Monthly Archives: August 2023

Why do I need more gratitude??!!

Image result for public domain picture of CAR AIR CONDITIONERFrustrations of daily life. I stared out the car window at the intersection twenty feet away. The Texas sun glared off each windshield and every piece of chrome on the cars passing by. Although the air conditioner blew blessedly cool air on my face, I could mentally feel the already blistering heat. Ten forty-five. I had planned to be back home seated at the computer by now.

I had driven by this in-and-out vehicle inspection site, one a half miles from my home, earlier but had passed it by because of the long line. Then I had driven two miles to another shop that the internet said did inspections. However, a sign just above the bays where you drive your car in for an oil change said “Sorry, but we no longer do state vehicle inspections.” I had backed up in a corner in their little parking lot, out of the way and, trying not to be mad, looked up “car inspections near me.”

“Ug!  I hate the internet! I said, my voice loud in the car’s interior.  “Why is it so hard to look up anything anymore!”

Image result for public domain picture of cell phone in handThe list of inspection sites on my phone showed a phone number and links to a website and directions but without clicking on the directions, there was no way to tell the address. The little map with pins on it did not have the streets labelled.

I could feel my breath getting shorter as the irritation rose. I could also feel a twinge of chest pain. That often happens lately when I start getting upset. I consider it my personal early warning system, an urgent message to calm down NOW and take things slower NOW.

(If you have chest pain, please see a doctor. I pay attention to chest pain but I can, with a fair degree of confidence, modify my behavior and wait for it to ease because I am under the care of a cardiologist who so advised me.)

So, trying to calm down I hit the directions button and followed the voice to the next site. I parked and walked to the door. Another “We no longer do vehicle inspections.” The thin skin over my elbow felt like it was roasting. Back in the car, one more sip of the iced water I carry with me all summer long, one more session with the phone, then one more site and one more sign.

“I give up.” I said and drove back to the original site close to my home.  Thankfully, there were only two cars in each of the two lanes ahead of me. I pulled in line and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, a man came to my window, took my payment, then said as he reached for the handle of the car door, “We’ll take it from here.”

Image result for PUBLIC DOMAIN PICTTURE OF clockThis was one of the speedy inspection stations/speedy oil change places and it looked, from driving by, that you sat in the car while the car was inspected or the oil was changed.  I had come here because I did not want to go to a service shop where you had to sit and sometimes wait an hour. That was hard on my touchy hip.

Stifling another deep sigh—it was not this young man’s fault and I was sure he saw disgruntled faces all day long—I asked “Where am I supposed to wait?”  I realized that sounded sarcastic.

He gestured to two picnic benches resting, barely, in the shade of a little Mexican restaurant, then pointed at the crew of men paving the section of asphalt driveway next to the inspection building.

“They are paving our spot.”

Too upset to immediately hear the sarcasm in my words and apologize for sounding upset, as I normally would have done, I nonetheless was aware I needed to do something.

“Thank you,” I said with a softer tone and an attempt at a smile. “I appreciate it.”

Forgive me, Father. I am listening now. I walked the twenty feet to the two picnic tables, grateful that the corner of one bench was still in a three-foot wide strip of shade before the advancing sun removed that one last bit of shadowed coolness in the entire block. The air was filled with the tantalizing smell of cooking beef.

“Okay, I said, “I’ll start the book I brought with me on do-it-yourself physical therapy for your knees.” But when I looked in my purse, I realized I had left the little book in the car.

Once again, I sighed. “Okay, Father. I realize You are trying to tell me something. I am sorry for getting so upset. I will just sit here and listen for what You want to say.”

I looked again at the intersection next to the inspection site, at the hot glare, the cars whizzing by, going in four directions. People out and about, many of whom would not have the luxury of going back home and staying inside, out of the heat, for the rest of the day.

