Invisible Bugs

I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a recent business trip. He had saved up air miles for me, so I was excited about a week at the beach. Since his usual hotel choice was not located in this area, he spent extra time selecting the place for our stay. He knows I like to stay right on the beach whenever possible because I do not have access to a car when he is on a business trip. He chose an Inn for our stay.

I had never stayed at an Inn, well, except for the Holiday Inn. My mind flashed to Hallmark movies on Nantucket or some island paradise. I thought it was going to be a fun adventure. When we checked in at the Inn, we were told about the amenities available to us. I was so ready for some beach time. Then, I was given a bottle of insect animal-beetle-biology-1114318repellant. I was told about the tiny little bugs that I would not be able to see but were on the beach early in the morning and late in the evening. I thought “oh great!” Not only would I have to be coated in sunscreen but I would need to have bug repellant also. I am not a fan of bugs. I don’t like fat bugs, skinny bugs, walking bugs, flying bugs, big bugs, or little bugs, and especially bugs I cannot see.

As I sat on the beach I would see tiny bugs, but I would know there were bugs that were even smaller than they were. I saw some ants but knew that the bugs were smaller. I didn’t let it spoil my trip bug-hand-insect-1119264but I was very aware of bugs. As I waited for the onslaught of the non-imaginary bugs that were going to attack me at any moment, I was reminded of how what seems like the tiniest of sin can attack.

We think of sin in categories such as being a big sin or a small sin or a sin with a capital “S”. When God sees sin, it is sin. There is no big sin or small sin. Romans 3:23 tells us “For all have sinned.” The Bible doesn’t tell us that there are degrees of sin. God would have told us if that were true and would have defined sin very carefully. God’s Word does not do that. As I thought about the tiny bugs and sin, I compared the tiny bugs to sneaky sins that kind of creep into your life or slip in a back door. The kind that make you think “I didn’t just do that” or “I didn’t just think that.”  God has convicted me lately to be careful what thoughts jump into my head. I want my thoughts to be pure and uplifting instead of critical or mean.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV says

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, watch out for those tiny bugs that you cannot see that bite before you know what is happening. Stay aware of the thoughts and activities that start out seemingly harmless but move quickly into a dangerous place. To protect yourself from sin, be sure to wear your spiritual insect repellant every day. The only place I have found spiritual insect repellant is in God’s Word. 

Ephesians 6:10-11  ESV tells us 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

 

The Moral to the story:

As we were packing up to come back home, my husband asked about the insect repellent. I told him that since I had not been on the beach early or late in the day I had not used it. He asked if I had read the ingredients and I told him that I had not. He said that it contained Hemp which is another name for Cannabis Oil. 

The next time someone offers me insect repellant to protect from invisible bugs, I am going to tell them that I don’t need any weed. I will take my chances with the bugs.

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10

His Love is More

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“It’s a fig tree.”

As nonchalantly as “the sky is blue” or “I love Minecraft.”

“It’s a fig tree.”

She was a few steps ahead of me, I watched as she rubbed her hands over the leaf and looked behind her to see if I was paying attention. I recognized the gnarly branches and distinct leaf shape immediately. I quizzed her, “How do you know?”

My oldest daughter, Charlotte looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I can smell it.”

fig-sliced-plate-wooden-tableThe fig tree makes me always think of two things… cookies and the King. I love a Fig Newton, but I don’t love a fig. In my mind, the fig is the King’s fruit, well, sort of. The first Mom and Dad of this world covered themselves with fig leaves after they felt shame for the first time. A feeling that has been palpable through the ages. Shame compels those who are covered by it to make clouded choices and feel the lowest of lows.

It wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I conjectured that the fruit in the garden was a fig. After all why in the world would such an unruly and itchy choice be what one would choose to cover his or her lady or gentleman parts with? I reasoned simply, it was the closest option. Later the King cursed that same fruitless tree, it withered and died, almost as if He were demonstrating His feelings toward the tree that represented sin and death. The very thing that He was soon going to overcome. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate specimen of botany and I have a bit too big an imagination to leave it as such.

