Winded, but Willing
We didn't attend church last Sunday. Yesterday, I took about 3 naps...and felt guilty about it, but according to my phone I slept an average of 4hrs 32min each night last week, so... Today we slept in, ate breakfast, missed the first 2 services at our church, but I said, "the devil is a liar - I am attending somebody's church today!" We went to Elevation's 11:30am service, late, but Pastor Furtick was sharing the Scripture passage from which his message was based. Matthew 14:22-36. It was the passage in which Jesus sent His disciples to cross the lake to Gennesaret, it was when Peter walked on the water out to meet Jesus, until he saw the wind and faltered.
Furtick called his message "winded." He talked about how we all get winded, or tired, how we lack sufficient "Christian Cardio." He said no matter how tired we are we must depend on His wind to do His work. He said, and it is very true, "The Holy Spirit does not consult human schedules." If we read the preceeding passages, we see that the disciples and Jesus, Himself, were also tired. In Matthew 14:1-12, Jesus' friend and cousin, John the Baptist was killed. In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus learns of this, withdraws to a solitary place to grieve, briefly, then another crowd has formed, The disciples want to send them away because it is already late (v.15) but Jesus says no, we will feed them. There were 5000 men, but also women and children (v.21). As the child of a former caterer, I can attest to how exhausting this type of work can be, and with no preparation - they didn't rest up for this, they didn't have their minds right, Jesus said it was to be done and they did it - they didn't even have enough food, but they never ran out. Then they cleaned up after the crowd. "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd." (Mat. 14:22). So after this huge catering affair, immediately, Jesus voluntold His disciples to get into the boat, and it wasn't a sailboat, but a row boat to head to the other side and the wind was against it (v. 24).
As Jesus walked on the water out to the boat, in the windy conditions, the disciples were afraid both due to the storm and seeing this figure appearing to walk on the water. When He spoke to them they recognized Him, but Peter wanted to walk out and join Him. “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
So, today at church, I was convicted by this passage and Furtick's message. I am winded. After today's message, I wonder if I may be taking the cultural stance of the importance of self-care too far. During Covid, we all became accustomed to church on TV and after so long, we began to enjoy two, fullI, weekend days. Once churches reopened, using Saturday and Sunday as days of rest had become a habit. When I think about taking on new tasks and duties, I also think about what I am going to give up. I wrote this blog each week for 4 years. In that time, we began to desire a new home, and God provided just that. We wanted a home with some projects to complete - God provided that. I let the stress of the projects convince me that I should take a break from the blog. Now, with the difficulty of finding people to do the work, the projects have been delayed, but God has not rescinded the calling He put on my life. He's waiting, patiently, for me to get it together and be obedient. But how long will He be patient?
He gave me a book to write during the closure of 2020. I wrote it, I've had a few people to proofread it and give me feedback, but I haven't fixed the mistakes they pointed out and I have not published the book. How long will He wait?
In about 2019, I dreamed I was in the pulpit preaching the Word of God to a large and responsive crowd. I dreamed it multiple nights in a row, but I said nothing about it. Finally, I told my husband, who is a licensed and ordained minister. He told me to calm down about that, that being a minister was a whole lot of work, that I should be careful what I ask for. I didn't ask for it. I told my Pastor and another friend who is a Pastor - I asked what I needed to do. Both were very cool about it and advised me to continue to pray. I have. I haven't had those dreams anymore. I have been asked to speak a few times during church service, but here lately, I am not satisfied with sitting having a message shared with me, I know the Word of God for myself and believe I am called to share it with anyone willing to listen. He already told me. How long will He wait?
I have realized today that we can get winded in a whole lot of ways. We can get winded by our grief. Jesus was grieving the loss of John the Baptist, but He still did His work. I lost my dog this past summer and all yard work ceased - I got winded. We can get winded by delays. We can get winded when the pile of work seems endless. We can get winded by the news - gas prices are about to rise, food prices are rising, the stage for nuclear war is being set, there's a hurricane coming - all of these things can cause us to pull back from the work God has called us to do. I've decided today, and I'm proclaiming it publicly, I'm winded, but I'm willing. Lord, use me. Lord, I am here to do the work you have planned for me to do. And, Lord, I'm ready to do it now. Lead me, Lord. Reveal my next steps.
