Sunday, June 7, 2015

While the world goes crazy, I'm taking a bite of Psalm 94....Part II

Yeah, I should be asleep but I'm not. The insomnia bug has bitten me within the last week. Blame it on my schedule change with my knee surgery meds or my incessant brain that won't shut up. Either way, I'm up. However, my blog bug has bitten as well, and what's on my heart is weariness (not just my physical weariness), but mental weariness that the world can bring from time to time.

Are you tired too? Stressed? Are you over it? Wondering what in the "ham sandwich" (An Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt reference) is going on nowadays? Just so tired your tired is tired? If so, then sit down with me a bit and let's have some Psalm 94, shall we?

A while back (think a year or two), I wrote a blog post titled, "While the world goes crazy, I stay sane."
Link if you care to look back: 

 I remember that summer. I was about to turn 30, started this blog (on my bucket list). Ok, I just laughed that turning 30 prompted a list, but gosh I was so attached to my 20s. Anyway, I spent the summer NOT WORKING as I usually found my teacher self in some sort of summer program or educational endeavor. Instead, I spent the summer resting and exploring how to make Toya "better." Of course only Jesus can ultimately help with that, but I decided my hands shouldn't be idle in the process. Nonetheless, I sat and blogged one day about how the world had just gone absolutely crazy and what I could do to manage to stay sane. I know there was some infamous trial going on....that rhymed with "immerman" and a host of other crazy, loopy, omg moments that joined this mega media/news craze were also happening.

So, as I usually am with negative and sad things I was overwhelmed. I couldn't even continue to ingest any more ideas, thoughts, opinions, emotions.....just couldn't. While blogging that day I realized that there is so much, and will be more in the future that I absolutely have NO CONTROL over. Now, to a control freak like me (the Lord is still working on me:) that is a scary thought, but it's the truth! That summer instead of letting it overtake me, I went out into the world and did what I could do.....and believe it or not, that's the best you CAN do.

Today, I find myself overwhelmed again with our world. My Facebook feed is overcome with news story after news story, some positive, most negative. Many that would warrant strong emotion, local and national. Cute kids, sick kids, funny pets mixed with the young dying too soon, with funny memes and unimaginable pain. Remember when Facebook was just simply a way to connect with your high school and middle school buddies? Family? When it was really just a bunch of college kiddos or alumni (as you had to have a school email to register) to connect with and say things like: "Hey girl! I haven't seen you since 8th grade, good to see you!" My how it's changed......some days happy and jovial, other days depressing.

SO....once again I am met with a decision- get sucked in to the world or unplug and stay sane. Put down phone, pick up Bible (should be in the reverse order, and I thank John Piper for sharing an article that convicted me of that) and READ. I came across Psalm 94:19 tonight. Funny, I felt an immediate peace come across when I read that scripture. Here are a few versions:

New International Version
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
New Living Translation
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
English Standard Version
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
New American Standard Bible 
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
King James Bible
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

If that doesn't make everyone stop.breathe.and relax- I don't know what does. I just love when you can find a verse that just covers your exact emotion at the time. It's like the Lord giving you a spoonful of spiritual antibiotic when your spiritual immune system is tanking. If anyone can express mental exhaustion, hardships, and being "over it" - it's Paul....and Job too:) After settling on that scripture for a moment I decided to read the whole Psalm 94......and in one of my favorite versions- the Message Bible.

Sometimes the Message Bible is just necessary, it slaps you in the face when you need a slap. It gets to the nitty gritty when necessary, and can make a point crystal clear.

WOW! The weight and reassurance in the Lord you gain from sitting with this Psalm. I consider myself one who struggles greatly with injustice. I say that the Lord must have placed this "passionate" side in me for a reason. My goal is to learn to use it His way instead of mine. Although right now our world is crazy and injustice is evident in a plethora of areas and circumstances, I have found that my struggle translates at times in the smallest of circumstances.

