Rattled

SheepWhat do a hairball, palmetto bug, the USPS, and the IRS have in common? They teamed up together to rattle me. I had never really considered the definition of rattled until I was watching a video that goes along with the Bible study Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me. Jennifer Rothschild defines rattled as “thrown into a state of agitated confusion.” She was describing the characteristics of a sheep and how they are often rattled by the smallest thing to the point that they are incapable of moving until the shepherd comes and finds them and redirects them back to safety. I can totally relate.

I came home, tired after a long week, to find one of the cats had been sick…on the Young Mancomforter…on my side of the bed. Not his fault because he has had some digestive issues that are partly of my making due to changing his food too much. Still, any thoughts of a brief nap were shot as I cleaned the spot and left it to dry.

Then, I got the mail out of the box to find a reminder about my mortgage being late, which I was very well aware of and still not sure how I was going to wrangle along with other bills this month. There was also another notice of a certified letter from the IRS, regarding a late tax payment because…well see earlier comment about money. I spent a few moments fuming about why the government thinks I could afford to pay more taxes and then wasted an hour online at the IRS website getting more depressed and rattled.

I ate dinner and was contemplating whether or not to buy a Bible study book and decided against it because I felt I shouldn’t buy anything given financial issues. Later, I went to check on the bed cover and found it dry, so I pulled the bed covers back and a palmetto bug jumped out from under the comforter. Of course, I jumped, swatted, and called for my pest control team (3 cats – who leisurely took their time in dispatching the interloper).

Rattled…I was definitely rattled. It was a little ironic because just last week I wrote a blog on trust and obey, and here I was having a melt down over 2 pieces of mail, a random incident, and a stupid bug. So, I relate to the sheep being easily rattled until they are frozen in place. The difference in me and the sheep is that the sheep is waiting on the shepherd to come find her, and I am lamenting all the possible terrible things that could happen if I don’t get things straightened out myself.

Then…the Shepherd found me.

I left the cats to their hunting and sat down to watch the video that goes along with the study and the Shepherd whispered to me. The scripture for the study was Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Jennifer Rothschild shared this simple but profound point:

“You make Jesus all you need, and then all you need is found in Jesus, In other words, like sheep, you pay more attention to the Shepherd who supplies your needs than you do to the needs themselves.”

Just like that the Shepherd picked me up, turned me around, and pointed me in the right direction again. The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing.  Then, I ordered the book because I realized that the enemy did not want me to have it, so it must be something the Lord wants me to hear. I used my birthday money to purchase it. I’m sure when the book gets here the enemy will try to “rattle” me again, but the Lord is my Shepherd, so I have nothing to worry about. In the meantime, I just got an offer for a short-term job for December which the Shepherd knew about even before I knew I needed it.

Psalm 23 Bible study

Here is a link to the book Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me if you would like to read more.

#Psalm23Study

The Power of Naming

 

2011-09-26 21.31.06When a little bobble-headed, tuxedo kitten showed up in my yard howling for help, I picked her up and felt ribs. She hissed when her feet left the ground but by the time she reached my shoulder she was purring like an Italian sports car. It took less than a week to realize she had chosen me as her human, so I set about trying to come up with a name for her. I tried Squeaker for a week or so because the way her cry sounded, but she categorically refused to answer to it.  She was extremely vocal and sounded like Beaker from the Muppets, like she was actually having a conversation in a high-pitched voice. It sounded like a series of “meeps”. One day as she stood with her back to me I called “Meep.” She turned around and looked at me and that was that.

There is something powerful in a name. In Genesis chapter one, God created the world by calling it into being by name. God said let there be light and there was light. Then he created man and woman and named them Adam and Eve. God even granted man the honor of naming things in the Garden of Eden. Then as Adam and Eve had children, they chose names for them as well. In Old Testament times, and even still today, great thought was taken in choosing a name. The Israelites called God multiple names based on different aspects of His character, such as Our Father or Our Provider. There is power in asking for something in God’s name and in God’s will.

There is also something about naming something that takes away fear. The unknown is scary and full of worst case scenarios. However, when we can finally name our fear or disease or problem, it calms us because until we can name it we don’t know how to fight it. I was watching a television show called Chasing the Cure. The guests were people with mysterious conditions that their doctors had been unable to identify or cure. Many had suffered for years. On the show a group of doctors work with a network of medical specialists and the general public to try and put a name to their illness and then hopefully find a cure or at least a treatment. For many of them, just finding a diagnosis was freeing after so many years of uncertainty.

