Sunday, May 31, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "Old Camel Knees"

When each of my siblings and I were born, Dad made a point to nickname us before we ever left the hospital.  My sister came out the nickname-winner when she, being the eldest, went home with the name Princess.  My brother, whose official name was James, went home with Eddie.  And I went home with....wait for it.....Softie.  ~ Sigh ~.  Evidently, I was this rolly-polly little fat baby and all Dad could think to nickname me was based on how soft those rolls of fat were when he held me.  I stayed embarrassed all through my teen years with this nickname and Dad still refers to me as Softie today.  But now....I wear it like a badge of pride!

I chuckled when I heard what the disciples nicknamed James, brother of Jesus.  Old Camel Knees.  Now there's a nickname you've got to be proud of!  Because he was a serious prayer warrior who had calloused knees from kneeling and praying so much, tradition suggests his best friends attached this term-of-endearment crazy cool name to him......and then let us in on it.

But what a reputation to have!  Knots on your knees because you prayed so much....if only we had such a reputation!  Throughout the short five chapters in the book of James, this no-nonsense disciple tells us over and over and over again to PRAY: 

"Listen to me.  You have not because you ASK not." (James 4:2-3)
"If you need wisdom, ASK our generous God and He will give it to you." (James 1:5)
"Come close to God and God will come close to you." (James 4:7)
"Are any of you suffering hardships?  You should PRAY." (James 5:13)
"The earnest PRAYER of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (James 5:16)

There is an animal in South Africa called the gnu that whenever it is preparing to attack, it first gets down on its knees.  Getting its strength from that position, it springs from the kneeling position and attacks.  What a smart beast; and what an example!  It causes me to look at "Old Softie" here and ask if I have that same kind of effective prayer stance.

Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "Dear Graduate"

Dear Graduate,

As you prepare to cross that long stage...6 feet front of your family and friends, eagerly closing one chapter and opening the next, there are a couple of things this old lady whose tassel was moved from the right to the left many years ago would like for you to know:

Be An Individual.  There is a reason you are alive.  This culture we live in makes it far too easy to look alike, act alike and believe alike.  Discover who YOU are.....and don't be afraid to be different.  That goofy graduation cap on your head is a ticket to life.  You can stand out and you can be the change you wish to see in the world.  Learn to fly solo......

Help Others.  We all have a calling in life.  And if there's one lesson I've learned over all others, it's that we are placed on this earth to help other people.  In the book The Original Human Dilemma (2004), supposedly in hell, they sit around a great pot, all hungry, because the spoons they hold are too long to bring the food to their mouths.  In heaven, people are sitting around the same pot with the same long spoons, but everyone is full. Why?  Because in heaven, everyone uses their long spoons to feed one another.

Place God as the Driver of Your Life.  Really hear this....NOTHING else matters if you don't have God as your Driver.  You are traveling down the Highway Of This World at a rapid speed.  GET OFF....NOW.  There are exit ramps along the way and they lead you to a narrow, difficult and rarely traveled path.  This path is unlike the highway that leads to certain death and an eternity in hell....the narrow path leads you HOME. will most likely arrive Home (Heaven) sore, scratched and tired from the bumps and hills along the way, but you will be ALIVE to see Home.

And be Happy.....just as God intended for you to be.

(I wrote my Dear Graduate letter back in 2017....when life and graduations looked much different.  Masks and social distancing would have been laughed at.  People fighting in the aisles of Walmart for toilet paper was unimaginable and the thought of not walking the stage for that piece of paper confirming your hard work was only in our nightmares.  But here we are...2020...and our 20/20 vision is only too clear on how our world has changed.  BUT, Graduate....tuck the words below into that parchment in your hand called a diploma and hang’re in for a wonderful ride if you do!)
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” - Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "Much Afraid?"

A few years ago, I read a neat little book called "Hinds Feet On High Places".  Quirky title for a powerful little book, but it was one of the best books I've ever read.  It was an allegory...meaning, a story meant to reveal a hidden meaning. Each of the characters in the book had names that matched their personalities with the main character being a girl named "Much Afraid".  As I entered into the second chapter of this book, I realized why it sounded so familiar to me..... 

I was the main character. 

From that point on, every time I read the name "Much Afraid", I picked up my pen and marked through it...wrote the name "Liz" above it...and proceeded on.  I read as "Liz" traveled through the know, those easy-restful-no stress times in our lives.  And I read as she climbed difficult mountains we all climb, fear of the dark places up ahead and felt the sting of arrows pointed straight at her by the enemy....all while traveling the steep path up the mountain to the high place called Home.  

