Is God Really Perfect?

IMG_5141

I knew the tears were coming. As the church stood to sing, I heard the opening notes and recognized the tune immediately. We sang it at her funeral.

“You’re a good, good Father…”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung it since, and each time I think of my best friend Mary Ann and her recent death. I remember sitting at the edge of her bed less than 24 hours before she left this world and planning her funeral with her and our other best friend, Allison. Even typing the words “planning her funeral” slay me – like touching a bruise. Our whole lives the three of us have always done everything together. I just never imagined that would include funeral planning.

She picked that song, and Allison and I nodded our heads, tearful, knowing the truth of it all. The truth that she was about to look Jesus in the face. The truth of the song’s words – despite her cancer, He was and IS still a good, good Father.

But Sunday I didn’t expect the feeling that welled up in me. As we continued the song, we sang, “You are perfect in all of your ways.” And I had to stop singing. My heart skipped a beat, and I asked, “Are you? I prayed fervently for Mary Ann to be healed and you let her die. How can that be perfect?”

The question shocked even me. I thought I had reconciled with it. So I asked – is God perfect? Really perfect? Because the death of a best friend, a daughter, a young wife and mother of two doesn’t feel perfect.

My six-year-old daughter, Grace, recently accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. A week or so after her decision she asked me, “Mama, sometimes I can feel Jesus close to me, but other times I don’t feel Him there. Is Jesus still in my heart even when I can’t feel Him?”

I shook my head and wondered how many adults have thought the same. I explained to Grace how the Holy Spirit lives in your heart when you accept Christ and even when you don’t feel Him, He is still there.

And in the same way Grace doesn’t always “feel” Jesus, I don’t always “feel” that everything in God’s ways are perfect. But the only thing that isn’t perfect is me. I don’t understand why God chose to take Mary Ann.

But God says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) You see trusting means accepting something even when you can’t make sense of it all. That’s where faith steps in.

I’m sure I won’t understand until I get to Heaven and can ask Jesus myself. But Mary Ann’s cancer wasn’t sent from God. He IS perfect in all of His ways. But you know what? My heart still pains a little when I say it.

It hurts because “self” gets in the way of God. My selfish wishes were to keep Mary Ann here. So the pain I feel when I say God is perfect in all of His ways is actually because I’m admitting that I don’t understand it. I’m dying to self. And let’s be honest with each other – dying to self is a painful process.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

So when we die to our selfish desires, we are allowing Christ to live through us and then we live by faith – trusting He knows what is best. And while that is a mouthful to say, it’s still easier to say than to actually live it out. Because, let’s face it, life is hard. And some days really stink. Sometimes no matter how much we pray, God still doesn’t answer the way we think He should. So living by faith is a daily choice.
But it’s what I’m choosing today because my God is a good, good Father. And though sometimes my flesh forgets it, I do truly know He is perfect. Perfect in ALL of His ways.

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

If you can’t see this video, click HERE.

Carol

You Can’t Hide From Jesus

mfVzK2Q

If I’m honest, I was pouting. I know I’m blessed beyond measure, but things hadn’t been going my way.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and I needed to buy stamps from the post office for my Christmas cards. The older two kids were with friends, so Grace and I headed out to check off some errands. I was completely engulfed in my thoughts.

We finally sold our home. After it being on the market all summer with not much action, we took it off to pray about it and re-listed it a month later. We got two offers within four days. The best was only $4,000 off our asking price. We were thrilled and relieved all at once. But unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as we’d hoped. The appraiser refused to use 2015 home sales in his competitive market analysis and was forced to look at sales over a year old.

While that may seem like no big deal, over a year ago the home prices were much lower. So the appraisal for our home was $24,000 lower than the contracted price. If you haven’t sold a home before, you may be confused by now – but just know the bottom line – we had to lower our home price – a lot!

Meanwhile, my best friend was in the hospital. When I say best friend, I could interchange that with sister. Our mothers were friends before we were born; we couldn’t remember a time without each other there. She had Stage 4 lung cancer (a non-smoker) and was having a hard time breathing. While we thought she just needed some extra oxygen or maybe a lung drain, the doctors told her there wasn’t anything else they could do and suggested hospice. She died two days later. And the morning after her death, I found out the home appraisal news.

Needless to say, I was a little miffed – frustrated that God hadn’t answered prayers like I wanted. I walked in the post office with Grace, took note of the line and sighed. Couldn’t you at least give me a short mail line, Lord?

I got at the end of the line, counting the people in front of me, while Grace walked to the card corral to touch every single card. “Mama, what does this one say?” She’d walk the two steps to my side and hold out a card for me to read. An older gentleman and his wife finished filling out the information for their package and got in line behind me.

