Archive for the ‘God’s Provision’ Category


Granted, my life is dancing around the edges of its autumn season, but I haven’t quite reached the flash point yet –hot flashes, that is. Although, just the other night, I did get a taste of how awful that must be.

Surely, you have also experienced this kind of night at some point; a night spent riding the fever-and-chill rollercoaster. If so, you can sympathize with my frustration. Sleep was sporadic. About the time the mercury in my thermometer was about to pop, I would throw my blankets off, in agony. I was so hot, in fact, that my only relief was the overhead fan, which whirred quietly overhead despite the wintery chill of evening. But then, as quickly as my overly-fatigued body gave way to sleep, it awoke abruptly, shaking at the sudden coldness. And so it went, hour after hour, long into the early morning hours.

At one point, I lay there, clothes damp with sweat, thinking that the hot flashing part was surely similar to what my menopausal friends experienced all the time. I thought about the cartoon I had seen earlier that week. It featured three snow women, the first was sharing with her friend that, “Mildred,” who had melted into a puddle, had “just had a hot flash.” After which, I grumbled to my sleeping husband that I am NOT ready to start hot flashing. He didn’t hear me, of course, but I just thought he should know that I have firmly decided to skip the whole hot flashing thing altogether!

About that time, my thoughts took an entirely different turn; they somehow jumped to the third chapter of Revelation, where the Lord speaks, through John, to the church in Laodicea: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (verses 15, 16).

I Guess I’m safe then, I lightheartedly reminded the Lord, because I am definitely hot –then cold –then hot –then cold ……….

Feverish humor aside, spiritual comfort is the very thing that the Lord warned His church to avoid. But I always wondered why He would prefer cold to lukewarm. I think Matthew Henry sums it up pretty well in his Whole Bible Commentary:

Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth any thing, it is worth every thing; an indifference here is inexcusable: Why halt you between two opinions? If God be God, follow him; if Baal (be God), follow him. Here is no room for neutrality. An open enemy shall have a fairer quarter than a perfidious neuter; and there is more hope of a heathen than of such. Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.

Frankly, I would love to tell you that I am never lukewarm in my faith, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I don’t ever consider my faith to be ‘cold,’ but there are certainly times in my life when I feel as though my spiritual fervency comes in waves like menopausal hot flashes; and it is during those weak moments that I have to remind myself that I am NOT willing to tolerate hot flashing.

I’m sure that there are others who have felt the same way on occasion. In fact, one of King David’s prayers was, Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). David, who was a “man after God’s own heart,” was not ashamed to acknowledge his weaknesses and ask the Lord to rekindle his flame.

Dear reader, I pray that we are quick to do the same, so that our flame continues to burn brightly enough and consistently enough, that we are able to help those who walk in darkness to find their way!

God’s Flame

The candle’s flame extinguishes
in a pool of molten wax.
Likewise does my spirit dim
when time with God is lax.

Too often, while life is tugging,
God’s time is pushed aside,
till trials deal such crushing blows
that my faith is severely tried.

I can barely face another day
in difficult times like these,
until my strength is again restored
by time spent on my knees.

It is then my Father reaches out
with gentle outstretched hand.
“Though you’ve waned,” he says,
“I’ll give you strength to stand.

All you have to do my child
is praise Me with all your might.
Then I will reignite your flame
and thus restore your light.

Then I will take that light
and place it high upon a stand
so that hurting folks can see it
throughout this darkened land.

And they will know that it is I
who makes the darkness flee
from all who yield their heavy hearts
and put their trust in me.”

                                                                         God’s Flame © Susan Shimkovitz

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Photo: © Jørgen Erik Christensen

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).

Like any good soldier, I put my armor on daily –at least most of it- but this old armor is dented, scratched and tarnished from battle. Come to think of it, so is my husband’s. I can only look back with amusement to those long-ago days when I, like most foolish schoolgirls, dreamt of my very own knight in shining armor whisking me away to the land of happily ever-after.

My knight did finally come along –and he was tall, dark and handsome- but his armor was certainly not fancy or impressive. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Yes, I could have settled for some dazzling knight in shining armor. Nevertheless, by the time my would-be husband entered my life I had matured enough to realize that true warriors were experienced in battle and their armors were well-worn. The Lord had sent me a man who was quiet and unpretentious on the outside but spiritually robust inwardly. I knew that whatever battles we would face in life, my rugged knight would be up for the fight.

