Did You Hear What He Said?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to actually do what you’re supposed to be doing.

Should I say that one again?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to actually get up and do the very thing the Lord has been telling you to do. And sometimes He’s been telling you to do it for a long time. Other people have told you the same thing, and they didn’t even know what God has been telling you. Because He’s using them to emphasize what He’s telling you

Yes, He uses other people to speak into our lives all the time, just to be sure we’re listening. To confirm what He’s already told us. Just in case we didn’t pay attention the first several times.

You’ve either not been listening; or you’ve been avoiding it because you don’t think you’re ready for the task He has for you. Maybe you’re afraid to take the step you know you’re supposed to take, because you’re afraid you don’t measure up. Or you’re not taking that step simply because you’re scared of failing. Or you’re procrastinating, and only you know the reason why.

Would the Lord tell you to do something, sometimes many times, if He didn’t have a really good reason? If He didn’t know what your obedience would do in your life? And would He continue telling you, sometimes for several years, if He didn’t really want you to do what He says?

My favorite verse, as I’ve said many times, is Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord….” Yes He does have a plan for your life. But that plan is not something that will just magically appear one day. His plan requires that we take certain steps, do certain things, to bring that plan to fruition.

And delaying doing what the Lord has told you to do will only delay that plan.

What has the Lord placed on your heart that He wants you to do? What has He been telling you to do? Has He told you to walk away from a certain situation? To release someone or some thing which has a stranglehold on your life? Has he told you to step out of your comfort zone and speak to groups on a particular topic you’re passionate about? Has he told you to write a book, or start a blog, or try your hand at songwriting? Maybe He’s told you to finally use your untapped talent and start painting like you’ve always dreamed of doing!

He wouldn’t tell you to do it, or put the desire in your heart, unless He knew you had the talent and the passion to do what He asked. He knows our heart and our desires so much better than we do. And He knows the plans He has for our lives.

But it all starts with listening to what He has to say. And then taking that step to do what He’s asked us to do. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Have you heard what He’s been saying? Are you listening?

So when are you going to start your journey and start DOING?

The Black Hole of Depression

If you haven’t ever experienced depression, it’s very difficult to understand the depth it can cause someone to sink into. It’s difficult to understand how hard it is to pull yourself out of it.

Depression is a thief that comes to steal your joy. Depression knocks on your door when you’re having a tough time, and says I’ve come to talk to you about all this. And instead of encouraging you, which you sometimes don’t want to hear right then anyway, it agrees with you. Yes, things are bad for you. They’re even going to get worse. “I’m here to tell you that!”

And you start to believe it.

Depression is real. It hurts. It captures you, grabs you with its strong arms and squeezes. It holds you close and begins to suck all the air from your body, until you feel like you can no longer breathe.

Depression wraps you in its paralyzing grip and keeps you from moving. It keeps you tied to the chair you’ve put yourself in, unable to move. Unable and even unwilling to talk to anyone, because Depression has told you you’re not worthy. That no one wants you. That you are incapable of doing anything productive or worthwhile. That the rest of your life is going to be like this, so you might as well give up and resign yourself to the facts (according to Depression); you’re no one, you’re worthless, and even worse, you don’t deserve anything any better than where you are and what you have right now.

Depression puts you in a hole and begins to throw the dirt in on top of you. And because you believe Depression’s lies, you lie down in that hole and just stop trying. You no longer have the will to try to climb out, because you’re totally convinced that Depression is telling you the truth.

And at that point, you start welcoming the dirt that is being shoveled over you. Because it will make the pain go away. And it’s easier to accept being in that hole than it is to grab onto the sides and begin pulling yourself out. Because it’s not going to get any better.

Depression is a liar. Depression is a thief. Depression exists to steal the happiness that you deserve. Because Depression is only happy when it makes others unhappy. And it’s really good at what it does.

John 16:33 In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.

Many times our walk in this life is difficult. It can become so hard that we only want to give up. But that’s not something we can afford to do, because when we do, we miss the goal we are so close to. And then we have no choice but to start the entire walk all over. While Depression stands there laughing at you, with that “I told you so!” look on its face. And once again, Depression wins.

But Depression is not a winner. Depression is a loser. And it always will be.

Because you have the power and the gifts to fight Depression. Depression does not win unless you allow it to.

That black hole can go away; you can climb out, shake the dirt off, and show the world, and Depression, that you are a winner. You are worthwhile. You are loved, and you are capable of doing the things you want to do!

No more. Today is the day Depression is defeated.

Because there is a Plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that. And Depression wants that Plan stopped because it knows you’ll be happy and successful. Misery loves company; so does Depression. Depression is always lonely, and it wants others with it. It will fight hard to keep you with it.

But you don’t belong there.

In Psalm 40:2 we read, “He [the Lord] lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” That is the true promise of the Lord. He is faithful, and He will do what He promises. He will pull you out of that pit of depression when you take His outstretched hand.