I was the kid who would NOT let you copy my homework, and wouldn't ever consider copying in elementary school.....because well, you should have done it yourself! Can't say I kept that rule forever because, well, Physics  and Computer Science could kick my butt from time to time (many times) in high school (thankfully we can repent and the Lord forgives :). As a teacher now, that is definitely a non-negotiable. I was the kid that if I saw you doing something wrong, yep I TOLD. If you didn't want me to, then don't do it. Yes, I am laughing as I type because growing from a child to an adult, I know I am not perfect and have for sure made Jesus shake His head at me many times. Even as an adult I still struggle with this (He's not through with me yet). I have huge heart, I like to give and do what I can and if someone gets messed with you can be sure I WILL HAVE THEIR BACK! I protect, I fight for people, causes, whatever is best. I'm the one that will "share the truth" because if I don't tell will you know?! (insert hysterical laughter)- just being honest about my passion for justice:) Toya's philosophy is simple: Hey, everybody do your job correctly, be nice to people, don't try to pull one over on me, and we'll be fine. Easy? In my mind yes, in the real world- No way.

So, I am constantly working to redirect that part of myself to Jesus. Gosh, it's hard. "But Lord, it's wrong. They're wrong- I saw it. I can prove it. I know! It's unfair, it's mean. No one is doing anything about it.  Lord: "Extend grace, it's not your fight. Leave it to me. I can handle it better than you EVER could. Be quiet, Be still. Wait."

Meanwhile, my flesh screams in agony like a dagger has just been used to stab my the flesh:)

Now, of course the Lord isn't telling me to turn a blind eye to crime, or not to help someone if I can. However, many of the things I get so worked up over I'm learning are just growth opportunities for me to do what I can and leave the rest to Him. I believe that's part of our exhaustion, or mine anyway. Wanting to work it all out, save the world, stop the bad all on our own. Newsflash......we can accomplish MUCH, but NOT ALL.

With that said, today I'm going to make Psalm 94 poster size! (or at least in my mind). When people weigh me down with their "wrongness" and crazy. Psalm 94. When I am emotionally overwhelmed by the "not fair/no you didn't/you must be kidding/are you serious?" Psalm. 94. You know how Blue Bell (RIP Blue Bell) used to say, "Eat all you can, sell the rest?" Well, DO WHAT YOU CAN, AND LEAVE THE REST TO JESUS. That's all you can really do, So I leave you and myself with Psalm 94, the Message version, let it calm you. Let it remind you that God sees all of the craziness in the world. The crazy you work with. The crazy you live with. From the smallest injustice to the greatest. Every mean, horrible, unfair, sad, conniving thing. EVERY ONE. He also sees how we are reacting to it, and how much we are trusting Him through it. Since I can be the queen of anger and fear, I will say the root of that is not trusting. Not trusting a great God to reconcile, redeem, vindicate. He overcame the world, while we're still going crazy about it........

Psalm 94 The Message (MSG)

94 1-2 God, put an end to evil;
avenging God, show your colors!
Judge of the earth, take your stand;
throw the book at the arrogant.

3-4 God, the wicked get away with murder—
how long will you let this go on?
They brag and boast
and crow about their crimes!

5-7 They walk all over your people, God,
exploit and abuse your precious people.
They take out anyone who gets in their way;
if they can’t use them, they kill them.
They think, “God isn’t looking,
Jacob’s God is out to lunch.”

8-11 Well, think again, you idiots,
fools—how long before you get smart?
Do you think Ear-Maker doesn’t hear,
Eye-Shaper doesn’t see?
Do you think the trainer of nations doesn’t correct,
the teacher of Adam doesn’t know?
God knows, all right—
knows your stupidity,
sees your shallowness.

12-15 How blessed the man you train, God,
the woman you instruct in your Word,
Providing a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil,
while a jail is being built for the wicked.
God will never walk away from his people,
never desert his precious people.
Rest assured that justice is on its way
and every good heart put right.

