By Makenzie Allen –
Snowflakes fall and I wonder if there is a pattern only God can see. Up in heaven, does He scatter them just so? Or does He toss them into the wind and let them spiral any way the invisible pull takes them?
I just finished reading the book of Job. One of my favorite parts is when God demonstrates His power by asking Job a series of questions.
“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’. Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? Stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how the clouds hang poised? Where were you when I laid the earths foundations?” (Job 37: 6, 14, 16 and 38:4, 22).
And just as I am humbled daily by God’s wonders, Job was humbled as well. The thought that God measures out the waters and tells the winds where to blow, well, it is humbling. What a powerful God we serve.
Job asked God many questions about his struggles. “Why is this happening to me? I have honored you in all my ways. Where are you Lord?”
Job did not get a response from God for quite some time. He felt utterly alone and broken. No earthly possessions were left for him, and his spiritual life took a beating too. Tattered rags and dirt clung to him as he wept for the loss of loved ones, for the long days spent apart from God. Yet in all that time, Job never tossed his faith to the wind. His hands might have torn at his clothes in mourning, but his heart never tore God from His rightful place there.
After many long nights spent without sleep, Job heard from God. Happiness was a key component to that meeting I’m sure. God told Job of the many wonders He had made, of how He alone controls the seasons and the great beasts of the earth. God has it under control. Waves roll, thunder ignites, but God is ultimately in control.
Up on His throne, God can see the big picture. No puzzle piece looks smooth and whole on its own. But God uses every one of those pieces in our lives, making for a pretty stunning picture in the end. God has our jigsaw puzzle lives figured out. Little by little, He is putting that puzzle together, you and I just get to marvel at how it comes out.
As the snowflakes melt on the tip of my nose, I look up to the sky. If God has storehouses for the snowflakes, and plans for these frozen water droplets whom last all but two seconds, surely He has a plan for you and I.
By Kathleen Brown –
My mother sits, obviously exhausted but still erect, on the brown hand-me-down sofa in my son’s apartment. He hasn’t come home from work yet. Thank goodness.
When we arrived in Colorado after a two-day trip from Texas, Mom was dozing in the back seat of the car. “We’re here! We’re at Mark’s house!” I sang out, certain she’d be happy to see him.
But I’m not sure she ever heard his name. “Where are we?” she asked. “What is this place? Take me home. Right now!” Her voice grew louder with each word.
As I parked, I discovered what panic tastes like.
Somehow, Dad coaxed Mom out of the car and into the apartment. Separately and together, we explained to her where we are. Her response was to kick off her shoes and begin shouting again. “Turn on the TV! Sit down and be quiet!”
The look on Dad’s face told me he’d been through this before so I followed his lead. Together, we obeyed. Silent and still, we sat like rabbits in a thicket waiting for the fox to pounce.
After half-an-hour, the full absurdity of the situation hit me. I motioned to Dad to follow me as I walked down the hall toward the bedroom. Simultaneously, Mom announced she was going outside. For a walk. In the early dark of autumn, barefoot, in a neighborhood strange to her. She insisted she was going, and going alone.
What happens next runs through my mind like a horror movie. Dad and I standing between Mom and the door. Her mouth open, yelling; her eyes wild; her hands beating at us. Dad breathing hard, grasping her shoulders, holding her at arm’s length. Me pleading, “Stop, Mom! Stop! That’s Dad!”
Dad eventually maneuvered her to the sofa. Her body still taut with rage, she fell into the cushions, landing slowly, clumsy, like a thrown log.
Now dead calm rules the room. I’m afraid to talk, afraid I’ll ignite Mom’s rage again. Dad sits in a worn leather recliner, looking at his knees. His face shows no surprise, only weariness.
Finally, Mom lays her head on the arm of the sofa. Soon she’s asleep. Thank You, Lord. Still Dad and I don’t talk. Lips set, hands limp in his lap, he won’t even look at me.
Is all this for real? It must be. No grown adult could feign that kind of tantrum. But my mother yelling at my father? Hitting him? This isn’t confusion; this is rage. Maybe she didn’t realize it was Dad?
Finally I must say in my mind the word that won’t be set aside any longer. Alzheimer’s. Is this Alzheimer’s?
