Are You All In? Trusting God Completely

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It was a long night spent sitting in cramped quarters. What was I thinking? About half way in, I began to think my traveling days were over. I reached my limit of “discomfort by choice.” And then there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The Hours to Arrival ticked down and anticipation of reaching my destination began to build.  You see, I got on this plane because I believed it would transport me to the place I wanted to go and even in the midst of exhaustion brought on by a long flight, a sleepless night and thoughts of “Are we there yet?” I never lost faith that I would eventually find my way to the Arrival Gate.

What is your definition of faith? Webster’s defines faith as:

a firm belief in something for which there is no proof

COMPLETE TRUST

something that is believed with a strong conviction.

It is something believed but not only that. Webster uses words in this definition such as firm, complete, strong when it comes to that belief.

In air travel you cannot “sort of” get on the plane. One foot on land with the other in the air is just not going to work. You have to get completely on the aircraft to reach your destination. That is also the way with faith. You have to be ‘all in’ to get where arrive at the place God is taking you.

There is, however, an element of faith that is also a continuous journey. When flying, there are always a few fellow passengers wrought with anxiety. They believe with certainty that this time may just be the time they will crash and burn. They pace the aisles or pop a sleeping pill just to get through. This may not be too far from the truth in how we treat our own lives. We get up each morning and tentatively set our feet in route to see if God’s promises still apply to today’s set of problems and worries. We struggle with the pain and discomfort as we wonder if this part of this trip through life will ever end. And then, as promised we see the glimmer of hope that God is indeed delivering us safely to our appointed destination.

I think that destination just might be a complete faith; one that firmly, completely and with strong conviction puts our confidence in God’s word and his ways. I believe God is developing in us a habit in which we trust him on everything. He proves Himself over and over that there is nothing outside his power to bring the best possible outcome in us. As we go, we develop more and more assurance in Him with a confidence that He will do He says he can do. Each day that we plant our both feet firmly in that confidence brings us closer to arriving at Complete Faith.

In Romans 4:18-23, Abraham is described with the words “against all hope…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.”

It goes on to say, “This is why ‘it was credited to him righteousness.”  These words ‘it was credited to him righteousness’ were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him…” [Emphasis added.]

Righteousness. Now, that’s a pretty great perk. Let your faith grow. Be “all in” when it comes to trusting the Lord. You do not want to miss out on what God has for you.

As for me and future travel? I will continue. Living would not be as satisfying if not for the lessons God teaches through the sights and sounds of this great excursion called life.

 The Lord will indeed give what is good…” Psalms 85:12

You count on it!

 

Lessons from a Foreign Land

https://girlonadventure.com/2017/04/27/lessons-from-a-foreign-land/

It’s been some time since I visited Tajikistan, but the lessons will remain in my heart forever.

One AM.

Our plane touched down in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. We were all ushered into a cement block building to wait in line for passport control. One-by-one we were summoned into a small room to present our visas and answer a few questions. Small problem. I didn’t speak Farsi. I stood there, listening very carefully but not comprehending. Somehow the man behind the desk seemed satisfied with the documents and my affirming nods that he released me from his presence.

Outside the building and reunited with my traveling companions, I was caught up a flurry of activity. Porters were grabbing at our luggage trying to gain a few American dollars in their pockets. Owners of taxis crowded in demanding that we use their service. It all felt very confusing and a bit scary trying to make my way in a strange land in the dark of night.

Then a familiar face came into view. Our contact came toward us warning off the aggressive drivers. He grabbed the bags and motioned for us to follow. He guided us safely to a van that was waiting to transport us to our destination.

As the week played out, I learned many things about the culture I had been plopped in the middle of. Village life was quite different from the world I had left at home. For safety’s sake, an escort was needed wherever I went. I covered my hair so I would not find myself the topic of whispers and ridicule. Bathrooms were a challenge. Electricity was intermittent. Meals were served on the floor. Men and women did not socialize in public. There were military check points, calls to worship, and houses hidden by high walls and locked gates.

Yes. Everything was different and if it had not been for my guide I would not have been able to navigate through the rules of this community. What I knew of life did not make sense in this culture. It was all so foreign.