16-19 Who stood up for me against the wicked?
Who took my side against evil workers?
If God hadn’t been there for me,
I never would have made it.
The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,”
your love, God, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
you calmed me down and cheered me up.

20-23 Can Misrule have anything in common with you?
Can Troublemaker pretend to be on your side?
They ganged up on good people,
plotted behind the backs of the innocent.
But God became my hideout,
God was my high mountain retreat,
Then boomeranged their evil back on them:
for their evil ways he wiped them out,
our God cleaned them out for good.
The Message (MSG)

While the world goes crazy, I'm taking a bite of Psalm 94:)
Until next time....

P.S. And if you'd love to read the great article shared by John Piper I referred to about "checking your phone," here goes-----

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reasons why you're not praying....

This post should really be titled, "Reasons Why I sometimes don't/haven't, etc. been praying." However, I have a notion I'm not the only one in the world who has had to check themselves and their prayer life from time to time. Currently, I'm in probably the biggest transition period of my life, and one thing I am learning about transition----it will bring you to your knees (and at the most random points in the process). Just when I think I have this moving life/career/surgery/family under wraps, something else gets thrown in the mix. Of course. Of course, it's life.....and I'm currently fighting the myriad of thoughts right now about boxes. Boxes. The unlimited amount of boxes that need unpacking far, far, away (life doesn't end and I'm a control freak- pray for me :). Nonetheless, I'm going to sit. Sit and blog. One, I have no other choice but to sit (my leg cast that I last blogged about, is still a part of me). I feel like I have a purple monster following me around all the time, and then I remember that's just my leg :) Thank you Lord for endurance, but if one more person asks, "What did you do to your knee?!" I just might scream. Very loud. Or I think I will just hop around with a note on my crutch that says, "I was born this way." Thanks Lady Gaga, just might do that :)

Anyhoo, I will sit and blog. I will sit and preach to myself. I will sit and remind myself why I struggle from time to time with prayer. I will remind myself that these reasons are a sure fire way to create a stagnant/dry/unproductive prayer I can remember the dangers so I can stay charged, ready, and in constant communication with the best dad there is---Jesus!

So, this is my list of "Reasons Why "you're/I'm not praying." No, I'm not a theologian (I literally LOL), just a hot mess that needs Jesus everyday and finds blogging about my mess cathartic.

Reasons Why You're Not Praying:

1. Even though you know better, you think Jesus is the genie from Aladdin.....
You don't have to admit it, but I will. I know Jesus is NOT a genie. However, I feel that sometimes prayers aren't prayed because deep down we want that instant answer. Ok Lord, I prayed now.....Tada! Where's the answer? Your flesh is tapping its anxious fingers waiting on a response, a sign, the heavens to open up and immediately rescue you from the problem/ailment/circumstance. But, Jesus is not a genie. Jesus is Jesus. The great I AM. He will do exactly what He says, what He promises in His time. That's the part that is hard for us----His time. But His time is the best time period we will ever experience. HIS answer is worth the wait. He's worth the wait. 

2. You're lazy. *Don't throw stones, I'm talking about myself too.*
An effective, fervent, prayer life takes effort. It takes energy. When you become overwhelmed by circumstances or "busy" (as we know we CAN make time for what's truly important to us) it zaps your energy. This can cause us to be lazy in our prayer life. "I've been praying," or "I prayed." You become tired. It becomes mundane and the vigor you once had, that's needed, seems gone. Again, that's our lovely flesh that gives up so easily when we don't get "genie answers" right away.