I also discovered through the journey of Hinds Feet on High Places, that God's faithfulness isn't dependent on our outward circumstances. That Love and Pain go least for awhile.  If you know Love, you must also know Pain.  And the most important thing of all....

“There are no obstacles which our Savior’s love cannot overcome.
The actual conditions and tests permitted by God,
by laying down of our own will and accepting His.
The lessons of accepting and triumphing over evil,
of becoming acquainted with grief, and pain,
and of finding them transformed
into something incomparably precious.”

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places

These are the discoveries in this book. There are no obstacles which God’s love cannot overcome, and to Him, mountains of difficulty are as easy as an asphalt road.....if we follow the path He chooses for us.

Are you Much Afraid during these crazy uncertain times?  Spoiler Alert: Her new name becomes Grace and Glory.

* A "Hind" is a mature female deer

Sunday, May 10, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: Perseverance



A few years ago, Chuck and I were at our weekly appointment at the Wound Care Center in Mt. Pleasant eating hospital popcorn waiting on the doctor.  I was passing time looking through old photos on my phone when I came across a quote I had saved years before:

"By PERSEVERANCE, the snail reached the ark."
C.H. Spurgeon

I read it to Chuck as he was laying on the examining table......and, between chomps on popcorn, asked him what this meant to him.  This was his reply:

"No matter how he (snail) is feeling or how slow he's moving,
he was constantly moving towards the Ark.
Imagine how he must have felt as the antelope ran by and he was left in the dust.....
but he kept on keeping on.....
the way we all must do.....
Chuck Etheridge


I leaned down and kissed this man.....who often times, felt like the snail.  The world racing all around him at break-neck speed, where he was often left behind, unable to move as fast as the rest of the world.

Chuck had found God in the the the floods of this life he lived because of his amazing Perseverance

Websters defines Perseverance as: 
"steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success"

It's Perseverance that picks us up off the ground when we have been knocked down by the dark times on our journey through this world.  And yes, it's Perseverance that will even get us through an ugly virus.

Not only was it by perseverance that the snail made it to the ark in time, but he had a Cheerleader on the sidelines telling him,

"Don't be afraid; for I am with you. 
Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. 
I will STRENGTHEN you and HELP you. 
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

...and the snail made it.....just before they closed the door.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "Disappointment"

"The Disappointment that is exhausting and frustrating you? 
It holds the potential for so much good. 
But we'll only see it as good if we trust the heart of the Giver. 
Disappointment can be a gift from God that feels nothing like a gift at all. 
The Giver can seem almost cruel."
Lysa Terkeurst

CRUEL.  That was the exact word I used when speaking to God this time last year as the rains began to fall and the potential to flood was once again upon me. Yes.....I called God cruel...straight to His face.  The calls and texts had started by well-meaning friends.  "How's the water, Liz?  Where is the water level so far, Liz? God's got you in His hand, Liz".  My answer?  Yes...I truly know and believe this.  BUT...knowing this still doesn't stop the anxiety that comes with "What if...".  It's similar to knowing the boat you're on is sinking and you can't do a thing about it.  It's impossible to sit still and whistle with a smile on.  You start to question whether you actually do have the faith needed to endure....and then you remember, "Wait....didn't God tell me I just needed the faith of a mustard seed?"  Then you Google how big is a mustard seed.

The cruel disappointments of this life....we all know a thing or two about them, don't we? 

The friend finding her way through breast cancer or the wife whose husband just keeps repeating a behavior that is ruining their marriage.  Maybe it's the sudden death of a brother, a lost job, an empty bank account, gray hair roots or broken finger nails.  No one is exempt from disappointment. 

God never promised us smooth sailing; but He did promise us a SURE destination....and what God wants for us is not to AVOID the storm, but to ENDURE the storm. 

My unavoidable storm this time last year was necessary.  God knew that.....although I didn't.  And yes, it appeared cruel to this girl whose faith felt smaller than that mustard seed, but her God knew she needed to deal with some issues about storms that were buried so deep in the belly of her sinking ship, that it was necessary to face the dark storm clouds once again. 

Disappointment can be a gift from God that feels nothing like a gift at all. 