The same can be said about sin. When we name our sins before God, then we can ask forgiveness and move forward.  When we just say a blanket forgive me, the “hidden” sins still taunt us as if God doesn’t already know about them. When we admit them to Him, then He can heal us and help us move forward. Identifying a problem is the first step to a solution. In this case, naming the sin and admitting it is the first step in battling it.

The same can also be said about our enemy. In the series Harry Potter, people refuse to say the name of the evil wizard Voldemort out of fear. Harry refuses to fall prey to that fear and says his name out loud, unwilling to give Voldemort any power over him. While Voldemort is a fictional character, our enemy is not. Ephesians 2:6 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” There is power in identifying the enemy and knowing that we are fighting against something more than other humans. We are fighting a battle at the spiritual level.  When we name our sins and ask forgiveness and we name our enemy and claim God’s victory, then we know we can win the battle we are facing because God has already won the war.

Motivation

We all have the best of intentions of getting up in the morning and getting things done, and then the alarm rings and we groan and roll over. Monday morning…notice I said Monday… I was not ready to get up yet. It was the day after Easter, and the weekend had been busy. I just wanted a few more minutes. As I started to drift off to sleep, the persistent poking of a small paw woke me up. I lifted up the covers, thinking she wanted to join me, but she jumped under and back out again. We repeated this routine a couple of times until I felt something tickle my arm. I sat up and turned on the lamp to find a palmetto bug in my bed. Sassy was chasing it around, which is why she wanted me to move the covers. Let’s just say that motivated me to get out of bed and get said bug out of my bed. Going back to sleep was no longer an option.

As it turned out, I got quite a few things done that morning before work, which made me feel productive and got some things off of my to do list. However, I still had hard time not being aggravated for the ruckus that got me up and moving. I was thankful for the end result even if I would have rather skipped the unsettling events that led up to it. I think God has a way of using unsettling events to move us in the direction that we should go when we would rather stay under the covers and nap.

We all like our comfort zones, where we feel all warm and safe, but God wants to go on an adventure with us, spiritually speaking. He wants to us to cast out into the deep and go fishing where we never have before because He wants to do something new in our lives. In John 21, Jesus comes to some of his disciples who were fishing all night and had caught nothing. He told them to cast out into the deep and cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They were a little skeptical, but obeyed and caught almost more than they could haul. The reward for obedience was greater than they had imagined.

Mind you, the rewards are not always tangible, but they are always more than we could have imagined. God wants to do something great in our lives, but sometimes he has to unsettle us and shake us free from our routines and send us in a new direction in order to do something new. Sometimes it is something substantial like the loss of a job, and sometimes it is just a palmetto bug in our bed that motivates us to change our morning routine to make room for something new. You may not like the motivation, but use it to cast out into the deep with Christ and you will not be disappointed by the end result.

Little Blessings

Sometimes it is the little blessings that bring us joy and comfort at just the times we need them. One day I caught a glimpse of a fawn drinking from a misty creek on an early morning commute. It made the daily grind a little brighter. It was a small thing really, but it brought a bit of joy.

Sometimes it is a bit of companionship. Last night my cats all stayed near me, keeping me company. It was a bit of joy on a sad day. They didn’t do anything in particular. They just sat with me and purred, happy to be in my presence. Sometimes that is all someone needs, a companionable silence.

Sometimes it is a word of encouragement. If you think someone looks good today or did a good job on a project, then tell them. It might be the little blessing they need. I am not suggesting making up things to tell people because people can sense insincerity, but if you think something good, then share it. We have no problem sharing frustrations and anger, so we should not have trouble sharing good thoughts.

Sometimes it is just a simple gesture, like a smile or holding a door or helping carry a burden. When you are in line at the grocery store, smile at the cashier and wish them a good day. Give your waitress a smile and a good tip. These are little things but they can make a bad day better.

It is the little blessings that can bring joy to us and to others, so try to be more of a blessing in a world that is caught up in anger and mistrust and pettiness. This will make more of a difference to a person and possibly to the world than a rant on Facebook ever could. So, be a little blessing to someone because life is made up of a bunch of little moments and how we act in those moments eventually adds up to a lifetime.