That is not to say, however, that we have never been injured in battle. The Bible says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, the battles we face are often arduous and exhausting, leaving us battle-weary and dazed.

Consequently, putting on the full armor of God is absolutely essential if we are to overcome these forces. Scripture instructs us to put on the armor so that we can withstand (resist) in the evil day, having done all, to stand. The Greek word for stand, pronounced his’-tay-mee, is speaking of abiding in steadfast faithfulness.

In other words; if we clothe ourselves in our spiritual armor each day -which is truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation- we will be equipped to overcome every battle –never faltering in our relationship with the Lord and never retreating from His service.

The whole concept of medieval knights has been greatly glamorized over time, but in reality the average knight, although well-respected, rarely achieved the fame and status that modern legend has portrayed. Though born of nobility, they were very hard-working soldiers who were trained in battle from the earliest days of their youth. They devoted their entire lives to serving their lords and protecting the general populace, laying down their own lives when necessary. The knights of old, like soldiers of Christ, never retreated from service.

Furthermore, the average knight rarely wore a shining, unblemished armor. Those who did were generally the lazy, uncaring men who flaunted their wealth and self-professed superiority. These men loved to don their most elaborate armor and participate in exhibition events. Not much has changed. There are a lot of folks walking around in shiny spiritual armor. They may look the part, but I would much rather be surrounded by the soldiers in God’s army whose armors show signs of use.

Why? Because there are times when I need other warriors to fight on my behalf. Sometimes “I drop my sword and cry for just awhile, ‘cause deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child. Unafraid because His armor is the best, but even soldiers need a quiet place to rest…” (Twila Paris song, The Warrior is a Child)

What about you? Do you feel that life’s battles have left you battle-weary and dazed? Jesus lovingly admonished: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

The seasons of rest we now enjoy may be temporary, but always remember, someday soon the Lord will return to whisk us all away to the land of happy ever-after. I can hardly wait. Till then, I plan to keep this battered old armor; it has served me well.

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Ghosts are real, but they are not the displaced spirits of those who died and cannot, for whatever reason, cross to the other side. They are something far more sinister than that! I know because I grew up in a home steeped in the occult –a place where things went “bump in the night” far too often.

So you know, even though today is October 31st, this is not some spooky Halloween story. If you are looking for that, you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, I abhor Halloween –but no lectures, I promise. No, this is not a Halloween story; it is quite the opposite. You see, Halloween exalts all that is dark and evil, but today I want to share with you a very real story of light and of triumph over evil.

The particulars of my childhood are not important at the moment, but I assure you, they were, for the most part, dark and horrific. People have, on occasion, asked me to recount the gruesome details, and I have, but for today, I prefer to jump ahead in the narrative to the first several months after I encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, and the spiritual warfare that ensued.

(To read the condensed testimony of my miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, click this link: His Invisible Hand)

I have no doubt that the forces of Heaven and hell were engaged in battle on the day that I offered my heart to Jesus Christ, my Savior, but I’ll leave it at that. Heaven won. And though my life was changed instantly, and profoundly, in so many ways, it would still take many years to heal some of the wounds. It would also take several months to conquer some of the demons that invaded my dreams night after night. I have never used the term demons in these pages before, but in this case, the term is very accurate.

You see, even after I accepted Jesus into my life, my dreams were frequently infested with demons. Sometimes they merely frightened me or chased me, at other times, I physically wrestled with them. At first, all of the dreams had two things in common, aside from the obvious warfare; they all started the same way, and they were very difficult to escape because I couldn’t manage to awaken fast enough.

However, something interesting happened early on. One night, in the middle of a particularly horrible dream, I managed to utter the name Jesus. It was barely a whisper, but it was a big accomplishment given the level of fear I experienced during those dreams. Nonetheless, the dream, and the battle within, continued for a little while longer. It’s not that the LORD failed to rescue me when I called upon His name; He was merely teaching me how to effectively combat my enemy and to trust in Him. Make no mistake, He was watching over me every second.

