Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I was determined to have hamburgers on the grill this weekend. However, it was looking like that may not happen. This was my fourth grocery to check this morning. I headed straight for the meat section. My shoulders dropped, the shelves were cleared out. Or so I thought. In the bottom of the cooler were seven packages of hamburger. Above them a sign read: “Only two packs per customer.” I checked them over, choosing the best of what was offered and tucked them under my arm. As I made my way down the aisles I noticed how many of the shelves were empty. Quantity restriction signs hung loosely over empty shelves.
It is an emotion that I find hard to explain as I look at bare shelves and people in surgical masks. Nothing but fearful eyes darting about. Even children sitting in carts with masks seem unnaturally subdued. No smiles, just the undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.
Life, in a very short few weeks, has been turned upside down. Though our lives have been altered there is One that will never change. One that will always have what you need, when you need it. No waiting, no restrictions or emptiness. Jesus is listening, comforting, strengthening and loving us all.
Unfortunately, that is easy to forget when your eyes are filled with these images. Though we cannot see Jesus with our earthly eyes, we know in our hearts that he is here. He is with you and me. You must not allow these images to discourage you from the truth. No matter what you may see, read or hear, God is ultimately still in control.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
I went to water my hanging basket on the front porch. It was looking very droopy. I climbed up on the bench and saw the reason for the droopy and flattened plant. Tucked under the delicate yellow petals was a nest. Lined with feathers it was a warm place to hatch and rear the next generation. However, as I peered deeper into the nest I saw an egg that did not match the pale green eggs. It was larger and brown speckled. I snapped a quick picture and climbed down. As I went inside the momma bird returned, scolded me and resettled in her nest. As I looked at the snapshot I realized this little momma had a cuckoo in the nest. I immediately felt sad for her; her little family was in danger. The unsuspecting songbird pair will work tirelessly to feed and nurture the imposter, completely unaware of what it is doing to their family.
Cuckoos hatch earlier than the other chicks and in most cases either push the other eggs out or starve out the chicks by obtaining all the mother and father’s attention. This particular egg belonged to a cowbird, a much larger species of bird. The cowbird egg was being incubated to destroy all the parents had worked for and end a whole generation.
I think that we are guilty of nurturing cuckoos in our hearts. A seed of discontent, anger, self-pity, maybe unforgiveness. These cuckoos are not of God but destroyers sent by our enemy. We feed those cuckoos until they push out our joy, steal our gratitude and fill us with anger and pain. Unfortunately, for those song birds they could not tell the difference between their eggs and another’s however we are able to distinguish the emotions and seeds that are from God or our enemy. Ultimately we chose what we nurture and what we reject.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
My dog is obsessed with the chipmunks living under the deck. He whines and barks at them through the window as they run and play, stopping to munch on a nut or vegetation right in front of the glass door. Just two or three feet and a glass pane separate him from his nemesis. Once I let him out for his relief breaks he runs from burrow to burrow, sometimes forgetting why he was let out. Then he comes inside and realizes he needs to go out. All day he paces, whines and cries and nothing I do distracts him from those chipmunks. He is obsessed and cannot focus on anything else.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that we too can become obsessed with things. In fact, like those chipmunks in the window, we are also distracted. Everywhere you turn there are commercials, radio advertising, billboards, emails, news reports and the topic of every conversation you take part in. The Covid-19 situation is on the forefront of every communication. Stirring up fear, worry and questions. We spend a lot of time pacing and trying to figure out what will happen next.
I have begun limiting my exposure to Covid-19 reports, articles and news. Some would say this is not prudent. However, I disagree. I am not sticking my head in the sand, instead I am controlling what I expose myself to. It is true we need to know what is going on in our communities, governments and the world, but there is a limit. Instead of subsisting on a continual buffet of Covid reports, information and speculation, we should limit how much time we spend reading and submerging ourselves in the ongoing situation. I know that is not easy, you cannot listen to the radio or watch TV without every commercial being about the Covid 19 virus, but you have the power to choose what and how much you digest. Do not allow yourself to be distracted to the point of neglecting yourself. This constant exposure can intensify fear, loneliness, depression and aggression. Enjoy time with family, make time for study and prayer, enjoy a good meal or take a walk. You have the power to limit your exposure and protect yourself.
I put curtains up on the door and Bryan is much calmer. He still knows the chipmunks are there and checks out the burrows every time we go out, but he is not obsessed anymore because the constant stimuli has been curtailed.
“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12
For the past two weeks I have been trying to write a Seed. However, only the words, “it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff” has rolled through my mind. So I began to look for a correlating story as my example, however none came to me. I read about the process of separating wheat from chaff. (Threshing is done by beating the grain using a flail on a threshing floor or using donkeys or oxen walking in circles on the grain on a hard surface.)