In my current trek through Psalm 119, I came across a similar thought in the second segment of the book.

“Open my eyes so that I can truly see the marvelous things in your law. I am like a foreigner in this land. Do not hide your commandments from me. I desperately long to know your regulations at all times.”

Psalm 119:18-20

Oh, how God’s ideas can seem strange to us.

Like the Psalmist, it sometimes feels like we are in a foreign land when we are learning about God’s ways. What we knew of life is now turned upside down. The culture is new. The language seems odd. It isn’t always easy to wrap our minds around why things work better His way. We need Him to guide us. Then, little-by-little, we begin to see how the customs of this unfamiliar place start to make sense.  As we put into practice those marvelous things He reveals, they spare us from humiliation as they guide us to success. It’s beautiful when it starts to come together.

As for the rest of my time in the Tajik culture? Before my trip concluded, candlelight in the power outage became romantic. A glimpse of a married couple sharing a private conversation seemed mysterious and precious. Even the lessons in tying my head covering the right way or how to apply the perfect unibrow [ I have a photo somewhere.] made me feel more connected with the people of that country.

I began to get it.

Their ways worked in context with their culture. What seemed strange when I began my time there became normal and comfortable before I left.  Foreign no more—Tajikistan, its people and their ways occupy a place in my heart that brings great joy each time my thoughts wander there.

Your Destination Will Be Peace

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The navigation app on my phone seemed to have a poor sense of direction.

It commanded in a loud voice to take the next exit to reach my destination that I knew was a few more freeway ramps away. What I didn’t know was an accident blocked the road and the app’s seemly all-knowing function redirected me to save time, and most likely, some aggravation along the way.

Oh, man. Don’t ya wish life could have the same guidance system?

“In two days, continue forward for six hours, then make a sharp right turn to avoid the. . .” Yep, I think step-by-step, instructions would come in very handy.

Although we don’t have info on the moment-by-moment events in life, we do have directions that will serve us well. They are found in the writings of the Bible and when implemented, they can help us navigate through the unpredictable situations we come up against, many times saving us time and aggravation.

This portion of scripture, Jeremiah 6:16 NET, points out that very idea– “The LORD said to his people: ‘You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.’”

Those old reliable paths are the instructions. . .

God has revealed to us through the Bible. Along with the instructions come examples of experience and the eventual outcomes where choices to follow God were involved. Knowing the stories can help us develop what path we would like to take.

There are times when what God says doesn’t line up with our sensibilities. We don’t understand, or maybe even, we don’t trust God’s word in certain circumstances. It’s like that day on the freeway. It just didn’t make sense to exit until I saw what was avoided. Lucky for me, the navigator app with its insight had directed my path. It’s that way with God. His ways do not always seem right to us at the time but they can be trusted. They are reliable. He sees the big picture. He knows how things will turn out. And if we just listen and follow. . .

 God will lead us to peace.  

 

Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,

and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth,

so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NET

Guide me in the path of your commands, for I delight to walk in it.

Psalm 119:35 NET

March On!

 

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When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed.

 Joshua 6:20

The siege of Jericho would have been something to see.

Can’t you just picture it? Armed forces taking the lead followed by the priests with the Ark of the Covenant hoisted onto their shoulders, trumpets blasting as they stepped out with purpose in obedience to the Lord.

The story of the walls tumbling down is made even more fantastic when you consider these were some of the very “walls that reached up to the sky” spoken of in Deuteronomy 1:28. These walls, along with the ‘giants’ who lived within them, brought much fear and discouragement to the Israelites. They had no idea how they would defeat such a strong and seemingly impenetrable fortress. These people of Deuteronomy could not find the faith to trust God and march out with purpose. Instead their feet would be found wandering in the desert working on putting their trust in God.

But here in Joshua, a new generation has appeared. Their trek through the wilderness has produced the desired result. This time, the Israelites marched out in unity and confidently followed the Lord’s instruction. The result: success and complete victory. That’s what following God’s commands produces. You can rely on it.

This story makes me wonder.