Regardless, as my daughter stated the undeniable fact of the fig trees presence, I pondered what sin and death meant for my oldest, the first of my children, not born of my body, but of something much stronger, my soul. I pondered how sin and death were the very thing that brought her to me. newborn in incubatorBorn way too early and in poor health, she had to fight for her very life. A death sentence at birth was proclaimed over her before she could even contemplate the significance.

Jesus healed her, and she too overcame death. She understands as much as it is possible for a teenage girl to understand. I’ve often said she has an old soul… She is slow and deliberate. She loves a soup, classic rock, and frowns upon the frivolous. Perhaps it is because in the short years she has lived, she has a better grasp on the fragility of life, the beautiful things of this world, and has experienced the healing power and the love of a Savior that many adults do not.

There was a time when I questioned Jesus regarding His plan for her. I wondered why He had scanned the world over and picked me to be her Mama. He gave me her verse when she was desperately sick, and her future seemed unclear. His Word simply stated, He had plans for her, plans to protect her, plans for good, plans for her future, plans filled with Hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He has confirmed time and time again that He trusts me, He has equipped me fully, and that He loves her more than I ever could. That fact right there blows my mind. Thankfully, the truth of that is not contingent on me understanding it. His love is immeasurably more. His love is more than my sin and mess ups. His love is more than my insecurities, inadequacies, and anxieties. His love is more than I was, I am, or I am going to be.

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He is God (And I Am Not!)

A phone call with my sisters-in-law over some issue of family life often gets dramatic and opinionated. But at some point in any given phone call, you’re likely to hear one of us say, “Your omnipotence is showing.”

person-sunglasses-woman-smartphoneThat little phrase sprang out of a similar conversation years ago. One of us (most likely me, I’m the whiner – my sisters-in-law the wise ones) was lamenting over a “creative opportunity” (problem), and explaining what we thought God should do in the situation.

The other person commented that the real issue was a matter of wanting to control the situation. But THAT is God’s job, not ours. We are not omnipotent. He is. In that moment the phrase was born. And boy does it come in handy! We’ve used it dozens of times since then to remind each other that as much as we would like to be omnipotent – having all the power and all the answers of God – we don’t. We are limited and imperfect human beings.

We have a God complex. We like to control things over which we have no power or authority. We’re trying to BE God in those situations. We pridefully put ourselves in the driver’s seat, expect to be in control, and demand it be done our way. And that’s scary! Because this was Satan’s sin – putting Himself equal to God. Pride.

pexels-photo1Each of us has control issues. We think we know best, and if the rest of the world would just listen to us things would be ok. We believe we sit at the control center of our own lives. Occasionally, we will let loose of our grip on the reins of control – after all, we’re generous people – as long as what the people around us do is tolerable to us. But when things begin to rub us wrong, we jerk those reins right out of the hands of our husband, children, friend, whoever dares to have a differing opinion on an important issue. At that point our pride and selfishness and sin nature kick in. We all need someone there to tell us our omnipotence is showing.

Remember the story of Job? He thought he was thinking wisely, until He was brought up short with no answers when the God of the Universe questioned him. In Job 38:4 God asks him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” And in 38:12 the Father asks, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place?” And then in verse 19 of that chapter God inquires, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place?” If we could put ourselves in Job’s place I imagine we’d be trembling a little bit at that point.

God’s questions to Job aren’t really asked to be answered; they are rhetorical, questions used to make a point. These would definitely get a person to think. Me? They remind me how small I am and how little I know. It’s easy for me to feel like I am oh-so-wise when I’m measuring myself against another fallible, sinful human. But when God is showing His knowledge and power, wisdom and dominion, my measurement shrinks to an infinitesimal size! I suddenly become an absolute zero in comparison to Almighty God.

Years ago there was a song that many of our kids learned at Centri-kid camp. It’s called “Absolutely Zero.” The song is a conversation really. At different times, the lines are sung to different people. Hope it comes across clearly.

[To the crowd:]
“You’re absolutely zero when you count on fitting in this earth.You’re absolutely nothing til Jesus gives you worth.

[To God:]
For You are God and I am not, so give me understanding. To know your will and seek your way

[Pointing to those around you:]
For you are God – No you’re not!

