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!

Psalm 139 The Chase

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She ran. He chased.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

And she was glad.

 

Trust Me

After her walk in the rain, she got in her car to head home. Home was about an hour away, through mostly uninhabited areas. There was the one small town between where she was and where she was going, but it was too small for even a traffic light. So she thought it would be an easy drive, especially in the early pre-dawn hours. She prayed like she usually did before making the drive, only this time her prayer was not about getting her safely home without delays or problems. It was that He would get her home according to His will. Why did she change her prayer, she wondered. That was strange.  But she just shrugged and drove out of the parking lot.

Thirty minutes later, as she entered that very small town, her car began to overheat. She watched with growing panic as the needle on the temperature gauge climbed steadily towards the HOT section.

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She was still almost 30 minutes from home. No way would she be able to make it. As she slowed down and studied the few buildings she was passing, all closed up and dark, she began complaining.

“Why can’t this have happened after I got home?  There are people there who can help me. I don’t know anyone in this town. Besides, they’re all sleeping anyway. So what am I going to do?  I don’t even know where to get water.  This is just my luck! If something is going to go wrong, it sure will. Look at that gauge! I can’t keep driving, or the radiator might explode or something. Where should I stop? Man, I’m so tired! Why did I have to go walking in the rain? If I had come straight home, the gas station would have still been open…”  On and on she went, getting more worried by the minute.

Finally she turned to God.

“Why are you letting this happen, Lord?” she demanded. “Aren’t You supposed to be taking care of me?”

In her spirit she heard Him clearly. “What did you ask me before you started driving?”

She thought for a moment, then remembered.  ‘Get me home according to Your will.’

“Yeah, but I didn’t mean this!”

“Trust Me.”

Trust Him? He wasn’t the one in a overheating car in the middle of the night, without even a flashlight. Or was He?

“OK. Where do I stop?”

Just then she saw lights ahead of her. As she got nearer, she saw that it was a small restaurant. Could it actually be open? As she looked through the large glass windows, she could see a waitress serving a man. So she pulled into the parking lot and went inside. Despite, or maybe because of, her appearance – a young girl, soaking wet and all alone – the waitress and man were happy to help her. After a small mishap with the radiator cap, the man managed to refill the radiator with the water the waitress brought him. And the car was ready to make the last leg of the trip home.

Back on the road, she thought about what had just happened. And was thankful that that man just happened to be in that restaurant just as she was passing it. The restaurant could have been empty, considering time of day it was.  Coincidence? She shook her head. Jesus had told her to trust Him. And He was right. She learned that even if things go wrong, He can be trusted to take care of her.

Hmmm… maybe He was behind her changing her prayer in order to provide her with this experience in trusting Him. That would explain a lot. He was sneaky that way sometimes.

“You are amazing,” she told Him. ‘But next time, can we just wait until I get home?”

Can I Get a Cat?

“Can I get a cat?” Rachel asked her parents yet again.

And yet again her parents  tried to explain to her that it was impossible. They already had a cat-hating dog. If they adopted a cat, it wouldn’t be able to live safely with them in their tiny trailer. It would most likely become dog food.

But she couldn’t understand that. Dogs and cats can live together. She had seen and read enough to know that was true. But then, that was probably in someone else’s world, not her’s.

“God, someday, can I get a cat?”

Things changed when they moved to their new house.  A two-story house! Surely there was lots of room to add a cat!

“Can I get a cat now?” she asked.

“No, we told you. We can’t have a cat while Spike is around. He doesn’t like cats.”

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Not the answer she wanted, so she went over their heads once again.

“God, will You give me a cat?”

 

So it was with great delight that she found a kitten while on a bike ride with her family.  It was so tiny and so alone and so scared. This had to be her cat!

“It looks sick,” her dad said.

“We can’t leave it here. She needs to go to the vet,” her mom said.

Rachel added her voice to her mother’s, and secretly thanked God for her kitten.

They made a bed for it in the garage, and Rachel spent as much time with it as she could.

“Can we keep her?” she asked her parents.

“No, we’ve already explained. We can’t have a cat with Spike. He will end up killing her. We need to find this kitten a home.”

As her parents tried to find a home for this kitten, Rachel intensified her prayers to God.

“Don’t let them find a home. Don’t let them find a home. Don’t let them find a home.”

As the days became weeks, Rachel’s mom couldn’t understand why she couldn’t find anyone who wanted a kitten. But Rachel knew why.

