Delta Means Change

My daughter moved this week to the Mississippi Delta. Her husband is working at Delta State University (DSU). As I saw the green triangle, a symbol for the school, I was thrown back to high school physics and Mrs. Frankie Underwood, my outstanding physics teacher.

Mrs Underwood was a tall, buxom lady who ruled our honors class with an iron fist, yet benevolently. She expected the best of us: study diligently, turn in your work on time, make the best grade you can, pay attention in class – all the basics. If we failed to toe the line we were loudly reprimanded in front of the whole class. In her booming Southern voice she warned us that we were about to become “a lost ball in high weeds.” This was the greatest tragedy and failure in her mind. We, the brightest and best in math at our high school, to be lazy or careless or not try, to be a useful object lost by the wayside – this was failure.

She taught us about force, inertia, and friction. She ground into us the slope formula, I still remember it, m=rise over run. She made us do word problem after word problem, turning the real world into mathematical equations that were useful. We talked through aps,504x498,small,transparent-pad,600x600,f8f8f8and experimented with velocity, acceleration, drag, wind and Delta, Delta V I remember particularly. We should have all become experts under her tutelage. I remember her showing us this simple equilateral triangle used to represent “change” in physics formulas. I still use that symbol in writing notes instead of writing out the word “change.” I’ve long forgotten how to compute formulas using the delta, but I still immediately think of change when I think of this symbol. 

So, this weekend as we moved my daughter and son-in-law into their new apartment, change was definitely on my mind. With triangles everywhere at DSU, I would have to be blind not to think of change. But also, there were the drastic changes in their life together: an upheaval, leaving a home they’d been in since their honeymoon, a church family that was more like biological family, and all their friendships, old jobs, favorite restaurants, and sentimental places around town.  

Change was heavy on my mind because my adult daughter will tell you she has never liked new things or change. She was the 2-year-old who didn’t want to learn to dunk her head under water at the pool, and was furious with me when I dunked her. She was the 8 -year-old wanting to grow up and sing solos in her children’s choir, but was fearful of the new changes she would face trying. She was the 10-year-old girly girl who was upset when her tomboy-ish 13-year-old sister suddenly wanted to start dressing more girly. She is the 27-year-old who lamented leaving her old home, friends, and church this week even though she knew an exciting new adventure awaited her with the Love of Her Life there in the Mississippi delta.

pexels-alexas-fotos-2277784Our world is also in a state of change – upheaval. The security we felt a year ago to just live life, spend too much money, hang out at the ball park, and hug people we met, that has melted away. The security of life operating by pretty much the same rules we had known since childhood has vanished. A willingness to share our opinions has dissipated as we feel we may be attacked for our ideas. The world is in a state of change. 

Are you, like my daughter, struggling with change?

Is all of this pandemic, political divisiveness, and social unrest just too much?

Are you struggling with an underlying sense of uneasiness, worry, nightmares, depression, or anxiety attacks?

Then ladies, it’s time to do what we always do in every situation, especially in uncertain times, we turn to God’s Word.

So I take you back to the time of the Patriarchs… Jacob was a man who faced many great changes. He changed (faked) his identity with his dad to steal his brother’s blessing. He was forced to leave his childhood home in fear of his life after that, so he moved far away. He fell in love with a beautiful girl and asked her dad permission to marry her, but his father-in-law changed out the bride on him! He went into marriage single and care free, and within a week had TWO wives and a battle of jealousy on his hands. He had 11 sons and decided to head back to his parent’s homeland only to find out his father-in-law had changed out the sheep to keep Jacob and his wives there. Jacob’s life changed with grief at the death of his precious Rebekah. Then he had grown sons who acted with jealousy against their brother and caused Jacob grief again at the loss of a favored son. He faced the changes of environmental factors as famine hit, which triggered more risk and loss. His whole world was rocked when he found out his dead son was really alive! And finally, in his last days he had the huge change of moving to Egypt to live out his days.

What can we learn from Jacob about change?