Route Crew Photo - Getty ImagesThen I looked at the construction crew. Two men were using huge push brooms to smooth out the fresh asphalt. They all had long sleeve shirts and long pants on, a phenomenon I had thought peculiar when I first came to Texas ten years ago from Florida. I had learned since that people wear long sleeves because the Texas sun is more vicious than the Florida sun which passes through softening, highly humid air.

“How hot are they?” I wondered. “And they do this kind of work all day and all year long.”

There was a loud repeated thudding as some machine, just out of my sight, pounded away, breaking up a new section of pavement to be worked on, I presumed.

“And they have to listen to loud machinery all day long, too.’

“Freda, you need to be more grateful and stop complaining! What a wimp you can be! You are acting just like the Israelites complaining about sweet tasting manna.

“Expect trials to multiply.”  Then I thought of the devotional by Charles H. Spurgeon God had brought to my attention through a friend earlier that morning. When I got home, fifteen minutes later, I pulled out my well-worn copy of “Beside Still Waters” and turned to page two. It began:

Image result for PUBLIC DOMAIN PICTTURE OF OPEN BOOK IN LAP“God does not put heavy burdens on weak shoulders. God educates and tests our faith by trials that increase in proportion to our faith. God expects us to do adult work and to endure adult afflictions only after we have reached a mature status in Christ Jesus. Therefore, beloved, expect your trials to multiple as you proceed toward heaven.”

Spurgeon expounded on that theme, recalling that, in Abraham’s old age God had tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1).  Spurgeon warned “to never plan on a rest from trials this side of the grave.” He concluded by reminding us that we must stay in the fight and use our armor because we are in a war. We “must watch, pray and fight” and we must expect our “last battle to be the most difficult, for the enemy’s fiercest charge is reserved for the end of the day.”

Finally, deep understanding. This was a theme I had danced around in my solitary ponderings and in conversation with a friend who has also undergone a long string of troubles and trials, as I am sure you have also. But this time, on this pyretic morning in Texas, going about the routine of taking care of the ever-growing mound of small and trifling matters necessary to sustain life in our world, God gave the strength necessary to truly embrace this truth and accept it, rather than run from it as I had before.

Why I need to be more grateful. “Okay, Father. I see this clearly now. And I also see that You have all these last few months, with all these challenges, been equipping me with one of the best shields, that of developing a truly grateful heart.

You know when I first started consciously trying to be grateful, for the everyday little things right in front of me as well as for seemingly big things, it felt like just an exercise. I still had so much complaining going on inside at the same time I was saying ‘Thank You, Father, for this home, this furniture, all the food in my cabinets, the money that pays the bills, the dependable car I drive. . .’

But it has become more sincere and now I really mean it when I express my gratitude to You. You have renewed my heart.  Thank You, Father. I could not do it, no matter how hard I tried but You did.

And this is part of why You wrote Philippians 4:6-8 too, isn’t it, where You told us not to worry, to just ask You for what we need and to keep our minds fixed on good things.

 6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

This thing about being grateful all day long is part of verse eight, part of the good things we are supposed to be thinking about, isn’t it Lord?

So, Father, I will think about good things today, I will think about all the wonderful things You are doing in my life and the lives of those I know and in this entire world. I will be grateful that I know You are all-powerful and also so very loving and merciful and that You help us in all our weaknesses and always will. I will strive to be more mindful of how great You are and how awesome it is that You take time to be involved in the details of my little life.  I will be grateful. for . .


God earnestly waits – Part seven

Isaiah 30:22-26.  Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, Be gone!

Image result for Public Domain picture of Abundant Fields. Size: 174 x 185. Source: www.thenextevolution.com23 Then will He give you rain for the seed with which you sow the soil, and bread grain from the produce of the ground, and it will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will feed in large pastures. 24 The oxen likewise and the young donkeys that till the ground will eat savory and salted fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and with fork.

25 And upon every high mountain and upon every high hill there will be brooks and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter [the day of the Lord], when the towers fall [and all His enemies are destroyed].

