Such a big question that so many of us ask for a variety of reasons throughout our lives, yet during this virus season I have been hearing it  more often.  Where is God?  How can I be sure He’s good?  Why?  How?

The summer of my 8th grade year I was sitting in evening chapel at summer camp. It had been a great week of swimming, worship, late night scary stories, and sunshine.  I remember it being later in the week, probably a Thursday.  It was ‘salvation’ night (or as some campers call it, cry night) and after four days and nights of building a relational connection, the speaker shared with us all about the gift of salvation through Jesus.

I had accepted Jesus into my heart at 7 years old, walking to the front at Vacation Bible School. Yet, as the speaker shared the opportunity to accept Jesus, I had raised my hand to respond.  I’m not really sure how many times I had done this before, but every time Jesus was offered, I responded.  I had to make sure.  I mean, I knew how much I sinned, and I wasn’t sure if I had committed the unforgivable sin…PLUS I didn’t want to miss out on eternal life.  So, each altar call, I responded.

The reason that particular chapel time stands out is because of what the speaker did when he was finished with the prayer.  He asked if any of us had ever asked Christ into our lives before but still felt we needed to ask again – just to be sure.  I remember thinking, how does he know?  Do I look guilty?

He encouraged us to stay after chapel if we had any questions. I almost didn’t stay, I mean, who wants to admit that they have doubts about Jesus?   I was nervous because I thought I’d be the only one, but I sucked it up and stayed.  There were about ten campers in our little circle in the front of chapel that night.

After everyone else had left the chapel, he smiled and sat down with us.  I remember being excited to have answers as he opened his Bible to Hebrews 13:5.

For God has said,  “I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

He reminded us of how loved we are and of God’s promise to the Hebrews – and to us. He shared more verses and patiently answered question after question, but my heart zeroed in on I will never abandon you. I had NO idea that was in there!  I can remember feeling relief and joy as we closed in prayer. My life was secure in His hands.

I wish I could remember the speakers name, I would thank him for taking time with a bunch of middle schoolers to explain that although this promise didn’t mean easy and pain free, it meant that God would be with us through it.  I have clung to this verse ever since.

In Hebrews, the author is reminding the readers in chapter 13 to live for Christ and shares this quote from Deuteronomy 31.  The Deuteronomy chapter is the recording of the words of Moses as he passes the leadership mantle to Joshua.  In both verses 6 and 8, Moses reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous reminding him that God wouldn’t fail him or abandon him.  He also told Joshua to not be discouraged or afraid.

The author of Hebrews knew that the readers would understand the words of God through Moses.  They had the benefit of hindsight and knew that God had honored his promise.  He hadn’t abandoned his people even when they failed him. Even when they abandoned him, God remained faithful.  The same God who honored his promise to his people then, honors his promise for his followers today.

We live in an uncertain world, preparing for whatever is next.  The words from Moses continue to stand true – God will not fail.   He will not abandon us – He is personally going ahead of us.  I continue to hold on the words of Moses shared by the author of Hebrews:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and
do not panic before them. For the Lord your
God will personally go ahead of you.
He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Duet. 31:6

A couple summers ago, I stood inside a circle of middle and high school campers.  I had shared the gospel in the Thursday night message and had invited anyone who felt that doubt – the need to respond just to be sure – to join me.   The circle was full of expectant eyes silently asking, how can I be sure?

I smiled and opened my Bible to Hebrews 13.

There are many moments that stand out to me as change moments in life and ministry.  A time when I either needed to quit or change my thinking and attitude.  None of them were pain free – believe me – but in hindsight the pain was worth it.

Before I was a parent, I sure thought I had it down.  I was a teacher, therefore I knew kids, right?  But, being part of a student’s life and being their parent are two very different things.  I was a part-time middle school leader at church when I learned the critical lesson – we don’t know what we don’t know.  Even though I had my own kids, they were under 8 years old meaning I had no idea what it was like to be a parent of a teenager.

That day as I hung up the phone, I slipped down onto my kitchen floor and cried.  I had never been chewed out so thoroughly by a parent. I felt humbled, hurt, surprised, and small.  She had every right to be angry and she made very valid points, all I wanted to do was quit.

