A Dime for Your Thoughts

She loved finding stray coins on the ground. Usually pennies, she always picked them up as a reminder to trust in God. The words engraved on them actually told her to do that. But sometimes she thought of them as a hug from Him, or a pat on the back for making a particularly hard decision or finishing a hard job.

Finding coins of higher value were rarer, but they too got picked up with a quick, “Thank You, God” or “I love You, God.”  Sometimes she would get a sense of His love in return, but not any more than that.

On this day, however, it was different.

She had stopped at a gas station to fill her car and to get a cup of ice before heading to her brother’s house almost two hours away. She had been to his house numerous times over the last several months. Although seeing him was always nice, that was not the purpose of these visits. Her dad was the purpose. He had moved in with her brother and was no longer able to take care of himself. In fact, his decline was accelerating and she never knew what she would find when she arrived. Would he be his nice self and they would have an enjoyable visit? Or would he be his angry self, yelling at her because she couldn’t do anything exactly as he wanted? Or would he be sleeping her whole visit making her feel the four hour round trip was for nothing?  Calling ahead did no good because his mood often changed by the minute.

So on this day, as she entered the gas station, she was feeling a tug of war. She wanted to be there for her dad, but she didn’t want to go just to sit there while he slept. And she didn’t want to be yelled at. Looking down, she spotted a dime.

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“Thank You, God,” she said as she usually did. However, this time she was startled to clearly hear in her spirit,  “And thank you for going to your dad.”

Hearing from God was always amazing to her, But for God of the Universe to actually thank her for something? That was truly amazing!

A Rose of Affirmation

She was feeling down. Again. Seems she was always feeling down these days.

Her first year walking with Jesus had been amazing. Full of surprises  and discoveries. This second year so far has not been like that. She seemed to be frequently plagued with self-doubts and confusion.

This latest doubt centered on the baptism experience everyone seemed to be talking about. The Holy Spirit baptism. One of incredible joy and power. Or so she had been told. She had yet to experience that for herself. She knew the drill. Ask for the baptism. Get someone to lay hands on her and pray along with her. Yield to the Holy Spirit. Then He comes in with all His glory. Or at least as much of it as humans can take.

She had done all that. Several times. She never felt any of the joy people spoke of. In fact, she never felt anything, and she didn’t feel any different now than before all those prayers. So, what was the problem? Certainly it couldn’t be with the Holy Spirit. It had to be with her. She must be defective somehow. So how could she be an effective witness for God if she was not even capable of receiving this baptism? And how could she pray or worship God if she was this defective? How could He even be even a little pleased with her when she was so broken?

She was desperate to talk to someone about this. To open up and share her doubts and feelings. But she was alone. She asked the Lord to bring someone into her life who she could discuss this with her, help her make sense of it all, but no one came.

So on this night, she went to bed with her thoughts and doubts and feelings swirling around in her head.  As she thought about everything that had happened to her since her encounter with Jesus the year before, she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was surprised to find a pleasant feeling of relief had replaced the confused desperation of the night before. It was as if she had talked out her doubts and fears with someone while she slept.

“You did. With Me.” But she didn’t hear the quiet whisper as she prepared for the day.

A little while later, her eyes grew wide as she saw the rose one of her students was carrying. The rose was the biggest and prettiest she had ever seen. And it had just been handed to her! She was speechless!

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In the past, in that first year of exciting experiences, many times  after she had struggled between God and her doubts and had chosen to believe God, she would receive a gift from someone the next day. She had come to see those gifts as a pat on the back from God for making the right decision.

So she knew this amazing rose came from her amazing God! The student may have handed it to her, but she knew it was really God Himself handing her the rose. And in her spirit, she could hear Him say, “How can you say I am not pleased with you? You are my daughter! I am well pleased with you. You are OK just the way you are!”

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Mark 13:11  What Should I Say?

“I can’t do this.”

“Yes you can.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I am with you.”

She remembered what Jesus had told His followers in Mark 13:11: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

But did that assurance apply to her in this circumstance? She was not the one on trial. And this certainly had nothing to do with her faith. She was here because of a custody battle over one of her students.

