It is 4:29 in the morning and gratefully I am awake after five hours of sleep. God usually whispers “Come with me” at this time. This morning He and I will discuss the COVID-19 vaccination. Again. Our appointment is at 8:15. Today is the day. We comply with the government’s request to take this preventive measure.
No, I am not sure about this.
Our household of three had COVID in December of 2020. Of the three of us, I am the one with lasting side effects. My eyesight was weakened. I am also the one whose immune system and health history make me more vulnerable to take anything “experimental”.
For me the more the government pushes this vaccine the more I hesitate. Why?
Simple, no one can be trusted to speak the truth. Certainly not Dr. Falsely. (Misspelling intended). Nor the CDC or WHO. Neither can government officials. My own health care providers listen to my concerns and reply with the same assurances. Like every one is reading the same cue card. The risk is minimal, take the vaccine.
By nature I am a rule keeper. But, this time I am unsure. Let’s be frank, the whole COVID experience is fraught with too many questions and too few answers.
For all those assuring me the risks are minimal I wearily reply that they themselves have no idea what it is like to be in that small percentage. I do.
Herd mentality is aggressively pushing us to shut up and take the shot, get in line again and take it again. Oh, and be prepared to repeat the process in six months to a year. Wear a mask, wear two no three masks! How selfish to even think about non-compliance. I am not prepared to be an obedient cow on this. Are you?
What I am sure about is God not allowing evil to prevail. I am confident He knows the future and that He will walk me through whatever the outcome of this vaccine is for me. I am reminded that the moments and minutes I live and breathe right now at 5:18 in the morning are miraculous. I have been on the literal edge of death before and God chose to spare me for this morning.
He is trustworthy. By His very nature He is not a liar. When that needle slides into my arm later this morning I am sure that my Heavenly Father loves me and is with me. Plus, if He does not want me to take the shot He will clearly show me this too.
Once in a church our family were members of a congregation that had been without a pastor for several months. Finally we called an evangelism pastor as a interim until God showed us who to call longer term. He was a fine preacher/teacher. Knew the Bible well. Was also gifted in what we needed as far as administratively went. He was with us for over a year. After three months I realized he was bringing us the same sermon every week with different scripture to support his words.
My first thoughts were why? Every Sunday he was preaching about how to become a new Christian. Our number of attendees was dropping. As I looked around I thought, who here needs to hear this? This pastor’s gift was evangelism. He was an evangelist. Was that why? Did he know this so well he was not comfortable elsewhere in the Scripture?
We left that congregation. Not because of the pastor situation but because we felt we needed more to feed our spiritual lives. It’s been 13 years. The pastor of our church home now presented a moving sermon on Easter. It was theologically sound. It was challenging. The response from those of us in the congregation consisted of one person who went forward to pray. Like at our former church I found myself asking, “why”? Plus thinking how discouraging it must have been to invest all that time studying and preparing a sermon and no response.
Before you ask why I did not go forward it is because by the time I manage to roll myself and wheelchair to the altar every eye is upon me. Plus, the time has slipped away to respond. Maybe others, like myself, respond where they are.
Then part of my own Bible study this week lead me to Acts 8:1-40, specifically verses 4-25. Philip has contact in Samaria with a magician, a sorcerer. By the world’s standard he was very successful. He boasted about how great he was. Many people followed him. He was a believer in his own reputation. When Philip begins to preach in the area, cast out evil spirits and perform miracles many people began to follow him. Including Simon. He counted himself a true believer in Jesus Christ. I believe Simon was attracted to Philip’s “magic” which he saw as greater than his.
Then Peter and John arrived and when the new converts were prayed for and the duo lay their hands on them while praying they received the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this. Another two men whose “magic” was greater than Simons. He offered Peter and John money to teach him how to do what they did. Peter very bluntly let Simon know he had no part in the ministry they were doing because his heart was not right with God.
Simon became a true believer.
How many of us are Simon’s? We believe we believe in God. We do all of the right things. We attribute our earthly successes to God. But, when the point blank question is asked of us we suddenly see the truth. We are like Simon, not true Believer’s at all. Our hearts core is unchanged.
