We’re Asking the Wrong Question

When I took this picture, I could see hints of a rainbow lining the opening of these clouds. It was a good reminder that God is often working in ways beyond what we can understand or see.

As I was driving home from the grocery store several weeks ago, I felt sad once again over how political Covid-19 had become. It’s disheartening to see that the political affiliation of each news source has caused such vastly distinctive views on the issue. I am also discouraged when I consider the possibility that different institutions could be taking advantage of this illness for their own personal agendas and gain. It honestly makes me anxious when I think about it too much.

As I pondered how political this pandemic had become, it dawned on me that politics has played a role in everyday life for centuries; Jesus’ crucifixion, in fact, was no exception to that.

The days leading up to Jesus’ death, the chief priests and Pharisees sought a means to crucify Him. Politically, they feared the Romans would take their place and nation from them if Jesus was to continue gaining followers through His miracles (John 11:48). As a result, they plotted His death.

Although the disciples had a far more favorable opinion of Jesus and His signs, they also had wrong political views about Him.

Peter rebuked Jesus in one instance after He prophesied to His disciples about His death and resurrection. Jesus, in turn, reprehended him for not having his mind set on things above. (Matthew 16:21-23). On another occasion, James and John came to Jesus alongside their mother, who asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit at His right and left hand in His kingdom, causing the other disciples to become angry (Matthew 20:20-23).

And on yet another occasion, one of Jesus’ followers explicitly stated what he and other believers had been hoping for in Jesus all along (but no longer believed was possible)—that He would redeem Israel (Luke 24:18-21).

Ironically, this particular individual told these things to Jesus Himself before he realized to whom he was speaking. He and other followers of Jesus had yet to realize that Jesus had indeed planned to redeem Israel all along, but not in the way they had expected. He accomplished redemption through His death and resurrection and made it available for all people of all times. It simply had to be received by grace through faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

-Ephesian 2:8-9

When I think of the religious division, schemes, and hidden agendas that saturated Jerusalem before Jesus was crucified, I am struck by the fact that God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No. Instead, He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.

God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No, instead He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.”

This is something I find myself needing to remember when I sense anxiety rising within me over Covid-19 or any other issue we have faced this year.

If you are like me, and you have felt uneasy over the divisiveness of each political party on how Covid-19 should be handled and viewed (and all other issues, for that matter), or if you, too, have felt worried as you try to figure out what men may be scheming in the midst of these times, then perhaps, my friend, we’re asking the wrong question.

Maybe it’s not a matter of trying to understand the hidden agendas of men in this pandemic or to somehow reconcile each contrastive view, but to better ask God what He is doing through this time and in each issue.

He may not just be working in spite of the chaos in which we find ourselves today. He could very well be working through it, and perhaps it’s the very thing that He is using to bring redemption to even more individuals than we could possibly know.

We can rest assured that, no matter what comes tomorrow or how chaotic life seems, no one will thwart God’s plans. He is not surprised by the events of this year, and He is still in the business of making all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Let’s keep believing that. Let’s find hope in knowing that God’s purposes will always prevail.

Living Water

I took a picture of this same scene in March, when the plants were lush and green. I knew they wouldn’t stay that way for long.  It’s really dry here, and the summer gets too hot for much to stay green without some tender care.

Just a few short months later, I snapped the scene pictured above. It goes to show that not even the most native of plants can withstand the heat and dryness here. Not in a lush, green sort of way, at least.

Heading into this summer, I knew not to underestimate this climate. I was determined to give even more water to the plants in my front yard than I had before, and to do so more often. So far, it has been paying off. I haven’t lost any plants this summer (unlike last summer, unfortunately).

As I have faithfully watered my plants throughout these last few months, the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps I am not drinking enough water myself.

There are so many benefits to drinking water. Too many to list. But there are a few that are especially pertinent to this moment in time. They are as follows:

  1. Drinking enough water in hot weather keeps one from getting dehydrated.
  2. Drinking enough fluids in general helps in the recovery of illness.

Considering that we are still experiencing the heat of summer during a pandemic, how much more important it is to drink enough water!

I speak of this in a literal sense, but I urge us even more so to consistently drink of the living water.

