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Keep Calm & Pray On

Lessons from Cherith

Do not be afraid.  Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you.  Exodus 14:13 NLT

Are you a panicker?  I can raise my hand and say I still haven’t fully removed panicking from my life.  In my “baby Christian” and pre-Christian days panicking in my world looked a bit like this: bad news comes, I immediately pull back (finances, emotion, socializing, etc), and Mrs. Fixit comes to live in my brain.  How was I going to fix this overwhelming problem?  If “fixing” the problem was truly out of my hands that really threw me for a loop.  And, if it was a personal failure, I’d add a hefty dose of self-disdain as in, “why in the world would you do that you stupid, idiot?”  Or this always helped: “Of course this happened because you are a failure and no one even likes you.”  Surefire ways to solve any problem, right?  

I opened up my Strong’s Concordance to see how many times the word “fear” appears in the Bible.  It’s two pages and four tiny columns long of references to the word “fear.”  That doesn’t include “feared,” “fearest,” “feareth,” “fearfully,” and many more!  According to on-line sources the words “fear not” show up about 140 times in the Bible (not 360 which is frequently proposed).  It seems God really wants to get a point across about how to handle our fears.  And yet we still panic.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Matthew 14:28-30

From beginning to end of the Bible we see people who literally have the hand of God reaching out to them panicking.  Isn’t that what Adam did when God asked, “Where are you?”  They freaked out and hid.  The Israelites, after having God lead them night and day with clouds and fire, provide food from heaven, freaked out and cried, “We want to go home!”  And poor Peter.  Even with Jesus admonishing him just seconds prior to, “Take courage! It is I,” he takes his eyes off the Lord and on to his own feet and the world.

So, take heart my dear friends we are not alone. But God still wants us to grow each day, each disaster toward Him.

I’ve been rewarded by the world for what my own style of panicking looks like.  I go into research and development mode.  My computer keys alit with fire as I search for reasons and solutions.  I start problem-solving how to save more money while imagining a giant victory garden to sustain us.  I organize, make charts, create checklists, watch YouTube videos.  And I forget to pray.  And be still. The world doesn’t reward with peace.

Elijah himself was a study in two sides of this panicking problem.  On one hand he did as directed by God and told the king how his evil behavior would result in a drought.  Then he seemed to calmly go to Cherith Ravine under God’s direction.  See how God provides when we obey and are calm?  But after all this plus the amazing display of God’s power and might on Mount Carmel he suddenly panics.  He runs away and hides in fear for his life.  And God asks him, “What are you doing here?”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Matthew 16:8-9

It’s been a hard fought lesson between Jesus and me about not panicking.  About staying calm in the face of scarcity, whether that be finances, food, love and even yes, toilet paper.  But time and again God asks us, “What are you doing here?  Don’t you remember what I’ve done for you before?”

And so, while in my own Cherith when another person suddenly showed up for lunch or dinner I forced my thoughts back on Him.  I kept calm and prayed.  “You will show up, Lord.”  When I didn’t know how the 100 mini-birdhouses we had to hand out at Bev’s funeral would get painted (side note: she had planned to give them out at her wedding anniversary party and asked, “is it ok to give out party favors at funerals?) I prayed for help and a small army of women volunteered.  When the angel volunteer, who was planning the funeral reception, called and said all the sunflowers she had ordered were lost somewhere between California and Colorado I prayed that it would all turn out fine.  And on the day of Bev’s funeral the church and reception looked so beautiful thanks to many hands.

God started on me many years ago with the verse from Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  It showed up everywhere, even on vacation while attending a church for Mother’s Day.  The gift they handed out? Pens with that very verse.  And when I can’t sleep at night from worry I repeat that verse over and over.  Be still.  Don’t panic.  God’s got this.  It wasn’t until my time in my Cherith that I finally really got it — In times of great strife panicking is never the solution because peace and calmness are waiting for us

Friends, the Lord has so many better solutions for problems that we can’t even imagine.  So why not just give every one of them, no matter how small or large to Him right now?  We need to stop fearing the world and give glory to the only one we should fear with reverence and majesty, the Almighty God.  

What’s your “panic mode?”

What are you worried about right now that you need to give to God?

