Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Week Eight - How Long You Gonna Stay There?

My heart's burden this week has been for the many who seem overwhelmed with our current global situation. Gloominess, depression, and fear grip their hearts, and the road back to normal looks way too long.

A cartoon reminded me that normal is only a setting on a washing machine. So, since we each have a different definition of normal, it becomes a place with too many variants to apply a liberal definition. I think we are trying to say that we wish our individual life would be as it was before this pandemic altered everything. We are longing for the good old days.

But I want to challenge you to think today about where you were, how you felt, and the things you personally dealt with before Covid 19. If we are honest, most of us would say we still dealt with feelings of gloominess, bouts of depression, and a certain amount of fear of the future. That was our normal.  If we aren’t careful, we will be in the same boat when all this is through. We will be stuck in our bad attitudes, feelings of failure, and fears that keep us from moving forward. We will not have benefited or learned anything from this trial.

So, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Were we struggling with the same personal issues before Covid as we are now? Has Covid heightened our inadequacies, fears, and trepidation? How long have we struggled? How long do we intend to stay there?

When I look at the life of Elijah, I see a similar pattern. He had fears, bouts of gloominess, and depression, and when the heat of the battle pressed the issue home, he took refuge in a cave, vowing to never again see the light of day. He settled into his despondency.

Yet, outside the cave came the noise of a great wind, the crashing of rocks, and an earthquake. Fire lit up the entrance, and a still small voice called him out. God got his attention. 

The sad thing is, Elijah held onto his complaint. And God? God asked Elijah twice, “What doest thou here, Elijah? “  In other words, “How long you gonna stay there?”

You see, God knows running from our problems, allowing the loss of hope and courage to drive us inward, and hiding from God’s face are not healthy ways to manage mental health – and especially spiritual health.

There comes a time when we must face our fears and solve our problems. And when we do, when God calls us to trust Him, we move forward.  That is when we leave the cave of despondency and move back into useful service – to our normal.

I don’t know about you, but I want to come out of this cave of the pandemic more energized, more prepared, more hopeful, and ready to serve. I want my new normal to be better than the one I left behind.

To do that, I must set my eyes forward. I must deal with the issues that confound me, giving them to the Lord and asking Him to teach me the truth. I must set my hope on things eternal and remember that God is at work, even when I feel like I am in a cave. He is doing miraculous things, making noise, and calling to get my attention.

I’m heading out to see what’s going on. How about you? How long you gonna stay there?

If you are struggling, let me encourage you to check out my YouTube channel -Gail Gritts. There you will find devotional videos about facing anxiety, controlling your thought life, and facing hard times. Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive weekly encouragement. Or, check out my website where you can purchase devotional books-gailgritts .com. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s walk that way together.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Week Seven - A Blanket of Prayer

We have spent this past week feeding the wood stove and trying to stay warm in the perishing temperatures of this 2021 snowstorm. It has really been quite fun. My husband sits in a cozy chair with his legs covered by his grandmother’s handmade quilt, and we sleep each night in my great-grandmother’s iron bed with my mother’s handmade quilt for extra warmth. All around me are reminders of the women in my life who left their legacy and covered our ministry with a blanket of prayer.

Last month, with my sweet mother-in-law's passing, we were reminded of her blanket of prayer. I know this to be true. This woman prayed.  She prayed for her family,  friends, church, pastor, and her prayers left an imprint on many lives.

One of the amazing things I have learned about prayer is that it does not stop with the passing of the person praying.  My mother-in-law’s prayers will continue to have an effect.  How do I know that? 

Look at Revelation 5:8. “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” 

And Revelation 8:4 reads, “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” God stores up our prayers to be used for His glory in the future.

Another way I know prayer has a lingering effect is by the testimony of others. I’m sure you have heard testimonies of a mother praying for a wayward son or daughter, who, long after the passing of the mother, comes to the Lord. And how many times have we prayed for something, forgotten completely about it, and then noticed when the Lord answered? God takes note of our prayers and answers in His time.

I got to thinking more about this blanket of prayer, and it challenged me to think about my own prayers. Am I faithful to pray for my family?  What about my pastor and church family? Do I keep them in prayer? Do I understand the power and importance of my prayer life? Do I bathe my day in prayer? Do I pray before I make decisions or react to current circumstances? Is prayer my source of fellowship and rejoicing?

2021 is going to be a long year – maybe even longer than 2020. Today is a good time to begin covering it with a blanket of prayer-prayer for strength, wisdom, protection, and, above all, God’s hand.

So, while you are locked down, stuck inside the house, and complaining about cabin fever, take time to create a legacy of prayer – a blanket that will be used by God as a sweet-smelling savour with eternal value.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Week Six - Have You Forgotten?

One of the privileges of our current society is the opportunity to listen to and interact with people around the world through social media. Love it or hate it, it is an amazing avenue. 