In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman about this very topic. Weary from travel, He asks her for a drink of water from a well. In response, she questions why He would ask her for a drink since the Jews and Samaritans didn’t have anything to do with each other.

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

He responds to her similarly a few verses later as they continue to converse.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Although the Samaritan woman is never explicitly told what Jesus meant by this living water, its explanation is given a few chapters later.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39

As believers, we have been given this living water because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. The question, then, is are we drinking from it daily? Are our lives regularly empowered by the Holy Spirit?

The weather may be cooling down within the next few months, and we may not have as great a need for water physically. However, the spiritual, political, emotional, and mental climate is not. The truth is, we are all going through a fire of sorts in this moment of history. We can all feel the heat. And the “news forecast” only promises hotter weather in the future. So what will we do to withstand it?

If we want to be like the tree described in Psalm 1, then perhaps we need to take a similar approach to the one taken with my plants this summer. We need to water our souls even more and a lot more often.

Let’s do so by asking God to truly fill us with His Spirit each day, and let’s abide in Christ and His Word even more than we ever have before. Perhaps, in doing so, we will be able to even refresh others in the heat, dryness, and barrenness of this season. Let’s be that spring of water that will draw others to the living water.

*For more information on how to live a Spirit-filled life, visit https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html

Blooming Bushes

Liam and I skipped our daily walk a few days ago, but when we resumed it the following morning, I was delighted to see that all of the green bushes bordering the pathway were bursting forth in full color with hundreds of tiny, purple blossoms.

It was a good reminder to me that life doesn’t always just suddenly change for the worse. It can change for the better, too.

There are plenty of present-day examples of this–an engagement or beginning of life as a married couple, a positive pregnancy test, a new job, a promotion, a move to a new city (or new residence, for that matter), or a granted scholarship promising further education and adventures to come. Life is full of positive changes, some more unexpected than others.

As I think about how quickly circumstances can change, I’m hopeful in knowing that this year can swifty improve as well.

The truth is, all our present trials are like an insect under God’s foot. He could squash them whenever He chooses. He doesn’t need the strategies we have worked so hard to implement this year nor the remedies or solutions that we are currently striving to find.

It would be nothing to Him to cause these present problems to dissipate.  He is God, and there is no one or no thing more powerful than Him.

Nonetheless,  He has allowed these current difficulties to continue for this season for His good purposes, and we have to choose to believe that and to fuel our faith in the beauty that He is bringing out of ashes. I know I’ve heard several stories about individuals placing their faith in Jesus as a result of these present trials. I’m so thankful that people are finding new life in Christ in the midst of a year that is so focused on sickness and death.

Still, I’m encouraged to pray that the fullness of God’s work through this pandemic will come to a completion soon, and I’m hopeful that its end will be just as unexpected and beautiful as the purple blossoms on all those blooming  bushes.

Breathe

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-pixabay-39669.jpg
Photo taken from Pixabay

If I had to choose a word to describe this year so far, it would be breath. It has undoubtedly been the greatest determining factor as to how we have experienced these last eight months worldwide.

Because the coronavirus is thought to be spread by inhaling the respiratory particles of an infected person,1 it was the cause of a quarantine across our nation and around the globe earlier this year. It has also encouraged and even mandated social distancing and face masks in certain states.

It has caused restaurants, schools, sporting events, stores, and churches to close their doors for a time (and for some of them to stay shut). Furthermore, once an individual is infected by the coronavirus, breath becomes an even greater concern since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness2 that, for some people, leads to hospitalization and possible death.

If all this were not enough to convince a person of the underlying theme of breath this year, we must not forget how pronounced this idea was in late May and early June as individuals started to inundate social media with three simple words— “I can’t breathe.”

This statement echoed George Floyd’s own words before he died a horrific and unjust death, but it speaks so aptly to this year in general. I can’t breathe. The truth is, this year has probably left us all feeling like we can’t breathe at some point or another, regardless of our reasons. How can we catch our breath, after all, when so much tragedy has occurred in such a short amount of time?

Years ago, I was given a One-Year Study Bible as a gift, and as I started to read it, I was intrigued by the emerging theme of breath throughout its pages.