3. You think God has you on hold. This is taking too long. You hear the recording, the elevator music wondering if your prayer got through. Test, test.......Lord, did you hear me? You know the thing I really needed help with. The thing I'm still struggling with? The person that I'm still struggling with? The decision that I'm still struggling with? We tend to think when God is silent that our prayer is somewhat negated. I learned a while back that prayers are ALWAYS answered. It's just that it may not be the response you were expecting. You'll either get an answer, a NO, or a WAIT.....which brings me to my next point---

4. You don't like the answer that God gave you. To that, I tell myself what I tell my students----"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Now after your flesh has a temper tantrum, let's remember that the same God we went to in prayer is the same God that delivers, heals, helps, calms, saves, and LOVES. Above all He LOVES. He loves us too much to not do what is best. He knows EVERYTHING. He knows what you're going to ask before you even ask it. He knows what you need, and He knows if your deliverance should be immediate or years from now. He knows exactly how to guide your life so that you GROW IN HIM. Funny, as a teacher I find myself telling my students the same thing. "Sweetie, I know what you need to know. Listen to me." In my spiritual imagination, I hear God saying the same thing. We may not like His answer, but just like a caring parent, He knows what answer we need.

5. You prayed and things became worse. Sometimes this happens. You know the saying, "Things get worse before they get better." I would like to suggest that I think sometimes our circumstances have to get worse so that we get to the place He needs us to be. If you think about how God designed things in this earth, everything has a process. Plants don't immediately sprout just because you throw a seed in the ground. We didn't just appear fully grown from our parents, we baked a while. Currently, my knee surgery has been a process. My doctors literally broke my bones and rearranged and realigned my leg and 5 months I will be completely healed, God-willing. And as much as I want to throw my leg cast out the nearest window, I know that I must have it a few more weeks. Everything is a process, yet we want our prayers to reach His ears and POOF! Fixed. Done. All better. Sometimes we get that miraculous help and sometimes we are helped to sustain the process. The process that can possibly get worse before it gets better.

6. You don't think you're worthy enough to request anything from God. This one here is really just the talk of the enemy. Thank God He saves, we can repent, we can be washed clean, we can be made new! The Lord allows all of those wonderful things and allows us to communicate directly to Him. We're not perfect and we never will be on this earth, but don't let mucky, icky, negative self talk take you away from talking to God. If anything pray that those feelings and thoughts would be eradicated from your mind and spirit, so you can focus on prayer with Him. None of us are worthy of all that Christ gives, but He loves us enough to give it freely even when we're "messed up." It's grace, it's a gift and you are free to talk to Him. He wants us to improve, He wants what's best for us, and He wants us to talk to Him. Be Nike....Just Do It!

7. You over-analyze. "God, this doesn't make any sense. I have no idea how this can even be fixed. It's too crazy. It's too hard. It's too complicated. Why?!" Such a dangerous thought pattern, but I have been guilty of it many times. Our mind wants to automatically make logical sense of our situation. I pride myself on being a problem-solver, one who can look at a situation and find a solution or some innovative way to work with what I have. This is a great trait to have as a teacher because as educators we should be able to fix problems. A kid can't read, has gaps, is behind, seems disinterested, needs improvement, needs to be challenged. Sure! throw anything at me. Give me any student and they WILL LEARN. I will find a way, I will figure it out. Now, as I said....this works as a teacher. THIS DOES NOT WORK AS A BELIEVER. As a believer in Christ, we must BELIEVE. We believe when we can't figure it out. When we don't see a solution. It's the complete opposite because we don't know what God knows. We can't see what He sees and we are to TRUST the one who knows. We trust the Light when we can only seek darkness. Easier said than done, I know. But, I must continue to remind myself that the energy I spend trying to "figure it out" or "understand why" can simply be spent in prayer. While I don't understand and am confused-- I can pray. I can do what I can and leave the unknowns up to a known God.