Witnessing this cancel culture, morally declining, hate and cruelty, lying movement attempt to wash Christianity from our world is crushing to me. I second guess my instinctive actions and often do not act for the risk exists anything can suddenly be considered the wrong thing to do. People I counted as my friends I am suddenly unsure of. Between COVID and an increase in crime I no longer feel safe in our little, rural county. Laugh if you are inclined but the day when we have to choose to die for Christ or live for evil is fast approaching. Not because of my feelings but because the signs are all there.
Why is the pastor’s sermon falling on deaf ears? Is it him or you? Do we not yet understand we are supposed to take Christ beyond the church walls and without action within the walls how can there be change outside of them?
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'” Hebrews 3:12-15 NIV
“Taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.”
For the first time ever in 57 years I looked at a picture of myself and liked it. On top of that when those negative comments in my head mumbled the first word I shut them down. Yes, I can see this is not representative of beauty by the world’s standard but I decided to give myself a break.
This picture and my enjoying it takes back the shame of having to give up my front row seat to the doctor’s daughter because of their financial and social standings. It soothed the embarrassment of having to pretend I could not read because the teacher said my mother taught me wrong.
It replaces those feelings of “not good enough” when I was teased and even targeted to be shamed because of my weight. All the doctors who misdiagnosed me for over 40 years.
This picture closed the wounds of an abusive childhood that lead to my amputation.
For every Human Resources Director who told me they were sorry but they thought my skills were a perfect match to a job they could not hire me because they had to hire someone in another race category. While I added in my mind, “And fat.” This picture let that go.
My heart has carried so much for 57 years. I let God have it. Finally. I was not ashamed to give it to Him.
Yes, I looked at this woman pictured with her husband of twenty-four years, and gave her a break. I let her roll away from underneath all that baggage.
The woman in this picture deserves a real life for she has fought for it in ways very few know. Only she and God know and with one picture years were returned to her.
Not to say today will not have its own pain, struggles, victories. Jesus never promised life as a believer would be easy.
That is okay. More than okay. The me in this picture deserves to live the life that comes to her.
What brings me joy from the depths of my heart? Here’s a partial list.
in the approaching dawn hours of the night when the flow of my laptop screen weakly illuminates my keyboarding fingers as I give free reign to the thoughts in my head. Especially when what has kept me awake or awakened me is a call to prayer.
when I am reading and studying the Word of God and He opens my mind to His understanding.
catching a glimpse of Heaven.
when my husband and I hold hands when going about our lives…for example, in church as we gather with other Believers to worship, in the car as we ride down the road, watching a television show or movie together, and in the time we are asleep and we reach for one another’s hand.
hearing the laughter of our daughter.
listening to my husband sing bass in the worship team on Sunday mornings.
being in the midst of our nieces and nephews.
being caught up in the creative process of drawing, painting, crafting, writing.
breathing in the ocean breeze as I enjoy being beachside in the fall and winter months.
paying our bills.
cooking and baking.
reading a good book.
The older I get, the less my true joy stems from materialistic things. When people ask, “What do you want for _______________”? I realize anew that there’s not really anything I want, nothing you can purchase online or in the store, wrap and tie up with a bow. Things are easily broken, wear out, can be stolen, lost or outgrown.
Instead joy, for me, is pure abandonment of want and being fully open to the presence of God in the moment I am living at that time. It is the realization that at that time my heart and soul have been flooded with the perfect love of God and His blessings. This joy is the complete, absolute of God’s love, provision and care for me and my family.
Where does your joy come from? What is the source of it?
being with a group of family or friends?
Maybe your list is a bit similar to mine. Maybe it is totally different. Maybe you can list what brings joy to your heart without much thought. Maybe you need time to let the question simmer on the back-eye of the stove for a while. Neither way is right or wrong.
Joy does not come only in the good times. It comes also after times of hardship, disappointment and when we know we have given the Lord a reason to be angry with us.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978. Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
Life does not always present joy to us in a pretty package and decorated with beautiful ribbon and bows. I have come to appreciate that joy has little to do with the circumstances of my life in the moment. Joy comes from perspective. A shift in how we are viewing the events going on in our lives allows the before unseen joys to take the spotlight.