And so did God. He knew that Rachel was going to need Cassi  to help her through some very rough teen years. So He protected Cassi as she went from living in the garage to living upstairs in Rachel’s room. And over next 15 years, Cassi became a symbol to the whole family of His love and compassion and how He sets things in motion, often years in advance, to take care of needs that only He can see. What an amazing God!

What If Statues Came Alive?

“Really?” She raised her eyebrows at him with disbelief. “You mean, for real?”

“Yeah, for real. Want to?” He smiled at her playfully.

“It’s storming outside!”

“No, it’s just raining now. The lightning is gone. It’ll be safe.”

“But it’s…” she looked at her watch, “two in the morning!”

“So?”

She didn’t answer.

“You afraid of the rain?”

“No. I love the rain.”

“So, let’s go!”

” But what if there’s someone else out there? Someone who might hurt us or rob us or something?”

“No one is going to be out there. It’s raining!”

“We’re going to be out there.”

“Yeah, but we’re crazy.”

Reluctantly she agreed. This was probably going to be one of the stupider ideas he’s had. Walking  down a street, in the middle of the night, in the rain?

But as they walked, hand in hand, hair and clothes plastered to their bodies, she had to admit it was fun. Way more fun than saying good bye to him and driving that long drive home.

Laughing with delight in the experience, they made their way to the end of the road, where they came to his church.

“Hey, let’s go inside,” he suggested.

“Won’t it be locked?”

“Nope. They never lock the door.”

“What if someone sees us? We’re a mess!”

“Who’s going to be there in the middle of the night? Besides us, that is.” He laughed again.

So she agree and they went inside.

“We should leave,” she said, looking at the floor. “We’re getting the floor all wet.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll evaporate.”

They walked down the center aisle and looked around at the stained glass and the large statues all around them.

“Just imagine if these statues came alive,” he said.

“That would be spooky.”

“But what if they did? What would they say?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.” She wasn’t so sure she liked this game.

As they turned around to head back out, a large statue of Jesus caught their eyes.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Let’s imagine that statue of Jesus coming alive and coming down the aisle to stand right in front of us. And let’s listen to what He would say.”

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“He’d probably say we’re being stupid for being here instead of at home, considering tomorrow is a work day, and…”

He cut her off. “Let’s just see, OK? Close your eyes and listen.”

She sighed, but did as he asked.

Within seconds, an image filled her mind. An image of Jesus standing in front of her, looking at her with so much love all she could do was gaze at Him. Then He put His arms around her encouragingly, and walked her out of the church saying, “Let’s do it together.”

“Well, anything?” he interrupted her imaginings.

She shared what she had seen, and he smiled. “That’s pretty much what I got too.. Jesus loving me and holding me in His arms.”

As they left the church,  awed at His response to their silly game., she was filled with thankfulness to the amazing God who loved her and promised to do life with her.  Even in the rain.

That Wasn’t Fair!

“There she goes again,” Evil One said to Evil Two.

“Is she running with that four-legged beast again?” Evil Two asked.

“Yeah, ” Evil One said.

“I’ve got an idea.”

There was a long pause.

“Well, are you going to tell me?” Evil One glowered at Evil Two.

“Sure.”

Another long pause.

“Now would be a good time.”  Evil One spat at Evil Two. “I don’t have forever.”

“Umm… actually, you do.”  Evil Two smiled his evil smile.

“Enough of this! What is your idea?”

“Well, you know how she goes in that room every week to … worship God,” Evil Two barely got the words out, but then continued. “And then comes back out and runs down the block with her dog?”

“Yeah, so?”

“What if we gave her a little nudge.”

“A nudge? Like to make her go faster?”

“A nudge. Like to make her fly.”

“Oooo… that would be awesome! Then when she landed, on her face of course, she will get mad at God because she believes He protects her from everything!”

They both chuckled savoring the image her hitting the ground and cursing God.

Then Evil One turned to Evil Two. “Whose going to ask His permission to do this?”

“Hmmm, that’s right.”  Evil Two grimaced. “We have to have permission to touch her. So what can we say that would make Him agree to this?

Evil One said, after a moment, “I’ve got it! We can say we only want to help her run faster to get back to the safety of her car. After all, it is late at night and evil does hide in the darkness.”

“You mean like us?”

“Yeah. No. I mean like another human that would want to hurt her.”

“Think He’ll go for it?”

“Let’s go see.”

 

Moments later they were back.

“I can’t believe He fell for it.” Evil One said. “Whose going to do the honor?”

