Thursday, June 28, 2012


Life can change in an instant. Maybe your obedience to the voice of the Lord launched you into a new church plant within a matter of weeks. The speed of transition in ministry leaves you winded at best. Maybe you wake up startled to find your teen in trouble with the law, and now his world would be changed forever. The impact on the family is like nothing you have ever experienced before. Or you find out multiple family members and friends have been diagnosed with life altering diseases, various cancers and/or terminal illnesses. Maybe one of those is you, and on top of that, your insurance runs out. Maybe your husband lost his job and the whirlwind is more than you can handle. The unemployment is mistakenly denied, and your 401K gets caught up in a blackout period due to a merger. Fear of the unknown overtakes you and drives you to the edge of a legitimate nervous breakdown. Or maybe it could be that you got a phone call from your daughter’s teacher telling you she will not pass this year if drastic measures are not taken immediately. Maybe somehow your household of 11 seems to have dropped to 5 overnight which gives you a glimpse of what “empty nest syndrome” feels like. Or soon you notice that your son has several emotional breakdowns due to anxiety because he can’t understand change or even process moving...again. This is due in part because your landlord suddenly decided he needs to move back because of the effects of the economy and needs you to relocate your family in a matter of weeks. Or it may seem likely that a pet that you once loved has died without notice as a result of your mistake or lack of better judgment. Then there is the wedding that you are planning that seems to be approaching faster than a speeding bullet. Additionally, maybe the job that you are so grateful for is the same one that can give you massive heartburn in a split second. You are spread so thin, that when your closest friends need you the most you weep for days because there is so little that you can do to help aside from share the burden which unbeknownst to them almost breaks your back. Then you realize that what seems like years of all the added stress and struggles of life is really just the result of the first 6 months of 2012.

BUT just as life can change, so can your circumstances…all of a sudden. I have recently realized that God is a God of “suddenlies”. Not only is He IN the suddlenlies, but He MOVES suddenly. Light appears at the flick of a switch and so can the hand of God. Provision, favor and blessing can be given in an instant at His very command just as I have experienced this month alone. Monetary provision came from unexpected people and places and not once did a bill have to go unpaid. I even got a raise and a bonus when we needed it the most! But I would be lying if I said it was easy, all was well and peace reigned supreme.

Here’s a little deeper look into just ONE of our recent valleys…Lately, life had been coming so fast that my head began to spin. A new season was beginning, but it took me a second to see God’s hand through it or even at all. Jeremy went through another job transition beyond his control and had no prospects or interviews lined up despite his focused efforts. It was reminiscent of his layoff 5 years ago when we lost everything (car, house…you name it, we lost it). Yes, God restored above and beyond just like He promised. However, recently I found that though my trust remained bigger than the deepest ocean, my faith was smaller than a mustard seed. This would be the second job transition for us in less than a year! Nonetheless, I worshipped when I didn’t feel like it, trusted when I didn’t understand it and prayed when I wanted to curse instead. Just being real…

Then last Monday the 11th came and BAM! He got a call from someone requesting his resume; a phone interview was soon scheduled thereafter, then a face to face interview followed by a final phone interview with a VP…ALL IN THE SAME DAY! He received a VERY good job offer as a Branch Manager within 24 hours. Papers were signed a couple days later (only because he had received another possible job opportunity!), and he was to start training the next week. WOW…but then my anxiety and fear began to creep in. Was this too good to be true? Which job should he take? Is this a hasty decision? It sure felt like it. Doesn’t it normally take FOREVER (ok, maybe a month at least) to get hired ANYWHERE these days? Aren’t you supposed to take time to pray about it? How much time? Things were moving at the pace of a freight train!

We (sort of) had a peace to accept the offer, but I could not shake what I didn’t understand which was the SUDDEN change and rush of blessing. How could this be God? Maybe it was just a fleece to blind us. Maybe I’m overthinking it. But then again, I have always been taught NEVER to make a hasty or rash decision. Then I FINALLY heard God speak. I am sure He was more or less trying to SCREAM over the loudness of my thoughts, yet in a tender moment, I felt his assurance so gentle and strong both at the same time.

He spoke to me about His “suddenlies” and gave me the peace that I had been searching for that whole week. It was enough to calm me down, but I still had uncertainties. I should have made time to really study it and get in the Word two weeks ago when He told me to, but it wasn’t until last week that I decided to make time for obedience. I really wish I would have done that a few days sooner…maybe “suddenly” would have been more appropriate.

He reminded me of all the instances in the Bible where He moved suddenly without question. Scripture after Scripture and story after story, I was in awe. The word suddenly means “happening, coming, made or done quickly, without warning; unexpectedly occurring without transition from the previous form or state; abrupt: a sudden turn.” Did you know that the “suddenlies” of God are referenced over 40 times in the Bible? For example, Jesus calmed storms instantly (Matt. 8:26), healed instantly (Mark 1:31) and delivered instantly (Acts 16:-25-26). He also forgives and forgets in the blink of an eye. Heavenly hosts appear suddenly (Luke 2:13), and He will return suddenly…to name a few.