How long will He wait? In this year's Bible study, we are reading in 1 Kings 11 about the kings of Israel. Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, loved the foreign women. He was told, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Solomon married 700 women of royal birth and 300 concubines. After some time the Lord told him, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” How long will He wait? We do not know. He gives us Scripture so that we know His character and how He has intervened and provided and punished and protected and loved those who claim to love Him in the past. How long will He wait? That is not for me to know. I know what He has told me and I know that He gives me a choice - to be obedient or not to be obedient. I am choosing obedience. I am winded, but willing. Amen. What about you?
For the Love of a Dog
For the Love of a Dog
In April 2020, during the height of the pandemic, we adopted two hound-mixes, brothers, twins, littermates - the largest and the smallest of the litter. The smaller, the one whose photo captured our hearts and summoned us to the Humane Society of N. Myrtle Beach, we named Forrest. The larger, of course, had to be Forrest’s brother for life - “Bubba.” These were not my first dogs, but they were my childrens’ first dogs and my first time having two dogs at the same time.
The dynamics were remarkable. Bubba was immediately the alpha and they both knew it. Forrest would not cross Bubba, or “Bubs,” for anything - not for a treat or even a bite of table food, a rub, nothing. They both knew who was first, always. Both were photogenic, with their brown, black and white fur, but Forrest was smoother and softer, with spaniel-like fur. Bubs’ fur grows slightly more coarse, although both seemed to shed equally.
To say we loved them would be an incomplete summary of our feelings, our devotion, our affections and our care towards them. They were members of our family. Due to the pandemic, we did very little traveling, but they did spend a few days in a hotel room with us when we listed our home for sale and needed to be out of it to keep it ready for “open house.” They spent six weeks with us in an apartment between homes, and they traveled to Myrtle Beach with us on an impromptu trip.
At the end of July 2022, we had another quick trip to Sumter, SC for my nieces’ baptisms and since we were only going to be gone overnight, less than 24 hours, we thought they would be fine at home. We set them up with the door that led from the garage to the backyard propped open. We brought their kennel to the garage and I laid a piece of extra carpet out for them because Bubba required something soft to lay upon. We brought out food and water and tried to ensure they would be comfy and safe. Forrest was a fence-jumper, so he always needed to be connected to a run. I hated to restrict his freedom, but it was for his safety. He would jump the fence and follow his hound dog nose and playful instincts to other neighborhoods, entirely. We connected him to the steps in the garage, but made sure he had enough length to reach the grass in the backyard. We moved everything we thought could pose as an entanglement. We left them outside for about 30min before we departed to make sure they were set for the evening. They had never slept outside, but they had the garage and would be fine.
In Sumter, we had a blessed time with family. Three of my four nieces were baptized. At the same time, our marriage was suffering greatly. The Lord saw fit that the young man who sang at our wedding be present and sing during the service. In fact, the reason we left the dogs home alone was because my husband rarely traveled with the boys and myself. This time, he decided to come with us. Prior to this, on Friday, I asked him if he would ride with me to see a slave cemetary behind a local church and to my shock and amazement, he agreed. 8am we left the house, I was driving, and as we approached a busy intersection, we could see that a car accident had just occurred - a pickup truck was resting on its roof. I asked my husband, a former sheriff's deputy, if he wanted to help as no officials had yet arrived. He said yes. I pulled into the median and he climbed out. He helped the couple in the SUV over to sit on the curb, and the man in the overturned truck climbed out holding his side. He was angry and started yelling at the couple accusing them of causing the wreck. My husband was trying to direct traffic and keep them separated and calm. Then the angry man went digging in his upside-down glove compartment and I feared he had a gun. I put the window down and signaled to my husband, who was looking directly at the man, but seemed not to fear his life. I squeezed myself back into traffic to move to the other side of the collision and at the same time we began to hear sirens - thank the Lord. My husband saw where I had relocated and he came to the car. We came back home. My husband who had been angry with me for 2 months, who had not spoken to me in 2 months began to talk. It was a miracle.