One of the ideas that struck me most was how often individuals were brought to life when God placed breath within them, the most glorious example being how mankind came to be.

When God created Adam, He formed his body out of dust. Adam did not come to life, however, until God breathed the breath of life into him (Gen 2:7).

We see a similar example in Ezekiel 37 when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. As he does, God causes tendons, flesh, and skin to cover them so that they become bodies once again. Nonetheless, it is not until Ezekiel prophesies to the breath by the Lord’s command that these bodies are given life and stand to their feet as a vast army (Ezekiel 37:10).

Similarly, the two witnesses in Revelation are brought back to life three and a half days after they are killed when God places the breath of life into their dead bodies (Revelation 11:11).

What fascinates me about these passages is the fact that God was so intentional to place the breath of life into each of them. He is also intentional to do so with us today. Our lives did not happen by accident. They have been God’s doing. We are truly in His hands.

Another idea that stood out to me throughout Scriptures was how often a person’s life was described as a breath. Consider the following passages:

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”Psalm 39:5

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.Psalm 144:3-4

As I read these passages (and others) years ago, it changed the way I thought about my own life. I started to view it as a breath that God had breathed into me, and its length would be only as long as a slow exhale at most. As a result of these insights, I had some questions to ponder. What would I exhale? Would I breathe out the air God had breathed into me? Or would I merely exhale my own hot air?

I don’t think of these questions very often, but I should. I have the opportunity to determine what air I will breathe every day. I get to choose what I will inhale and what I will exhale consequently, so I need to be deliberate about what I am breathing in.

Recently, as I was rereading the passages mentioned above, I stumbled upon a well-known passage from 2 Timothy. It states the following:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16

This passage only confirms to me that, if I am going to exhale the “breath of God” regularly, I need to do so by inhaling His God-breathed Scripture daily. The more I allow His Word to permeate my heart and mind, the more my own short “exhale of life” will reflect Him in my words and actions.

In a year in which we are asked to restrict the breadth of our physical breath and thus slow the spread of the coronavirus, let’s deeply exhale our life in a way in which the Gospel and God’s Word will be spread to others. Let’s use our breath to speak words of life into others through truth, encouragement, and lasting hope in God. This world needs the breath of life in a way that it has never known before, so let’s be a reflection of the Breath-Giver in whatever way we can and see what He does as a result.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#Spread

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/coronavirus-vs-sars

The Tapestry

Ten years ago, I bought the tapestry pictured above on a mission trip. I hadn’t intended to buy anything so early into the project, but I couldn’t resist the intricacy and vibrant colors of this cloth, and I’m glad I couldn’t. It has served as a reminder to me of how I need to view and live life, especially in those moments when I can’t make sense of it.

After buying the tapestry, I started to think of my life as a thread—a thread whose length and color had been determined by God, and He held it in His hands, masterfully weaving it into the tapestry that He was creating of all time.

Just as many tapestries don’t use a thread of color in one spot only, I saw how God was weaving the thread of my life into different places and intertwining it with different people at different times. And even though I couldn’t necessarily see a pattern emerging out of my life, I knew I could trust God to weave my life into His tapestry in a way in which it would be part of a far greater design, and He would be glorified by it, regardless of how little I understood it at times.

The truth is, the summer of that mission trip felt very random to me. It was beautiful, for sure—one full of adventure and new experiences and big steps of faith. But I couldn’t understand why He had prepared certain places and events for me that summer, as thankful as I was. I couldn’t see a clear theme or make any sense out of it all. Nonetheless, I decided I would focus on pleasing Him, even when I didn’t understand His purposes. And I would trust that He knew exactly what He was doing with my life. The tapestry helped to cement those ideas in my mind.

Ten years later, life feels random once again, but in a very distinct way. This year has been full of tragedies, including the global pandemic in which we still find ourselves today and by which our lives continue to be grossly affected.

This year has felt haphazard at best. I don’t doubt that God is in control and that He is using these worldwide events to draw men and women to Him. Still, I can’t make sense of what God is doing in my own life in particular. I once again fail to see a theme to it all.