8. You have forgotten all the times God answered, because you're so focused on THIS TIME.
 I started a prayer journal about a decade ago. At the time, I didn't really know it was a prayer journal but years later that's exactly what it has become. I have always been fond of writing over talking. I'm better at it, unless it's talking to kids and then I'm a pro! So, my lovely, pink fuzzy journal has been with me quite a long time. It's filled with scripture, written prayers, letters to God and my favorite part......answered prayers. You have no idea the peace and power in physically writing down a prayer and recording when it was answered. Seems simple. May even seem silly to record such, but for me it's been a great motivator when I notice my prayer life get a bit stale. While I'm so worried about a current matter or issue, I can easily forget what He HAS DONE in my life. And in the words of Tye Tribbett- "If He did it before, He can do it again." Here's a peek at some of my prayer dates:
Simple. Write a prayer. Sit with God. Step away and allow Him to work. Once He does, I record the date. Some of the greatest answered prayers are ones that have come on the exact day I requested. Those are the ones that give you the goosebumps that only God can create. 

So, when I notice I've fallen off my prayer wagon, I go through my journal and marvel at all the great things He's already done. As Mark Batterson would put it......"Journaling is seeing God's fingerprints on your life." I love that. I love that my journal shows His fingerprints on my life. I can see how I've grown and what I've been through. I also think it's neat to see how long it takes God. Not to watch the clock and "time" Him, but I'm blessed by the prayers that took months....some even years, because it reminds me that He is faithful. It reminds me that He doesn't forget, and it reminds me that He cares more about growing my faith than if I get a quick response. I would fly off the handle if my students looked in the back of the book for answers (which kids will do because they're kids), because they don't want to take the time to learn the concept or work through the problem-- yet I find myself trying to do that with God from time to time. My prayer journal reminds me of the benefits of waiting on Him to act. How my time would have been completely wrong and disastrous and His timing is so PERFECT.  My prayer journal also helps me remember how I thought some circumstances were so difficult, only to realize now they were nothing. You know how you freak out, and later realize you exerted too much energy on a small this kid:

Thanks Kevonstage :)

Once we invite God into the mix, the big issues become manageable chunks. Above all, I notice that I've made it. I've made it! I made it out. I made it through, I was not destroyed. I see Isaiah 41:10 in action throughout my journal....[...] I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice."

He said He will help us, hold us up, retain us, harden us to difficulties, not take away all our problems. So, the reality of that is sometimes you have pages like this in your prayer journal:

You have prayers that are blank. I still have a few of these in my prayer journal. Ones that I have prayed over, several times. No answer. However, instead of looking at these blank pages with discouragement, I have come to understand that some prayers haven't finished baking yet. I would even go so far as to think that some prayers may not be answered in my view. How many prayers have been prayed for others that are answered in future generations? I'm sure many can fall into that category. In the end God knows. He has not forgotten, and my view is not His view. So, I'll keep praying over those blank pages, because prayer MATTERS. It matters whether I get the response I want, or if it takes longer than I thought. It matters to my growth as a Christian. It matters to Jesus. It even matters to the devil, because he delights every time you fall off the prayer horse. He doesn't want your faith to grow, He doesn't want you to be spiritually strong. The devil wants you to be defeated by the 8 reasons I have listed. The more you don't connect with the Father and grow your faith in prayer, the easier it is for the devil to get a foothold in your life. 

So, keep bowing your heads my friends. Keep fighting the laziness, keep fighting your flesh who craves immediate gratification and answers, the easy way out, your own will and way. Keep fighting against the prayer rut. Keep talking to God, keep believing He will, and keep recording when He does. 

Note: I have more recorded answered prayers than blank pages.....your good days do in fact, outweigh your bad. He does work and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. 

Jumping back on my prayer horse :)
Keep praying my friends, keep praying!
Fight all of your battles on your knees and you will win every time:) - unknown

Until next time......CraftyMorrison

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Leg Cast Confessions

Howdy and Happy Tuesday Blog Readers!

    I'm really surprised I haven't written consistently lately, since I have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. I'm currently on "Operation Recuperate and Heal" from knee surgery (about a week ago). Long story short, I was born with eccentric knees that needed to be redesigned if I wanted to continue to walk on this great earth. So I had a very intensive and extensive surgery (with a super long name) to correct the issue. Here's a visual:
So....the "supposed to be here" section- yeah, that's where my patella should be (note, this diagram is far from exact and just enhances my point) and my patella likes to flail around wherever it wants to in my leg. Hence, major surgery needed.