In Sumter, with full stomachs and dreading the 2-hour drive home, our next door neighbor messaged me to ask if we were okay because our dog had been barking since about 11pm. We knew that was Forrest. Bubba was not easily agitated, and rarely barked. We hurried to pack our bags and get on the road. I was driving. My husband called his daughter to ask if she would go to our home and check on the dogs. She was in a Zoom meeting, but said she would go as soon as it ended. About 30min later she called and spoke to her dad. I wanted him to put the phone on speaker, but he didn’t. He kept asking clarifying questions to help her distinguish which dog was which. Then he hung up…and said nothing. Finally I was like…”are you going to tell me what she said?” He sighed. “She said she thinks Forrest is dead.” Even to type that now, over a month after the fact, I cannot take it. Everything, every emotion, my whole world comes crashing down, even now! No, not my baby! Not my Forrest! What! Why! How! We weren’t gone 24-hours. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe Ariah. Maybe Ariah didn’t know what a dead dog looked like! How? What possibly could have happened. I sobbed while speeding up the road. He asked me repeatedly to pull over. I didn’t want my son to know, but I was sobbing loudly, so he had to know something was bad wrong. Then my older son’s girlfriend called to ask me what was happening because my son in the backseat had texted his brother and he was hysterical. I couldn’t talk, but told them I would call as soon as I knew something for sure. We pulled into the yard and I ran to the backyard and immediately knew my baby dog was dead. I couldn’t fathom it and still cannot today. My husband and our neighbors buried him and our neighbor brought a cross with his name on it.
It’s a blessing that in my lifetime, thus far, I have not experienced much death. I still have my parents, my children, my sisters, nieces, nephews, friends, etc. All of my grandparents are deceased, but all lived good, long lives. My 1st cousin, Ken, however, in 2000 took his own life and it took me years to heal from that. I felt like I should have seen it coming, I should have called him more, I should have continued writing to him when I knew he was stressed. Years. While Ken’s death was sudden, I was removed. I was not the person responsible for him. I did not set him up for the night and try to make him comfortable and safe. My dog was like a child to me. Forrest was a dependent, more dependent than Bubba. Without us protecting him, Forrest would have hurt himself long ago. I’ve asked God why. Why he couldn’t have just been exhausted, why He couldn’t have given him 1 more hour of life, why he had to die without his people, why he had to die in distress. He became tangled around a large, heavy flower pot and couldn’t get into the garage where it was cooler and where his water was located. In true Forrest form, he barked, got upset and barked some more. I think he had heat exhaustion and physical exhaustion because knowing him, he was probably also trying to take off his collar, chew through the leash, all of it. I miss my baby dog everyday.
In the month since losing Forrest, I’ve come to realize that God is God and I’ll never fully understand His ways. We grieve because we love. If we do not love, then we would not grieve loss of life. Our days are numbered. We must make the most of everyday the Lord gives us on the earth. We must tell those we love how we feel because tomorrow, nor next weekend, are promised. I’ve realized that God is gracious to those who love Him. For me, He enabled me to figure out Forrest’s cause of death. He knew that not knowing this would have driven me mad. He took Forrest, but did it in such a way that I could pinpoint the time and could easily see the cause. It does not make me feel better to know that if I had moved that flower pot or if I had checked to see just how far he could reach, that he might still be alive, but I don’t have to wonder. I thank God for that. I typed into my notes app on the evening of Forrest’s death: “When you love and care for something or someone, the last thing you ever want is for it to die.”
While there is absolutely nothing that would have eased the pain of losing Forrest, I do live a fairly transparent life on Facebook, and I wanted to post about it. This was not because I wanted the sympathy or the comments, actually, I wish Facebook had a feature in which we could disable comments. I wanted to post because there would never be another picture of Forrest posted and I wanted everyone to know why, generally, at least. I couldn’t post because 3 days before Forrest's death, my friend woke up to find her husband dead in the bed next to her. How could my grief compare to hers - not that I was comparing. Hurt is hurt. I couldn’t post because while I likened Forrest’s death to losing a child, both of my children were alive and well. I attended the funerals of 2 friends' young children last year. Forrest was just a dog…but I loved him dearly. The day after Forrest died, one of my friends who had buried her daughter in December, sent me a text - out of the blue. She said I had been on her mind all day and she felt the Holy Spirit prompting her to reach out to me. This is an example of love from the God we serve. I was trying to minimize my hurt by telling myself Forrest was just a dog, but He sent someone, also grieving, to comfort me. While I immediately realized the connection the Lord had made, I replied to her thanking her for reaching out, but didn’t tell her of my situation. I felt the love of the Lord, but didn’t want her to think I (or even God for that matter) had the audacity to compare my dog to her daughter.