It is in times like these that I need to think about that tapestry. I need to remind myself that God still has the thread of my life in His hands, and He is still weaving it into His design in the way He desires. He knew that our lives would intertwine with this year and all of its chaotic moments from before time began, and He is still masterfully weaving our threads into this year as He sees fit. We only need to make it our aim to please Him, regardless of how much or little we understand.

One day, when this earth has passed away and Jesus calls us home, I imagine an unveiling of this tapestry that He is creating. Although we can only see bits and pieces of it from the backside here on earth, we will see the final product on full display from the perspective of the Master Weaver on that day.

Perhaps this year will be one of the intricate patterns to the piece. Perhaps other hard seasons of our lives will also form an intricate design on the cloth. Whatever the case may be, there is one thing I know—that Jesus’ life will be woven into every thread of ours. It will be at the center of the piece and will cover every inch in which our life as a believer is woven. And as we gaze at the beauty and splendor of this tapestry, our knees will buckle under the weight of God’s glory, and we will bow down and worship Him with thankful hearts for how He graciously wove our own lives into His incredible masterpiece, this story of all mankind.

In our moments when obedience to Him feels random, and we can’t understand what God is up to, let’s keep this image in mind and keep offering our lives to Him to use as He desires. We only have to focus on obeying Him and to keep having faith that one day we will see that tapestry in all its fullness.

Until then, may God help us to live by faith and not by sight. May we trust that He is using us in His master design, especially in those moments that don’t make any sense to us.

Let Your Light Shine

Years ago, a friend of mine told me about how she used to read Corrie Ten Boom’s story every year.

I don’t recall the full extent of our conversation anymore, but I do remember a few details. The gist of it was about a question that a person in the book had asked Corrie Ten Boom. Namely, how was she able to save so many Jews during the Nazi regime? How did she and her family set out on such an endeavor?

Corrie Ten Boom humbly answered that she and her family hadn’t sought out Jews to save. Rather, many Jews had looked for them because of the reputation that she and her family had made for themselves before the war.

Years before the holocaust, the Ten Boom family had determined to be a blessing to their community. They provided food to the hungry, gave money to the needy, and hosted children whose parents were missionaries in different countries. Corrie also started a girl’s club in which she taught the young ladies about faith and practical matters, such as sewing.1

The Ten Booms were guided by their faith in all aspects of life, and they stood out to the community because of that faith in action. Therefore, when the darkness of the Nazi regime permeated the Ten Boom’s town, the Ten Boom’s light shone all the brighter.

I’m reminded of Matthew 6:33 as I think of Corrie Ten Boom’s story and what she and her family were able to accomplish.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The Ten Booms lived this verse out beautifully.

A little over a month ago, I went jogging around the neighborhood. As I reached the last stretch of my jog, I looked up and saw the light pole pictured above.

At mid-morning, it was shining brightly, oblivious to the sun that was overpowering it or the fact that the other light poles on the block had turned off for the day, ready to rest and prepare for their night shift later that evening.

I felt compelled to take a picture of this peculiar light pole that morning. It seemed too symbolic not to. So I pulled out my phone and managed to capture a crooked shot of the image as I jogged by, and I’m so glad I did. The light pole reminded me of what my friend had told me about Corrie Ten Boom years earlier. It also reminded me of something I had prayed for at the beginning of this year—that I would be a light in my neighborhood.

As the year began, I felt very much like that light pole. It seemed as if I was trying to be a light on a sunny day. Nonetheless, I continued to pray that God would make me a light and started to make plans as to how I could further invest in the lives of my neighbors and be a blessing to them.

Little did I know how futile those plans would be.

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

As Covid-19 swept over the globe and disrupted our normal routine and that of countless others, I found all of my plans crumbling to dust beneath my feet.

It was ironic to think that God had most likely put the desire on my heart to be a light to my neighborhood when I was essentially “hiding it under a bushel,” or, in my case, in my home under quarantine.

I find this is how God works many times, however. He takes what seems impossible and makes a way.

While I found myself alone with my son at home most days, God was opening a door to have conversations with my neighbors through text messages. It has been through this means that I have been able to send them a link to the Gospel message (the one I sent them can be found here: http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp/default.htm) and have also been able to invite them to my church’s online services.