And even as I yelled the words, "Cruel and God" in the same sentence, I somehow knew He was gifting me with disappointment.  My mustard-seed faith was big enough to see me through.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you KNOW that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." 
James 1:2

Thursday, April 30, 2020

"Keeping Our Heads Above Water - Chapter 27"

 There's this song titled, "Bring On The Rain" by JoDee Messina that keeps playing through the Hard Drive player of my Jeep every time I fire it up....

Another day has almost come and gone
Can't imagine what else could go wrong
Sometimes I'd like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost but not the war

 I don't know JoDee Messina, but sounds like she's had a bit too much rain in her world too.  I love this song......I have no idea where it came from or how it made it to my Jeep hard drive....I just know it plays Every-Single-Time I turn the Jeep on.  I have to laugh at the irony.....

 'Cause, tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

That's right.....

Because of this monsoon season, we have the most beautiful azaleas we have ever had blooming wild in front of our house right now.  And a contractor-worker who serenades us during his lunch break in front of these azaleas that makes my house look a whole lot less like the disaster it actually is...

And because

Without all that dad-gum rain we had, we never would have met Raymond....the dumpster guy....and his precious wife, Virginia, who we met Friday night for dinner.  These two have been married 42 years.....and I thought I was going to tell them to "get a room".  P-R-E-C-I-O-U-S.  My goal is to be like Raymond and Virginia after 42 years.......yep.

It's almost like the hard times circle 'round
A couple drops and they all start coming down
Yeah, I might feel defeated and I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing but I'm not dead, no
'Cause, tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain, ooh
I'm not gonna let it get me down
I'm not gonna cry
And I'm not gonna lose any sleep tonight
'Cause, tomorrow's another day
And I am not afraid
So bring on the
Tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain, ooh
Bring on, bring on the rain
No I'm not gonna let it get me down
I'm not gonna cry
So bring on the rain, ooh
Bring on, bring on the rain
Bring on the rain
Bring on the rain, ooh

"God Will Use Your Struggle For Good"......words spoken by Max Lucado straight into my heart.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "We Are Living History - And We Get to Live HIStory"

Do you hear it?  The keys of the keyboard clicking this week as history is being documented in our lifetime? 

Do you feel it?  The pain of no paycheck....the nest egg you saved up for your entire lifetime so you could one day retire, quickly becoming a shadow of your portfolio?  The pit in your stomach that feels like you ate an entire watermelon and you don't even have the Coronavirus? 

If you think for a second this is about a virus, think again.

This slice of history we've all been "chosen" to walk through was predicted more than two thousand years ago.  Didn't know that?  It's right there...smack dab in the Bible.  Check it out....

I'm not afraid of this virus nor should you.....but what I am afraid of is that many Christians were caught off-guard by it and didn't know they were told to expect pandemic viruses, billions of locusts swarming East Africa, a barrel of oil being worth less than $0 and that an earthquake in Utah could be so strong it could shake the Salt Lake City Temple's iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.  And friends, that's just this week. 

If everything's not okay yet, everything's not over yet. 
I fear many don't know these things.....but desperately need to.

This virus is the least of your worries......if you don't know Christ.  Because when your faith is in the One who writes the story - you can always trust the end of the story.

Have we forgotten we know the end of HIStory? 

*Quote by Ann VosKamp

Sunday, April 19, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "God Is Like A Chiropractor"

"God is like a Chiropractor"

You’re going to need to keep going back for realignment.

I chuckled when I read that line above in a friend's blog the other day.  Maybe because I myself am needing to see the chiropractor for a dislocated elbow that keeps popping in and out of my life and causing me pain....OR...maybe its because I know, since I've walked this road with God many times before, that when He tells me to "Come and get away with Him", he's not saying, "Just once and you will be aligned."  But what He's actually saying is, "Liz, every morning when you get up, come and let me re-align You and help you through the day ahead."  I guess you could say it's like taking can't just take them for one day.  You must take the vitamins every - single - day in order for them to work. 

Just as we know a chiropractor brings healing by realigning the bones, muscles, and nerves, we also know that if everything is put back into proper order, healing will take place.

So often we consider the time at church on Sunday our God re-alignment.  It's our once-a-week "fix" trip to have ourselves snapped back into place.  But how do you feel on Monday?  Back to feeling a little stressed?   A little different than you did on Sunday?  It's because you need intentional space with God every day....not just Sunday (or Saturday)!  The key word here is "Intentional".  Yes, reading your Bible and studying diligently will bring you closer to God.  But when You have that private consultation with Him to discuss the things that are hurting you...those big rocks in your life you can't seem to climb over...well, that's called Intentional Time and those are the moments God loves spending with You the most.  That is the doctor-patient consultation time. 

