Rising Waters

The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Origin Unknown

I grew up hearing this phrase, always uttered by an older person and always in closing a discussion about upcoming events. It was a disclaimer of sorts acknowledging the element of uncertainty in any planning session.

We’ll see you on Saturday, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

But before I move on…

Unfortunately Necessary Disclaimer:

Before any feathers get ruffled over the modern-day tendency to take every imaginable thing and twist its meaning to fit the current social narrative, if you have heard anything about this phrase attributed to worries of a Creek native uprising, click here and read with your whole capacity for critical thinking engaged. Thank you. Now on to my point.

Most of the people my childish self heard utter this phrase grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. All of them spent most of their lives in the Tennessee Valley between the mountains to the east and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. Several recalled the days of wagons drawn by horse or mule which stuck in the mud or shied at the dull roar of a swollen creek smoothing the rocks as it drained the peaks and plateaus into our little bowl of a town.

Even a youngun’ like me who grew up in the age of motor cars can attest that a plethora of creeks of varying depths and breadths wind their way through this lush valley. When they rise, the way is often barred. I’ve seen cars stalled out and half-filled with water in intersections which looked deceptively shallow, roads collapsed from great surges of water flushing out the soil beneath the pavement, and I’ve missed school because there was no passable road open to anyone without a kayak or canoe.

But even if the creeks remain gurgling placidly in their banks, the Lord may not always be willing. And this, my friends, is a Biblical principle I have been reminded of often this school year.

…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:14-1

On July 19, I went into my classroom to begin setting it up for the new school year. Teacher in-service began the following week and students would return to classes on August 2. My hope was to get a head start on all things in order to spend quality time with my college freshman before she left for her new adventure.

I went home that day with what seemed to be a typical (for me) occipital headache but turned out to be the beginnings of my second go-round with viral meningitis.

Then school started. Then the creeks DID rise, affecting neighboring counties much more than our own. And a mere 3 weeks into our new school year, COVID struck hard and fast and forced us into a remote learning environment for a couple of weeks while we pled for the Lord to heal teachers and friends who were – and are – incredibly ill.

The last six weeks have felt a lot like a song list stuck on repeat. There have been plenty of interruption in all our plans. Yet we continue to trust in the Lord and understand that if He is not willing, He has a very good reason. After all, it isn’t the results we choose to trust in; it’s the character of the One who holds all things in His very capable hands.

He is good. Because He is Creator of all, good is defined by who He is and not by what we, who are warped and hoodwinked by sin, think about His ways.

So if His will takes me in a direction 180 degrees from where the path I laid leads, I know I can walk His way with confidence. He made each one of us, and He knows what is truly best – even when it causes inconvenience or suffering. Even then, He is still good. In the present age, we’ll do well not to forget this fact.

I hope to see you sooner rather than later. The good Lord willing, of course.

The Long Haul

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

I thought I’d steal a few precious minutes to give an update from my little corner of the South. A quick note to my Facebook followers before I dive in: Even if this article posts to Facebook, I am taking a break from Zuckerberg’s social media platforms for a time. So if you have a comment to share, please share it here on WordPress… or better yet, consider helping support this writing ministry by visiting my Patreon page! Become a Patron!

I’ll be offering extras for my Patreon supporters, building in more as I go, but this blog will remain free (and sparse so long as our family’s needs require me to work outside the home!)

It’s been an interesting year. I’ve been working part-time at my kids’ school teaching cell phone photography to middle school students – a feat roughly equivalent to swallowing live eels while guiding two dogs, eighteen kittens, and a chicken safely through New York City using a homemade map and the Force.

And while it must be admitted that middle schoolers spend more energy attempting to circumnavigate the school’s network restrictions than taking photos with their phones, it can still be fun to see the photos they do take and hear their thoughts.

Then a week before Christmas break, I came down with the Bane of 2020 – COVID 19. My symptoms were mild and I recovered at home over the break. But a couple weeks after I began feeling better, the body aches and fatigue came crashing back. And again a couple weeks after that… and again… and again…

So here I am in mid-March wrestling with unpleasant facts: Not only am I blessed with the invisible illness of ME/CFS, I also get a free – and equally invisible – membership to the COVID Long Haulers’ Club.

Not fun. Incredibly humbling. But nonetheless, I am blessed.

I admit, this blessing doesn’t really feel like one. If given a menu of blessings, it isn’t one I would have selected. And it doesn’t go particularly well with the 70% pay reduction our family tasted in 2020, nor with the 2-car, 4-driver dynamic we’ve been noshing on since last fall, nor with any of the banquet of bland fiscal fare we’ve been sampling in the last 18 or so months. But it’s a blessing still.

I don’t know when, I don’t know why, and I absolutely don’t know how, but I do know the Lord will use this newest struggle in some way for the comfort of His people. Perhaps in some way I will be able to speak to those who share in this weird and unpredictable cycle of flu-like aching and exhaustion and point them to the comfort I have in Christ.

Or maybe the Lord simply wants to make His power abundantly known in my profound weakness.

I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I committed myself years ago to walk the narrow, difficult path that leads to life. Whether this current dark valley is a brief foray of reduced visibility or just the beginnings of another steep descent into utter blackness, I have no way of knowing. The road curves just ahead and I have only enough Light for the path beneath my feet.

Still, no matter where this Way leads and no matter how short or long the journey, I know I never walk alone. The Lord Yeshua is with me. Regardless of the personal cost, with Him as my Guide I am in it for the long haul.

A Very 2020 Christmas Break

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:8

Today is officially the first day of Christmas break for my people and me. But for us, it started a bit early this year.

Thanks, COVID-19.

That’s right. Yours truly has been in quarantine since Tuesday when I went for my COVID test. It was positive, and my last week of school suddenly became my first week of break.

I only felt glued-to-my-bed lousy for a couple of days, though my brain seems to have decided it wanted no part of the diagnosis and vacated for warmer (or perhaps healthier) climes. It took my energy with it, too. Stinkin’ deserters.

The worst of it has been my guilt at realizing what I thought were issues caused by extra coffee the day before my test were actually early COVID symptoms. And the most annoying symptom so far is the exposure of my ultimate parenting fail: When I emerged from my bed for the first time, I discovered my husband had been doing all the dishes while my girls did… whatever it is teenage girls do.

But evidently they were very busy with it, assuring me that they did “lots of cleaning” – which I can only assume was done at a neighbor’s house since my own shows a scandalous lack of either cleanliness or order.

Even though the illness tossed a pipe bomb into my plans for last week (not to mention shattered any illusions I may have still clung to that my girls were responsible, capable young adults), I’m not upset.

Oh I admit, I did look forward to my final devotional with my students. I had hoped to make some homemade chocolate-dipped strawberry marshmallows to share with the staff, and I did really want to celebrate my official entrance into menopause with a treat made by my favorite Magical Baking Fairy But I really can’t complain.

After all, this is Advent – the time of year when (I hope) we all look forward to the future arrival of Jesus while celebrating His first.

In the face of what He did for me the first time around, I can really only feel gratitude and sorrow. Gratitude for what He gave for me; sorrow for how little I give Him in return. But mostly, I feel joy. Joy for the privilege of knowing Him; joy for the promise of eternity to get to know Him more.

As I contemplate both Advents, I can’t help but think of my own arrival at the end of this race, whenever it may be. When I think of the great day when I will officially enter into eternity with God, all other celebrations pale in comparison. I pray it is the same for you.

Merry Christmas!

Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24