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’” …

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Genesis 32

Jacob learned…

  1. He learned that God speaks to us in our moments of change.
  2. He learned that God blesses us and is faithful to us.
  3. He learned that we have a choice – to choose God as our own Lord or to live with our old sinful, deceptive ways.
  4. He learned to revere God as Holy.
  5. He learned how to trust God through all the change, deception, betrayal, and loss.
  6. He learned that God is a gracious provider and deliverer.
  7. He learned not to fear, but to trust.
  8. He learned to wrestle with God in prayer in the middle of the night, and to not let go of Him.
  9. He learned that God can give you a new name, new habits, and a new identity when He becomes Lord of your life.

Don’t fear change, ladies. Embrace it. Learn from it. Seek God in the middle of it. Stay in His Word, listening for Him to speak to your heart. Pray. Let Him find you there in your fear and wrestling, and He will bless you and give you a new name. And don’t be A Lost Ball in High Weeds! Live with Him in faith and fulfill your potential in His plan! 

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Do not fear! Change is all around in the world Our Creator made!

 

Embracing Change

When change abounds, focus on the One who never changes.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

This Christmas was different. Later Thanksgiving holiday led to an even later end of the school year. I had to wait for one, and then the other, college kid to make their way home. The two teenage boys left at home were knee deep in theater rehearsals and their own holiday celebrations. We waited until the last kid arrived just a few days before Christmas before we officially decorated. I’m usually the decorating Grinch, but this year even the Grinch was thrilled to see those tree lights twinkling. And this year the young man who is pursuing our daughter’s heart joined us for our holiday celebrations–that was certainly new. In the midst of this different year I began to realize Christmas would never be quite the same.

board-1273117_1280In many ways, this Christmas was an exclamation point to a long period of transition. Two years ago God began this season of new. First a dear friend and partner in the gospel moved a few states away. Within the year, another dear friend and her family moved across the country. Then a series of changes in three separate ministries I was involved in left me with a shaken soul. My personal world turned topsy turvy as one and then another of my children graduated high school and moved away to college. It often felt as if the Lord was sifting all those things in my life that I counted on when the world pressed into me. My places of security were being stripped away, and I felt unstable and weary, and, if I’m honest, a bit forsaken and a lot broken. It was an unusual grief. A grief it’s taken me quite a while to confess without being weighed down by the guilt of my own selfishness.

 

As I continue to walk through these seasons of change, I keep coming back to my bulwark verse. The verse I seem to constantly return to when life is hard. In an unusual grief, this verse is a strange comfort.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

This powerful verse reminds me of two vital things about my Abba.

  1. God gives good and perfect gifts. Psalm 18:30 says, “This God—his way is perfect.” Psalm 145 repeats this phrase, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.” If this change is a gift from His hands, then I can trust it is a gift from a God who is good, perfect, faithful, and kind. The Word makes it clear life won’t be easy (John 16:33; James 1:2), and I’m convinced the transient nature of our earthly existence is part of those trials and tribulations. Yet, we can rest confidently in the character of the One who orchestrates those changes. All of the changes that are happening have been walked through with fervent prayer. It is beautiful to see God put every detail in place. Even when my heart doesn’t want to cooperate, my mind can focus on truth. Over time, I am finding, my heart is molded to the shape of the truth. When I’m walking through the unknown, it is crucial that I set my mind on what I know (Colossians 3:1-3). There I can anticipate the future with joy and peace and confident hope.
  2. My God does not change. Malachi 3:6 says it bluntly, “For I the Lord do not change.” God is constant, even more constant than the sun rising and setting. He is faithful to His Word and always, always true to His character. The Lord, in His goodness and grace, is teaching me much about misplaced security. I depended far too much on my friends. I leaned against them, instead of leaning against my Abba. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus-loving friends and godly counselors are a gift, but too often I would run to them instead of seeking my Father first. It was easier and more comforting to receive validation from a trusted friend. It’s much harder to spend extended time in prayer, dig deep in the Word, and listen closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In this season of sifting, I am learning more of my own stubborn heart, learning to repent quickly, and learning to run to Jesus first and fervently.