Over the course of time, as I grew stronger in my faith and knowledge of God’s holy Word, I found myself not only calling upon Jesus, but doing so sooner and sooner, until at  last I was able to call upon His name at the very beginning of any such dream so that it would end as quickly as it started.

There is power in the name of Jesus!

Allow me to digress for just a moment. I have many friends who prefer to call Jesus by His Hebrew birth name Yeshua. Our LORD was born a Hebrew, and this is His true birth name. For the record, I prefer to call Him Yeshua also, and usually do. Nevertheless, I know that my LORD speaks every language, and I know that there is power in His name no matter which language it is spoken in.

Oddly, after all these years I still have one of those awful dreams ever so often. Truthfully, I had one a few nights ago. This one was so intense I woke my husband with my thrashing and shouting, “Jesus!” As always, shouting “Jesus!” was all it took; even in my dreams, my enemies are vanquished by that name.

I am writing this today, dear reader, because Halloween is upon us again. Most adults assume that this is nothing more than a fun holiday for kids. I promised not to lecture, so I won’t get into the truth behind Halloween, nor what the Bible has to say about it. I will, however, remind you that Halloween can be a very scary time for kids, especially in today’s macabre culture. If your child should, therefore, become frightened, or someone you know finds himself in a spiritual battle, please remind them that they can freely ask Jesus for help. He is as close as the mention of His name, even to those who have never called upon Him before, and He longs to show them that He cares!

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For the last few weeks, my get-up-and-go has been equal to that of a sloth’s, so I haven’t accomplished much. Then again, I haven’t really wanted to do much lately; partly because I haven’t been feeling well, and partly because I tend to procrastinate sometimes. Okay, so I procrastinate a lot, but I plan to do something about that someday.

Being two peas in the same procrastination pod, my husband and I understand this tendency, and lovingly motivate each other toward action when necessary. In fact, the first time I repeatedly told my beloved I would finish some project “when I get around to it,” he pulled a wooden object from his pocket and handed it to me. What is this, I asked. “It’s a tuit –a round one,” he playfully responded. Indeed it was; the word tuit was engraved on one side. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually accumulated several of those round tuits before I learned to stop using the phrase, get around to it.

Come to think of it, there’s another phrase that I should probably stop using as well. When it comes to really big chores, like cleaning out the garage, for example, I have sometimes remarked that I only do stuff like that once in a blue moon –it just so happens that there really was a blue moon¹ in the skies recently. And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t clean out the garage; the blue moon thing is just a silly catch phrase I picked up when I was young, which is loosely translated as, I don’t have a clue when I’m going to do that, but it won’t be for a long time.

Aren’t you glad, dear reader, our LORD acts on our behalf a great deal more than once in a blue moon, or whenever He gets around to it?

Even so, I’m sure that there have been times in each of our lives when it seemed the LORD was, for whatever reason, postponing something important, such as an answer to prayer or a fulfillment of a promise. But we are in good company; even the patriarchs and prophets of old have undoubtedly felt this way. Abraham, for instance, must have grown quite anxious for the birth of his son Isaac. On the other hand, the prophet Habakkuk desperately longed for a different kind of delivery –a deliverance from the enemies of Israel.

You see, In Habakkuk’s time, the foreign nations were causing the Israelites much grief and prevailing against them. Confused and dismayed, Habakkuk earnestly prayed, “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (1:2).

And what was God’s response? He said He would do amazing things that, “you would not believe if you were told (1:5).” He further instructed Habakkuk to “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables… For the vision is yet for an appointed time… because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up [proud] is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (2:2-4).

Note two things: First, those things shown to Habakkuk were to happen at a specific, appointed time; and they were absolute. God always fulfills His decrees according to His perfect timing, never at some unspecified time whenever He gets around to it. Second, the just (righteous) shall live by faith, which according to Hebrews 11: 1 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Herein is the irony: To operate in faith, we must implicitly trust in God’s perfect timing, and wait patiently for it, being completely clueless, all the while, as to what His timetable is or what, exactly, He is planning to do.

I’m sure there is much more I can, and will, say on this matter, when I get around to it (wink). Till then, just keep trusting in your Heavenly Father. He will never fail you!

