Feeling Like a Wad of Paper Jammed in a Shredder

I did it again! I overloaded the shredder and jammed it. Tell me–why do I try to shred six pieces of paper at one time when the instructions clearly say five? Why won’t I take the time to divide the pages into two stacks and shred them separately? But here’s the clincher–why can’t I get it through my head that unjamming the shredder takes much more time than doing it right the first time?

On this particular day I fastidiously ripped out one page after the other as far down as I could, and then seesawed the machine between reverse and forward trying to dislodge the wad of paper that was stuck. Fifteen minutes later, frustrated and aggravated, I finally gave up knowing that I was the problem, not the shredder.

The owner’s manual had stated explicitly: Shred only five sheets at a time. Why? Because that’s all the machine was designed to do. No matter how impatient I was, the shredder could only handle five sheets–not six.

Do you ever feel like a wad of paper stuck in a shredder? Do you ever feel overwhelmed because life keeps piling on more and more responsibilities or too many complicated issues?  Have you ever gotten to the point where life just seems too hard?

David knew that feeling well.  After months or perhaps years of running for his life from Saul, an insanely jealous king, David felt stuck in a set of circumstances that he didn’t know what to do with.  The weight of having to constantly look over his shoulder became too much.

picture 1 5-27-15In Psalm 55, David poured his heart out to God.  “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.  My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…My heart is in anguish within me… Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest–I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm'” (vv. 1-2,4-8).

Because David was feeling so distraught, running away seemed like a viable solution to him, and that’s exactly what he did.  Convinced that Saul would stop at nothing to kill him, David fled to Philistine territory hoping to get unstuck (1 Samuel 27).

The apostle Paul knew the feeling of being stuck, too, but he also knew that the only way to survive it was to keep a proper perspective about life. Concerning his ministry he said, “ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

picture 2 5-27-15I like the way The Message translates these verses: “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

Please reread that last paragraph if you feel like running away or you are at a place in life where you don’t know what to do–where you feel like you’ve been thrown down–where you are a wad of paper jammed in a shredder.

At times like these Paul knew he must not fixate on the hardship. Rather, he reminded himself that there is a purpose in everything we go through. He knew that often jams in life don’t make sense and threaten to rattle our sense of security. Therefore, he chose to believe that there’s a bigger picture which cannot be seen by human eyes.

Because David believed he could trust God, he resolved to cry out to Him.  He was confident the Lord would hear him.  “Evening and morning and noon I cry out in distress and He hears my voice,” David said (v. 18).

LIke David and Paul, we have to trust that God knows all about our jams–the ones we got ourselves into because of impatience or poor choices and the ones that have been thrust upon us for no apparent reason.

The Lord knows that believers and shredders have one thing in common–both have limitations–and He promises to support and guide us through the stressors which threaten to overtake us.  No matter whether we are stuck in temptation or overwhelmed with life, the Lord promises to “provide a way out so that [we] can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So be encouraged today not to give up on your “jam“ but keep on working through it.  You may have to throw it in reverse and forward a few times to get unstuck, but rest assured the Lord will lovingly help you persevere as He accomplishes His will in your life.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal” (vv. 17-18).

Dear Father, life sometimes seems to throw too many issues at us at once and leaves us feeling like a wad of paper stuck in a shredder. When we don’t know what to do, help us believe with all our hearts that You always know what to do.  Help us trust You to use all of our circumstances for an eternal purpose which only You can see at this point. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

A Lesson About Marriage from the Birds

picture 2 5-20-15“We need to talk about the birds and the bees,” a  friend said after my post two weeks ago. (Click here to watch the video if you missed it). “The bird,” she continued, “was not trying to get inside your house. He was trying desperately to ward off the bird he saw in your window which he perceived as another male bird. He was protecting his territory and particularly his special lady. What you observed is mating behavior.”

“Well, that makes sense,” I replied, wondering why I couldn’t come up with that explanation on my own.

After our conversation I googled the behavior and found that, “This scenario is surprisingly common and is almost always perpetrated by male Northern Cardinals, American Robins, and Mockingbirds. The concentration of hormones in male birds increases dramatically during breeding season which can cause a ferocious defense of their territory. Certain species seem more prone to being “fooled” by their reflection in windows, thinking it is a rival in their territory” (audubon.org).

picture 1 5-20-15After mulling this over, I thought, “How beautiful God’s creation is.  What a special relationship He made between a male and a female–even among animals.  Just as God ordained, a male is not supposed to share his mate with another and should fiercely fight to protect her, to defend her, and to provide for her.”