In the more recent past, I have had even more opportunities to have contact with them from across the street or between yards, and even though we haven’t been able to have deep and meaningful conversations through this means, I do not take these moments for granted and trust that God is at work even in simple moments like these.

Not only have I seen God giving me opportunities to be a light through creative means, but I am hearing stories from other friends who are meeting new neighbors for the first time through daily walks or more time spent outside. Only God could take a global moment of isolation and separation to allow His children to get to meet people they may have never known otherwise. I’m so thankful for how He works.

The darkness continues to close in among this nation and our world. Although I have been aware of it before now, I don’t know if it has ever felt as thick to me as it does now. But perhaps this is what it takes for us, as believers, to truly be lights that make a difference in this world. Perhaps this is how our lights will truly shine and others will be drawn to that, and ultimately to Jesus.

I am reminded of my need to kindle this flame each day, but I am also painfully aware of my shortcomings to be a light each day as well. Nonetheless, I am confident of what the following verse from Phillipians 1:6 says:

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”

In the meantime, I’m going to keep asking God to help me be a light.

1 https://www.biography.com/activist/corrie-ten-boom

On This Side of the Fence

I took a picture of my son looking into a soccer field through metal bars about a week ago, and my heart aches every time I look at it. It sums up so much of what I have been feeling recently. I’m sure many of you can relate. We’re on one side of the fence, looking toward the future and hoping it will someday involve green grass and blue skies again. But we’re still on this side of the fence. We’re still in the barrenness of this season, wondering how and when we’ll get to the other side. Perhaps we even wonder if we ever will.

I have been part of an online book study with a couple of friends for several months, and it has been so timely for this season of life. Ironically, we started it before the first coronavirus outbreak in China (yes, that’s how long ago we started it). God knew full well how much we’d need to be reading this book in the months to follow, and I can see how He was graciously preparing us in advance through it. It’s a book by Priscilla Shirer called One in a Million. In it, she talks about what it looks like to traverse the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.

One of the chapters talks about how God provides oases for us in our wilderness journey to refresh us along the way. As a result of reading this chapter, I have been praying nearly every day that God will refresh me in this season of life. I’m weary, and I get discouraged, disheartened, and sometimes feel like I can no longer endure. But I see different ways in which God has been answering that prayer. I see Him bringing small moments of delight throughout my days in the simplest ways.

Still, I’m a sojourner in this wilderness experience where, despite how many glasses of water I am given, I’m left feeling parched soon after I have drunk them. I’m constantly longing for more.

Recently, I have been pondering the thought that maybe God only provides enough refreshment to sustain us on the wilderness journey because we would otherwise get too comfortable and want to settle down in a place that God has not intended for us. Perhaps we are too often tempted to accept less than what God would give us for the sake of comfort and safety.

Does this idea ring true to anyone other than me? My greatest moments of growth have come at times where I have felt the least comfortable. It has been in these moments that I have been pushed to take bold steps toward the future God has for me—steps that I would have been too afraid to take had I been comfortable enough to stay where I was.

Priscilla Shirer speaks of a similar concept in her book. God wanted to lead the Israelites into Canaan, but the perceived risk it would take to get there in conjunction with their wavering faith in God caused them to remain outside of their Promised Land. Instead, they would wander in the wilderness for a total of forty years. Apparently, life on the outskirts of the Promised Land was comfortable enough—comfortable enough to determine that entering Canaan was too risky in comparison.

When I think of how comfort can keep a person from following God’s leading, it gives me a different perspective about this wilderness journey I’m on. God has sustained me thus far. I don’t want to get to the outskirts of where God is leading me and then settle there because I’m comfortable enough where I am and the risk of entering into God’s “promised land” for me is too risky. I don’t want to have come all this way to fall short of His intended destination for me.

I love traveling and have had the opportunity to do so by car, train, bus, and plane. There is something thrilling to me about traveling somewhere, regardless of the means of travel. This was our favorite thing to do as a family before the coronavirus made its way to the United States. We enjoyed discovering new places and revisiting old ones as well.