My season of change is still in full swing. My oldest daughter graduates from college in the Spring and is heading out on a new adventure. My oldest son graduates high school next year and will set off on a journey of his own. My husband and I are asking the King how we can serve Him best during this season of new. And while I wish I could say I’m embracing change with a contented heart, truth is, it’s still hard. But I’m finding joy and peace come more easily as I focus on the unchanging One. When I focus on His constancy, He reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness and kindness. That causes me to place my security in the One I can always rely on to be the same yesterday, today, and forever. When I focus on what is true, I am reminded of this truth: As I am learning to embrace change, my Abba is embracing me.

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The Unending Journey

“Are we there yet?” – the whine of any child who has ever been on a car trip.

While adults may not whine about it, we’ve all experienced that feeling of the never-ending trip. Will we ever arrive? When we left home we didn’t realize it would take this long, nor have this many twists and turns.

volkswagen-569315_1280.jpgOur journey with God is a lot like a road trip. As we pull away from our old home to journey forward with God, we often believe it will be a short trip too. He’s going to do a quick remake of our life and we’ll have a happily ever after. But as days become weeks and years we realize it is a slow and constant process – this life is the never-ending journey. We will never arrive as long as we live.

How many times in our journey with Him do we come through a trial and pruning with the unspoken feeling that God must be through remaking us into His image because we can’t imagine what else He could possibly prune out of our life? We feel as if we are an onion that has been peeled to its very core.

In a short amount of time, however, we sense another layer of our “old man” being peeled away.

The day we set out to follow Christ, whether we were 8 or 38, we began a journey that will never end. He will chisel off the rough places, sand out the flaws, shape up the imperfections, and patch the holes until the day we die. That’s what regeneration and restoration are all about. It’s an ongoing process of remaking us into His image.

God’s got a grand adventure planned. God’s attitude toward us is not slap-on-a-new-coat-of-paint-and-send-her-on-her-merry-way. His mindset is apparent in Genesis 12:1 (MSG) “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.” He had in mind to take Abram to new places, unknown places, places of adventure and scariness I’m sure. Places that caused Abram to grow a faith that was later credited to him as righteousness!

The destination and the route we take is in God’s hands. As He did with Abraham, God does with us. He calls us to go to a land He will show us – an unknown destination. We don’t know where the road may take us or what may happen along the way. We imagine there will be joys at the right hand of God. We fear that he will take us somewhere we don’t want to go. But do we realize that He will be beside us every step of the way?

accident-car-communication-2224He doesn’t send us off on the journey alone. The last phrase of verse 1 is the icing on the cake – “for a land that I will show you!” Girls, he’s not sending us away on a journey all by ourselves. He’s going with us! The only way my husband can show me the way on our road trip is to be in the car with me. That’s where our Father God is – in the seat beside us, taking us on this grand and sometimes scary adventure, trying to give us directions to this “land that I will show you” if only we’d listen to Him.

The journey is life-changing. We never stop to think of the inner impact the journey will make on our lives and the changes that will take place within us. As we journey with Christ, externally we may change our location, those who accompany us, or the job we do. But the greatest change is His molding of our inner man. He is transforming us into the image of Christ from the inside out. So I pray for you, and for myself, the words of Paul:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16 

 

We weren’t created as statues. We were created as flesh and blood people that change from day-to-day, year-to-year, minute-by-minute, endlessly, until we pass from this earth.  The change, the re-making is intentional on God’s part. Scripture tells us:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians. 4:22-24

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Transformed. Made new. Renewed. That’s us.

On this never-ending journey of life with our Beloved, let’s embrace the word change. Let’s be pliable clay in His hands, willing to be mashed down, re-formed, made into something new! Even in the painful circumstances that try our faith, let us desire the touch of our Master Creator who isn’t finished with us yet.

The breaking and re-making. The new places on the journey and the hard places that tax us to our limits. These are part of the journey we signed up for. Let us be willing, not weary, travelers. Coming to know God and allowing Him to mature us in His ways is lifelong. We never arrive as long as we live. We are always “becoming” until the day we die. Becoming more faithful. Becoming more Christlike. Becoming more patient. Becoming more loving. Becoming more joyful, peace-filled, kind, gentle, self-controlled….

When we feel He’s shown us our deepest core, there are still other layers below. The journey is never over Girls! Enjoy the adventure of it all!