Nonetheless, I have been through this before with my right knee and now it was time to have my left leg broken, knee cap completely moved to a new location, bones realigned and a couple of screws to ensure that my knee doesn't develop a mind of its own again.

Flash forward to now. I am now in a full leg cast (from being in a full leg brace last week). I was so excited yesterday when they took off the leg brace because I was DYING to bend my leg and let it breathe a bit. You don't appreciate freedom in your limbs until they are confined and you are forced to live with it.
 Funny, as soon as I breathed a sigh of relief from the brace removal, my doc says, "You do remember you are going into a cast today right?"
 Me: "Oh yes, I remember- just nice to feel free for a bit."
So, they remove the 24 staples from my incision (they said it would feel like pulling a scab, I thought they were removing my skin a peel at a time. Yes, I cried. But only a tear fell.- Inside I am sure I drowned from the tears that didn't quite make it to my eye ducts). 

....Cast goes on, I feel great. I feel on to another 4 or 5 weeks healing in said cast.
My doctor warned me that since I was so swollen, my cast may slip as I lose the swelling. Which means they may have to "recast" me to be sure my broken tibia fully heals. "Ok," I said. No biggie.

Day 2. Today. Today I HATE this cast! I want out. I want it gone. It's irritating me, I'm sure I'm smaller than I was yesterday. Is my cast slipping? Ugh. No. Please. I hate this. I am so done with the cast. 

So after that rant, my flesh and spirit had the BEST conversation ever. Yes, when you are confined to sitting and healing you can make almost ANYTHING a life lesson.

Flesh: I hate this cast. I forgot how awful this is. How long do I have to deal with this thing? It's only day 2, how can I make it another month?

Spirit: You know this is part of the process. Anything broken that needs healing must go through a process.

Flesh: I know, I still hate this. I'm uncomfortable. Ugh!

Spirit: Doesn't feel good now, but it's part of the plan. There will be healing when the process is done and you'll be whole without any of the ailments you had before.

Flesh: Doesn't change now. I'm already tired of this.

Spirit: In due time, you'll reap the benefits of this process. In due time you won't even remember every uncomfortable moment. Remember the 1st time? The 1st surgery, you didn't know what to expect. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, but that process has made this process even easier, hasn't it.

Flesh: You're right (hate when that happens). Pain is there, but overall is significantly less than the first time. I knew what was coming this time. I was better prepared. So yes, it's a bit easier.

Spirit: I KNOW, and the work that was done in your knee will be completed if you just trust the process, have patience and let it heal. When you're uncomfortable, do what you can and pray about the rest. Your complaining isn't going to change the situation. It's just taking away the Peace you can have right now.

Flesh: .............

Spirit: Remember what you read this morning in devotional? About Hard Grace? "The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace because as the surgeon would cut open my son's finger to heal him, so God chooses to cut into my ungrateful heart to make me whole." -Ann Voskamp, pg. 92 One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Flesh: thinking (I'm being absolutely ridiculous).
Thank you Lord for orchestrating my surgery and guiding my doctors and his team to correct my knee issues.
Thank you Lord for giving the doctors wisdom on my healing process.
Thank you Lord for making a way for me to have both surgeries done, as there are people desperately needing surgery for life-threatening ailments and are unable to receive care.
Thank you Lord for this leg cast that is protecting my bones and guiding them to heal correctly.
Thank you Lord that this process will be over in due time and I will have the freedom to walk, move, and run as I should.
Thank you Lord that I have a village who aids in my recovery, therefore making this process easier.
Thank you Lord that you can worked out every detail, even those I cannot see.
Thank you Lord for this reminder in the midst of my disgruntled complaining. 
Thank you Lord for time to rest, as I cannot remember the last time I wasn't too busy to form a thought.
Thank you Lord for your Spirit that gives my flesh a reality check.
Thank you Lord. Thank you.