Our hope is in our faith in the Lord; as hard as it may be some days, as long as you have a measure of faith to put one foot in front of the other and take one step ahead, you are defeating Depression. Keep your eye on the prize, as you hold the hand of the One who loves you the most.

And one day you will suddenly realize Depression has gone away, and been replaced with a joy and peace you never thought you would have again.

That is the power of faith. The power of keeping your eye on the One who loves you the most; the One who will never leave you or forsake you. The power that is given to you when you simply take His hand.

What are you waiting for? Tell Depression you are done, once and for all. The black hole exists only for the one who created it, and that person is not you.

Take the hand being offered, and let Him pull you out, never to return to it again.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And God is always good, and always faithful.

Letting God Direct Your Feet

God has a way of getting us to do what He wants us to do. Or should I say directing us to do what He wants us to do.

Several years ago the Lord told me to do something. Something I didn’t want to do. I couldn’t even imagine doing it.

So what did I do? I ignored Him.

But He kept after me. He kept telling me I had to leave something behind I’d worked with for over seven years!

“Lord, are you sure? Have you forgotten what I’ve put into this?”

Of course He was sure. And He hadn’t forgotten my work.

He had other plans, and in order for those plans to be accomplished, certain things had to happen. And one of those things was me stepping away from this particular endeavor. Until I stepped away, He couldn’t do what needed to be done in another situation.

Being human, and wanting things my way, of course I fought it tooth and nail. I put off my decision, because I thought if I put it off long enough maybe He’d change His mind, and I wouldn’t have to do what He told me to do.

But God doesn’t do that. Would God ask us to do something if he didn’t have a reason?

He always has a reason. He knows better than us what we need to do! Even if we’ve been doing something for what seems like forever, when He tells us it’s time to move on, we need to listen.

Jeremiah-29-11-LONGGod knows the plans He has for us. Who are we to question?

So I set a deadline for doing what He asked. I actually set several deadlines for doing what He asked, because I still thought He’d say, “Hey, you don’t have to really do that. It’s ok. Forget it.” But He never said that. So reluctantly, after much heartache, I finally did what He’d been telling me to do.

And as soon as I’d sent the email leaving this thing behind, I thought to myself, “Why did I do that?? Can I call it back??!!”
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But the next morning I felt at peace, relaxed. In fact, I felt something I hadn’t expected to feel. Anticipation. He obviously had something else for me. Something I couldn’t have until I was obedient. When God directs our feet away from where we are, or where we’re planning on going, our natural inclination is to say, “NO! I want to go my own way.” We don’t like change. We’re afraid of the unknown, because we don’t know what it’s going to be like. We have our comfort zone, and we like it!

Staying inside our comfort zone is certainly more comfortable than going outside of it. My comfort zone was fixed up just right. I had my favorite little spot to curl up in, with a good book, a bowl of dark chocolate candy in one hand (non-fattening of course), a bowl of Fisher’s caramel popcorn, hot and freshly popped in the other, and a big cold Diet Coke on the table! And my favorite kitty in my lap. That’s comfort. And it was good for a time. But staying in our comfort zone doesn’t allow us to grow. And that’s what God wants for us.

If we don’t grow, we can’t survive. We plant seeds and watch them grow into flowers, and we watch our children grow up. As much fun as they are as babies, would we really want them to stay babies forever? We want them to grow and mature, and that’s what God wants for us.

I didn’t realize I was so involved with the thing He had me leave behind; that it was taking so much of my time I didn’t have time for anything else. But the Lord knew it, and He had more for me.

And in order for me to experience the “more” God had for me, I had to make changes, and I had to listen to Him. And take my feet where He directed them….to follow in His footsteps, instead of trying to get Him to follow MY footsteps.
Proverbs 16_9
Does He force us to walk where He wants us to walk? Certainly not. We have free will. We walk where we want to walk, but that doesn’t mean the Lord is always happy about where we’re walking. And when we go off the path, He’s going to do what He can to get us back on there. He doesn’t force us, but He certainly makes strong suggestions, and sometimes even puts people and circumstances in our way to help guide us back on His path.

It’s now been several years, and I don’t yet know what all of His reasons were when He told me to make that change. But ever since I obeyed Him, I’ve found new doors and windows opened that I’d only dreamed about previously. If I were still doing what I stepped away from, I could have missed out on a big part of God’s plan for me, and the next part of my life. And I could have blocked someone else’s future as well.

Now my comfort zone has expanded from that little spot, to a big warm sandy beach, under an umbrella, with a soft breeze and the sound of the waves running up on shore, while sea gulls fly around waiting to steal one of my Thrasher’s French fries. The caramel popcorn is still there, still hot and freshly popped! And my kitty is purring happily on a beach towel beside me.

All because I was finally obedient to God’s word. I followed His footsteps. And I’m so glad I did.
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Author’s Note: Unless you’re from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, near Ocean City, you won’t know the awesome delights of Fisher’s caramel popcorn and Thrashers French fries, but trust me, they are worth the discovery, and will probably end up in your comfort zone as well!

The Price of Freedom

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983