I’ve realized in the month that has now passed:
1) Death is final, no amount of bargaining, thinking what if, what would have, could have or should have happened can change it.
2) It hurts. It’s the worst feeling ever. It is the polar opposite of joy or love or peace.
3) We can do everything right and still meet death.
4) Comments like “I’m sorry,” “My condolences,” “May the peace of God be with you,” are not helpful at all. The only true consolation is time.
5) God is in control. Our lives and all of the creatures He created are in His hands. When He decides to call us home, we are going - we don’t get another day, another hour, or another minute. Within 2 hours of his death Forrest’s body was in the ground. For Jesus to have been dead - dead - for 3 full days and rise again and live, is truly a miracle that only God can perform. If you do not believe in Jesus, as Lord and Savior, the time is now. The only way to live an everlasting life is to believe in the One who died and lived again. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you are spiritually dead right now. The only way to know true joy and love and peace is through Him. Won’t you give your life to Him today?
Dear Lord, I want to know You. Lord, I want to dedicate my life to you. Lord, please forgive me of my sins. Lord cleanse me of my sinful thoughts and desires and ways. Lord transform me into your child, forever.
If you prayed that prayer, you need to find a Bible-based church to join so that your new faith in Jesus can be nurtured to grow. If you desire my help, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t know why I shared this, but I’m told I have a way with words. Maybe my story of grief will help someone. Amen.
I have kept quiet on the matter of abortion nearly my whole life because I feared I would offend the Lord if my view was not 100% ProLife considering Scripture clearly says, “Thou shall not kill.” On Friday, when the US Supreme Court decided to overturn the prior Roe vs. Wade precedent, I was in the presence of two female friends. The three of us each voiced our thoughts and it may have been the first time I had ever participated in an abortion conversation. Later, as everyone took to Facebook to voice their opinions, it became clear that if you are not on the ProLife side of the argument, you must be on the ProDeath team - I disagree.
In 2006-2007, I was expecting my second child, a son, and I was praying about whether I should have a tubal ligation after the scheduled C-section. I had always wanted to be the mother of 2 sons, and with the second son due June 2007, I believed he would complete our family. I was 31 years old, so I still had quite a few more reproductive years, and the options were pills, an IUD, an implant or a tubal. If you know me, you know that I am talkative, always gathering information, and I love to hear people’s thoughts, opinions and experiences. As I shared my desire to have my “tubes tied,” a couple of people told me they thought the procedure was immoral, that I should have as many children as God wanted me to have. While I respected their opinion, it was my choice.
It was a HUGE decision for me. The “what-ifs” ran rampant through my mind. I know plenty of people who have a 3rd, 4th or 5th child they said was a “surprise,” and I didn’t really want a surprise of that magnitude. I was married, but it wasn’t a great marriage. I was a teacher, so pretty much on a fixed income. Two sons were what I wanted and God blessed me to have 2 sons - I couldn’t fathom why I would need more! I prayed and I cried, and I cried and I prayed. I didn’t even confirm with my doctor until he had laid 7lb 10oz Nicholas on my chest in the operating room. He asked me for the last time - “Tubal?” I nodded and was again, emotional. The nurses took Nick for his newborn regimen, and my fallopian tubes were tied, burnt, etc. Nick turned 15 last week, and I’m yet to regret the decision to have my tubes tied. It was my decision. It was a choice. It was what I thought was best for me, my family and our situation. I honored the Lord every step of the way. I asked His opinion, and I waited for Him to speak, I looked for signs from Him. The moment arrived and the decision had to be made.
While the decision to permanently sterilize oneself is not the same as the decision to end a pregnancy already in progress, I imagine similar emotions would be involved - similar prayers would be prayed. Many say, well, a tubal can be reversed - I suppose it can be, but it’s difficult, rare and could damage the reproductive system. Tubal Ligations can also fail. As I write this, I am still reproductive. I could become pregnant. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be happy about it, at least at first! It would be a shocker, to me, but nothing surprises the Lord. I would carry the baby and raise a third child, maybe grudgingly, but I would do it because that’s what I would believe was in God’s plan for me.