¹A Blue moon is the appearance of the third full moon in a season with four full moons. It is not literally blue. This term has also been used to refer to the second full moon in any given month.

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The moment I answered the phone I knew something was up. My daughter was even more excited than normal. “You’ll never guess what happened today at work,” she exclaimed. I barely had time to respond as she began to elaborate the details. Allow me to share them with you.

My precious works at a ferry company. Though her duties are varied, she often stands at the dock handing out return tickets that will allow passage home from the island. This was her assignment on that memorable day. But she ran out of tickets and quickly moved to the purchase counter to get more.

For whatever reason, the pilot of the catamaran stepped out of the pilot house briefly, leaving the door unlocked and the engine running. This afforded one over-zealous passenger and his son the opportunity to enter the pilot house unsupervised. Of course, passengers were not allowed in the pilot house, but I’m sure this man was just trying to do something special for his autistic son. Undoubtedly, his intention was to step into the pilot house long enough for his son to take a quick peek before they sailed, then exit just as quickly.

In that short time, however, the young boy took hold of the controls and caused the catamaran to lunge forward. It crashed into the luggage tent and railing, snapping the loading plank clean off. Praise God, no one was seriously injured. Nonetheless, my daughter would have been injured had she not gone to the ticket counter just moments before.

All I could say to her was, “Praise God He was looking out for you! Praise God, He was looking out for my baby.”

Last night I was lying in bed thanking God for his continual protection for my family. As I recalled the above event, the words of the ever-popular bumper sticker –God is my co-pilot-came to mind. Personally I’ve always thought the bumper sticker to be rather ludicrous. Why would anyone prefer God to be their co-pilot? It goes without saying that God’s piloting abilities are so far beyond ours as to be immeasurable.

Dear reader, we were all created to be vessels of God’s Holy Spirit. Thus, there is within each of us a control center, or a “pilot house” if you will. This is the place from which we make the decisions which chart our course, and help us reach our final destination. The question we must ask ourselves then is this; are we truly allowing God to pilot our decisions, or have we instead, sought opportunities to sneak in a few decisions of our own, hoping God won’t notice?

Either way, nothing escapes God’s attention. Unlike the catamaran pilot who stepped out briefly, God never leaves His post. In fact, He has promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. Even so, God allows mankind to exercise free will. When we choose to exclude Him in any way, He graciously steps aside and allows us to do so. However, not allowing God to pilot our decisions often leads to catastrophe and harm.

On the other hand, trusting God to make decisions for us, and obeying those decisions, is not only in our best interest, it is to our profit:

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go (Isaiah 48:17).

I don’t know about you, but I have learned the hard way –through many  painful crashes- to step aside and allow God to pilot my life. He is, and always will be, my pilot. And to the makers of those ludicrous bumper stickers I most adamantly declare, God is not my co-pilot!

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During this time of year, my thoughts often drift back to those cherished days of yesteryear, when my beloved sang our children to sleep. There, in our worn-out old rocking chair, they were comforted by both his warm embrace, and by songs of God’s Amazing Grace and boundless love for them. As I listened to the sleepy yawns of our precious children, I knew they would sleep peacefully.

Now that our children are pretty much grown, I pray that they continue to live their lives enveloped in God’s peace. And I pray that, no matter their age, or where they are, they never forget the message of the songs that their daddy always sang to them when they were little.

¹On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t really say that our Messiah was crucified upon a cross. The word cross is the chosen translation for the Greek word stauros, meaning a stake. The Bible also says, four times, that He was hanged on a tree. However, there are enough archaeological artifacts from the first century remaining to indicate that the stake -or tree- was probably erected with a cross beam.

So which is correct, and which word should we use in conversation? As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter. Our soul focus (spelling intentional) should be Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ in English), and His atoning sacrifice for our sins. That’s what this song is about:

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

This past week much of the world rejoiced in the Messiah’s resurrection by way of either Passover or Easter. Which is correct, and which should we celebrate? Unlike the subject of the cross versus the stake, God has given us very specific instructions regarding this matter. Therefore, it is very important!

While I have my own definite understanding of which is the correct celebration (Passover), I respect my fellow brothers and sisters in the LORD and choose, therefore, to rejoice with them in the LORD’s resurrection rather than debate the subject of Passover versus Easter. I will say this, though, if you have never studied what the Bible has to say about Passover, you should. You might just be surprised.