Dear Leg Cast,
Sorry for what I said while I was irritable. You're just hardened material that is making me better instead of the jail I made you out to be. With God's help I'll come to appreciate you these next 4 weeks, because without you my leg would never be mended :)

P.S.- I think I am smaller, my hand shouldn't fit in my cast. Calling the doc. Yes, do what you can and pray about the rest :) So, this means I may go from "bondage" back into another form of the same "bondage".....until I'm done (ring the dinner bell, when Toya is done cooking). Now, I believe I have had to stay in a place more than once, a time or two, because God wasn't done with me yet. Sometimes that is because I got in the way, and sometimes it was just because He wasn't done. His time, not mine. In my knee's case, my bones' time, not mine. That "this will preach moment" came straight from my cast of course:)

Until next time.......embrace your "meanwhile" your "process" your "dry season" some Psalms and watch God use this time to make you better in the end my friends!

"I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord, and He inclined to me and heard my cry." -AMP

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Stormy Weather

I'm breaking another blog hiatus, for this special weather announcement....

     It's Spring, which is a season that lends itself to growth and warmth. Spring is my favorite season as it's not too hot or too cold, but just right (in my "Goldilocks voice"). However, Spring also brings about storms. Thunderstorms. Torrential rains. Tornadoes. Scary, ominous weather forecasts. The past couple of weeks our area has been threatened with such storms. Flash floods, gusts of high-power winds, and warnings that have even prompted many areas to "take cover."
    During this season, I began to think of how much I dislike storms. I've always been afraid of their potential. Storms can hurt you, they're uncomfortable, they interfere with life, they are big balls of chaos. My control freak nature also detests them because........yeah, they come out of nowhere which leaves me unprepared. I must be prepared for the worst possible situation, so I can be prepared for the worst possible situation-----right?

Now that I've properly introduced you to my fearful, control-freak flesh, here's what dropped into my spirit the other week during.......yep, that's right--a storm.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at home, hanging with my hubby. That night, the weather turned grim and a serious thunderstorm was on the horizon. I wasn't too jazzed about it, which I have never been. Nonetheless, it was coming whether I wanted it to or not (let that line marinate for a moment.....or as the Bible says "selah"). So, Mrs. Control Freak, something you don't want to deal with is about to happen anyway.

So, here comes the storm. Loud, dreary, preventing hubby and I from frolicking through our new town and having a laid back Saturday. I was currently chatting with a good friend about these current storms that interrupted my evening, and had a bit of curiosity that turned into a bit of an "aha" (waves finger). Now this good friend of mine, happens to LIKE storms. I mean she really LOVES them. She watches for them, tracks them, and gets thrills and excitement from a "good-ol" thunderstorm. Yes, the same ones I detest. I've always thought that was an interesting hobby, but there are those who hate storms...ME, and then there's my storm-loving buddy. That night "I got to thinking" Why on earth would someone LIKE storms? Maybe storm-lovers don't really know their potential to......I don't know hurt you and destroy everything you have? Or maybe storm-haters like me are missing it possible that there is even a shred of good that can come out of a storm?

Well, if it's one thing I've heard over the years in church sermons and referenced in scripture....there will be storms, and God has the power to create good from the bad. Easy to hear, motivational to think about, but when you're really in a storm---are you thinking about all those good, warm fuzzy  "God's got this" thoughts? No. No you're not. And if  you are, it's a heck of a job getting your mind to stick to that. It's feasible and I even know it's worth the effort to do such a thing. However, it's not easy. It's not easy to think about rainbows and sunny days when the sky is black. When wind knocks you down. When twisters come and move you out of your intended place. When they wreak havoc in your environment, or when everything is soaked under the downpour of rain.

