant freedom.  What determines that?  Well, the best I can explain it is your willingness to let go is combined with God’s plan for your life.  Just like I had to ask for help from my brother-in-law to deliver the massive desk out of our home, I have to ask God daily to help me with the things I struggle with…anxiety, patience, using my ears instead of my mouth, etc.  However, sometimes there are things I can just pray about, drop it in God’s hands and have total peace.  I can’t predict what those things are for me any easier than I could for you, but I think our willingness to shed them is the biggest step or acknowledgement.

So my question for you today is, “are you holding onto some oversized things that you can’t get to fit into your life?”  Maybe it’s time to ask for some help to get rid of them?  It might not even be something bad…my desk is in great shape, it just wasn’t right for me, but it is perfect for the classroom at church.

Unpacking

I am a huge animal lover.  My son and I enjoy cuddling up and watching National Geographic or PBS.  There are so many things that amaze me about animal instincts, behavior and even how their appearance helps them to survive in whatever environment they are native too.

I recently learned about the Cowbird.  This bird got its name because it travels with herds of cattle.  You may find it difficult to acknowledge the intellect of a small bird, but you may be about to change your mind.

The Cowbird is lazy but very smart.  It does not build its own nests.  Instead the Cowbird spends time observing the other birds in the area.  They stake out the nest and while it is unoccupied they make their move.  Cowbirds will either knock all the other birds’ eggs out of the nest or lay their own eggs and hide them among the eggs already there.    After laying the eggs, the Cowbird abandons the nest and moves on as the cattle do.

When the nest owner comes back, they continue with the process of bringing new life into the world.  The little mom and dad are left to nurture something that is not their own and they don’t even know it.

I really had to sit and digest that for awhile.  If we look at this scenario from a spiritual perspective there is a lot to think about.

1.      Someone is always watching you.

Unfortunately, not everyone in your life has your best interest at heart.  There are many times red flags are waving and sirens are blaring, but we miss these warnings.  We all need to ask God to help us know when we have unhealthy relationships in our lives and how He would want us to handle them.

2.     Protect your gifts

God has blessed each of us with gifts.  You may be an encourager, good with finances, musical, fitness instructor, dancer, minister, etc.  The least we can do is protect the treasures God has placed in us.  This doesn’t mean we horde them to ourselves, but it certainly means we nurture them, grow them and invest in them.  Take pride in whatever gift God placed in your life.  No one can do it like you can!

3.     Conflict resolution

We all have situations in our lives that have created baggage.  It is so important for us to unpack that suitcase, deal with whatever it is and move on.  Maybe your marriage ended through no fault of your own.  If you move too quickly into another relationship, you are carrying your hurt and pain with you.  You keep adding to that suitcase until it is so heavy you can barely walk through each day.  But in your head you keep thinking…I really enjoy hanging out with this guy why do I still feel so empty?  Maybe you have trust issues with men now.  This new guy is wonderful and you have no reason to not trust him, but there is always that doubt that chews on you.  How do you unload that baggage?  Spend time on yourself.  Figure out who you are, what is at your core, what you believe, what is important to you, etc.  This may require therapy, Christian counseling, and will absolutely take prayer and TIME.  Conflict could also come from childhood experiences like physical/mental abuse, molestation, etc.  If we hang onto those things the suitcase gets heavier and heavier—one day we won’t be able to carry it anymore, it then turns into bitterness.

4.     The aftermath

There is an old saying, “Bitterness is like you drinking poison and expecting it to affect the person you are upset with.”  When we hang onto things that were unjustly forced on us, we are the ones who suffer.  Anxiety, depression and stress will control us.  The person who wronged us has moved on and probably doesn’t even think about the situation anymore.  Forgiveness is an absolute must for healing and moving forward.  It certainly doesn’t mean that you forget about what happened, because honestly we are human and we don’t have a delete button in our brains.  Sometimes it is not even appropriate for you to contact the person and tell them that you forgive them.  You need to do this for yourself.

Don’t spend the rest of your life investing in raising someone else’s bird.  God promised He will not put more on us than we can bear, so be careful that you are not picking up someone else’s load.

Are Those Your Shoes or Mine?

We have been talking about the story of Job in our Wednesday evening Bible study at church.  My fellow church goers love to get me riled up about women being mistreated and not respected within the church body.  Let’s just say I get rather excited.  So, I knew when we decided to study Job, the topic of his wife would get me stirred up.

Job is described as an upright and righteous man by God Himself.  Hello, talk about the ultimate compliment from the one who made you in the first place!  Several horrible events take place that wipe out everything Job owns and worst of all his children (seven sons and three daughters).  He immediately begins to worship God despite all the heart breaking things that have happened.

Job develops sores all over his body and is miserable.  Finally one day his wife looks at him and says, “Why are you still trying to hold on your integrity.  What does it matter now?  Just curse God and be done with it so you can die.”

Growing up I remember constantly hearing how foolish this woman was, how flaky, how flighty she was for even daring to speak those words.  Seriously?  Put yourself in her shoes…most of us probably all of us wouldn’t have held out as long as she did before throwing our hands up.  We have trouble paying a credit card bill for something we couldn’t afford to purchase in the first place and we are ready to crawl in a hole and give up on life.  The slightest bump in our road comes along and we start whining—yes, I said whining because we act like brats.  Job and his wife lost everything they owned.  That would be difficult to recover from, but it could be done.  Can you imagine the grief of losing all your children in one day?  Where do you go from that?

I tried to imagine myself in her shoes, but I couldn’t do it.  Want to know why?  They are her shoes and not mine.  God didn’t call me to be Job’s wife, or anyone else for that matter.  There are people out there that I share similar experiences with, but ultimately I don’t know exactly what ANYONE is thinking or feeling because their shoes don’t fit me.

We study the Bible and learn lessons from it.  We are inspired by it.  We see things that we can apply to our lives, but none of us should strive to be anyone other than who God made us to be.  He sees our potential because He put it there.  God created each of us as unique, special and wonderful beings.  Of course He wants to spend time on us, investing in us, crafting us into a masterpiece…especially one with great shoes!