She didn’t know much about the family. The only time she saw them was when one or the other dropped off their son. They were both friendly in different ways and the child was a delight. She had no idea there were problems until one day when the mom had come in her classroom with a large bruise on her face. Tears streaming down her face, the mom had accused her husband of beating her and said she was going to divorce him. The mom had been concerned how it would affect her son and asked to be alerted to any changes in his behavior.

A week later she was served with a subpoena. And here she sat, waiting to be called before the judge to… say what? She didn’t know anything!

She had no idea what to expect and was terrified that she would be asked who she thought would make the better parent. How could she choose? Because she had seen the bruise on the mom’s face, she was siding more with the mom, and it had been the mom’s lawyer who had subpoenaed her  – but what if the story she had been told was not the whole truth? What if the mom was crazy and blaming her husband for something he didn’t do? After all, she hadn’t been there. And she had heard enough stories over the years to know things are not always what they seem. She was scared she would say the wrong thing and the cause the boy to go to the wrong parent.

“God, help me,” she pleaded over and over again. “Don ‘t let them ask me that question.”

“Don’t worry,” the mom’s lawyer had said. “The judge never allows that question. He knows teachers only have limited information.”

“God, help me,” she pleaded again, too nervous to feel His presence, or even to trust that He heard her.

“I am here. You will be fine.”

Finally it was her turn. Facing the judge, the mom, the dad, and two lawyers was nerve racking just in itself. But then the lawyers started firing their questions until her mind was swimming. She got confused more than once and had to ask the dad’s lawyer to slow down. When she didn’t think she could handle any more questions, the dad’s lawyer asked her one more. “Who do you think would make the better parent?” She stared at him, then at the judge. Before she could say anything, the mom’s lawyer objected. He told the judge she wasn’t qualified to answer that because of her limited contact with the family.

The judge turned to look at her and said, “In my experience, teachers are pretty good at making intuitive judgments about their students’ families. I’ll allow the question.”

There it was. THE question. What could she say? She took a deep breath, then told the judge her impressions as the parents had taken turns dropping off their son in the mornings. “I don’t know who would make the better parent,” she said. “But because the mom always talked about her son, and the dad always talked about himself, I would have to choose the mom.”

All the way home, she kicked herself, remembering what she could of the interview, and realizing she could have done a better job. If only that lawyer hadn’t kept confusing her!

The next morning, when the mom arrived with her son, she hung her head and apologized to the mom. “I’m so sorry if I messed anything up.”

The mom shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. Your answers were perfect!” She handed a pencil to her. “Thank you so much!”

Atop the blue pencil was a large rubber eraser, shaped like a sun, with the words “God’s Love Shines On You.’

 

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And she knew that God has sent that pencil to her. It was like getting a hug from Him, assurance that she had done a good job regardless of her fears. Not that she believed for a minute that her answers were all that wise in and of themselves – but the Holy Spirit had guided her in what to say, and God had used it for His purpose, standing behind her and filling her words with His power and light. And that’s what everyone else had heard. Just like He had promised in Mark 13:11.

What an amazing, faithful God!

Love in the Sky

Head down, she walked outside. Not one of her better days. She needed some time with God but He seemed to be quiet recently so she wasn’t expecting much.

She had begun standing on her back deck for a few minutes each morning for her quiet time, looking up into the sky at her invisible Father and asking for His blessing on her day. It had been working well enough – her family had not interfered – but lately it had seemed more of an exercise than an intimate moment with Him. Why was He so quiet sometimes?

On this morning, she spent a few minutes with her eyes closed, just trying to be in His presence. Nothing. Giving up, she looked up to ask His blessing when she saw a cloud. Just one cloud. A white, heart shaped cloud in a wide blue expanse. And she heard, “I love you.” So quiet, so gentle.

Her heart overflowed with love and gratitude. “I love you, too.” she responded as she gazed at the cloud until it had dissipated.  Then she went inside, carrying that amazing touch of love with her, to begin her day.

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