When Mark walks in from work, Mom’s awake. Whatever tempest ravaged her earlier has been calmed for now. She’s smiling, calling Mark by name. My father’s face can scarcely contain his happiness.
So we eat. We laugh. Just for tonight, I pretend nothing happened.
I’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. And I won’t be alone. I’ll have help. Infinite help.
God, my Father, I know it was Your power that stilled the storm in my mother’s mind. Your compassion gave us moments of peace and the comfort of familiar pleasures. Thank You, Father. I trust You to lead us forward, one day at a time, down this unknown road we travel. You know me, Lord. Don’t let me race ahead toward panic. Remind me to let You go first. I will follow wherever You lead.
By Jane Thornton –
The mirror confirmed my fears. I had a zit on my chin. Nasty and inflamed. But not yet rupturable. Which didn’t stop me from worrying at it, trying to make it disappear. The monstrosity had birthed itself just in time for the holidays—and, thus, pictures.
I first noticed the zit’s arrival in the car on our trip to my parents’ house. A little discomfort drew my questing fingers to my jaw. The spot reacted to my touch with nervy tenderness. I tried a discreet look in the visor mirror. I knew better than to draw the ruthless attention of my teenaged children. In the dim car light, I pretended to get a stray dust particle out of my eye while casting concerned glances at the lower half of my face.
I’m not sure what gave me away. Perhaps shielding my jaw line while craning backward to answer a simple question about when we’ll get there looked unnatural. Whatever, my family pounced. Did I say family? Yes, not just my children, but my adoring husband joined in the laughter disparaging my anxiety.
So I gave in and pleaded for reassurance that the blemish was not too obvious. Their snickers belied their wide-eyed, soothing words. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I rushed through the greeting hugs and scuttled to the bathroom.
No comfort there. The blotch glared angrily, dominating my features. Vainly, I doctored. Time and healing would have to run their course. With sheepish self-awareness, I returned to the living room to re-embrace my folks.
Only to be met by ridicule.
My son and daughter each had big, red dots under their laughing mouths. Even my husband had taken a turn with the lipstick tube. His eyes gleamed with humor above his spot-enhanced chin. I screeched in ultimate betrayal when I took in my mother’s giggles over her own fake zit.
What could I do but turn a good sport, grin, and bear it—and, of course, take a picture to record their cruelty for posterity? However, I did experience an odd relief at their acknowledgement of my condition. No more hiding. Everyone had seen the sore and laughed and moved on. Why was it funny? Because they had all experienced the same thing before and could relate to my worries.
Could we do the same with our spiritual pimples? Instead of concealment and shame, could we recognize each other’s sins and flaws and deal with them openly? “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV).
No one would assume we were bragging about a skin blemish by admitting its presence. Everyone would know we hated it and planned to treat it vigorously. We might even get suggestions for effective remedies.
The analogy breaks down a bit at the mockery. There is room for shared amusement at our mutual imperfections, but none for derision. We don’t want to laugh at sin, but we can laugh with the joy of forgiveness and the ability to come clean and move forward, supported by our family who also claims God’s grace.
Comment prompt: Do you have a story of an awkward moment reclaimed by laughter?
By Makenzie Allen –
In my previous article, I wrote about how God is the greatest scientist. He created science in the beginning and still follows the laws of science today. God can also use science in miraculous ways. Two years ago, I was able to experience one way God can use science.
There I was, smile on my face, but despairing inwardly. The eyes that crinkled at the sides along with my cover-up smile were really shedding tears of confusion and hurt when I was alone. The laugh that poured from me was robotic and well-rehearsed, nothing about it bubbly or real. From the outside, it probably looked like I had it all together. Inside, I sure didn’t.
I sat alongside my family as we listened to a man speaking of miracles God had done through him to people who were broken. Stories of men regaining sight, people who knew nothing except darkness but finally found the light and thrived, of limbs being healed, and many other forms of restoration. In the pew, I was wishing my depression had a reason for being there. I had no limbs that needed restoring, I was just weary. It bothered me that I wasn’t stronger.