For joy is also given as a fruit of the Spirit as Galatians 5:22 tells us.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22 (Italics mine.)
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978. Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
Joy also arrives when life has given us reason to be anxious. Being a Christian does not mean we do not experience painful things, know disappointment and must learn to trust God in the times it is most difficult.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:18-19 (Italics mine)
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
My prayer for you today is that you will experience joy throughout your day and its source is our shared Lord and Savior.
There is a famous country song, made a hit by Garth Brooks. The chorus goes, “….I thank God for unanswered prayers, remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care…”
I do not agree with this song’s assessment of prayer and God answering our prayers. Instead I subscribe to this belief, God always answers our prayers. Always. In one of three ways.
He says yes.
He says no.
He says wait.
Since the third option is the hardest one for us to handle, this is where this blog will pick up here. Harder than a no? Yes. No is definite. Usually an indication that what we are petitioning God for is not within His will for our lives and/or not within His standard of righteousness. Wait, on the other hand, is defined in this case as either, “no, not right now” or “yes, just not right now”? Wait can seem like a no.
Why would God say, wait? Because sometimes what we are asking for right now, though within His will, within His parameters of right and wrong, we are not yet equipped to handle.
Suppose, for example, as a child we fall in love with missions. Especially foreign missions. We pray then that God will send us to the mission field. We are earnest in our prayers. We are praying for something God would certainly find to be right. We are eager to begin.
Why would God say, “Wait”? Common sense tells us that God is not going to send a child into the mission field unprepared. A child has not yet learned enough skills to get through the maze of life yet. So to be placed in the middle of another way of life, without ability to earn a living, secure housing, connect with people they know they can trust is beyond their maturity and capabilities. While no one can discredit the ability of children to be a part of mission work with adults, it is not common practice to put them in the mission field alone.
However, when the request is not as cut and dry our ability to understand gets stretched. What if the prayer request is to marry the person God intends for you to marry? Or to go back to school? Get a job that will enable you to provide more for your family? What if the prayer request is for complete healing of a spouse’s difficult to diagnosis disease or illness?
We pray. We are within God’s will. Healing is possible. Yet, it does not happen right away. Days tickle into months, months become a year and you find yourself on the way to a second year. The long-term disability insurance dries up, returning to work is still impossible, health insurance is canceled, life is turned upside down and the worst part is your spouse is still sick. One way or the other your spouse’s healing is within God’s will, so why would He say, wait?
Is it to teach us to trust Him regardless of the circumstances? Is it to remind us to be thankful always, during the good times and the harder, bad times? Perhaps He says wait because He wants to use this time in your life to draw other people to Him? Or to put it another way, maybe God is waiting because when He shows up He wants to show out.
We all have a hard time with the wait answer. For myself, the hardest time ever has been during my husband’s illness. The example detailed previously. God has said, wait.
Yes, I have railed against the Heaven’s because God has not said yes. I question why. I cry. I have had days when all I can think of ways to protect my family and throw in the towel at the same time. If God is not going to say, yes and say it right away how can He love me, I ask? If He does not love me enough to say yes, why does He not love my husband enough? Or our daughter? What about the crippling loneliness that creeps into our bones, into the finest of crevices in our souls that is not only overwhelming but unspeakable?
Maybe knowing the why God says to wait is not the important thing yet. Maybe the answers I should be seeking are what is He teaching me (and my family) during this time? What are those who are seated ring side in our lives seeing in us as we go through it?
Why God is still saying wait to our request for my husband’s healing I do not know. But I do know He is affirming that answer, right now. None of the possible severe consequences are off the table. I am well aware of that too.
So far though, our lives are a testimony to what is required of us when God says, “Wait”. I pray we are not failing Him.
Cleveland Elementary School in Cleveland, Alabama August 1970. A newly fat, brown-haired, brown-eyed girl can barely contain her excitment about finally starting school. Back then kindergarten was not a requirement so first grade would be my first experience with formal education. Plus, I had been taught to read by my mama and although I did not understand why it was such a gift, I knew it was one.
What else would I be able to learn? I had no clue actually, but I was eager to begin. Mama and I walked into that classroom and the teacher tells us I can sit where I want. I choose the front row right in front of the teachers desk. I had high hopes for this woman before me.