This phrase first rolled through my gray matter the night before my city was hit by four tornadoes. How unfair, I remember thinking that our community was dealing with the Covid 19 virus and now a destructive tornado.. So many people I know were out of work, others worried about the health of loved ones and themselves and then to have our community shredded by an EF3 tornado. Where is the fairness in that? As I meditated on these thoughts and shared my questions with Jesus, that phrase continued to roll through. It was then that I realized the correlating story wasn’t something from my life but our lives. We are living in unusual times. Dangerous and uncertain times.
“Now the wheat will be separated from the chaff.” Whispers.
Faith is nothing without testing. It is easy to stand and say I believe, God is in control and Jesus is my savior when life is good. It is easy to declare my faith and trust in God when I am not on state lockdown or huddled in a closet in the darkness. We are living in unusual times. Dangerous and uncertain times. It is now that the wheat will be separated from the chaff.
Is your declaration of trusting and serving the Savior just words? Or is your faith one that will withstand what we still have to face? These events have not changed our duties as Christians. We are to witness, lift up those in despair, help the needy and retain our faith and joy, no matter what may come. Now more than ever in your life, those around you need to witness a faith that withstands the threshing floor.
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7
Spring has sprung and the yard is filled with roses, azaleas, and tulips. I love this time of year as nature comes alive with color. It is also time to plant vegetables. Now that we have a house, my daughter and I are excited about having a small garden. This past week she planted seven different items and every day we have checked for the seedlings to emerge. Of the seven planted four have broken the surface. By Friday my daughter was disappointed that we still had three pots with no development. Rereading the seed packets we discovered that some seeds take longer to germinate than others and this explained the delay. Now we can look forward to them emerging when they should.
It is the same with the seeds we plant in people’s lives. I often get frustrated when I do not see a change or growth. That is because I have forgotten my role. It is my role to plant the seed, but God’s to give the increase. It is hard to remember that when you care about someone. You only want the best for them. You want them to know the peace and assurance you have in Jesus but that is between them and God. Plant the seed, water the seed but ultimately know that God gives the increase.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
I recognized the sound. The thump and lope of a flat tire. I coasted to the grass along the country lane. Getting out of the car I saw that the tire was flat and coming off the rim. It was my first time to travel this road and I had only gone a few yards when I realized it wasn’t a road made for my little car. I should have turned around, but I thought I would just carry on and that is when I hit the pothole and ended the life of the rear driver’s tire.
I explained the situation to my daughter and got on the phone with a towing company. Thirty minutes later the truck backed up in front of my car. What happened next was bizarre, hilarious and unexpected. The driver explained to me that because of the Covid-19 we could not ride in the cab with him. I stared back at him. “Well,” I began. “I can call my other daughter to come to get us.”
“So, I do have another option.” He said, a twinkle in his eye. “You can ride in the car back to the shop.”
Windows down, seat belts on, my daughter and I princess waved as we rode down the main street. People pointed and laughed. Some stared and some chose to ignore the spectacle. I will admit it was great fun! A parade all our own. As I was enjoying the ride and of course the attention, I thought about how sometimes in your life you just must be carried. I had to trust the driver not only with my property but the lives of myself and my daughter. It was an unusual event in unusual circumstances.
Today across the world people are living in fear. The world has a common enemy. Not just of the virus that is storming every city, village, and town, but the worry about jobs, finances, health, losing a lease or home and the future of each of us and our loved ones. Now more than ever we need hope and faith. And now more than ever, the world needs to see Jesus. That is where we as Christians come in. You may be the only example of Jesus some may see.
We keep reading the same phase in news reports and articles, “These are unprecedented times.” These may be unprecedented times for the world, but this is no surprise to God. Allow him to carry you through this. Share your faith and hope in Jesus. Hold fast to your faith.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6
I was talking to my daughter one evening. She was reading articles offline and on Facebook. The stories were shocking about what lows people were stooping. As she read the headlines, I could hear her panic beginning to rise. “Mom, these people are nuts; they have lost their minds!”
“Yes, I said, it appears they have. We are going to see a lot more stories about people doing despicable and irrational things. We need to remember that this is a small slice of society. Despite what you see and hear about, remain grounded and do not let this mania take over.”
Over the next few weeks, you will see some extraordinary things. You will witness people reacting out of fear. Do not allow these stories or other’s actions to draw your focus away from Jesus. Keep your head. Do not respond, but think and use the reason God has given you.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
During this time, remember to keep your focus on the cross. Do not allow yourself to get tangled up in the hype or panic.