As the man ended his sermon, he asked all who needed healing to come forward. I felt an urging to go. Telling myself I should be strong and move on, I sat stubbornly. I felt a nudge again. And as fewer people began to file past me down the aisle, I stood and went forward. I remember thinking, this really isn’t a big enough deal to have people pray over you for. You’re depressed, don’t waste their time just because you are being weak.
I reached the man who spoke of healing. He rested his hand on my head and gently pressed me to the ground where I began to sob. I shook so violently as I cried that to this day I don’t know most of what he and the others huddled around prayed for me. I just hugged my knees with one hand and clutched my little necklace that says “faith” with the other as I cried long and hard. “Give me faith Lord, give me faith in You.” I prayed in between sobs.
People exited the building and whoa! That sunset and I were neck and neck for who was brightest. I felt alive again, like God had touched me and at His presence oppression must flee for fear. I couldn’t hold back the smile on my face that was aimed right for the heavens where I imagined my Lord smiling right back. I climbed into the car and couldn’t hold it all in anymore.
“It was the strangest thing, when they were praying for me I felt this heat come over me,” I said.
“When you feel a warmth like that it is usually a sign of healing from God,” Mom replied.
Recently in Chemistry class, we learned that heat is actually raw energy. As I was pondering science and talking with God, it hit me. Heat is a sign of healing from God. And heat is energy. So God literally gives you the energy to overcome the wounds sin has inflicted. Whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, we are all handicapped by the hold sin has on our world.
God gave me energy. Exactly what I needed to banish the oppression that had taken hold of my life. I look back and smile at that moment of pure joy, the moment when God filled me with His insurmountable power and energy. Though I didn’t see Him that night, I felt Him.
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you have believed in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8 NIV).
By Heather Allen –
She grips a fistful of buttons and his small collar. Her face reddens with irritation.
His eyes are dull, his face expressionless.
I hold my breath, ire rising, knuckles clenched. I begin pacing between the racks of clothing, hovering within fifteen feet.
She reeks hatred and lets loose an inch from his face, releasing him with a hard shove.
He trips backward. His face remains impassive.
Mine contorts for him. I’m not strong and she’s bulky. In the moment, it doesn’t matter. I’m ready to stand toe to toe with her. For his sake.
In Your soft, still way You remind me to seek You first, so I walk in circles to the beat of my anger. Trying to calm my shaking legs and queasy stomach. “Beloved, let us love one another.”
“Lord, how? How do I show this woman love?” And in my soul, I know she needs love, not shame. My feelings do not reflect this, but You dwell in me, You are love. I walk toward her.
She raises her hand defensively, palm out.
“I was watching your children play and your daughter tripped, your son did not hurt her,” I say quickly.
She scowls. “I don’t need parenting advice, so bye-bye.”
I want to contradict her, but instead I speak with a bit more authority. “I’m not here to give you advice, but rather a compliment on your child’s behavior. Your son is a great big brother.” My eyes shift down toward his little face. He is still on the floor. “He was kind and concerned when his sister fell, she slipped on a hanger. He merely tried to help her up.”
She stares at me with hard eyes. “He is not your concern.”
I lower my voice. “Actually he is. You both are.”
She stares at me incredulous.
Silence hangs between us. My words feel foreign as I stumble on. She knows it was wrong. God built that into each of us. I look her in the eyes, longing to water her soul.
The sadness is palpable as I turn and walk away. For her. For him. For what an unredeemed future holds. I think of a picture that hung on my Sunday school class’ wall. Jesus, arms extended with children piling on his lap. His words warning the disciples captured at the edge of the frame.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14 NIV).
In a world of generous wrath, there is a counterpart. A God of generous love.
Christ beckons “Come.” Lay down the anger, and shame. Break chains of habit. Fight the enemy that has taken you captive.
I quietly converse with the store manager and take short, pondered steps to my car.
I thought the perpetrator was the enemy. I was wrong. That woman is not the enemy, Satan is. I think he hopes we will be just angry, offended, and ashamed enough to think there is nothing more for us. No salvation possible, only despair and depravity ahead. I know that is not the case.
I have witnessed a grand resurrection from the dead in my own life. I am a redeemed sinner, charged to help others find their way home.