In front of me, a thirty-something lady turned to look at me, then positioned her body so she could keep watching. I offered a weak smile, clutching the stack of Christmas cards needing postage and shifted my weight, uncomfortable under her gaze.

Normally, I pray for people to be drawn to me because they see Christ in me. It gives me a chance to start conversations about Jesus. But I wasn’t taking the bait today. Really, Lord? Don’t you see? I’m done. I’m mad. I’m beyond sad. And I don’t feel like talking.

I imagine God sighing and shaking His glorious head at me.

“Wow. You sure do have a lot of cards to mail.” The woman spoke up. Shaken from my thoughts, I nodded and smiled, taking notice – real notice this time – of the woman in front of me. She stood with a tattered coat and one single red envelope. One.

dMMEIf

My gaze shifted from her one to my 70-ish or so Christmas cards. “Carol, you are sending cards to the people who love you. People you call friend. People you could count on if you needed them. And you could have sent more. Do you realize how blessed you are?”

Before I could even respond to the Holy Spirit’s voice in my head, another woman finished mailing her package and started chatting with a friend she hadn’t seen in a while. You know those people who have really loud conversations so everyone in the room can hear them? Yeah. It was some of those people. And remember my mood? I was not amused, but couldn’t help but listen.

“Girl. I’ve never been better!”

“That’s great! You look so good. What’s different? How’s your job going?”

“Oh, it’s good. I don’t have to pay Daddy’s car payment anymore so that’s good. But I’ve been going to church up the street at the big white one on the hill. And I’m tellin’ you something. My life is changed. I poured out a full bottle of whiskey yesterday – right down the drain. I don’t need it. I’m a new person!”

I continued to listen to this woman right across the aisle from me share how God had changed her, when the man from behind bumped into my purse.

“Oh, excuse me,” he said.

“You’re fine,” I told him.

The women walked out continuing their chat outside.

“I got so excited listening to that woman talk, I wanted to get all up in that conversation. I went to raise my hand and bumped you,” the man explained.

I think he was the one who finally jolted me out of my gloomy mood. No matter how frustrated I was with my situation, Jesus was all around me. In front of me, reminding me how blessed I am. Beside me, showing me how He can change the unchangeable. And behind me, reminding me to give Him praise. I couldn’t hide and pout.

I turned to face the man behind me and look him in the face. “I know what you mean,” I told him. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Can I get a witness?”

“Oooooh, yesssss!” The man told me. His wife looked over his shoulder and said, “Hallelujah!”

You see, no matter what you are going through, God is with you.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2

Life isn’t easy. But God will carry you through the bad times – even when you try to hide. Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I’d love to pray for you. Leave me a comment or use my contact page to shoot me an email. You are not alone.

Carol

Girdles Aren’t Just for Grandmas

12027818_10206322387810315_393383868364492679_nMy son, Colin, started playing football this year for the first time ever. He is fourteen and is already over six feet tall, so people have been advising him to get into football for a while. This year, our family moved to a new school system and Colin started high school, so it seemed like the thing to do.

I’m learning lots about positions and plays and yellow flags and uniforms. I had no idea all the pieces and parts a player must wear on the field. The first week Colin came home with his uniform, I learned he wore a girdle. A girdle!

He asked, “Mom, do you even know what I girdle is?” Instead of telling him there was one in my panty drawer, I just nodded my head with uncertainty, wondering why a football player needed smooth curves. You see, I knew what a “granny girdle” was – a torturous contraption to squeeze the ever-lovin’ life out of you. I knew you didn’t sit in them for long periods of time or the oxygen would shut off to your brain and you could faint. I knew you couldn’t eat seconds wearing them and probably should order a salad. I knew you shouldn’t attempt to put one on in front of your spouse for fear they would see you shouting, hopping, swearing and stomping.

But this was something completely different. Colin’s girdle is like padded underwear. It is an added layer of protection between his body and the elbows, knees and helmets of other players.

12009753_10206322384130223_5158050819434169955_n

Today, I was reading Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent. And in it she talks about the armor of God. In referring to the “belt of truth,” she says, “Based on the history of what first-century soldier’s gear was like, think of it like a girdle, worn close around the body, with all his other pieces of armor tucked into it and held together by it.”

When reading that, I immediately thought of Colin’s football girdle and how it provides protection from hits. Paul tells us about the spiritual armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:13-14 NLT

The belt of truth is that girdle – an added layer of protection from the hits. It’s at the center of us. Truth. It’s what holds all the pieces together.

God’s Truth.