Our culture needs to learn a lesson from the birds.  Even these animals know that God gave a female companion to a man to be jealously protected.  How sad that many men in our society are not angered when another man looks lustfully at his wife, but instead seem to be pleased, actually proud about it.

There was a day when a man would have knocked another man out cold if he had dared look at his wife in a lustful way.  There was also a day when a husband would have told his wife and rightfully so, “You’re not wearing that outfit because I’m a man and I know what other men will be thinking.”

Most of the time the word jealous has a negative connotation. However, the Bible describes the Lord as being a jealous God.  When He gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai He told the Israelites that He would not tolerate their worship of any other gods.  Nothing short of absolute undivided affection for Him would do.

I think a man should be jealous in that way for his wife taking his role as lover, protector and provider very seriously.

One morning I was amused as I noticed a pair of cardinals perched on a branch outside the breakfast window.  What captured my attention was when the male kept leaning over and appeared to be kissing the female. However, after a while I realized he was feeding his special lady.  It was just the sweetest sight.

I thought, “Now that’s a perfect picture of what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5:22-33 when he said that husbands are supposed to love and cherish their wives.

Waylon has performed countless weddings, and while the ceremony has changed over the years, he refuses to delete the phrase “to love and to cherish” from the vows.

picture 3 5-20-15So what can we learn from the birds about marriage?  Plenty.  God created males with innate desires and roles which should  only be satisfied within the marital relationship.  He meant for a man to jealously protect his special lady and provide for her–to love and cherish her like Christ loved the church.

Heavenly Father, when I think about how You created the world and how You intentionally assigned roles to each part, I am overwhelmed at Who You are and Your creative power.  It has been so amazing to watch the male bird perform its role as protector and provider for his mate.  I pray today for husbands to take their roles seriously and to the best of their ability to love and to cherish their spouses just like You love the church.  Help us wives to honor You by loving and respecting our husbands in return.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading:  Ephesians 5:22-33

Honey, You Must Need a New Battery

Jake, my three-year-old grandson, sat in the back seat making a guttural sound that he called “the pig noise.” After a few minutes, he said, “Honey, you make the pig noise this time.” I relished the thought that my grandson assumed I could do anything. But knowing he would love me just as much when he realized I couldn’t, I replied, “Jake, Honey can’t make the pig noise.”
Puzzled by my apparent inability to perform such a simple task, Jake sat silently in the back seat analyzing the problem. Then, with the genius of Albert Einstein (remember, he is my grandson), he exclaimed very confidently, “Honey, you must need a new battery!” It was a no-brainer to him.
“Yes, Jake, Honey does need a new battery!” I agreed whole-heartedly, chuckling to myself trying not to insult the conclusion he had drawn. Then I thought, “Child, if you only knew how badly Honey needs a new battery!”
What about you? Do you need a new battery? Do you ever feel like your energy is depleted or that you have lost your enthusiasm? Well, congratulations! Welcome to the real world. It’s a feeling we all experience from time to time. That’s why Paul told the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). You see, he knew that running out of steam and giving up can be a difficulty for us all.
Paul understood that becoming a Christian is exciting, but he also knew how difficult it is to persevere through the daily grind. He wanted his readers to see the big picture and not lose sight of the ultimate goal—the harvest. Let’s think about it this way. Would it make sense to do all the backbreaking work that is required to plant a garden, and then later say, “I’m tired. I don’t feel like picking all that stuff ”? No, we would push it into overdrive and make sure we got the reward for all our hard work.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul compared life to a race. He suggested that it is just as absurd for a Christian to quit serving God as it would be for a marathon runner to quit before he finished the race. It’s not that many of us haven’t worked hard in our walk with the Lord. It’s just that we get tired at times, and the thought of quitting seems so appealing. But Paul would say, “No way! You got into this race and you must finish it—and finish it well.” He would encourage us to run the race with perseverance and receive the prize waiting for us just over the finish line.
Shortly after our younger daughter, Emily, was born, I entered a 5K race at New Orleans Seminary where we were living at the time. It wasn’t a big deal—just something to do on the Fourth of July. There weren’t even many participants—just me and a few kids ten to fifteen years younger than I. Although my legs weren’t old at that time, they were no competition for the younger ones. For them it was a “fun run” around our neighborhood. They jogged along, merrily carrying on a lively conversation, hardly breaking a sweat. Me? No conversation, lots of sweat, and heavily labored breathing—legs aching more with each step. It was no “fun run” to say the least. 
As we were coming down the home stretch, which went right by my house, I distinctly remember thinking, “I’ll just jog through my front door and grab a Twinkie on the way to the couch.” But then my thoughts turned to what people might say. Certain that my friends would never let me live it down, I continued the race—and finished—LAST! Oh well, at least I had the consolation of knowing that I did the best I could. And I had the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t quit. I finished the race.
Life is a race. It’s a marathon—not a sprint. It requires energy and perseverance. The temptation to quit is ever-present. But Christians must not quit; we must “press on….forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…to win the prize for which God has called me [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
What a wonderful consolation it must have been for Paul when he reached the end of his life and could confidently say, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6b-8).
I recently attended the funeral of a friend’s father. He was a godly man. He exemplified a life that was lived all the way to the finish line. A few days before he passed away, knowing that death can be a terrifying experience for many people, the hospice nurse called him by name and asked him, “Are you worried or anxious about anything?”
Though ravaged with cancer and almost too weak to speak, he shook his head and said, “No, I’m eager.” What a wonderful testimony! What about you—when it comes your time to leave this world will you be able to say, “I’m eager?”
Don’t become weary in doing good. Don’t throw in the towel. Hang in there because there’s a great reward waiting for you at the finish line. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Dear Father, Sometimes we feel overwhelmed at how hard life is. Many days it’s not a “fun run.” Instead, it threatens to sap every ounce of strength we have. During those times, enable us to hear Your whispers of encouragement so that we can run the race with perseverance and receive the prize waiting for us just over the finish line. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the
proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
—Galatians 6:9
Scripture Reading1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Beating My Head Against the Wall