I regret that I did not at least partially understand this side of God until last week. As Jeremy has mentioned before, there are so many facets to God which is the very reason the angels fly around him saying, “Holy, Holy”. It is not because they are bored and have nothing better to do. It is because they are seeing a whole new side to Him with every turn they make. It is through their amazement and awe that they cry, “Holy”.

It’s funny because for so long I have prayed for God to move speedily, that when He actually did, I questioned if it’s Him because His timing seemed to be so inconsistent with my previous experiences. In reality though, it may have had nothing do with His timing but with the amount of time that it took me to respond and learn through the trial. I have been basing my fears of today on the history of my past circumstances instead of focusing on the blessing of being in the present. Sometimes, it is hard to realize that (in most instances) what we are going through now is different than what we went through then.

Some of life’s lessons are so simple, but we often make them so complicated. I guess that is the downfall of being human…or being me…maybe nobody else does that. Nonetheless, there are definitely a few things I have learned so far this year:
1. When in a trial, “how” you wait determines “how long” you wait.
2. Sudden obedience brings sudden breakthrough.
3. Your level of faith does not determine the result of your circumstances. It is the depth of your trust and the ability to exercise whatever amount of faith you do have.
4. In order for faith to manifest, you first must determine what you are actually hoping for.
5. Just as quickly as life seems to fall apart, God can restore it even faster. All of it. Just learn your lesson quicker. (I know…easier said than done.)

So, with that…(please excuse all my ramblings)…Bring on the SUDDENLIES! A new day is dawning and my faith is being restored! I can now stand firm and trust that the giants in my life can be cast down in an instant. Where’s that stone?!? I’m ready for battle and looking forward to the latter half of 2012 with great expectation. The tide has turned! Well, at least it has started to recede…still believing though!

NOTE: A couple days after this blog was originally written last week, God had another chance to show Himself faithful in the suddenlies once again. Story coming soon…

Here’s a teaser: Jeremy was stranded in Oklahoma because someone stole his car keys and his phone among other things. Then they threatened to come back and steal his car after they had already trashed it. With a little favor and Divine intervention, his wife saved the day. (I can say that since I’m the one telling the story.) Stay tuned…

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bear the Burden, Not the Offense

My children go to bed at 7pm, and Easter Sunday was no different. At 6pm my son decided to tell me (for the first time) about a project due Monday regarding a half page summary on a chapter book he was supposed to read before spring break (which was a month ago). Imagine my delight. {Can you feel the sarcasm?}

So, with very little time to read a book AND write a summary, I decided that the book of Jonah would suffice. It was short and had chapters. Score! We read it; I paraphrased it. He wrote it. Then I re-read it again and pondered a story that I thought I knew front and back…until I got to Chapter 4. Gotta love fresh revelation.

Did you know that Jonah got angry at God for having mercy on the people of Nineveh when He didn’t smite them after Jonah {finally} warned them that He would? God asked him to do something, but then Jonah got offended when the outcome wasn’t what he thought it should be. God proceeds to call him out and asks what right he has to be angry and offended. THEN Jonah gets mad again and runs off to pout! So, God allowed a leafy plant to sprout up to provide him with shade from the scorching sun (while he pouted), but turned around the next day only to have a worm kill it. Jonah was furious now.

Here’s the teaching opportunity. In God’s conversation with Jonah, He says this: “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? …You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow…” (Jonah 4:9-10 NIV). Jonah was offended about things that were not his concern. How many times have we gotten upset by something that we either: A) didn’t have all the facts about or B) didn’t concern us?

Whether it be church, job, school or otherwise, I can recall several instances regarding outcomes that I didn’t like or just didn’t seem fair. But the biggest lesson that I have learned over the years is not to let someone else’s offense become my offense. I guess you could call it a “sympathetic offense.” It kind of reminds me of the “sympathy weight” that a husband gains when his wife is pregnant. A lot of times we take on these offenses and don’t even realize it, or we take them on subconsciously hoping that this proves our loyalty to someone or something. {Ouch}

I am all for supporting a friend in time of need or helping carry a burden that is too heavy for them to manage alone, but there is a BIG difference in carrying one’s burden vs. carrying one’s offense. A burden is carried out of love for one another, but an offense is carried out of selfishness and rooted in bitterness. I can find several Scriptures on carrying one’s burdens (for instance, Gal. 6:2), but not one on bearing another’s offense. The Bible DOES, however, provide instruction on HOW to be a good friend through a difficult time, but it also provides very stern warnings on gossip. That is a fine line that you do not want to cross. Remember, bear the burden, not the offense.

