Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Be Still

I have two sweet little nephews, ages 7 and 8. I love them both with all my heart. They are actually less than a year apart in age, and I love being their aunt. They are smart, creative, talented and handsome. They also have sharp, witty little senses of humor. They're a lot of fun to be around and I love "my" little guys.

Now. As much as I love them both, I do not like to be with both of them in a car at the same time. They will joke, laugh, nag, pick, fight, cry, drive each other crazy, just about drive ME crazy... and will not BE STILL. If they would just be still, at least sometimes... and be quiet, at least sometimes... but they're just kids, and that's how they roll.

Have you ever been around overly-excited little kids? Those of you who are parents or who have children in your families know exactly what I mean. They can run like wild little firecrackers - which is FINE at the right place and time – but sometimes you just want to tell them to BE STILL.

God has to deal with us in that way sometimes. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." God wants us to be still and trust Him. But what exactly is "being still?" Why do we need to be still? And HOW, in this world we live in today, do we learn to be still? I have studied some on those questions and will share with you what I have learned.

What exactly does it mean to be still? Psalm 4:4 says, "Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent" or, as the King James puts it, "commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." The Hebrew word used in this verse means literally, "to be silent, be still, wait, be dumb, grow dumb." In other words, HUSH. We can practice being still by simply being quiet.

Psalm 46:10, which I quoted earlier, tells us to "Be still and know that I am God." The Hebrew word used here, "damam," means "to sink, relax, let drop." Here we learn that being still can involve letting go of all our striving, stressing and worrying. Let go of the anxiety in your situation. We are told to just relax and "let it drop." Let go. Relax. Be still.

In the book of Mark, Jesus stopped a wild storm by telling it to be still. The Greek word used here means, again, "to close the mouth with a muzzle; to stop the mouth, make speechless, reduce to silence; to be kept in check." So again we see that being still involves being quiet.

How do we "be still?" By being silent. By letting go. My keeping ourselves and our mouths in check, and waiting.

WHY should we be still? One reason is that we stay safe. Psalm 4:8 says, "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe."

When we relax and let go of our tenacious grip on life, Psalm 46 tells us God is honored. What's more, we are protected. When we "let go" and be still, we experience God's presence and protection. Psalm 46:11 says, "The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress."

Thirdly, when we are still, we can reach a place of deep peace. When Jesus commanded the storm to "be still," Mark says, "the wind ceased and there was a great calm." When we are still, we can experience God's "great calm."

So why should we be still? We are kept safe, we are protected and we are calm when we are still. I have listed just a few reasons; the Bible gives many more and I invite you to study more on that for yourself.

Finally, the "how." We live in a crazy, busy, bustling world these days. How do we break free from that cycle to achieve this stillness? I can personally say, sometimes it seems impossible... but with God's help, stillness is possible and within reach. The Bible offers us answers for every question we might have, so let's look into how to be still.

II Chronicles 20 alludes to "being still" as a choice or a decision. A prophet tells God's people, "Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory." In other words, plant your feet. Stand STILL. And watch God fight for you!

When we decide to be still, we stop everything we are doing. In that resonating zen-like space, God’s capacity to work is unlimited. Jesus gives a great example of this in the story of blind Bartimaeus, Mark chapter 10. It says Jesus stood STILL...

"...and said, 'Tell him to come here.' So they called the blind man. 'Cheer up,' they said. 'Come on, he’s calling you!' Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked. 'My rabbi,' the blind man said, 'I want to see!' And Jesus said to him, 'Go, for your faith has healed you.' Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road."

I submit to you that God works in stillness.

Be still. Rest. Wait. Isaiah 40:31 says it best; "those who WAIT on the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint."

I say to you today, "Peace, be still." Be quiet. Let go. Plant your feet, stand strong, and wait. Then watch God work on your behalf.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Bus, the Bike and Me

So, today I have a story to tell. This is the true tale of how my car just... quit... on me, and how I have now become a faithful patron of the Baton Rouge. Capital Area Transit System.

To make the telling easier, and to make the story a little more fun to read, I have used the help of my friend Will Smith... basically I rewrote the lyrics to "The Fresh Prince of BelAir."

Here you go... enjoy... hehe...

Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I'll tell you how I started ridin' the bus everywhere

At Albemarle, yeah, at the PDC
Is where I earn my dollars for my babies and me
The day passed by, 3:30 came my way
So I went in my car down Scenic Hwy
Then suddenly my car was up to no good
The radio turned off, engine under the hood
I took a quick little right and then my car died
So I pushed it cross the street to the other side

Thought I was out of gas so my friends gave me a ride
Fed her gas,she wouldn't start, jumped her off, she still died
My boss got behind me, pushed me all the way home
I parked my girl in the lot in the corner all alone

The car is not worth what it would cost to fix it
Even then, I could still get an inspection sticker ticket
Can't buy another car so I'll do what I must
And that's when I decided I'd start riding the bus

I got out my bike, put air in the tires
Forget that alternator, transmission and wires
Every morning I get up and on my bike I hop
And I pedal my way down to the local bus stop

For $56 I got a month-long bus pass
Called Progressive and told them to kiss my sassafrass
Got a Cert of Non-Use from the DMV
So now it's just us; I got my bike, my bus and me

In the meantime, I'm paying off the debt that I owe
For the car that won't start, yeah, the car that won't go
If anything I could say this is a learning experience
The muscles in my legs think I musta gone delirious

I get home every day 5:30 or 6
Do my best for my dog who just has to hold it
Get home, we go walkin' and she gets to pee
So there you have the story
Of the bike, the bus and me

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How About Some Hope?