Take a look at this video and see if you can relate.

For the past three days this bird (at least I think it’s the same one) has been beating its head against my windows.  What’s so strange is that this feathered friend doesn’t fly into the window from a distance like other birds do from time to time. No, this one flies to the window sill, chirps a few measures then relentlessly flutters its wings against the glass like he’s trying to get inside.  When each attempt is foiled he moves to another window.  I have videoed him doing his puzzling behavior from eleven of the thirteen windows downstairs.  He is quite loud.  Actually, quite annoying after a while.

What’s so funny is that after he bashes his beak a few times, he falls back to the window ledge,  flutters his feathers like he’s trying to get his wits back after he has just about knocked himself out—like he’s seeing stars or something—and shakes his head.  But has it stopped him? Nope!  He’s back every morning and does his same ritual until about lunchtime.

It appears that the bird’s goal is to get inside and if it is, someone needs to tell him about the meaning of the idiom beating your head against a wall—literally and figuratively.  No matter how hard he tries he’s not going to get through the window.  This bird has done the same thing for at least three consecutive days and gotten the same result.  Somebody needs to tell him, “Little buddy, it ain’t gonna happen.”

Do you have a situation in your life that you think you can change if you try hard enough?  Have you persevered for days, weeks, months, or even years and gotten the same result—miserable failure?

Much to our dismay, sometimes there are situations in our lives that cannot be changed.  We can beat our heads against the wall, but nothing will change our circumstances apart from a miracle from God.

There are times when we have to accept the fact that that’s just the way life is.  We can wish it were different but the reality is that it’s not.

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to have a situation he could not change.  According to him, the Lord gave him a physical handicap to keep him from becoming conceited about his encounter with the Living God.  Although Paul begged the Lord to take his thorn away, the Lord chose not to.

5.6.15 picture 1Instead, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9a NIV).  “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (MSG).

Paul then chose to change his attitude toward his circumstances—to look at his situation as an opportunity for God to work in his life.  He said, “I just let Christ take over!  And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become” (v. 10).

I wish I could say that I’m right there with Paul—that I have changed my attitude toward my circumstances—that I now view all adversity as a gift from the Lord and an opportunity for growth, but I can’t.  I want to, but I’m still not there.

5.6.15 picture 2So presently, I’m praying that the Lord will help me to know when I am beating my head against a wall by begging Him to take away something that is His will for my life.  I want to trust Him—that He is sovereign, that He knows why He allows or causes certain painful circumstances in my life, and that He “works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28)..  I want to surrender to His will and let Paul’s motto be mine:  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Dear Father, help us to know when it’s time to stop beating our heads against the wall and accept the things we cannot change.  Help us to trust that You cause or allow adversity for a reason because we know that You “work all things together for our good”.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10