[Pointing to God above:]
You are God! Yes you are!

Ladies, we are not the creator of the universe. We are the created. We do not know the best way to handle things, although many times we think we do. We are not Father God, full of perfect love and perfect wisdom. We are not the one who created time, has all power, and knows every thing there is to know in any situation. We are finite creations, limited in our wisdom and our ability to love purely. Limited in knowledge and power.

As we fight that daily struggle with our flesh, from inwardly judging a friend because they chose a path we think is unwise, to wanting to tell our husbands what to do because we know best, to controlling everyone and everything around us, let us check up and put ourselves in our places at times throughout the day. Let’s do some self-examination of the heart.

Many times since I first learned that little song at Centri-kid Camp, it has drifted into my mind to put me in my place. Often I’ve been worshipping in church singing a song with the phrase “You are God” and I’ll immediately think – “And I am not,” and the Father will begin to open up my mind to ways I’m trying to take on His role in my life. I have to repent of that self-sufficiency and controlling attitude.

Humility is hard. Dying to self is hard. Giving up wanting to have our way is hard. But I want to be whole-heartedly His, don’t you?

So let’s give up our faux-omnipotence, repent of that God-complex, and allow Him to have His way! He is God! And I am not!

And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25

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MRSA – It’s Tough to Fight

by Debbie Stovall

God tends to show me spiritual lessons in the strangest places! You too? Usually I’m like my friend Dena who says God teaches her spiritual lessons most often through nature and everyday life. Well a strange species of nature collided with my everyday life for a grand spiritual lesson just as school was starting back this past year.

As a mother of adult children, family time happens less and less frequently. So after a busy summer we finally managed to squeeze in a week away in a quaint little cabin on a serene lake far away from the rat race. My youngest son joined the family with several scrapes and bruises from working the ropes course and working out in the gym at the Christian camp where he had been employed for the summer. Boys!

2016-07-25 19.35.02-1Vacation was blissful. Swimming, kayaking, and cooking out in the daytime, and jigsaw puzzles and old movies every evening got it off to a great start. Then 2 days into our trip my son commented that his scraped leg was hurting. I checked it. It was a little pink and quite swollen. I went to the store and got some Neopsorin and waterproof Band-aids and told him we needed to watch it.

The next morning he hobbled around the kitchen as he cooked omelets for the family, all the while assuring us that he was fine. By lunch he could hardly walk, was having shooting pains, and the leg had 3 distinct pus pockets near the original scrape! Yikes! I knew. Staph. I’d never seen it before, but I just knew. After a scramble to find a local doctor who would take an out-of-towner, Dr. Mom’s diagnosis was confirmed, and we were getting prescriptions filled in no time. “Everything is gonna be ok,” I kept telling myself, not fully believing.

The infection didn’t get worse, but it didn’t improve either. At all.

After 2 full days of meds with no change, we headed home to his usual doctor. This doctor confirmed the previous diagnosis and changed him to a stronger medication. While waiting on the lab report to come back on the strain of staph he had, the sores began to ooze a thick yellow goo. My son slept and slept like Rip Van Winkle (his body was fighting a hard battle), so we woke him up precisely every 8 hours for medicine, but the leg got to looking nasty. (Don’t google staph infection pictures if you have a weak stomach! I’ve included a mild “after” pic below.)

2016-09-03 08.58.16Monday morning greeted us with a confirmation that it was MRSA – the strain of staph that is most resistant to medicines. I must admit this was quite a faith journey for me, but that’s for another blog. We continued our regimen of cleaning and bandaging and medicating and resting and taking photos twice a day to document the disease’s progression. Healing was happening, but it got to looking worse before it got better. Slowly the oozing, swelling, and redness diminished.

After 10 days of strong medication it finally looked like just a couple of scabs on regular pink-colored skin! Whew! Just in time for us to move the boy back in his college dorm. End of story, right?

