Feasting on Crumbs

She was dying of cancer. We had been friends since college. We had cried together and laughed much. Now she was walking a path I couldn’t.

When we were together she still did most of the talking. Her familiar laugh was sprinkled throughout the conversation. One of the last times I talked to her she said, “Thank you for the crumbs.”

She explained, “Every day I ask God for crumbs to get me through the day. He knows I can’t eat a big meal but need to survive on crumbs.” She related how every day she watches carefully for the crumbs God would provide. She looked forward to each one knowing they came from her Father’s hand.

Her faith amazed me. She was learning that the most valuable thing in her life was the moment by moment presence and provision of the God who loved her. He was walking with her through the darkness that was enveloping her. She was learning to let go of her children, husband, family and friends. She was drawn ever closer to her God. I wondered as I watched her those last weeks.

Years later as I walk through my own dark valleys I think of her. So, today I look for crumbs…knowing that my God is carefully laying them out for me to find.

Just Like Jonah

“But Jonah rose up to flee . . .  from the presence of the Lord. “ (Jonah 1:3 NASB)

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Some versions translate it service. Either way they are sobering words. It is easy to be critical of Jonah and his determination to go the opposite way God was sending him. But as I think of the Spirit at work in my own life, I have to say, I have strong ties to Jonah and his contrary ways.

I’m not talking about a failure to keep rules. I’m talking about a failure to follow God’s leading. God has service for all of us to perform. He longs for us to seek his presence so that service can be accomplished.

Imagine, the God of the universe has his eye on me. Not only that, but he wants to involve me in His work. What is my response? Is it like Samuel? … “Here am I, Lord.” Or is it like Jonah, fleeing?

There was no confusion on Jonah’s part as to what God wanted him to do. If we are honest with ourselves there usually isn’t confusion in our mind about what God wants us to do. He makes plain to his children what those tasks are, but like the small child who is busy with their own things we respond, “I can’t hear you,” when his voice speaks.

For me part of that service is writing. I believe it is a calling. So why do I do it so reluctantly? I enjoy putting pen to paper. Things become so much clearer in my mind when I write, and yet I’m afraid. Like Moses, who had a clear word from God, I argue. “I’m not good enough, isn’t there someone else?” I let my insecurities get the best of me while God patiently waits and says…”Who made you?” “Who made your mouth?”

The more awful thing to be afraid of is that God in anger will turn away and use someone else. That would be the biggest disappointment of all.

For I the LORD am your God, Who grasped your right hand, Who say to you; Have no fear; I will be your help. (Isaiah 41:13 TANAKH)

Just Tell Me the Plan!

How many times I have prayed, “God, just show me the plan.”  It would be so much easier if I just knew the plan.  He hears my cry and, instead, graciously shows me just what I need for today.

There have been times in my life when I lived not day to day, but hour by hour.  As I cried out, “it is too much!”  I could hear Him whisper.  Can you get through this hour?  And with His presence I could; hour by hour, minute by minute.

Jesus had the clear insight we sometimes long for.  He knew exactly who He was and why He had come.  There was no blissful ignorance.  He had come to die.  He knew the plan and step by step followed it through.  His love for His Father and His love for us kept Him on the horrendous path to Calvary.

He had more than twelve legions of angels at His disposal (Mat. 26:53) and yet out of love He chose to move forward step by step.

Jesus was calm as the swarming mob, sent by the chief priests and elders, arrested Him.  He silently listened to the false witnesses.  He endured the religious group spitting in His face, beating Him with their fists, slapping and making fun of Him.  (Mat. 26:47, 59-63, 67-68)

When morning finally arrived they bound and took Him to Pilate.  There He was questioned again.  Jesus remained silent as He was accused by the religious elite.  (Mat. 27:1-2, 12-14)

He watched as Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, was chosen over him to be set free and escape death.  (Mat. 27:15-26)

He was scourged.  He was stripped naked by soldiers.  Those same soldiers cruelly mocked him with a scarlet robe around his shoulders, a crown of thorns on His head and placed a staff made of reeds in his right hand.  (Mat. 27:26-29)

You know the rest of the story.  It only gets worse.  He knew each step.  He knew the plan and yet He moved forward.