So, if you feel like you are in a battle or maybe you feel like the bottom man of the dog pile on the football field, and the weight of it all is more than you can bear. Strap on your girdle of Truth.

God will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
He has plans to prosper you, not to harm you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
He who began a good work in you will finish it. (Philippians 1:6)
God loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
God will work all the events of your life together for His good. (Romans 8:28)
God will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

So stand firm. And that hard thing. That thing that feels like it will consume you – it won’t. God won’t let it.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2 NIV

Put on your girdle. They’re not just for grandmas anymore. It’s the Truth.

Carol

Preparing a Plan of Attack

mhATQdM

There are two ways to do just about anything – carefully plan or wing it.

Most of the time, I’m a carefully-plan-it kind of girl. I love making lists. I used to write out menus by the month. When planning a vacation, I’ll spend hours online finding the best places to stay, recommended stops along the way and highest rated restaurants. When my kids have a birthday, you can be sure I will create a Pinterest board and hunt the Internet for the cutest party ideas.

When I’m presented with the opportunity for a date night, I search movies and read reviews. I poll Facebook friends for best places to eat and search my closet for just the right outfit.

But somehow when it comes to my prayer life and dealing with those situations that seem impossible, I find myself winging it. Satan will throw me a curve ball, and I wildly swing my bat hoping to make contact.

Today, as I was reading in 2 Samuel about David trying to defeat the Philistines, I found good advice for creating a battle plan to overcome the obstacles in my own life. First David asked God, not his friends on social media, for direction. (Ouch. Let’s move on.)

“…so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered…” 2 Samuel 5:23 NIV

David asked God first IF he should attack the Philistines and then HOW he should attack. God responded, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees.” (2 Samuel 5:23) The Hebrew word used in this verse for “circle around” is sabab. It means, “To go around, surround, encircle, engulf.” It can also mean, “to change direction, to be surrounded, to change.”

FullSizeRender 3

God gave David a plan of attack, but he gives us that same plan. When trials come our way, often we come straight at them and are knocked backwards from the blow because we aren’t prepared. Instead, we need to establish a plan of attack for any obstacle – for your failing health, for your marriage that grows stale, for your mounting bills and empty bank account, for the addiction you’ve been hiding, for the loss of your closest friend.

Friends, it’s time we fight back God’s way. We need to sabab our issues with prayer. Circle them. Engulf them. You see, because its only through prayer, praise and thanksgiving that we can “change direction.” You are not defined by the series of events that have happened in your life.

You are not defined by your diagnosis, your divorce, your size, your upbringing, your financial status or your education.

You are who God says you are. And He says you are chosen. (John 15:16) You are an heir. (Galatians 4:7) You are part of a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Satan will try to distract you and get you off your game. Don’t let him. He’ll tell you you’re not good enough. Don’t believe his lie. Be ready, friends. Arm yourselves for the battle by preparing your plan of attack. You see, in the woods that day when God told David to sabab, or circle around, He also told him to listen for the sounds of marching in the tops of the trees, “because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” (2 Samuel 5:24 NIV)

Don’t be shaken. Don’t be afraid. The Lord your God, the Sovereign Creator of all things will fight for you. Put on your armor and sabab. The battle has already begun.

Carol

Walking in the Dark

When I woke up this morning, it was dark. But knowing I had to get up and jump in the shower so I could get the kids ready for school and out the door, I put my feet to the floor.

I couldn’t see, but I made my way across the room to the bathroom. You see, in the bathroom, I knew there was a light switch. I didn’t bump into anything on the way because I walked slow, moving one foot in front of the other, feeling my way, looking for things that might trip me. I knew there was a shelf along my route.

How did I know? I knew because I’d seen the shelf. I’d placed things on the shelf. I’d had experience with the shelf. I knew Alan was still sleeping in the bed. I couldn’t see him either, but I could hear him – his deep steady breathing let me know he was there.

And after inching my way along, I finally felt my way to the light switch and turned it on. You know what happened when light hit the room? It only confirmed what I already knew in the dark. I could see the bed, the shelf and Alan asleep.

Walking in faith is just like walking in the dark. When we can’t see in front of us, we immediately head to the spot where we’ll find Light. We slow-foot shuffle, feeling our way little by little. We may not be able to see God, but we can stretch out our hands and feel His presence.

Are you struggling with a situation because you can’t see? Perhaps you are scared because you don’t know the outcome. You desperately want to hear from the Lord but you don’t see Him.

Friend, I am with you. I’m looking for Him, too. No one said walking by faith would ever be easy. Just remember to head towards the Light. Because when Light hits the circumstances in your life, it will only confirm what you already knew in the dark. God was there all along.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

 

*Photo credit

Carol