What is hope? How do you GET hope? What do you do with hope and what does hope do FOR YOU?

I have been wondering about hope lately and decided to do some digging. I found out some good stuff! So I wanted to share it with you guys. (That means YOU, reading this blog right now.) *smile*

The Bible we have today was translated from original writings in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). In both these languages, there are numerous words that were translated into the English word "hope." So, hope has many meanings.

(For this study, I used THIS website and THIS OTHER website.)

The Old Testament uses words that mean "security and safety" and "trust, confidence, and refuge," for example.

Hope is also used as a verb, meaning things like "to wait, hope, expect, await, tarry to wait for, hope for."

In the Greek New Testament, the main word used for "hope" is "elpis," which means "to anticipate, usually with pleasure."

To me, hope is expectation... assurance that something better is on the way... a guarantee that things will be okay. Or wanting; REALLY, really hoping for something.

What is hope to you?

The Bible give TONS of examples of what hope is and what it is for. You can choose any verse you like and cling to it as a promise. God's word is full of promises and encouragement FOR YOU. (Again, that means YOU, reading this blog right now.) *another smile*

Here are just a few of the verses offering HOPE, just for you:

Psalm 25:5 - "Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You."

Psalm 62:5 - "I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him."

Isaiah 42:3 - "He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope. He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged."

Zechariah 9:12 - "Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners, for there is yet hope! I promise this very day that I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes!"

Matthew 12:20 - "He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until He brings full justice with His final victory."

Romans 15:13 - "So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in Him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

1 Timothy 4:10 - "We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe.

Hebrews 10:23 - "Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep His promise."

Hope is free, hope is for you, and hope is RELIABLE.

So here, take some HOPE!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Enough to Go Around... and Around, and Around, and Around...!

Yesterday evening, I was praying about hope.

I had been up since 5:30 that morning, had worked an 8-hour day and was about to go work a shift at the crisis phone line. I was feeling so tired... just exhausted, and I didn't feel like I had anything in me to give.

"Lord, give me hope."

"Lord, use me to give hope to other people."

Then I got an idea...

"Lord, crank hope out of me like with the loaves and fishes; even if I don't feel like I have enough hope to sustain myself, I surrender what I have and ask you to multiply that to be above and beyond what is needed to help others around me."

It reminded me of the story of Elijah and the widow in the Old Testament. Do you know that story? You can find it word for word HERE, but I'll give you a quick version of it.

There had been no rain in the land, and everything was dry. The Lord told Elijah to go to a widow and ask her for food and water.

The widow basically told Elijah, "I don't have enough to give you. In fact, I am about to use my last bit of flour and oil to make bread for my son and myself, then we are going to starve to death because we will have no more to eat."

Elijah told her to go ahead and do what she had to do, but asked her to please make him some bread first. If she did that, he told her, she and her son would never run out of food.

Talk about a leap of faith... the woman made food for Elijah, then some for her son and herself. The next day, she did the same... and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and she NEVER RAN OUT!

Because she surrendered the little she had, which was not enough for herself anyway, God honored her faith and kept her supply up. She would go to the jar of flour and scoop out what she could to make bread for a day for her son, for herself, and for Elijah. The next day, she would go back to the jar and scoop out what she could, and the next day, and so on... and there was ALWAYS FLOUR IN THE JAR FOR HER!

She never had a jar full, but she always had ENOUGH, day after day.

I believe God loves to bless us for honoring Him through our obedience.

God still does this for us today! Just so happens, I was in church this past Sunday digging in my wallet for my tithe.

This past paycheck was a slim check that had to spread a long way. It really was not enough to pay rent and car insurance AND buy food AND gasoline and so on and so on... anyway... I got out the amount for my tithe, and I had just a little money left. I got an idea... and I prayed, "God, what I have is not going to be enough anyway, so I'm just going to give this to You. Pastor Keith says we cannot "out-give" You, so I'm going to trust You to bless me and meet my needs.

I did not tell anyone. I believe in giving quietly so I won't just receive the admiration of people and have that be that; I want to receive what God has promised us for a reward in heaven if we give in secret, which is FAR greater!

And you know what happened? THAT VERY EVENING, someone bought gas for my car. Know how much gas they put in my car? The amount was FIVE DOLLARS GREATER THAN THE EXTRA AMOUNT I HAD GIVEN IN THE OFFERING!

How about that. I challenge you to trust God BEYOND your comfort zone. He will come through!

I've seen a couple of pastors use this image, and it really does get the point across:

Trust God. Because He keeps His promises.


And, circling back around to where I started this blog...

I have yet to run out of hope.

I know that, as long as I am willing to give whatever I can scrape up to give, God will come around and come through for me, and I will never run out.

The same is true for you.