Part of the fun of traveling for me has always been the expectation of arriving to my destination. The truth is, the actual travel part of the trip is always uncomfortable to a certain degree. This is especially true the longer the trip. I get hot, my face gets unnaturally oily, and I nearly always feel stiff by the end of the trip. And it’s only more complicated now that we have a toddler in tow. However, the destination makes the temporary discomfort worth it. It’s a price well paid to discover a beautiful city and to make memories with my family (and our extended family when our trip involves visiting them).

Something I have noticed in my years of travel is that, the longer the trip lasts, the greater my discomfort. However, the longer the trip lasts, the better the destination.

Perhaps this is how I need to view the present day. This journey feels long and has been very uncomfortable. But I want to believe it will be worth it. I want to have faith that the destination at the end of this pandemic wilderness will be even better than I could imagine.

In the meantime, I’ll take whatever form of refreshment God gives me along the way, and I’ll ask Him to give me a grateful heart for these moments of discomfort, because I see Him leading me forward through them to who and where He wants me to be, and I don’t want to settle for less than what He has intended for me. I want the Promised Land and all the beauty that comes with it.

The World is Our Oyster

I bought this at the beach years ago. Pearls are one of my favorite jewels. I love how they are formed and what we can learn through them.

Let me state the obvious; life won’t always be this way. The reign of the coronavirus will one day come to an end, and we will resume our regular activities and go back to life as usual.

Although I imagine that this transition back to everyday life will be gradual, I picture it as an epic ending to a movie. A symbolic one at that.

In it, COVID-19 will meet its demise in a final battle, and the smoke will clear and the dust and debris will begin to settle. Then, one by one, families will slowly start to come out of their homes.

As they assess the aftermath of the war, they will pick up the broken pieces that can be put back together again. Then they will tenderly sweep up the remaining fragments that are too shattered to be pieced back together. They will sweep them up not to throw them out, but rather to bury them in a sacred place where they can be mourned, honored, and remembered for what they once were.

The losses will be evident. Some of them already are. But grieving will be made fully possible when this saga comes to an end, and it will be accompanied by the hope of restoration for what has been broken but can be made new.

When the moment comes for each of us to build up what has been torn down and to bury what is forever gone, I hope we will remember that not all was lost during this time. I hope we will see what we have gained.

Can you see what you have gained so far as a result of living during this time? What is God doing in and through you in this current moment?

Recently, I read about how pearls are formed. Their initial formation begins when an oyster cannot expel an irritant, such as a parasite that has latched onto it. When this happens, the oyster secretes a fluid known as nacre with which it coats the parasite. After layer upon layer of covering the parasite in this material, the pearl is formed.1

I’ve heard it said before that the world is our oyster. If this is true—if the world is our oyster, then the coronavirus is our parasite. It has latched onto this earth tightly and will stay here for however long it will, as unwelcome as it is. But we don’t have to let it pollute our minds or get the best of us. We can, in fact, get the best out of this time through God’s working in us, because

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

This doesn’t mean we won’t have our hard days or struggles throughout the duration of this moment in history. However, the overarching theme of our lives can be one of faith because we know the goodness of our God, and we know our story’s ending involves an eternity beyond our wildest imaginations. This is where our hope lies.

In the meantime, God has given us our own “nacre” to combat the polluted thoughts of this parasite in this present time. He has given us His truth and the promises and hope we find in His Word. He has also given us fellow believers who can encourage us and be encouraged by us. And through all these things, we continue to be reminded that God is in control, and He continues to show us that there is still beauty to be seen in this world, because

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…

Psalm 24:1a

When we are anxious, afraid, or upset due to all things COVID-19, let’s choose to wrap up these thoughts in the nacre we have been given—not just once, but in layer upon layer.

We can’t change the fact that the coronavirus has come, nor can we undo any damage it has done. But if we continue to allow God to do a good work in us in the midst of the frustration, heartache, and discomfort, we might just see that we emerge out of this season with a whole lot of treasure. As of now, a shiny pearl is in the making. Let’s see the work through.