Everyone’s situation is different. Some women have health conditions that would endanger their life or the baby’s life. They may no longer be married to, or in relationship with the unborn baby’s father and they believe it takes two parents to raise a child. Some women may be experiencing financial difficulties and not want the additional burden. I read recently that based on 2022 dollar values, it costs $272,049 to raise a child in the United States from birth to age 18 - and this does not include college costs. For someone in a difficult financial situation, those numbers can seem astronomical. Sometimes a pregnancy can result from rape. While you may say that child could be given up for adoption, that’s not a simple process! For someone who just wants to put painful memories of sexual assault behind them, abortion may seem like the better option.
We all know someone who has children, but does very little parenting - right! Child-rearing is a choice. If anyone asks my opinion on whether they should abort their unborn baby, I would tell them NO - and I have had this conversation a few times in my life. I’ve shared about the joy of motherhood and the infinite gifts and talents God gave to my children. I’ve quoted Scriptures about how all human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27); how God knits us together in our mother’s womb; how we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). I’ve talked about how Jesus loves little children (Matthew 19:14). I’ve prayed that the women who have asked my opinion would choose to continue their pregnancies. I also respect the fact that some have not. It was their choice. While I gave all the reasons I could think of, they were looking at their own situation, the feasibility of the new addition to the family, the coming years, and they just did not believe it best to have a(nother) child. It makes me sad, angry even, but it’s not my place to pass judgment. I shouldn’t condemn someone for a decision they made for themselves.
As we all continue to navigate the abortion landscape, a few things to keep in mind.
Someone may not be ProLife, but that doesn’t mean they are ProDeath. It means they are ProChoice - they respect a woman’s right to choose what is right for herself, her family, and her future.
The decision to have an abortion is a major decision. I would imagine it to be a difficult and painful decision, as well! Women don’t choose abortion like they choose a hair color, as some would have us to believe.
The United States is composed of people with different beliefs, backgrounds, experiences, morals, etc. While you, reading this message, may believe the Scriptures, everyone does not. Even those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t share the exact same walk with Him. Some people have been walking with Him for longer and they may see His wondrous Creation in every direction they look. I may believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28) because I’ve seen that to be true many times. Someone else may not believe that because they have not experienced it. Those who believe are supposed to be making disciples (Matthew 28:19). Without faith, people make decisions based on their experiences and current reality. If we want to be effective at helping those considering abortion, we must not only be sharing the Word of God, but a living example of faith.
Sin comes in many different forms and we are all guilty. Remember, the Pharisees knew the Scriptures and the Law of Moses, but they failed to consider the human factor where they applied it. We read in John 8:1-11 the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery against her husband. The Pharisees and teachers of the law brought her to Jesus, and to trap him, they reminded him that the Law of Moses indicated she should be stoned - “what do you say,” they asked. Jesus told them they could stone her, but the one of them who had never sinned must be allowed to throw the first stone. The men left the scene. They knew they had sinned. Jesus said to the woman, “neither do I condemn you; go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus knew the woman’s situation. He did not attack her because of her sin. Rather than attacking women who consider or choose abortion, let’s love them. Rather than judging them, let’s work with them to help abortion not be such a serious consideration. Rather than quoting the Scripture “Thou shalt not kill,” (Exodus 20:13) let’s live the Scripture, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) AMEN.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this week's message. It's been a while since I shared a message, but this was necessary for me to share. I hope everyone has a blessed week.
There are many things we say and believe that are not in Scripture - and that may be okay - as long as it doesn’t conflict with Scripture. This, I’ve never said, but I recently heard someone of faith advise someone to be true to herself. Since I heard a person of faith say it, I decided to investigate. According to minimalsismmadesimple.com, there are ten practices that lead to being true to oneself. I am listing them, in brief, below.
Scripture tells us that we were each created in the image of God - Genesis 1:27. This means we each deserve to be treated with dignity and respect no matter our ethnicity, gender, age, no matter what our sins have been - we are all image bearers. Scripture tells us in Psalm 139:13-14 that from our beginning, we are all God’s Creation, 13For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Being made in the image of God and acknowledging His workmanship in our creation, warrants our service to Him - not service to ourselves.
If we were to recreate the list above with Scripture, it might look like the below:
We are true to ourselves, through our service to Him. Through prayer, service, and devotion to Him, he will guide us through our lives. Amen.
Thank you for reading.
I am a wife, mother,