It had been a great day at an amusement park, kids had a blast riding rides and eating junk food.  I had carefully put them in groups to go around the park, made check-in times, and sent them off to enjoy it.  They were in middle school; I was confident they could handle it.  This mother was not.  Although everyone returned tired and happy, she fully and thoroughly informed me of all the dangers at the park, how young middle schoolers are, and that any one of them could have been snatched and I wouldn’t have known until check-in time.  Her children had not been safe and she let me know that I was irresponsible.

Didn’t she know I gave my whole day to her kids?  Wasn’t she thankful I created this full day so her kids could have an adventure?  Maybe. Could the middle schoolers handle the park? Yes.  Was she right?  Yes.

Although the kids did great, her anger at me stemmed from the fear that something awful could have happened – I totally get it.  I can now see how scary a park like that can be and the trust it takes to send your child off on a trip – with anyone.

Dr. Henry Townsend tell us that “People don’t make other people angry.  Your anger has to come from something inside of you.” (Boundaries)   I have found that almost every time a parent has been angry with me the bottom line is fear for their child, their amazing gift from God, and whether founded or not doesn’t really matter.  The bottom line is that if they are unsure of the safety of their child with me it will hurt ministry, and that is on me.  Empathy, and good counsel, have helped me understand the fear that can lead to anger and that led to a better awareness of how to walk with parents.

In this case, I had to admit what I didn’t know and change my thinking. Do you need to realize you don’t know what you don’t know?   Like so many young youth workers I thought I knew exactly what I was doing, but I didn’t.  This was a turning point as I moved forward in ministry.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know – what was I going to do about it?

I had to realize they are her daughters, not mine, and I needed some help in understanding parents of teenagers.  I apologized to this mom and asked for her help.  She became a number one volunteer, graciously helping me in so many ways.

I could have quit, I could have just said deal with it, or I could humble my heart and realize I wasn’t a middle school parent.  Have you had a run in or conflict with a parent? With anyone?

Who’s right?
Does it matter?

Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.
 Prov. 14:9

Proverbs tells us, the godly acknowledge the wrong and seek reconciliation. It’s one thing to acknowledge an issue but as followers of Jesus we are called to seek reconciliation – to heal relationships. This might mean that we don’t get to be right.   We need to humble ourselves, take that knowledge, and seek change not only in the relationship but in ourselves. In what area do you need a change of heart in order to reestablish or reconcile a relationship?

I know, great title right?  But for those of us that get motion sickness – this is real!

Sometimes change just makes me feel seasick –  the change that you see coming, don’t like, don’t want, and yet it’s coming. You know it’ll be hard, uncomfortable, and will most likely require growth.  It’s not that you don’t want to grow, but growth requires change and you would rather just pick a different way to learn it.

My husband, Bill, is a Master Diver.  In fact, he calls himself a “Diva” Diver.  He has all the gadgets and gizmos, wet suits and a dry bag, tanks, and a mask with his eye prescription in it.  I think he would live underwater if he could.   He is fascinated by all of it: the colors, sea creatures, the water, the quiet, the shipwrecks. I, however, have no desire to be that far underwater.  I think coral is pretty but I really don’t need to see it up close.  I like fish – in a tank or on my plate.  The main reason for this – I really don’t like to swim.  I don’t mind a pool or even a lake now and then, but I really don’t have any desire to hang out and be wet.  Another reason major factor – I get seasick…easily.

I do try – really!  Bill would love it if I enjoyed it like he does, but I’m perfectly content in my beach chair reading a book while he explores under the sea.

Why share all that?  Because on a trip to Jamaica a couple years ago, God gave me interesting perspective on change that I continue to hold on to.  We were staying at a great resort and I thought it would be nice to at least snorkel with my husband in that incredibly blue water.  Off we went, my full-face snorkeling mask, cool swim shirt, fins, and life jacket.  Anyone on the boat would have thought that we did this all the time.  As we got in the water, everything was going great.  We saw colorful fish, beautiful purple coral, and reefs full of sea creatures.  But, after only 15 minutes of snorkeling, my stomach was done.  The motion of the waves did me in – and I really did take my medicine!

For those of us that suffer from motion sickness, we know the drill.  Fresh air, deep breaths, find the horizon and lock on.  I laid back in the water and looked at the blue mountains of Jamaica as my husband teetered between the desire to snorkel or stay with me.  He stayed with me – good man.

