Friday, May 23, 2014

Stuck in the Mud

This has been a crazy week. You know, a Murphy's Law kind of week. If it could go wrong it did! But today I woke up to a BEAUTIFUL sight. It was raining. We have had less than an inch of rain in our area this year. Our world has seemed bone dry; so as I got in my car and the rain came down, I delighted in the sprinkles. I thought what a perfect day it was and my heart felt happy and joyful. As I got further down the road I remembered a gift that I meant to bring to one of my friends. She has just been given the No Evidence of Disease clearance! I purchased a bracelet for her when she began chemo and have been waiting for just this day to celebrate and give it to her. I quickly made a U-turn to go back and get it. And then it happened. I got stuck in the mud. Awesome. I guess it has been dry so long that I forgot what happened to dirt when mixed with water. Genius. I grabbed my phone and called my husband. No answer. I called my dad. No answer. As people drove by (and trust me, I think half the town drove by -- no way of looking cool there) and I tried to figure out what next, there was nothing to do but laugh. I couldn't curse the mud; I loved the rain. One of the best parts of living in a small town is the goodness of people. Soon three pick-ups had stopped to help me and get me back on my way. As I drove away, I thought about Psalm 40:1-3

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me & heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud & mire;
he set my feet on a rock
& gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see & fear
& put their trust in the LORD”
Psalm 40:1-3

Today it was a few good men who got me out of the mud and mire, but God has done so over and over and over. Just about the time I think I am going to be stuck forever, He shows up and sets me on solid ground. He puts a song in my heart and I find joy. Like being stuck today, I have learned not to hate the mud, but to just enjoy the rain. God is good!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Candle or Kindling

It started with a warm sensation, not much more than the warmth that comes from friction, but the intensity of the heat increased until the match burst into full flame. Whatever it touched next would be forever changed. If it came in contact with a candle, it would produce light that could illuminate a room and show others the way. If it came in contact with dry kindling, it would produce a fire that had potential to become quite destructive. The same initial friction could have drastically different outcomes depending on the receiver.

I once read that "light is costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering." (Streams in the Desert) As I reflected on that thought I could not help but think of the number of times that I have seen suffering bring destruction and not light. I thought of the times I have seen someone swallowed up and embittered by the suffering they were facing.  It was then that I felt that gentle nudging that I have felt so often in the last year and a half that whispered to my soul, "It is a choice." Just as the match can bring light or destruction, suffering can have the same impact. The deciding factor is the condition of that which it comes in contact with. Should the flame come in contact with a dry, brittle soul, combustion is sure to take place. That combustion can become all consuming and swallow completely anything it comes in contact with. However, should the match come in contact with a soul rooted in the wax of faith, it becomes a warming light. Our choice is what kind of receiver will we be? Unfortunately, the suffering is painful regardless of whether we are a candle or kindling, but the after effects determine whether it was worth it. It is a choice, but it can be a hard choice to make when you are in the heat of suffering. It can seem impossible when you feel like you are being consumed, but Lamentations 3:22 says, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."

Maybe you are suffering today, feeling consumed by the friction  in your life. I cannot ease your suffering, but I do want to encourage you. Be a candle and not kindling. Root yourself in faith and you become a light in spite of the challenges you face. There are so many scriptures that promise our suffering is momentary. One of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:10, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." That verse, and so many others, promise that trials are going to pass, but I must warn you; you will be left with the aftereffects. If you become a candle during trials, then when the trials pass you continue to bring light, but if you allow the trials to make you dry, brittle kindling, you will find life difficult to rebuild after the trial by fire.

The match moved closer. It would soon come in contact. The heat of the tiny flame was growing. Contact was made. Suffering began. For a moment it felt as if the heat would be all consuming, but the fire did not spread. It did not bring disaster, for the wick was immersed in a vessel of wax. The wax, when warmed, gave off a warm, comforting aroma. A soft, soothing light radiated. Others were drawn to the glow. They found comfort there. And in the end, the suffering was worth it somehow.

Other Verses about Trials
Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.