26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days [concentrated in one], in the day that the Lord binds up the hurt of His people, and heals their wound [inflicted by Him because of their sins].

 In Parts One through Six, we:

  • examined the context and main points of Isaiah 30,
  • discussed the subtle ways the enemy of our souls deceives us into devoting our hearts to idols, rather than the one true God,
  • saw God explain to Israel how their rebellion against His ways would cause calamity,
  • examined verse 18, which described how God earnestly, eagerly waits and longs for us to return to Him and that, while He waits, He is getting ready to show us mercy and loving-kindness when we return to Him., and
  • began looking at some of the unbelievable things God is earnestly longing to do for us when we return to Him.

In Part Seven, we will continue exploring those unbelievable things God longs to do for us.

Image result for public domain picture of idol22: “Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images platted with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, Be gone!” Take a moment to consider how idols were made in those times. An image was carved of wood or molded of an inferior metal and then overlaid with costly gold or silver. Its outward appearance was beautiful and seemed of great price. But its real, internal hidden nature was worthless. Even so, things of this world are worthless. As the poem by C. T. Studd says, “Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” That is why 2 Corinthians 4:18 urges us to “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. “(NIV.)

Once God enables us to see Him and to hear His directions for living, we see our idols for the filthy things they are and we “cast them away.” Cast means to forcefully throw something far away. Think about casting out a fishing net or better than that, throwing a bag of garbage in the dumpster.

Image result for public domain picture of rain on field23a. “Then will He give you rain for the seed with which you sow the soil, and bread grain from the produce of the ground, and it will be rich and plentiful..” This verse is another of the “thens” or consequences of returning to God, resting in Him, and trusting confidently in Him (v. 15.) This verse is another of the ways God is “expecting, looking and longing” to be gracious to us.

When we are in right relationship with God, we are blessed in what we do. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and see what awaits those who “fully obey” the Lord our God. This promise in Isaiah 30 is another instance of the principle we see in Deuteronomy 28. He blesses our life – He blesses our efforts (sends rain), makes those efforts accomplish their purpose (He makes our efforts supply our needs) and He does so richly, plentifully.

Image result for public domain picture of animals grazing23b-24. “. . . In that day your cattle will feed in large pastures. The oxen likewise and the young donkeys that till the ground will eat savory and salted fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. In verses 23, 25, and 26 where “the day” or “that day” are used, commentaries indicate that it means the day when “God will take severe vengeance upon the enemies of His people.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary). Matthew Henry thought that perhaps it meant the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, or the overthrow of the Roman Empire but that certainly the day of the Lord meant the ultimate destruction of Satan and his kingdom.

I believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, that is, I believe that everything described in the Bible actually happened or will actually happen. I also believe that God intended for us to apply the Bible to our individual lives and that part of that application is interpreting the Bible figuratively. For example, the Israelites did wander in the wilderness forty years but that wandering in the barren wilderness—when they could have been living in the blessings of the Promised Land– is also is a picture of us when we rebel against God by doubting Him. One passage can have many interpretations and applications.

Having explained that, I believe that the day in which these blessings will happen are–in addition to the interpretations suggested above–the day or time that we return to Him in quietness and trusting confidence (v. 15) and thus find strength.

All we need to work with. In Verses 23b-24, when God is talking about well-cared for cattle and oxen and donkeys, He is assuring us that when we return to trusting and obeying Him we will have an abundance of everything we need to work with. A large pasture means plenty of good grass for cattle. Oxen and donkeys tilling the sol need quality feed (“savory and salted fodder that had been winnowed with shovel and fork”) in order to have strong, powerful bodies for their work. To me, this says that we will have whatever we need to do our work, to live our life of loving service to God. We will have plenty of what we need and it will be of good quality. God is not stingy or cheap!

