When Everything Seems to Go Wrong

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”— John 16:33(NIV).

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Pulling up to the intercom to place my order at a fast food place, I noticed something amiss. Normally, the vehicles waiting in line would have pulled up a ramp to the window to pay for and pick up their meal. However, they were bypassing the usual route and parking next to the ramp.

Before I could figure out what was happening, the employee taking orders explained. “We have a problem with a car blocking the exit. You can still order and follow the line in front of you or come inside.”

After placing my order, I drove forward where I could finally get a glimpse of the vehicle interfering with traffic. When I looked closer, I realized—and felt sorry for—the young man who had evidently tried to exit the ramp too soon, leaving his car straddling the concrete barrier to his right. I’m sure he was not only embarrassed, but his car was probably going to require some major work.

To minimize the delay, restaurant employees were scrambling outside to collect customers’ payments and then returning with their orders. Even though their usual routine had been disrupted, they were taking the challenge in stride without complaint. They even apologized for the delay.

Have you ever had one of those days when everything that could go wrong does?  Maybe you’ve been moving forward, following God’s directions, when you make a wrong turn. You wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”

Keeping Our Eyes on the Lord

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”—Psalm 16:8 (NIV).

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Do you find it difficult sometimes to keep your eyes on the Lord? I know I do. When we find our lives spiraling out-of-control with unexpected illnesses, the death of a loved one, family dysfunction or worldwide uncertainty, it’s often easier to wring our hands in despair than to turn to the One who gave His life for us.

Jesus never promised us a life of luxury or one without pain and heartache. Look at His life, lived simply and ending in an agonizing death. But He did promise to be with us during our trials.

Recently, I was blessed to have lunch at an assisted living facility with a friend who will turn 90 later this year. As each of her table companions joined us to eat, Josie introduced me. I’m certain my friend is the oldest of the five women, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by her actions.

Before the others arrived and I could assist her, Josie had parked her walker and moved a chair from a nearby table and placed it next to hers—for me. When I realized her intent, I admonished her and said, “Josie, you should let me do that.”

Then, when the last of our table mates joined us, Josie rose to help maneuver her friend’s walker and pull back her dining room chair so she could be seated. When she returned to her seat, I said, “Josie, you have a servant’s heart.” She just smiled.

Don’t be a part of the Blame Game

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”—Galatians 6:2 (NIV).

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Anger. Disbelief. Grief. Finger pointing. All responses to the February 14 shooting rampage at a Florida high school. Some reports say it’s the 18th incident of gunfire at a school campus since the beginning of 2018. Regardless of the numbers, this week’s column is meant to convict our hearts, including mine.

At this writing, 17 were killed in the rampage and another 13 were injured. Questions abound. Responses reported in and by the media, both traditional and socially, call for more gun control, more assistance for the mentally disturbed and higher levels of school security.

For 30 years, I was a public educator. Beginning my career in 1975, I was naïve enough to believe I could make a difference in all of my students’ lives. Years later, I had a reality check. I couldn’t save everyone; I couldn’t meet every need. Still, I knew I should and could do what I could.

A 19-year-old has confessed to the most recent shooting rampage. News reports paint a picture of a disturbed young man. One of his former teachers said he was a quiet student, a loner. The students familiar with Nikolas Cruz were not surprised by his actions. His attorney has called him a “broken human being.”

In Search of the Living Water

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”—John 4:13-14 (NIV).

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Plucking the gold paper notice from my door knob, I expected to see an advertisement. Instead, it was a notice from the city. To complete some necessary work on our water lines, the city would be shutting off our water for approximately seven hours the following Monday.

Seven hours seemed like a week. I was frustrated at the thought of the inconvenience. So were my neighbors. We prepared, using containers to hold drinking water and filling up our bathtubs, just in case the work lasted longer than expected.

Monday morning dawned. Stumbling into the bathroom to wash my face, I turned on the tap. Nothing happened. I’d forgotten we wouldn’t have water for most of the day.

Although it was an inconvenience, I was convicted by my attitude when I read a newspaper article that morning about the drought in Cape Town, South Africa. The intense drought in Cape Town began in 2015, bringing the community closer and closer to what is called “Day Zero,” which is the point when the water in the reservoirs will no longer provide safe drinking water. The date for the turn off of all water taps to about 3.2 million people in this community is around April 12.

We take for granted the conveniences in our country. Flip a switch and the lights come on. Turn on the tap and water flows. Hook up a water hose and a sprinkler and the results are a green lawn.

Paid in Full with One Glass of Milk

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”— Colossians 3:12 (NIV).

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On a spring day in Pennsylvania, a poor boy was selling goods to pay his way through school. The year was 1863, and the boy was going door-to-door to meet his goal. While traveling through the countryside, he became hungry. He only had a dime left, so he decided to ask for food at the next house.

However, he lost his nerve to ask the young woman who answered the door for a meal. Instead, he asked for a drink of water. Thinking he looked hungry, the woman brought him a large glass of milk.  After he slowly savored the nourishment, he asked her, “How much do I owe you?”

The young woman replied, “You don’t owe me anything. Our mother taught us never to accept payment for a kindness.”

The boy said, “Then, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

As the young man walked away, he not only felt physically stronger, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up.

Living a Life of Extravagant Love

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Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that”—Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

Dressing for a doctor’s appointment, I felt led to slip on a seldom-worn bracelet, a gift from a dear friend. The sparkling jewelry was adorned with the symbol for breast cancer awareness. As I drove to my appointment, the charm dangled from my wrist, reminding me of how blessed I am. My cancer was caught early and my treatment was minimal.

Before entering the doors of the cancer center that hot July morning, I glanced again at the bracelet. A still, small voice said, “Give it away.”

Walking through the center, I searched the faces of those who were there for treatment. I was there for my yearly follow-up exam. Again, I was declared cancer-free.

The comfort of faith

Others were just beginning their journey. Some of their faces reflected fear while a peace surrounded those who, like me, had been declared cancer-free or understood the comfort of their faith. My heart ached for those who appeared lost. I prayed, “God, you want me to give this bracelet away. Show me who needs it the most.”

I searched the faces, praying for the right person to receive the bracelet. I’d almost given up hope, thinking I’d misunderstood God’s direction, when I recognized an older couple seated in the hallway outside one of the exam rooms. I feared one of them had been diagnosed with cancer.

After hugging both, I asked, “Are you okay?”

The Sound of Brokenness

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”—Psalm 147:3 (NIV).

https://threeboysandamom.org

The sound of breaking glass made me cringe. I’d just broken my favorite pitcher because I was careless. I’d paid less than five dollars for it a yard sale. Its beauty had drawn me to part with my money.

Frustrated by my carelessness, I sighed as I cleaned up the mess of broken glass and spilled iced tea. When I cut my finger on a piece of the glass, I almost cried. I was tired. A lack of quality sleep the night before multiplied the incident into a disaster in my mind, until I reminded myself it was only a pitcher.

Later that day, I’d forgotten the pitcher, already tossed into the trash and ready for disposal. Then, I broke something else. I was digging in the dirt in preparation for some stepping stones in front of my backyard gate when I hit something solid. I bent down to remove several rocks and also encountered some tree roots. As I was hacking away at them with my shovel, I hit something else. Upon further examination, I realized I’d just severed my Internet line.

“Just great,” I thought. After cleaning up the mess, I called my Internet provider who informed me it would be the following Monday before it could be repaired. While I’d have to wait five days for the line to be fixed, the other bad news was the cost of the repair. I cringed when the company agent said, “It’ll be $149.”

“Oh well,” I said to myself, “there goes the three-day road trip I’d planned for the following week with my sister.”