1 pearls.com

We All Need a Hero

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

When JJ discovered that he could check out movies for free from the library last fall, the library quickly became the place to be for a quiet family evening out. We were easily there every Wednesday and had our routine down pat. JJ would head to the movie section while I would race after Liam, who would make a beeline for the children’s section where the community toys were kept. We would then meet up in the movie section a little later on so that JJ could show me what videos he had found while I nodded distractedly and tried to keep a squirming toddler from running off.

We watched some good movies during that time. Both of us like films based off of true stories, so we mostly gravitated towards that genre. Some of our favorites were McFarland, The 33, Operation Finale, Twelve Strong, and Breakthrough.

Since nothing beats free, and new movies didn’t make their way to the library all that often, we found ourselves checking out some of these films a second time a month or so later, then a third and fourth time when family came to town. Some stories never get old.

The more we watched these movies, the more I noticed the following pattern among the majority of these films:

  1. The main characters were just average people living ordinary lives.
  2.  An event or series of circumstances destined them for a greater story which involved an enormous obstacle to overcome.
  3. They chose to believe that the final outcome to their story did not have to be as bleak as their current circumstances suggested.
  4. They persevered in the midst of their trials, which inspired others to find faith and hope as well.

Ultimately, each of these stories were about men and women who emerged to become real-life heroes, not because they sought out the opportunity but rather because destiny gave them the chance to decide. And they took that opportunity; they rose under pressure.

When I was first pondering these thoughts in January, I believed it must be rare to be presented with such an opportunity. Although most of us can share about trials and obstacles we have overcome, most of our stories do not elevate us to a hero-level. We are just average people living ordinary lives.

Little did I know of the story that was about to unfold this year—one that would include a worldwide pandemic, and a quarantine and the social distancing regulations that would ensue.

COVID-19 has presented us all with a unique opportunity this year. We have been thrust into a situation where we must decide if we will emerge and be the real-life hero. We have been destined for this moment. Will we rise or fall?

In all honestly, we may do both. I know I have. I have tried to rise above these present-day circumstances and encourage people through writing, but the next moment I’m crying over a sentimental toilet paper commercial and asking my two-year old for a hug.

The truth is, we all need a hero. None of us are immune to the damage this illness is inflicting on society, nor are we impervious to getting sick or seeing a loved one get sick because of it. And we certainly are not unsusceptible to the range of emotions that the current events of the day can bring.

We all need a hero. We need a hero that will inspire us to have faith and to keep on hoping, one that will remind us that the final outcome of our story does not have to be as bleak as our current circumstances suggest. And we need one to help us overcome our enormous obstacles, because none of us can overcome them alone.

We all need a hero, and fortunately we have one if we are willing to call upon Him. He is ready to answer us even before we do.

We must not think that He is a hero like any other, however. He is limitless, all powerful, and without equal. No one can outwit Him or undermine Him, and His kingdom will never be overthrown. Nonetheless, He doesn’t necessarily choose to save everyone like a super-hero in the movies would. Not in the way we would expect Him to, at least. And we do ourselves a disservice when we try to demand that of Him or command Him to answer our prayers as we see fit.

After all, He tells us the following in His Word:

…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

So how are we to find comfort in a hero that may or may not save us from death and everything happening in our world today?

We find it when we realize that we face a far greater obstacle than physical death, but He has made a way for us to overcome it.

The truth is, as much as COVID-19 is a concern in our time, it is merely a side plot for a much grander story in the making. God has been writing this story since before time began, and although we may see ourselves as average people living ordinary lives, He has destined us for a far greater story in which He sent His Son into the world to overcome our greatest obstacle—our separation from God through sin.

We were never meant to be the hero of this story, but we were meant to know the Hero. We were meant to find faith in the One who has overcome our greatest obstacle. And through that faith, we were meant to believe that the final outcome of our story—our COVID-19 story and otherwise—does not have to be as bleak as current circumstances may suggest, because He is the one that helps us to persevere in the midst of every trial we face, and that inspires others to find faith and hope through it all as well.

No matter what happens and what the weeks and months may bring, let’s keep this perspective. Let’s remember that Jesus has saved us for the life to come, the one that matters most. And let’s lean into Him and ask Him to help us be more like Him every day so that we can show others who He is, because just as we need a hero every day, the world does too. We all need a hero, and Jesus is the best one that anyone could ever have.