A lot of times, we take on the hurt of a friend or co-worker and spread it because deep down we want others to know that we are hurt because someone hurt our friend. Gossip is sharing information or ideas about someone to someone who is not part of the problem or the solution regardless of the validity or positive/negative impact of the statement. Below are a few important references to note with regards to repeating what you hear:

Proverbs 17:9
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Titus 3:2
…To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
James 4:11
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law.

NOW, if you are the one rightfully offended, here’s my POV. {This should probably be listed as a “part 2”, but oh, well}. Obviously, God created us as humans, and He knew we would experience hurt and offense. Yet as Christians, we are raised that the word “offense” is complete taboo, that you have a “choice” and apparently are supposed to be happy all the time without expressing any hurt or feelings. I only slightly agree with that, but before the religious people start throwing stones, let me explain. Offense is normal and hurt is a part of life. It’s gonna happen. BUT the VICTORY lies in the RESPONSE. Some “offense” can actually be good according to 2 Cor. 7:8. “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it…I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while… yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.” This is usually done as a form of discipline by someone placed in authority to invoke change. We could go so many different directions with this, but since this blog is not about justifying an offense, let’s not get sidetracked.

More often than not, an offense has the capability to become a nasty beast (Prov. 18:19) if we are not poised with the proper attitude and response to combat it. Thank God He gave us a “guide to life” that teaches us practical concepts when dealing with hurt. Take a look:

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses…
Colossians 3:13
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Proverbs 19:11
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

All this to say…God doesn’t expect us to be perfect or to handle every situation perfectly, but he does expect us to respond according to His teachings even when we don’t understand His reasoning. The story of Jonah isn’t just about getting swallowed by a big fish. He carried an offense that wasn’t his to bear. I hope that you have enjoyed this very lengthy “whale” of a blog! LOL! Thanks for reading!

So, in essence: Bear the burden, not the offense. Don’t gossip and choose forgiveness.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Temptation vs. Circumstance

Let’s just jump right in! Did you know that the cliché saying of “God will never give you more than you can handle” is not even Scriptural? How many times have we said that to someone going through a hardship or had that said to us during a time when we were in dire need of encouragement? I grew up in church, heard this all my life and have said it more times than I can count. How could it not be true?

Well, about 2 weeks ago we had a family incident (or 2) occur, and I began to ponder this thought really hard, this supposed Scripture reference. I was at a breaking point, and I had no problem telling God “this” (my circumstance) was more than I could handle. It didn’t make sense to me…that is until yesterday when I realized that the origin of this statement found in 1 Cor. 10:13 was grossly taken out of context. There I was reminding God of something He never said (or inspired)! Talk about a smack on the wrist! I soon felt the need to delve a little further. Stay with me…

Here is what the King James Version states:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Let’s compare with NIV for a better understanding:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

So, how in the world did we as Christians derive “God will never give you more than you can handle” from that? When read in the context of the verses before it, Paul is speaking in reference to TEMPTATIONS like idolatry, sexual immorality, complaining, etc. {Yes, complaining} He is saying that God will not PERMIT us to be tempted without the opportunity to choose a different option as well. Just to clarify…God is NOT the one doing the tempting, but He IS the one that will show you a way out…so that you don’t experience more than you can handle and be forced to succumb to the temptation for lack of another choice.

Here’s the kicker. NOWHERE does 1 Cor. 10:13 mention anything about CIRCUMSTANCES. For example: the death of a loved one, job loss, divorce, hurtful accusations, trials or worse…circumstances that we create in a moment of weakness from the temptations He tried to save us from. Yet those are the things we assume or hope to be encompassed in that Scripture reference, but nope…it ONLY covers temptation. Sorry to burst your bubble; I felt the same way. However, there IS good news…

The Bible does specifically reference circumstances and how we are to deal with them…just not in that passage. If we do a little research, the Scriptures state that we should cast our cares on the Lord, go to Him when we are weary and weak, and He will renew our strength and give us rest (1 Pet 5:7, Matt. 11:28-29, Is. 40:29-31, Ps. 55:22). In that, there is hope.

So, while our circumstances may actually be more than we can handle (alone), God is there to lend a hand and carry some of that burden. It’s really just a matter of trust. Quite honestly though, sometimes it is hard for me to let go. But when I do there is such peace, and I can finally breathe. After all, He does have my best interest at heart and works EVERYTHING out for my good. Always. And that is usually when I start quoting Jer. 29:11 and Romans 8:28 to convince myself! Lol.

This revelation was so eye-opening for me, and I pray that it does the same for you. It has finally provided clarity and understanding on a topic that I apparently knew very little about. So, my new goal is not to get so caught up in age old “Christianese” sayings that I inadvertently misquote Scripture without digging a little deeper. I mean, if I am going to “remind” God of his Word, then I better know what He said first!