“Oh, you do it,” Evil Two responded with an look of anticipation. “I want to see her expression from the front.”

They began moving towards the girl and the dog, who were now running back towards the parking lot.

“Wait!” Evil Two said. “Make sure you nudge her to the right so she lands on her bad right shoulder. Another dislocation would be awesome right now!”

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“Well, that didn’t turn out too well.” Evil Two said sadly as they watched her get back in her car with her dog and drive away.

“Yeah. I didn’t see that coming. Who said anything about an angel protecting her fall? He sure came out of nowhere, didn’t he?”

“And did you hear what she said?” Evil Two’s face scrunched up in disgust. “She thanked Him! She actually thanked Him for His protection! She’s flat on her face and she’s thanking Him! The only one she got mad at was us.”

“Well, actually, she wasn’t flat on her face. I had the angle just right, but that angel rolled her in the air. Her face and right side never even touched the ground. ”

“That wasn’t fair. And angel was not part of the deal.”

Evil Two shook his head. “Just wait until next time. We’ll make sure we include a ‘no angels’ clause.

 

The next day, Evil Two asked Evil One, “Want to go see what she wrote in her journal? Maybe after thinking about it, she might not be in such a thankful mood.”

“You might be right. As hard as she hit the ground, she should be feeling pretty sore. It’s hard to be thankful when you’re hurting.”   He gave a nasty chuckle.

She was just finishing her journal entry when they appeared in her room.

They read: “I don’t know what happened. But somehow I fell last night and hit the ground pretty hard. It could have been so bad. If I had landed on my right side, my arm could have been dislocated again. But I didn’t. Somehow I didn’t even land on my face even though I fell face first. God is so amazing! He must have protected me and made me roll on my left side. I am so thankful to Him for His protection.  I know I can’t always protect myself. My trust is in Jesus…”

“Disgusting,” Evil Two said to Evil One. “Let’s get out of here!”

And God laughed.

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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Just Like… The Kitten in the Woods

“Let’s try this trail!” My son pointed to a narrow trail through a little piece of woods that bordered the street we were bicycling on.

“It looks hard,” I answered. “Maybe we should get off our bikes.”  Inside, I was picturing riding down the steep slope, hitting that hump at the bottom, and flying off into the trees.

“Nah, we can handle it,” my husband said as he took off, my son right behind him.

My daughter and I watched the boys disappear over the hump, then turned to look at each other.

“You go next,” I told my daughter. I still wasn’t sure this was a smart thing for a middle aged lady to do.

After watching her navigate the path as smoothly as the boys, I cautiously started off. Gaining speed, I almost screamed when I hit the hump but managed to stay on the bike even as I made the turn that lay right behind it. When I came to a stop, the others cheered. We walked our bikes a few more steps around some branches when my daughter stopped us.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

We listened quietly a few minutes before we heard it too.

Just like I heard you when you called to Me.

“It’s coming from over there.” My husband pointed across the little stream that ran by the trail.

It took a few more minutes before we spotted the tiny gray form. It was on the other side of the stream, meowing pitifully. It would look at us, then try to cross the cold water. After several unsuccessful tries,  it gave up and paced up and down the edge of the water, looking at us as it continued to cry. She couldn’t get to us, so we decided to find a way to get to her.

Just like I did when I went to the cross for you.

It wasn’t until we got back home with the tiny kitten that we discovered just how bad a shape she was in.

cassi - CopyShe was very young, probably less than a month, wet, cold, covered with fleas. One eye was closed, covered with a brown crusty film, and her other eye wasn’t that much better off. There was a smelly discharge coming from her ears, and she had a kind of wheezing cough.

Just like you were when I found you.

Even so, we fell in love with her immediately. We saw past the disease and filth to the vulnerable and sweet kitten that she was.

Just like I see past all your sins and failures to the lovely treasure you are.

Even though we couldn’t imagine loving her any more than we already did, we knew we couldn’t leave her in that condition.

Just like I couldn’t leave you in your condition.

“She’s going to the vet first thing tomorrow,” my husband said. “She looks pretty sick.”

“She must be hungry. What can we feed her?” I asked. We had some dog food in the house but no cat food.

“We can ask next door,” my daughter said. “They have a cat.”

“Good idea!”

Our neighbor was generous but the kitten couldn’t eat any of the dry cat food.

“Maybe she’s too young. What else can we try? She has to eat something before tomorrow.” I said.

“What about tuna fish?” my son asked.

“Sure, we could try,” my husband replied. He went inside, and returned a moment later with a small dish of tuna.