Pulling Weeds

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I pulled weeds a little over a month ago. If Liam had not been playing in that section of the yard, I wouldn’t have noticed them; they were so small.

I pinched them between my thumb and index finger, and with a slight tug they came up, root and all. It was the easiest experience I’ve ever had pulling weeds.

The weeds from last year were nowhere near this easy. Although they weren’t very big, they proved to me by that first prickly tug that looks can be deceiving. I was not to be outdone by some nasty old weeds, however, so I grabbed some gardening gloves and a hand shovel and squared off with the ugly plants.

After several minutes of carefully digging at the bottom of each one, I pulled them out and threw them into the trash. I showed those weeds who was boss! I couldn’t quite revel in my victory, however, because it was only a partial win. The roots ran too deep to be completely uprooted. In the back of my mind, I knew these weeds would seek revenge for what I had done to them that day. For now, they would nurse themselves back to strength, all the while planning their next move (cue the sinister music).

My latest weed-pulling session got me to thinking about how easy it is for weeds to pop up in our own lives. They can be a bad habit or tendency, a small indulgence that we justify, or a daydream or thought pattern that isn’t beneficial to us or pleasing to the Lord. Or perhaps it’s a relationship. Or pride. There are too many to mention, and they vary as much as the physical weeds that sprout up in front of us. But they share one thing in common—the intention to choke out any life around them.

Their intention is to choke out life.

One of the problems with a weed is that its appearance can be deceiving, as I discovered last year. It might look small and innocent, but down below, its roots are growing deep and destroying anything in its path.

Nonetheless, since it looks so innocent and easy to handle, we can easily convince ourselves that it’s no big deal. We’ll take care of it later on, when it’s more convenient. But that moment of “convenience” almost never comes. The truth is, most times we like our weeds. There is something about them that offers us a false sense of comfort, familiarity, or pleasure. So we justify why that habit, tendency, indulgence, etc. is in our lives and why it’s not such a bad thing. And we try to quiet the voice telling us otherwise.

But let’s not deceive ourselves.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Galatians 6:7 ESV

The destructive life patterns we sow today will reap for us more than we bargain for in all the wrong ways no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise. Let us not be quick to ignore that, and let us not be slow to act.

If we aren’t keeping weeds around because we’re fond of them, then perhaps it’s because we feel overwhelmed by them—too overwhelmed to try to pluck them out.

This was literally the case for my husband several years ago. Before we met, JJ owned a quaint, ranch-style brick home. Everything about it was lovely except for the dirt back yard. He didn’t mind, though. He worked long hours and didn’t have time to enjoy being outdoors.

One day after monsoon season, he peered into his backyard and saw some weeds. He planned to get around to the prickly plants when he had more time, but by then, they had grown well past his head and were too much to handle.

Fortunately for him, a friend of his was strapped for cash and gladly took care of the weeds when JJ offered to pay him for it. His dirt yard was restored to its former beauty (because dirt yards start to look beautiful after they have been cleared of weeds). All was well at the ranch-style home.

I’m guessing that we all have a few weeds to pull at this point in time. They may even seem over our heads. And the monsoon that has caused them to sprout up and grow continues to rage on with no known ending in sight. But we can’t wait for the storm to stop before we pull the weeds. If we do, they will only dig their roots more deeply. We have to be willing to get a little wet and muddy in order to restore our own backyards. Fortunately, we need not do it alone. God has given us a Helper, the Spirit of truth (John 15:26), who is willing and able to help us uproot our weeds. Let’s choose to dig them up and plant good seed with Him instead.

As we continue to weather this storm for however long it endures, we can be sure that more weeds will continue to sprout up, perhaps suspiciously similar to the ones we have already pulled. It can be tedious—this task of pulling weeds. It can also feel disheartening at times when the weeds we pulled are the same ones that keep popping up again. But let us not grow weary of doing this good work. Let’s continue to rid ourselves of weeds and continue to sow seeds that will produce a good harvest. And then, when this monsoon season finally comes to an end, we might just peer into our own backyards, and instead of finding nasty weeds, we will see a colorful array of plants blooming forth in full beauty. Let’s stick with it. Let’s continue to pull weeds.