Would we be able to move forward if we knew what was ahead?  As I look back at the difficulties our family has endured I think it was God’s grace that showed me each step as I came to it.  I cry out to God for more information, but God in His love and mercy shows me a step at a time.  He gives me grace for each day, knowing I am too frail to follow a master plan if He would lay it out.

So I continue to learn to trust Him with today and all my tomorrows.  The way may be uncertain and frightful, but He has promised to be with me.  What more could I want?

The God Who Sees

Genesis 16:1-16

Hagar was the Egyptian maid of Sarai, Abraham’s wife.  She was treated like property.  Sarai desperately wanted a child and would use whatever means she could to have one.  She saw Hagar as a means to an end.  Hagar became pregnant and was enjoying the status.  Sarai got what she wanted, but as often happens when we get what we want, she was miserable.  Suddenly the new uncomfortable situation was all Abraham’s fault.  Abraham, being the “strong” leader that he was, told Sarai to do what she wanted with Hagar.  All scripture says is “So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.”

Hagar’s instinct was to get back home.  She was running back to Egypt.  She wasn’t looking for God, but God found her.  Hagar was fleeing from the trouble, but God was working in the midst of it.  What Hagar found unbearable was bearable because of God.  God promised to “multiply (her) descendants so that they shall be too many to count.” (v. 10)  God had taken heed of Hagar’s affliction.  Life would be difficult, but God was working.

Then an amazing thing happens.  Hagar gives God a name.  Elroi – “Thou art a God who sees.” (v. 13)  We have confidence that in the midst of our trouble God sees us.

Hagar’s trouble wasn’t over.  She would go back to her mistress.  Sarai would eventually send Hagar away again, but God would be with her throughout the difficult journey.

When God sent his son as a baby in Bethlehem his name was called “Immanuel, God with us.” (Matt. 1:23)  Amazing!  Whatever your difficulty know that God sees.  He won’t always remove us from the trouble but He will be with us.  What better place than in His presence?

A Tale of Two Surgeons

I sought out a surgeon to fix my broken ankle.  He examined the bone, made a plan and scheduled the surgery.  The surgery was uneventful.  Things went as planned.  They gave me four pages of very specific written instructions, “the number” to call if we had any trouble and waved good-bye as my husband took me home.  Within hours the trouble began.

It took two days for us to convince them there was a problem.  I had an allergic reaction to the first pain killer.  The second pain killer sent me into another tailspin and I was unable to eat more than a few spoonfuls at a time.  by day three I was so weak I was having trouble communicating.  late into the third day an ambulance was called and I spent five hours in the ER.  They sent me home with more adjustments to my medications and as I continued to not improve my family did their own research and came up with a treatment plan.  By day five I was finally turning a corner.  Through all of this we had called “the number” nine times.  Usually we got an answering machine.  A receptionist would then call us back and forward our complaint on.  Half of the time they never called back.  We talked to many nurses who were irritated at the frequency of our calls and assumed we were not following the plain instructions we had been given.  We were told to call our pharmacist, our family doctor etc.  In all of those conversations not once did our surgeon call us back or speak to us on the phone.

My post-op appointment was scheduled for day nine.  There was the surgeon.  He appeared to be in good health.  (We were afraid he had been in a tragic accident.)  My husband mentioned that the recovery had been hard.  “Yes,” the surgeon responded.  “I heard about all your trouble.”  Nothing more was said.  He said things looked good and he would see me in three weeks.

There is another surgeon.  This one seeks me out.  He sees my brokenness.  I am content to leave it.  He insists on addressing the fractured pieces one by one, making the cuts, realigning the bones, making it whole and binding it tight.  He has written a book of instructions and encouragement.  He sits with me as I heal and watches over me as I sleep.  He gently wipes the tears as they fall from the pain of the procedure He is determined to see through.   He grieves over the painful work that must be done, but He presses on, never leaving me, bringing others to encourage and teach me through each operation.  The process is slow, painful and hard, but the surgeon is always right there.  Carefully watching and adjusting as I respond to Him.

The first surgeon was skilled.  He did the job he set out to do.  I sought the “provision” of His skill and he obliged.  The second surgeon offers something much more valuable.  He offers His “presence”.  We often want God’s “provision” when His deepest desire is to share His “presence” with us.   May you learn to seek this God who is determined to “be with you”.

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20b – See also Matthew 1:28 & Revelation 21:3