That is when He snaps your dislocated spots back into place.

"Make straight the paths you walk on,
that your halting limbs may not be dislocated,
but healed."
Hebrews 12:13

Sunday, April 12, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "Peace Be With You"

I currently live in a campground.  Walleye Park Campground to be exact.  I sold my house in December to a couple who had spent years of weekends at their cabin in Walleye Park.  We traded houses.  They bought mine....I rented theirs.

And an interesting thing happened last week at Walleye Park.  It had been mostly empty until the world shut down from the virus.  Suddenly, campers started arriving.  Walleye Park started filling up.  Families started living life together and I felt like a bug-on-the-wall of the campers' lives from the view in my cozy rented cabin.  I could see them smiling, laughing, enjoying life with each other in front of their campfires and fishing off the shore.  Life as they knew it may have shut down, but they ignited life once they hit the Park.  It was such a contrast to what I was seeing on Fox News or CNN.

I saw Peace on their faces.

Imagine with me for a minute, will you?  Two-thousand years a park much like Walleye.  Can you see Jesus' eyes blink open as He lay in the tomb?  A tomb, I might add, that was a "virgin" tomb (a never-before-used tomb)....just like the "virgin" Womb He had been born from.

Pause....and think about that for a minute.

A smile most certainly must have crossed His face as He opened His eyes.  Can you see Him standing up.....maybe even stretching a bit....before moving the stone that blocked the entrance to His tomb in the park?  Do you see Him look up into Heaven as He walked out into the early morning dew?  It was still dark, the Bible says, and the park was He waited for the world to experience the miracle that had just occurred.  I see a sly grin on His face as He knows what’s coming next.

This, my friends, is the blessing of Easter morning.

If you believe this happened, then you have no fear of the future.  You have no concern of the world imploding or the stock market crashing or even death.  Because death has no sting....if you believe in Jesus.  He took your sting of death from you when He placed it on Himself at the cross.  It was a trade-off, actually.....

He TOOK Your death....He GAVE you His life.

Beginning of story.

“Easter is a time when God turned the
Inevitability of Death....
Into the
Invincibility of Life.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Sunday, April 5, 2020

GROWING SEEDS: "We're Living A Mary Moment In A Martha World"

My older sister Debbie and I have joked for years that she is the "Martha" of the family and I'm the "Mary".  We're, of course, referring to Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus and best friends to Jesus, in the story found in Luke 10. 

In a nutshell, Jesus, along with His disciples and followers (a lot of people!!) were visiting Martha's home where she lived with her brother Lazarus and sister Mary.  She was feeling the stress of feeding all these unexpected guests, making sure she had enough chairs and toilet paper (kidding), and watching her sister Mary doing nothing; well, except sitting quietly at Jesus' feet....listening to every word He said.  Martha, hands on her aproned hips, complained to Jesus that Mary wasn't helping her in the kitchen.

Debbie is a much better hostess than Liz in our family.  She is the one who organizes our get-together's, determines where they will happen and when.  Liz just plops down a loaf of bread she bought at Brookshires and starts catching up with everyone since the last time we were together.  All the while, Debbie is cooking in the kitchen (usually MY kitchen) and getting the food on the table.  Truly, this is a picture of our family get-together's.

But as the world has come to a screeching halt and been confined to their homes these past few weeks, it dawned on me that maybe God is needing us to use this time as Mary Moments in our Martha World.  God is "allowing" us to SLOW DOWN so we can sit at His feet to listen and  learn....get to know Him....hear His voice in all of this.  Time is short, friends...and perhaps He needed us in "Time Out"; almost like a parent sending their child to their room to “think” about what they did and to come out asking for forgiveness, so we can become “changed” from this time alone with Him.  I pray He whispers in our ears....and then delivers us from ourselves. 

Pull that Bible off the shelf and blow off the dust.  Open it up to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10.  And don't miss those critical last verses in 41-42,

"Martha, Martha" (Insert your name here), the Lord answered,
"you are worried and upset about many things (Coronavirus, loss of jobs, economy, sickness and death),
but few things are needed - indeed only one thing is needed (time alone with Me).
Mary has chosen what is better, (she chose Me)
and it will not be taken away from her." (a beautiful, forever life with Me)