Finally, dear reader, I truly hope that you were greatly blessed in your celebration of our LORD’s resurrection. Until next year’s celebration, may we all continue to sing:

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Postscript: For most of the Jewish population, Passover is still a celebration of YHVH’s (God’s) deliverance from Egypt. They do not acknowledge Passover as a celebration of the resurrection because they do not yet accept Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. However, more and more Jews are beginning to understand, and accept, Yeshua as Messiah. At this, my heart rejoices. Additionally, more and more Christians are beginning to observe Passover again. I rejoice at this also, because it is not just some “Jewish” thing -it is totally a “God thing.”

P.s.s. Whereas the King James Bible, and a few other translations, uses the word Easter in Acts 12:4, the Greek manuscripts actually use the word pascha, or Passover. To verify this point, here is the same verse in other Bible translations: 1560 Geneva Bible: And when he had caught him, he put him in prison, and deliuered him to foure quaternions of souldiers to be kept, intending after the Passeouer to bring him foorth to the people. —1867 Darby Translation: after the Passover — 2000 King James: after the Passover — 1382 Wycliff Translation: and wolde aftir pask (and would after Passover).

Old Rugged Cross. George Bennard. 1913. Public Domain
He’s Alive sung by David Phelps
¹Old Rugged Cross sung by Carlene Moody

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This beautiful spring weather means that love will soon be in the air. I am reminded of the times at Bible College, when the young girls would anxiously flirt with their soon-to-be boyfriends, hoping all the while to attain their “MRS degrees” — which simply meant they were looking to add the letters Mrs. to the front of their names.

I, on the other hand, was quite content to spend my time cooped-up in my dorm room in “Geritol Hall,” studying and dreaming of my future ministry to the deaf. And yes, the students really did call my floor “Geritol Hall.” Those of us assigned to that floor were not over-the-hill by any stretch of the imagination, but we were the “old maids” who had more important things to do than search for a husband.

Funny, that’s often the time that the LORD brings one around. Like many happily married couples, my beloved and I weren’t the least bit interested in a relationship when ours first developed. We were both quite a bit older than the typical Bible college student, and not as easily distracted with thoughts of love and marriage –our focus was on God, and the pursuit of His call on our lives. Yes, ours was a “safe” friendship because neither of us wanted anything more.

We did not meet by chance; it was divine providence. I’ll leave that story for another time, but suffice it to say that my ineptitude for music appreciation class, coupled with the LORD’s (very temporary) sabotage of my car, placed my beloved and me on the same church bus at the same time. And there you have it, the start of a beautiful, purely platonic, friendship.

Eventually, I began to desire marriage again –something that I had completely suppressed after the bitter sting of hurt and betrayal. But who would I marry? At that time, my beloved had become my very best friend and confidante. Between classes and study sessions, we were nearly always together. And, we met daily for personal Bible study and prayer; yet it never even occurred to me that the love of my life –my soul mate- was right in front of my eyes.

Then something strange happened. One morning, while praying atop a mountain peak, the LORD spoke very clearly to my heart, and said it was time for me to marry. Later that evening, at the conclusion of a worship service, there was an invitation for those seeking a spouse to come to the altar for prayer. I quickly dove over the bodies already kneeling at the altar and said, “Here am I LORD –send him!”

I told the other ladies in “Geritol Hall” that I was getting married. Of course, they laughed and needled me when I confessed I didn’t have a clue as to who my soon-to-be spouse was. Apparently, you’re supposed to have a fiancé in order to receive an MRS degree. Call me crazy, but aren’t Bible College students supposed to have faith? I did.

Granted, I’m not always the brightest bulb on the block, so I remained clueless for awhile longer about the identity of Mr. Right. In fact, while eating lunch with him, I would occasionally look over his head and ask, “Where is he LORD?”

I thought the headaches I was having at the time were due to too many tedious hours of reading, but looking back, I suppose it is possible that the LORD had been –as my beloved often said- “beating me severely about the head and shoulders” until I figured out the obvious.

I’m not even sure when it happened, but one day the bulb turned on, a little brighter, and I realized that I was very much in love with my very best friend. And he realized that he was in love with me too. There would be one less old maid in “Geritol Hall” by the time the fall session started. Praise the LORD!