Wrong. Four days later he called. The pinkness and swelling started up again! Back to the doctor. Another round of antibiotics. And that’s where we were at the time I first wrote this. “The rest of the story” was still happening. His Dr. jokingly said we wouldn’t get to call him “Peg Leg Pete,” but that’s all we knew at the time. God was in the driver’s seat, and I was just along for the ride. As it turns out, my son continued to get better and has been fine since, except for brownish scars where the infection sites were. The Dr. warned us that my son may have a propensity for the staph to recur in the future.

Now for the spiritual aspect of my long story. This morning God showed me clearly how that MRSA is a picture of sin.

Think about it. We go along working out, going on our vacations, running errands, going to work or school, raising our kids…. We think we’re doing fine. But underneath our skin those individual germs of sin are reproducing and growing. Maybe it’s jealousy or greed or bitterness over something from the past, or lying, unforgiveness or salacious thoughts. Maybe it is anger toward our spouse or a judgmental attitude toward a co-worker or our worship leader at church. But these are little things, right? We don’t even feel the need to confess them sometimes because “Hey, everybody else does that, too.”

But those germs of sin are growing.

172px-EscherichiaColi_NIAIDThat unforgiveness swells into hatred toward a person. Or our judgmental attitude toward a co-worker grows into vengeful actions because they irritate us. Or we take a pill just to relax because “it’s been a really bad day.” At this point it’s growing silently, unconfessed, just under the surface of life. We’re still doing ok, going through the routine of life. People might notice little quirks, but no one knows about our sin. Whatever it is.

Who knows what your sin is, I certainly know mine.

Then one morning it grows enough to get our attention. We feel that first twinge of pain sin causes. Our boss overhears us speaking harsh critical remarks – ouch! Someone catches us watching, reading, or listening to inappropriate things – ooh! Our lie is discovered – oh no! Or we get called in to the boss over issues with our accounts – we just hold our breath. Just as physical pain is good for us because it alerts us to the fact that something is wrong, these pains of conscience, pains in our spirit, are good. They alert us to the fact that sin is festering inside. If we are wise we will turn to The Great Physician in repentance at this point.

But if we don’t… this analogy continues. Before we know it, overnight it seems, these ignored twinges turn into pain that cripples us. We limp around with sin swelling within us and pockets of more infection springing up all around. Lying, cover-up, having to remember our stories, more lies, slip ups, more cover-ups… you know how it goes. Or that little flirtation with improper sexual thoughts grows into a stronghold of lady-porn, improper relationships, cheating, family pain, broken relationships with those we’ve loved. By the time we catch ourselves and are willing to repent, we have spiralled down and are spiritually sinful, rotten, oozing, scabby, crusty zombies.

Finally, from pain or consequences or conviction we reach our limit, repent, and go to the Great Physician.

But then nothing. I’ve repented. Why hasn’t God fixed my mess already? Why are people still upset with me? Why isn’t there a magic wand that makes everything right immediately?

Sin has consequences.

Relationships can be restored and situations set aright, but it takes time and seeking the Lord and set backs and immersing ourselves in the Word and prayer and being willing to admit our sin and seek forgiveness.

Just like the long process of healing from staph, healing from sin is a long process.

103px-Ebola_virus_emIf we had Ebola, staph or even strep we would be heading to the doctor for help! Girls, we have a really bad case of this sin disease. We have spiritual MRSA – Malicious Radical Sin Affliction! It’s tough to fight and impossible to cure here on this earth. We will always be plagued with it lying just under the surface waiting to flare up, to grow and spread its evil infection through our souls, if we aren’t constantly aware, repenting, vigilant. We desperately need help.

Is there hope? Yes, always! We can daily go to “the Doctor.” The prescription? Read His Word. Spend time listening to His heart. Pray. Get together with other believers to be mutually strengthened. Change our behaviors. Make wise choices. Let Him search our hearts and reveal our motives.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Choose to act obediently on what He has shown us and repent every day, if not more often. And don’t forget to confess those “little” things we tend to excuse ourselves for doing.

Have mercy on me, O God,
  according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
  blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
  and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2

Steve and Annie Chapman Video – “David’s Song”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Public domain photo from Wikipedia. Credit to Content Providers(s): CDC/ Matthew J. Arduino, DRPH Photo Credit: Janice Haney Carr – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #11157