If we just had the strength and courage to follow His instructions, what would happen? What obstacles could we overcome? How would the world change, personally and globally, if we trusted God’s ways of grace and obeyed His command of loving our neighbors? [Matthew 22:36-40] If we were united and marched together in God’s plan, then what? Hope would be found, that’s what. The walls of suffering, injustice, and oppression would lie in a heap of smoldering ash. And we, along with the rest of the world, would be changed for the good. We would see that God’s strategies work and only need to be put into practice to bring victory and success.

What keeps us from stepping forward to march out?

Are the walls of despair too high to overcome or the fear of the ‘giants’ too big to overthrow? Trust God’s instruction. Put His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control into practice. These qualities of God’s character make a lot of noise. In fact, they will shake those negatives of fear, despair and oppression turning them into rubble. Take action and bring some walls down.

The world is waiting.

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.  For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth [for] the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Psalm 47:12 Psalm 33:11

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Making Memories

This week has been full of making memories with my girls in Oklahoma.

We have made good use of our short time. There has been some sightseeing, a little shopping, cooking of good food, and talking, talking, talking. It has been so much fun.

Up until just a couple of years ago, my daughters all lived near us. We did a lot of life together. But the need to find work relocated two of them, along with their husbands and our grandchildren. I miss the days when we could just drop by and spend time together. Now we must be intentional with the time we set aside for visiting and make the most of each occasion.

I often wonder why we are not more like this in all our relationships.

I suppose it is because we think we’ll have time to get together as soon as things calm down. Most of us know that a slower life is a joke. The truth is, we will be waiting for a long time for that to happen. And when things actually do get slower, our neglected friendships will be long dead and buried.

This concept applies to the relationship we have with Jesus, too. First, let me say that He will never be neglectful of us. But our lack of being intentional and making the most of our time with Him will hurt our relationship. We cannot make memories with Him, or anybody for that matter, without interaction. As I consider this, yet another childhood song is worming its way into my mind [See Built Up to see me humming another song.]

The more we get together, together, together, the more we get together the happier we’ll be.

There is much truth in those lyrics if we apply them to our relationship with Jesus. Perhaps we should replace happier with more joyful, but either way it all comes out blessed.

As a Bible study leader I often hear, “My life is busy. I don’t have time to do homework.” Fair enough. I get it. I have been there. In fact, some weeks I am still there. There are days, sometimes several in a row, I don’t get to sit down with Jesus and look into His Word. I’m not perfect when it comes to my commitment to study my Bible every day. Busyness is in my life, too. But I want you to notice the underlined phrase above—get to.

It was not always that way.

Had to was more like it. I felt pressured to conform to the idea that a good Christian rises early each and every day to start it off with prayer and Bible reading. Anything less was failure. On considering that sentence, a statement comes to mind— “THAT’S A LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL!”

[Sorry for yelling. This is one lie that really ticks me off!]

When we fall into that kind of mindset, we find ourselves meeting a task instead of developing a relationship. When the chore isn’t finished, we feel like we’ve failed. The point of prayer and Bible study is getting to know Jesus by spending time with Him. If we miss that, well. . .we miss out on so much. The whole reason Jesus lived and died was to bring us back into a relationship that had been lost, not impose a checklist to be completed.

I sometimes think about what we will take with us from this world into the next.

I believe our memories of relationships will get to come along for the ride. The people we have known and/or have influenced our lives are part of who we are after all. We don’t go anywhere without them. The more we spend time with them often equals greater impact, good or bad. Why, then, wouldn’t we be intentional with the good ones and make time for the thing that lasts an eternity, especially when it comes to Jesus?

 What can you do to be intentional in meeting up with Jesus this week? The time you spend interacting with Him through His words and your prayers will be worth remembering. I’m quite sure that the more you get together the happier, joyful, and blessed you’ll be.


Are you wondering what good things we cooked while we were visiting?

Lots of great stuff, but one thing that usually shows up on the table when we get together is Beef Enchiladas. I learned this easy recipe when the church we attended would sell these enchiladas to raise funds for an outreach to Mexico. We liked them so much we have continued to enjoy them all these years later. They also bring back the memory of doing something pretty special with a group of people who wanted to do good in the world by serving others. Ever since then, I have had an ongoing love affair with serving the people of Mexico. See Hope Under Construction and For Goodness Sake to find out more of what I’m up to and the ministry I serve with there.