Not the Mama

Several years ago there was a TV show called Dinosaurs about a family of dinosaurs. The youngest was a baby who could clearly say Mama, but when the father would try to get the baby to say Dada, the baby would point to him and say “Not the Mama.” It drove the father a bit crazy to say the least.

I have a cat named Meep who is a bit neurotic. The day I found her in my yard, a starving little thing, she bonded with me the moment I picked her up. Since then, she has refused to interact with anyone else except, on occasions, my sister. Everyone else is “Not the Mama.”

I most likely saved her life as she was tiny and starving and alone. The truth is we were all like her before we accepted Christ. We were condemned to death with no hope until he came along and saved us. He then took us in and fed us and gave us living water so that we would never hunger or thirst again. His presence is always with us so that we are never alone.

In light of such an act of love, we should look to God with the same single-minded devotion as Meep shows me. No matter who comes into the house, Meep only listens for my voice. She comes when I call, and she longs to stay at my side. She looks to me to provide for her and take care of her. She relies on me and only me. We should be the same with God. We should look to Him and Him alone for everything we need. We should listen for His voice and long to be in His presence. Everyone else should be “Not the Mama.”

Drip or Fountain?

My cat Meep is fascinated with moving water and loves to drink and play with the slow drip at my kitchen faucet. She sits in the sink and catches the drips on her tongue or even on her head. Sassy, the calico cat, washes her paws in the water bowl and then washes her face. Rudy, the shop cat at work, will often drink out of the toilet bowl instead of the water bowl I set out for him if I don’t keep an eye on him. It amazes me how they will go out of their way to drink the least satisfying sources of water and play with the good sources, but are we often guilty of the same thing?

God provides a fountain flowing with living water if we will only drink of it, but how often do we go for less satisfying sources? We submerge ourselves in all kinds of pursuits, trying to quench a thirst that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. Some people chase after wealth or fame, some after worldly pleasures, and even others dedicate themselves to a religion. However, none of these will fill the God-sized hole in our hearts.

It is like those days when you have a craving, a taste for something that you can’t identify. You eat everything in the pantry, but none of it will satisfy that craving. It is not until you finally realize what you are in need of that you can satisfy your craving. All the other foods leave you wanting more and often have the down side of causing weight gain, which only makes you sluggish, just as chasing after the worldly pleasures often leaves you weighted down. They are poor substitutes for the real thing.

When we finally recognize our need for God and allow Him to take His place in our lives, then we can finally feel satisfied. It is an eternal fountain that will quench our thirst forever. If we will only give up the substitutes, the drips, and drink at the fountain, then we will never thirst again.

 

Flight Risk

My tom cat, Young Man, loves to jump up next to me on the couch, throw himself down next to me and roll over on his back so that I can rub his belly. He looks up at me with what I like to think of as adoration. He loves me and he loves belly rubs. He will lay like that forever if you will keep rubbing his belly, and then he will sleep there purring loudly all the while. However, if he hears a loud sound or I make a sudden movement, he jumps up and runs for cover. The moment of peaceful bliss is gone in an instant of fear.

I sometimes wonder if I am not guilty of the same thing as far as God is concerned. There are moments where I feel the presence of God and it feels as if I could just sit there and soak it in. I feel like nothing could ever move me from my trust in God. I am firmly rooted and will not be moved. Suddenly, something happens. It could be a stressful drive into work, a disagreement with friends or family, or a change we didn’t anticipate with work. We jump up and run for cover.

We tell ourselves it is natural to step away and assess the situation. In actuality, we are stepping away from God…we are moved. Correction, we move. We let the situation dictate our emotions, and fear gets a foothold. We run around trying to figure out how to deal with the situation when our first action should have been to look to God for direction.

Like Peter, when we take our eyes off of God, we are suddenly drowning in the water that we were just walking across in faith. The weight of the world pulls us down into the depths and we struggle. When we quit struggling and look up, we float to the surface and find God right where we left Him.

While the instinct to run is an admirable trait in a cat, it is not an admirable trait in a child of God. As long as we keep our eyes on Our Father, we will not drown in the world of troubles. He will make a way for us if we will keep still and look to Him. Young Man is a flight risk. It doesn’t take much to have him running for cover. We, on the other hand, must remember that we are never safer than when we are sitting at Our Father’s feet, looking up at him with adoration. For when we are there, nothing can touch us.