Words cannot even express how thankful I am for my wonderful husband. I know with utmost certainty that the LORD hand-picked him for me, and I for him; no two people are more perfectly suited for each other than we are. My beloved and I have been blissfully married for almost 22 years now, and we are still best friends. However, I’m not saying this to be boastful.

I simply want to remind you, dear reader, that God’s blessings are always before us, whether we see them or not. After all, blessings come in many different packages. At the end of an “uneventful” day, you might be tempted to think that nothing special happened. In reality, however, God may have prevented you from being in a fatal car accident, kept your child from harm, zapped that tumor you didn’t even know you had, and blessed you in a hundred other invisible ways.

Knowing this, we need never look around and ask, “Where are you, LORD?” We need only praise Him and say:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).

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I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere… Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans.”
― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

As a child, all I wanted was to be loved by my parents and accepted by my peers. I tried in so many ways to make that happen, but my parents had their own issues and my classmates were just downright mean. If only I hadn’t been so desperate for acceptance at school, I might not have fallen so easily into the other kid’s traps.

Some of their taunts were less demeaning than others. The pencil incident might have fallen into this category, except that my foolish error earned me the nickname “Stubby” for most of fourth grade. As I said, kids can be mean.

Normally, I was suspicious when other kids showed an interest in me, but on that particular day, I totally dropped my guard when one of the really popular girls walked up to me and began chatting as though we were long-time buddies. I thought perhaps there were a few “golden people” after all. During the course of the conversation she asked me if I preferred long pencils or stubby ones. “Long,” I answered truthfully, “and very sharp.”

“Me too, she replied. “It looks like we have something in common after all.”

I stood there dumbfounded as she walked away, but I was happy.

Then the unthinkable happened; a second “golden girl” came up and began chatting with me also. I should’ve suspected something was amiss, but I was too busy basking in the moment. This girl also brought up the topic of pencils, but unlike the first, she volunteered that she loved writing with stubby pencils before asking me my preference.

It was very wrong of me, I know, but I wanted to have something in common with her too, so I assured her that I liked stubby pencils as well. “That’s what I thought,” she smugly barked, then walked away. My heart sank as the two girls started their confab, while shooting arrogant glances in my direction.  Naturally, they shared my indiscretion with all the other kids. They all sang their stinging words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” and “Hey Stubby, got a pencil?”  until I was practically in tears and longed desperately to return to my invisible status.

Little did I know, but I was never invisible to the only one that mattered. Not only did He love me unconditionally, and accept me just as I was –lonely and broken- He loved me enough to lead me to a golden place when the time was right.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
~~Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

To this day, I still don’t like stubby pencils. But I don’t keep a beautiful glass jar, full of long, sharp pencils, on my desktop because I have something to prove. They are there to remind me of the power of words. I guess that is one reason I still love the feeling of a pencil between my fingers. Every now and then, I pick-up one of my long, sharp pencils and think to myself, God loves me just as I am, and He has written me in His book.  And that, dear reader,  often inspires me to write words of encouragement to you.

I know that my words, in the midst of the psalmist’s are, as Mr. Yates penned, the ugly duckling among the swans.” Even so, I hope you were encouraged by them in some way.

Postscript: The opening quote from Revolutionary Road does not reflect an endorsement for Mr. Yates, nor his book.  Truthfully, I have never read the book and cannot, therefore, speak to its contents.  I merely stumbled upon the aforementioned quote and felt that it accurately described how I felt as a child, dreaming of far away places where people were kind and underdogs like myself would be accepted.  Mr. Yates’ book, as I understand, is a secular work with questionable themes.  So again, I am not endorsing His book by sharing this beautiful quote.

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A week or so before my wedding, my mother called to tell me she was planning on missing the big event because she and her husband wanted to watch a local mud truck pull. Granted, my mother has never been a typical loving parent, but a mud truck pull –seriously?

Still, I wasn’t really all that upset. I had grown quite accustomed to her disregard for my life –which was always her choice not mine. My youngest sister, on the other hand, was upset. She had always longed to see our family become “normal” even though we all knew deep down that would never happen. Somehow, she convinced my mother that weddings trumped mud pulls; and missing my wedding might be something she would eventually regret.