As soon as the kitten smelled it, she attacked it like she hadn’t eaten in days. Mostly likely, she hadn’t.

Just like I feed you what you can handle.

Over the next week, her health improved dramatically as we applied the medicine the vet had given us. She didn’t like it and fought us at times, but we knew it was necessary if she was going to return to full health.

Just like how you are healing as I work in you, even if you resist at times.

After a month, you couldn’t tell that she had ever been sick. Cassi was healthy in every way, and had became my daughter’s best friend!

Just like you,  My friend!

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Your Car Could Explode!

“I wouldn’t drive it again,” the man at the gas station told her. “It could explode.”

She looked with dismay, mixed with fear, at her car’s exhaust pipe. She had filled her tank with gas earlier that day and noticed when she got home that some gas was leaking from her tail pipe. She waited until it had quit leaking, then drove to the nearest gas station for advice and noticed gas had started leaking again.

“Don’t drive it.” was not the advice she wanted to hear. She needed to leave town within the next hour. Could the man fix it by then?

“Nope,” he answered when she asked him. “It’s just the overflow tank that was filled too much.”

She shook her head. No, that couldn’t be right. She had filled it like she always had and this had never happened before.

“So what do I do?” she asked him.

“Wait for the gas in the exhaust to dissipate or drain before you start the engine again. Any spark could cause your car to burn. Maybe even explode if it got bad enough.”

“But I have to leave town soon.”

“Guess you’ll have to cancel whatever plans you have.”

“I can’t. My parents are expecting me tonight. If I can get to their house, my brother can fix my car before I drive back home.”

“You really need to have this repaired before driving long distance. If it leaks while you’re driving, and it got too hot, it could explode.”

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She frowned. Was she stuck here at the gas station? She used the office phone to call everyone she knew in this very small town, back in the day before cell phones, but no one was home. She assumed they were all at the high school homecoming. What should she do?

She considered her options but didn’t like any of them. So she turned to the One with all the power.

“God,” she prayed. “This is Your car, remember? I gave it to You when I gave You myself and all that I had. Your car has a problem and I can’t find anyone here to help me. I’m going to go ahead and go to my parents’ house so my brother can fix it.  Please keep me safe as I drive. Amen”

With the faith of a new believer, she ignored the objections from the gas station man, and began the hundred mile drive. She drove very carefully, believing it could explode at any time. It was a long drive. A very long drive. Had it always been this long?

Finally she reached her parents’ driveway, pulled in, and, with a sigh of relief, shut off the engine. “Thank You,” she said as she climbed out of the car.

It was too dark, and the car too hot, for her brother to look at it right away. So he waited until the next day.

“All four gas hoses are cracked,” he said. “You’re lucky it didn’t start burning, or even explode on your way here. But I can get that fixed for you before you go back home.”

She knew it wasn’t luck that had kept her safe. She also knew her decision to go ahead and drive the car after being told not to was not very wise.

She looked up and said, “Thank You, Lord, for protecting me even when I’m doing something stupid. Your love and care for me is simply amazing!”

Hey, God! Will You Show Me You?

Hmmm…  I wonder what God is really like. She thought about all the different ways she had heard people describe God. From an old man sitting on a throne to a hippie Jesus to a vague force in the sky, it seemed everyone had their own idea of what God was like. Maybe I should just ask God what He’s like, she thought.

“Hey, God! Would you show me You – who You really are?”

She closed her eyes and waited.

Would He show Himself as the Jesus she always pictured – a kind looking man in a white robe and wearing sandals? Or would He be an older man with a long white beard? Or maybe He’d be more like a ghost, transparent and floating through the air.

It didn’t take long for her mind’s eye to see the room where she was sitting. In through the door came a great big ball of fire, only she knew somehow that it was a great big ball of love. It hovered there for a few minutes, then disappeared.

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God is a ball of fire? A fiery ball of love?

As she thought about it, she remembered reading in the Bible how He revealed Himself as fire to the Israelites. And that He called Himself a consuming fire. And in Song of Songs, love is described as a blazing fire.

Wow! God is a ball of fire!

And she thanked God for loving her enough to answer her request is such an unexpected and amazing way.

 

 

Scripture references:

Ex 13:21 The LORD led the Israelites by night in a pillar of fire.

Ex 19:18 the LORD descended on Mount Sinai in fire

Ex 24:17 to the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Deut 9:3, repeated in Heb 12:29  the LORD your God is a consuming fire.

Song of Songs 8:6 for love… burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.