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He Will Provide

Lessons from Cherith

The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.  Psalm 145:14

We had come to Colorado after receiving the news – my mother-in-law’s constant bowel pain was the result of peritoneal cancer, a rare and deadly disease.  She had never fully recovered from her bout with uterine cancer diagnosed just 18 months prior.  Her markers were clear but this painful and never-ending pain in her stomach kept her sidelined.  We will never know why it wasn’t discovered sooner but there are blessings even in that.

And so, after setting her up on hospice and determining that additional in-home care wouldn’t be sufficient and was well beyond what my father-in-law could afford, I offered to stay longer.  As I said goodbye to my husband who needed to get back to San Diego for work, I was faced with my usual self-doubt.  “I’m not good at this kind of thing” I said to myself.  “I’m not a sweet, kind, compassionate person” I lamented.  “I never know what to say in difficult times” I fretted.  

I was scared to face day-to-day the woman I love as my own mother as she lay living out her last days.  I was worried about how to be around my quiet father-in-law.  I definitely was concerned how to handle all her friends who wanted to visit and needed a shoulder to cry on. And then I finally remembered God.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 111: 4-5

I went for a walk and soaked in the beauty of the Colorado mountains and realized I didn’t need to have all those gifts.  He has blessed me with so many other gifts that were needed – organizing, communication, and more.  And what I now needed was to lean on Him for the rest of what was required.  

My BSGs had just finished Shirley Giles Davis’ study book, God. Gifts. You. Which takes a deep dive into the list of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.  Coincidently she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from where I now found myself needing the strength of God’s gifts.  She reminded us that our gifts can be used for good and have their own pitfalls if used incorrectly.  She showed us how God’s beautiful world can only function properly when we appreciate and honor the intricate ways all people’s gifts are used in harmony.  

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Psalms 55:16

And so, I called on God in humility.  I thanked Him for the blessings of financial security that helped me be there.  I listed in thankfulness the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been endowed to me.  And I prayerfully spoke the following:

“Lord, I cannot do this without you.  I don’t have the right words for the right moments so I need the Holy Spirit to speak for me.  I don’t have the strength for this gracious Father.  I need you to keep me strong and lifted or I will fail.  Only through your loving grace, using my gifts that I have been blessed with and you filling in the rest will I be able to glorify you and help Bev and all those around her. Please Lord speak in place of my words and be my strength.” Amen

His intervention was immediate as He surrounded me with His love and peace.  All those worries and fears dissipated.  And for the next three weeks the Holy Spirit held me up and spoke for me.  He spoke to the friends who left Bev’s room crying in despair.  He spoke to family members who handle grief differently than me.  He spoke to Bev while I read her Psalms each day to comfort her.  And He kept me from being tired and weak.  I could wake at any hour with ease to administer medication, keep the house clean, and make meals for the ever changing number of people at the house.  He provided, just as He promises, just as He always has.

You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.  Psalms 59:17

My BSGs recently completed Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah.  In her week 6 video she mentions the definition of faith as aligning our entire life with God’s 8,000 promises found in His Word.  Our faith doesn’t need to be some mysterious feeling that is undefinable.  It’s simple, when we believe God’s promises and live like we do then that is faith.  That’s what Elijah did when he went, as directed by God, to Cherith — a lonely, dry, desolate place. God provided in ways only He can with food delivered by ravens and just enough water to get by for about two years. Elijah knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He needed God to survive. All his knowledge and gifts weren’t going to help him. God would need to fill in where he was lacking.

Friends, God promises over and over to provide for us.  The Bible is filled with endless stories of His provision.  Our own lives are testimonies to those provisions.  Sometimes we just need to remember to humbly ask for Him to provide where we are weak and not gifted.

The morning my beloved Bev went to our Father I was blessed again to have God show me how much He had answered my prayer.  I needed some alone time so I decided to take a shower.  As I stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to warm up, I suddenly felt a huge weight press on me – like an anvil was placed on each shoulder.  I cried out in surprise and then it was gone.  I knew He was showing me what He had sheltered me from for the last few weeks.  And although I am still experiencing the grief of Bev being gone from this earth, that heavy weight has never returned.  I can thank God and the Holy Spirit for being my weight bearers.  And I can thank God that He will provide in our weakest moments.

Where in your life to do you need to ask for God’s provision?  
Where do you feel insufficient and weak?  Ask Him today He will provide!