Then a girl walks in, points at my seat and demands I let her have it. There were other kids there already but there were lots of desks left. Believe me, in my six-year-old mind I was not giving up my desk.
Before it became more than a flicker of a thought though my mother took my book bag, my hand and moved me to the back row, far corner, last seat. She hissed at me that the girl was the daughter of a doctor, they had money, who was I to take her seat?
Mama stayed with me a bit longer and then hissed at me again, “Do not upset the doctor’s daughter,”. Then she left.
It was not high on my list of things I wanted to do. I was puzzled. Though a part of me began to understand, I was not as “good” as the doctor’s daughter. But, the teacher was asking for our attention and the real school part was beginning. Hurray.
It took a while but eventually we got to take a book, sit in a circle and we were going to begin to learn to read. Nearly everyone could say their alphabet. Some could recognize the letters too.
For now we just looked at the page and pointed out our letters as she showed us what they looked like and read to us. She’d call on us one at a time to point out a letter. When she called on me I made the mistake of asking her if I could just read her the page.
Without her permission, Miss Eager Beaver who apparently needed another lesson about her station in life, took off reading a Dick & Jane book. Anyone familiar with the Dick & Jane readers know there are not a lot of words on a page, or more than two to three word sentences.
Faster than I thought an adult could move she snatched that book away pinching my fingers between the pages. Without explanation I was sent from the reading group. You guessed it, right back to my desk in the back row in the far corner to the last desk.
During recess Teacher kept me inside. She came back to my desk and managed to sit in the chair in front of me. “You can’t read,” she said.
I was confused. Had I not just read to her? “Yes, I can. My mama taught me.”
“No, you cannot, I have not taught you to read. You cannot read yet.”
I remember looking down at the floor. My six-year-old mind could not understand. Of course I could read. I read books with way more words than Dick & Jane. Why would this woman, who I thought held the key to everything, be telling me I could not do what I had been doing since I was four?
“You will never do what you did this morning again until I tell you I’ve taught you how to do it. Do you understand?”
“But, my Mama taught me…”
“And your mother taught you all wrong. You cannot read.”
I sat the rest of recess sitting in my corner with my head down on my desk. Of course, I cried. My cousin who was in class with me thought, as did the rest of the class, that I had done something wrong and had to stay in from recess as punishment. He went right home and told my aunt, who told my mother, who gave me a spanking.
When I saw my mother I was ashamed and afraid to tell her what the teacher had said. Maybe if she had asked me I would have, but she did not. She kept her and my father’s promise that if I got in trouble at school I would get double trouble at home, hence the spanking.
Now I feared if I did tell her she would get into trouble because I had told on her for teaching me to read. I never told anyone either until years later. Just my doll Tippy Toes, and she kept my secret.
Eventually the teacher informed me I could start to read words, but she kept the brakes on me. Maybe she thought I would appear to be a show-off to the other children? Maybe she did not know how to deal with a six-year-old who was already reading at a third to fifth grade level? I am sure she had her reasons. I am not sure any of them are good enough for what she robbed me of that year.
Where I had been excited about school I was now nervous. I had panic attacks at every test. Could not trust myself to believe I really knew the information. After all, I thought I knew how to read and it was a good thing and it turned out to be horrible.
I understood my station in life. It took one school year. One. Nine months. Afterall, was that not exactly the lesson I was taught? Turned out I was a good student.
In some ways, I am still that fat kid in the far corner, in the back row, in the last seat.
I cannot remember what that doctor’s daughter from the first grade looked like or what her name was though she taunted me for the entire school year. Is my memory void of small details for self-presevation or simply the fact we moved and I never saw her again? Or the result of getting older?
Nor can I remember my teachers name or appearance. I came back into possession of the yearbook from my first grade year when my mama died. I had no idea it even still existed.
Part of me wanted to look. Could I pick the girl out? Did I not want to see the teacher’s face? No. No I did not.
I simply threw it away. It held nothing I needed to remember. I remembered enough. The real story of my first grade year, the year I learned my station in life, was not recorded between those once white pebbly cover pages.