This past Sunday, I enjoyed listening to the sermon from our first mission church. As the minister preached on the church’s responsibility to missions and evangelism, he put forward one challenging question that stuck in my mind. Trying to motivate the congregation to take up their individual responsibility in evangelism, he asked them, “Have you forgotten what it was like to live without Christ?

What a great question. Have we forgotten? Have we forgotten the fear and blindness of life without Christ? Have we forgotten the hopelessness and confusion? Have we forgotten what it is like to live without peace, trying to make our own peace, or that nagging feeling of inner desperation and turmoil? Have we forgotten what it is like to try to hold things together yet be always looking back over our shoulder because we felt something just isn’t right, something is missing?

This challenged my heart. How often do we rest in the love and assurance of Christ and forget the lost? How often do we enjoy fellowship with like-minded believers and forget the loneliness of the world around us? How often do we look to the Word for assurance and strength and forget there is no rest, no peace, no assurance with the ungodly? 

I remember arriving on the mission field and being totally overwhelmed with the fact that in a teeming crowd of shoppers on a Saturday afternoon, I could potentially be the only believer walking the streets. How would I ever begin to tell this many people about Jesus? I could hardly bear the pressure of my burden for the lost around me. And even now, I must keep my thoughts under control because my heart wants to burst forth with the gospel.

But the minister gave a simple illustration that afforded me an encouraging avenue for evangelism. He spoke of blowing the gentle seeds of the dandelion – letting them take air. Our testimony is the same. We need to let it take air – to gently blow the truth of the gospel as we live our lives. Then, let the wind of the Spirit take it to fertile ground. It reminded me of Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” We are to be casting, blowing, giving out, letting the Word of Christ flow into receptive hearts.

May we never forget that someone did the same for us. Someone took time to speak, give, show, or tell, and the Spirit lodged the Word into our hearts. Let us not forget that others need the same opportunity. Whether it be through social media or the personal spoken word, may we not be neglectful.  May we not forget – people still need Christ.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Week Five - When Life Gets Wonky

I sit writing today from a tiny house on my family farm in Missouri. With the passing of my mother-in-law, life placed us back with our family for an extended period. The disruption of normality, and the uncertainty created by traveling during COVID-19, leaves me trying to create a temporary normal and wondering how things will work out. Life just got wonky, as if the current pandemic hadn’t already done the trick!

But you know what? That’s okay. Life happens. I got to thinking about several Bible characters whose lives went wonky. Joseph, for example. He was the favorite son to a rich and loving father, but he found himself hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold to some hairy Ishmaelites, and a slave in Pharaoh’s house. The wonkiness did not stop there. Prison became his fate, then an extended drought, and he never returned alive to the place he started.

Daniel started out in a rich, educated Jewish home, but found himself in a foreign training camp separated from his family. He, too, never returned. Life brought him under service to King Nebuchadnezzar and into a lion’s den- that’s definitely a wonky place.

Esther. After the death of her parents, she was cared for by a loving and wise uncle, but then, life took a wonky twist and she found herself in the palace, threatened by evil Haman, and her life, too, never returned to the peaceful normal where she started.

We could think of Nehemiah, who really wasn’t an architect or builder, but faced the prospect of organizing a bunch of untrained people to build as he endured the laughter and taunting of bullies and the underhandedness of the political swamp.

Mary and Joseph saw their ideal love story interrupted for all eternity by one visit from the angel and the Apostle Paul’s career was forever altered by one blinding light.

Wonkiness seems to be just a part of life. As my brother reminded me, “There is only one constant in life – change.”

So, what are we to do when life takes a deviation? Some of us throw up our hands and fall down in despair. Others get angry and try to drive life back into the desired path. But I like the attitude of the Apostle Paul when he said, in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy.”

As I talked about this idea of wonkiness with my husband, he shared that he, too, had been thinking about a similar idea. He had drawn the prospect that nearly all these Bible characters I mentioned were young people – teenagers. When life put challenges before them, they were held up by the truth they had learned from parents and the character that had already been placed within them. The depth of their character was revealed in their response to difficulty. That begs the question, “Are we preparing our children for the future? Putting strength and character in their lives that will help them endure trials and make strong, godly decisions? Let’s hope so.

As I looked at wonkiness, I saw that in each case, they narrowed their vision. They looked straight forward. Scriptures like Proverbs 4:25-27, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil,” came to my mind.

And Isaiah 30:21, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”

Or Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

I’m sure you can think of other Scriptures that instruct us to keep our eyes on the Lord, to follow the light of His path, and not allow the whirling of the world to distract. Scripture gives us guidance and encouragement when life goes wonky.

Life happens. Things change. And when life starts pulling us to and frow, when the stormy winds rock our boat – we need to narrow our vision. Like the Israelites of old, when life gets wonky and we feel pinned in, God will take us through the water on dry ground, if we keep our eyes consistently looking straight forward to Him.