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Favorable Change

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Stingy eyes evidence of the tears the day before as I tried to insert my contacts lenses I pondered to myself how in recent history I had gone through a record number of contact lenses evidence of multiple crying episodes. The day before, my friend had declared she was moving away. I’ve heard it said that major events and good things occur in threes. Like three pregnant women at the same time, three blind mice, the three little pigs, the three primary colors from which every other color can find its basic origins. The ships that carried Christopher Columbus’ to find The new World: The Nina, the Pinta, and The Santa Maria. The three cord strand that is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12): The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection after 3 Days. I could go on and on. Well maybe not me, but with help of an internet search engine I could.

So when the for the third time a sweet dear friend told me she was moving away all I could do was cry. It was a true answer to prayer for her and for her family, but for me, it was heartache. For the others whose lives she had invested in, it was sad. I’d watched her over the last several years, she had been the very words of Jesus that had come to life for me.

Jesus said in Matthew 25: 36-40:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

qag0vcte_600x600_a538b01aMy friend, she had fed me. She fed me on multiple occasions, but one of the most memorable was when we were moving, living out of boxes, and she called me and said, “Hey! I have a Beef Bonapart that I am bringing to you Martins right now.” There was no time to protest, no time to argue, she didn’t even give me the option to say no. She brought that delicious baked pasta right to my front door, handed it over, said, “Enjoy! I love you!” and she left.

That evening I was tired, I was stinky, I had worked all day in preparation of my new living quarters and I was hungry. I’d long ago resolved that dinner would come in the form of a grease stained paper bag, with some mediocre fast food option to sustain me through the night. Yet, there I was sitting at a makeshift table with my family, enjoying a homemade dinner on a paper plate, with a plastic fork, she’d brought so we could eat that pasta dish.

She’d invited me in countless times, even in the days when she barely knew me. I was in essence a stranger and she opened her home and welcomed my rowdy Martins and me. She told me once, regarding her Mama’s house, “Mimi’s house isn’t fancy but it is welcoming.” I knew exactly what she meant, for her house was the same. It wasn’t fancy, but is was warm and welcoming for sure.

clothes-hangers-coat-hangers-plastic-hanger-hang-39518She didn’t exactly clothe me, except she daily reminded me that Colossians 3:12 tells us to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” She reminded me by being dressed that way herself. She challenged me to dress the same way, to exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

I can honestly say I’ve not been in prison physically, shackled up and sentenced to serve jail time by a judge, but I have been shackled up spiritually. I’ve been so fearful and anxious that it were as if my extremities were shackled to the wall. She knew I was in jail, that I couldn’t free myself from those things. She didn’t have a key to liberate me, but she knew the One who did, and she would intercede to Him on my behalf. Both in my hearing and not. She would pray for me and I can honestly say, there were times I never told a soul that I was wrestling yet that did not stop her, she would sit with me and she would pray.

I have been sick. She has prayed for vomit and pain, for test results and for strength. She has prayed for peace and for comfort. She has prayed without ceasing not just for me, but for countless others as well. Heaven alone knows that astounding number. She taught me the benefit of “Well, let’s just pray right now.” When she would be asked to pray for someone or some situation in particular, she demonstrated there truly was no time like the present. She’d say the aforementioned statement and then she’d get to it, petitioning the King for healing. I am, I was, one of the least of these.

When my friend announced her leaving, I cried because there are some kinds of change of which, I am not a fan. I cried because I know that she is so much like Jesus that I would miss the reminders of Him, (she would argue this point with me here, further demonstrating her humility and supporting my statement.) We prayed together that day, and she reminded me of a solid truth, “When you walk with the Lord, change is always in your favor.” As the time came for her to embark on the new phase of life and new adventure and ministry Jesus had already prepared for her, I was challenged. Unknowingly she has challenged me, and Jesus clarified that challenge.

Jesus speaks to me somewhat unconventionally. He essentially said to me, that I wouldn’t be missin’ her and the Jesus in her so much if I acted more like Him. If I would take the time to do for others the very things my friend taught me to do.

The King’s word says in Proverbs 7:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I’ve not been trained in the metallurgic arts, but I know enough to know this is absolutely the truth, for I was a rusty, dull, piece of iron, heavy and laden with fear when along came my friend, who acts like Jesus and helped to sharpen this ol’ gal up.

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