Beef Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can of red enchilada sauce or 1 recipe of homemade
  • 10 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sliced black olives
  • Toppings—sour cream, sliced green onions, etc.

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) baking dish or pan with cooking spray.
  2. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook beef and onions over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce to season meat mixture.
  3. Spread additional 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce evenly in baking dish. Spoon about 1/4 cup beef mixture down center of each tortilla; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cheese. Wrap tortillas tightly around filling, placing seam side down in baking dish. Top with remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and sliced olives.
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  5. ENJOY!

This is an excellent dish to make for a someone who needs a little pick-me-up and a visit from a friend.

Make some memories.

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My daughters, Genevieve and Elena, and I at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. A very fun day. We even met Lad Drummond.

 

Don’t Give Up!

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Ethan showed up at just the right time.

The group of adults sat staring at the sandy haired eight-year-old who barged into their meeting. They had just finished praying with their last words being, “Is there a word from God from anyone?” Little did they know it would be Ethan’s job to deliver it. He told the grown-ups he had a story to tell them.

As he took his seat in the circle, he told the group they would first need some background. He was from Ukraine. Not from THE Ukraine as some say. The correct way was just Ukraine according to the people of his country.  Ethan was completely at ease with the people watching him. He went on boldly giving the description of the parks he played at in his city.  Once he finished setting the stage, he launched into his story. He told the grown-ups listening it was about not giving up.

“One day, I went to the park with my mother and sister. I took my Nerf gun with me to play with. I shot the dart into the air, and then ran to the place I knew it had landed. When I got there, I was surprised it was not where I thought it was. I started to look everywhere for it. I asked my mom and sister if they would help me. We looked and looked until the dart was found. That’s my story about not giving up.”

As quickly as he had arrived, Ethan jumped up and ran from the room. He had spotted his dad through the window, but his simple story had impacted the group who needed the message—Don’t give up.

Two points were evident in the small boy’s story.

One—

Don’t quit when you’re faced with the unexpected. Keep going. There will be reward in sticking with it.

And the other—

Ask for help. The people around us are great assets, providing strength when things get tough.

The two together—perseverance and humility— make a formula for success.

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.

1 Chronicles 15:7

 

 

A Smart Heart

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. James 1:5


Wisdom: having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right.

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In a life-changing moment, God appears to a very young King Solomon and says,

“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5

Boy, is this ever a loaded proposition. Our minds start to run wild with all the possibilities. I wonder if Solomon’s did too before he came upon the correct answer, or maybe God had prepared his heart for this very moment. No matter what the case may be, when it came down to it, he knew what he was going to need to fill King David’s shoes effectively.

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. . .So, give your servant a discerning heart. . .  ~ Solomon; 1 Kings 3:6-9

A discerning heart=Wisdom.

Out of all the things that can be asked of God, a discerning heart perhaps is the most useful.  Solomon knew he needed God’s wisdom to lead the people entrusted to his care. Good choice, considering he could not successfully rule over God’s people without God’s ways.

But Solomon is not alone when it comes to needing wisdom in life’s choices. It is essential to us, too. Jesus told us the following—

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;  knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

Our job may not be as complicated as managing a whole nation, but God’s wisdom will certainly come in handy towards living the way He knows is best.

Jesus went on to say in Matthew 7:8— “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The beauty of belonging to God is we can seek His wisdom in all matters. We don’t have to guess about things. We have access to the best information there is available to navigate through life.

Don’t miss that little bit of James 1:5 that says, [God] gives to all generously and without criticizing. This may be important for some to hear. Let me say it again. If you lack wisdom, ask God for it. He gives it generously and without criticizing. He is not sitting up in heaven somewhere thinking, OMG, she should know this by now! He wants us to ask. He tells us to ask, promising He will deliver an answer to our question.

Towards the end of this passage in Matthew 7, Jesus concludes His thoughts about asking for wisdom and other applications for living well with this—

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Matthew 7:24

 

Asking for wisdom is simply a smart thing to do. It builds a steady life through our reliance on God. It shows our confidence in His ways, and reaffirms our commitment to belong to Him. And when we belong to Him, discernment and good judgement are only a question away. Just ask.


Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3 NET