At the last minute, my mother made the decision to pop into the church just long enough to view the ceremony and swap a few hellos. She did leave as quickly as possible to pick-up her husband and head to the mud, but I’m glad she came anyway. There is just something special about having your mother at your wedding, even if you aren’t close.

Now, after twenty-plus years, I still feel occasional bouts of sadness at never having experienced a real relationship with my mother. I had wanted that all my life. And though she would disagree, I tried over and over to draw her heart to mine. It just never happened.

This makes me think of the parable in the 22nd chapter of Matthew:

Jesus answered and spoke again in parables to them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “Behold, I have made ready my dinner. My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast!”‘ But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise [another to his mud pull]…..

The king’s Son is an obvious reference to our Lord Jesus Christ. He longs to have relationship with all of humanity and draw their hearts to His, as His bride, but so many people disregard the invitation because they are more interested in doing their own thing. Others think that just popping into church once in a while will suffice, even though they are not really in relationship with the LORD. However, making an appearance in the natural, is not enough! Salvation is an issue of the heart. The parable explains that those who rejected the invitation to the *marriage feast  will be utterly rejected themselves. However, it further elaborates that those who wish to attend must be wearing a proper wedding garment.

And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (vss. 11-15).

What is the wedding garment? The garment is the salvation found in Jesus Christ by acceptance of His atoning death on the cross for your sin, and subsequent obedience to His Word. Only the true bride of Christ wears this garment. They alone will be able to attend the marriage supper.

I’m not trying to sling any mud here, but there are lots of folks out there who will never attend the marriage supper because they are more interested in pursuing their own pleasures and activities. I truly hope, dear reader, you are not among them. Time is short, but it’s not too late. Why risk a last-minute decision? If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior, there will never be a better time to do so than now. And there is no greater source of joy than knowing with certainty that you will be ready for that glorious day when we will be united with our bridegroom, Jesus.

*Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God….” Worship God! (Revelation 19:7-10)

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It was one of those sticky summer days when the fish were not biting, but the snapping turtles were. I wanted to call it quits, but my stepfather fitly reminded me that we needed to catch a mess-o’-bluegill if we wanted to eat supper for the next few nights. So, I propped up my pole and disappointedly scanned the river for a hopeful sign of fish activity.

It wasn’t long before a big fat water moccasin decided to come calling. And if you know me, I not only hate snakes, I’ve been known to give one or two of those repulsive critters a heart attack with my piercing scream. Fortunately for me, my stepfather never went fishing without his holster strapped to his thigh. He whipped out his pistol and sank that nasty snake to its watery grave faster than you could say Wyatt Earp.

It wasn’t even five minutes later when Mr. Snake decided to investigate what happened to the Mrs. Lickety-split, he and the Mrs. were both resting in pieces. Two dead snakes, two night crawler-loving snapping turtles cut off our lines, and no fish –I was really ready to go home then. Still, my stepfather insisted we stay, until…..

Two more snakes shot dead, then another, then three more. Honestly, for every snake shot, two more took their places. I never knew that water snakes were attracted to blood, but apparently they are – at least the blood of their kin. We were pretty much forced to leave at that point.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but there have been several times in my life when I was minding my own business, when suddenly I was surrounded by “snakes” – folks who tormented, mocked and attacked me for no apparent reason. I guess it just makes some people angry when you are fishing for the truth in God’s Holy Word, and seek to live by that; especially if that truth stirs the waters of popular tradition.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, however, it doesn’t pay to “shoot the snakes” because there will always be more to take their place. Scripture instructs us to bless them and pray for them instead (Luke 6:28). However, that doesn’t mean we should just stick around and accept their poisonous bites either; it is often best to just walk away (or run, as the case may be).

The first Psalm states: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. As long as we keep fishing for truth, and walking in it, God will take care of those snakes.

Psalm 1 continues: 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

These days, I don’t get the chance to fish very much – at least not for bluegill. But Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” So, I’m going to keep on fishing! True, I might catch a few snapping turtles on my line, or run into a mess of snakes, but the LORD is right behind me taking care of everything, and He will make sure that I don’t go home empty handed!

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