As I looked up at the mountains, God brought this verse to mind:

I look up to the mountains –  does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:1-2

My help was literally coming from the mountains – but I know my true help comes from the Lord. Motion sickness occurs when our balance-sensing system senses that our body is moving but our eyes say we are not.  We have to look at something that stabilizes this for our eyes and helps us see the movement while focusing on something stationary.  It gives our bodies a sense of balance.

I think that change can affect us the same way.  Our balancing system senses that things are happening and taking us off-kilter, the imbalance threatens to take us down.  Just like I needed to that day in the water, we need to pause, breathe deep, and lock onto the horizon.

Loss, divorce, transition, a new baby, or even a new home can throw us off balance.  We can put on a good face and get in the water but it isn’t long before we can’t really move forward. Life is overwhelming and we can physically feel it. That’s when the words from this Psalm really come into play.

Just as Bill helped me back to the boat and encouraged me every stroke of the way, our Maker does the same.  He created the horizon that doesn’t falter, He is our constant help. He stabilizes us, reminding us to breathe.  He didn’t promise us a life without change but he does promise that He is with us. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

Are you in the midst of unsettling change?   One way to fight seasickness it to adjust your position.  I had to adjust my position to overcome my upset tummy that day in Jamaica which was fairly simple.  I realize that whatever change you face may require much more. What do you need to adjust so that you can navigate the waters ahead? And as you adjust…remember,  He is your help.  You are not alone.

 

 

As I entered the preteen ministry space that Sunday morning, I discovered a gaggle of girls in the sound booth with their leader.  They were full of life and laughter pretending to be DJs and as I rounded the corner they flocked around all speaking at once.

“Aren’t you the lady that was speaking the other week?” a bright brown-eyed girl asked.  As I began to answer, another girl spoke up, “You talked about grace.”  I nodded.

Every now and then, there’s a moment- a moment when it’s like something has unlocked and become profound and you feel a quiet knowing.

The brown-eyed girl, hand on her hip, said, “Yeah, last week I told my parents they needed some grace.”  “Oh really?” I inquired smiling. We shared a few words about the rings given out that morning and then they were off, as young girls will do.

I was happy the girls remembered the message from two weeks earlier– that in itself was pretty great – but that wasn’t the moment that hit me.

I grew up in the church, attended Christians schools all the way up, even taught in the Christian school system.  Although they were great places of learning and encouragement, it never entered my mind that I would someday be standing with young ladies talking about a sermon I had given.  Being a woman in the pulpit just wasn’t in my realm of thinking when God called me into ministry, I hadn’t ever had that modeled for me, it never occurred to me that I should.

Throughout my years of teaching in youth ministry, I found that I really loved leading and teaching students – but the main service still felt daunting. I was teaching men and my upbringing had instilled in me ‘my place’ without ever really saying outright – this is a man’s role .  But I knew that whenever I gave a message, whether to students or adults, there was a feeling of rightness – of being where God wanted me to be.

I know that gender does not determine call or gifting and it doesn’t determine mine.  It has taken me years to acknowledge my anointing, years of stretching into what God has called and gifted me to do as I pushed passed the ceiling placed there by others.    As a woman, I know what I am called and anointed to do yet it had been hard for me to fully embrace it.  I am blessed to serve in a church community that affirms my gifts.

That Sunday morning with 4-5th grade girls I felt a quiet knowing.  It was that sense of knowing I had finally become confident in what God has gifted me to do.  I’m not sure when it happened, but in that moment I knew it was there.  Have you ever felt that?  I pray you have.  It’s a moment when God gives you a sense that you are doing what he has created you to do and it matters.

For these girls, my speaking in Big Church is a normal part of their world.  They are a part of a church that acknowledges the call of women to preach and has a bench of women that fill the pulpit.  It hasn’t occurred to them that they can’t be whatever God calls them to because they are girls.  They are excited to be at church, are being raised to know Jesus, and may someday be called to serve him in a pastor role.   I get to be a part of that – an example of an area that God may call them to one day.  What a gift it was that morning to feel God smile – may we continue to empower young women and men to follow God’s call on their lives wherever it takes them.

 

Curious about the message the girls remembered?  You can watch it here: The Gospel within the Gospel