The Little Brook That Could Photograph by Hany J25. “And upon every high mountain and every high hill there will be brooks and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter [the day of the Lord], when the towers fall [and all His enemies are destroyed.]. Notice the “and”, which connects the blessings in Verse 25 with those that came before. And. . . in that day we will have all the water we need – everywhere we turn. Brooks and streams are both bodies of running water, but brooks are smaller, generally shorter and often found in rugged terrain. An area with brooks flowing through its nooks and crannies makes life far easier for humans and livestock alike than an area with only one stream, which is actually a small river. Water represents Holy Spirit, our Living Water (Jeremiah 2:13.) When we trust God, we have an abundance of Him to satisfy our thirst (1 Corinthians 12:13). We have an abundance of Him everywhere—even in the difficult to traverse places where refreshment seems unlikely, those nooks and crannies of everyday life and those painful, hard to get through moments. And we do not have to wat while we travel to get this water.

Remember the blog post of February 24, 2023, where we examined Psalm 95:11-12? “ Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection] (AMPC).” Like the image of brooks in numerous spots in rugged terrain, Psalm 95:11-12 is another picture of how God daily prepares what we need, including long, satisfying drinks of Himself, all along the path we will take that day.

Verse 26a. Moreover, the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days [concentrated in one].  According to Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible types (p. 290-291), the word light “is used in many ways in the Scripture. Sometimes. . . it refers to the Word of God, as in Psalm 119:105. . .” Sometimes it also “refers to the walk of the believer in which he serves the Lord in a Pine Trees Forest With Full Moon Stock Photo - Image of mountains ...godly way, and directs life according to the Word of God, as in 1 John 1:7).  In our verse, Isaiah 30:26, I believe light means God’s guidance for us when we are fully trusting and obeying Him. We see here that even in our dark times and situations, in the night seasons of our life, God will provide clear guidance for us because the light we have in our darkness (our moon in those times, so to speak) will be as bright as day. Furthermore, in the other times of our life, we will have guidance so clear that it will be like the sunshine of seven days concentrated into one. Now, that’s clear guidance!

Verse 26b. in the day that the Lord binds up the hurt of His people, and heals their wound [inflicted by Him because of their sins].  All these blessings from verse 20b through 26 will come upon us when God restores us to where we were before we turned away from Him to idols.  Binding up a wound reduces swelling, guards against infection and feels comforting. God comforts us when we turn to Him and He heals the wounds we brought on ourselves by our rebellion. This all-mighty, all-powerful God, this God our healer is the One Who looks and eagerly longs to be gracious to us while we stumble along in the darkness. What causes that darkness? It is  caused by our rebellion, our relying on the world, our refusal to return to Him, to rest in Him, and to quietly find our strength in trusting Him with confidence and expectation (Isaiah 30:15.)

Applying the Word.  Remember that this principle—that when we rebel against God He is watching and eagerly longing to be gracious to us—applies to every scale of time and to countless situations. When I spend the morning fretting about car repairs, God is all the while eagerly longing for me to return to fully trusting Him so that He can give me peace. When a prodigal pursues the world, for decades, God is all that time eagerly expecting, looking and longing to be gracious.

Sixty-Fifth Avenue: October 2010I believe that the eagerness of the father in the story of the prodigal son is what God feels for even “little” turnings away from Him. How would you feel if you were on a special vacation with your beloved adult children and they chose to spend half the day away from you. How would you feel if you were walking in the woods with your toddler who got mad because you would not let her pick poison ivy and refused to walk beside you? God watches over us and walks with us every moment of every day, and He just wants us to talk with Him and think about Him. He just wants us to love Him and share the moments of our life with Him. He is our loving, doting, compassionate, gracious, kind, caring, joyous, laughing Father. He is our joy, He is our strength, He is our peace. And He loves us and wants the best for us, the things that are truly best.

In Part Eight, we will learn about the power of God as He fights for us and the joy He promises while He does so.