So after chatting, I sent my "storm-loving" friend a video of the chaos outside as I knew she would be geeked about it. Shortly thereafter she replied with a passage from Job (36:27-37:24). Now I have read Job, a few times all the way through--might I add.....and I don't recall ever being truly struck by these specific verses. I think maybe because I read this portion as narrated details, and was most likely focusing on one of the overall themes (I'm an ELA teacher for sure) of restoration and faith. My mind also went back to earlier that day, reflecting on  my daily Ann Voskamp devotional, which happened to be on the subject of "ugly beauty" (finding the beautiful in the ugly). Coincidence, I think not. God-idence? I think yes. I had just written in my journal on pg. 50, "Lord, help me see the beauty in the ugly." I then found a playlist with storm sounds (who makes such things?!) and listened to claps of thunder, rain, and strong winds while I pondered....."what on earth could be so great about storms." Yes, I know the truth about spiritual storms, but tell that to my flesh (the one I tell to shut up daily). Reading the verses in Job and thinking on my devotional that day struck a cord right then, because hello! we were in the middle of a storm people. The verses are as follows:

Job 36:27-37:24 New International Version (NIV)

27 “He draws up the drops of water,
    which distill as rain to the streams[a];
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
    and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
    how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
    bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs[b] the nations
    and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
    and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
    even the cattle make known its approach.[c]
37 “At this my heart pounds
    and leaps from its place.
Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,
    to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven
    and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of his roar;
    he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds,
    he holds nothing back.
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
    he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
    and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
So that everyone he has made may know his work,
    he stops all people from their labor.[d]
The animals take cover;
    they remain in their dens.
The tempest comes out from its chamber,
    the cold from the driving winds.
10 The breath of God produces ice,
    and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
    he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
    over the face of the whole earth
    to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish people,
    or to water his earth and show his love.
14 “Listen to this, Job;
    stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
    and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
    those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes
    when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies,
    hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
19 “Tell us what we should say to him;
    we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
20 Should he be told that I want to speak?
    Would anyone ask to be swallowed up?
21 Now no one can look at the sun,
    bright as it is in the skies
    after the wind has swept them clean.
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendor;
    God comes in awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
    in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, people revere him,
    for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?[e]
 Now, I feel that many a sermon can be preached in these verses. What struck me is the reminder of God's Sovereignty! HE CONTROLS ALL OF THIS. ALL. From drawing up drops of water to the bold thunder, to WHATEVER HE COMMANDS. Boom! God drops mic, walks off stage. I don't like storms, but as the Word says "are we only to want good from God and not the bad?" (my paraphrase). So, WHATEVER HE COMMANDS, whether we understand it or not---has a purpose. Even if the purpose is solely to show He's God, there's a purpose. Shortly after I pondered these passages (selah), I Googled, read, and pretended to be a college student on a storm-study research project. I searched on the specific benefits of storms. Maybe just maybe there would be something grand about this "ugly beauty" notion. Even though a Google search isn't the end all- be all of info,  I still found some interesting facts:

1. Storms act as a lifeguard for man and living creatures. Rainfall is a result of thunderstorms and water is the main source of all life. ("abundant showers fall on mankind..." Job 36:28...)

2. Storms act as an air conditioner for the earth. The percentage of heat would greatly increase and be unbearable for living creatures, if not for the cooling of a storm. ("The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen..." Job 37:9-10)

3. Lightening in a storm releases nitrates that fertilize the soil. Nitrogen is a significant element for farming and is necessary as it's used by plants and vegetation. Lightening also CHANGES nitrogen gas into compounds which aid in the fertility of soil. ("See how He scatters his lightening about him, bathing the depths of the sea. This is the way He governs the nations and provides food in abundance..." Job 36:31)

4. Thunderstorms remove pollution. Storms clean the air and remove pollution from the atmosphere which is why we feel refreshed after a storm. ("He does great things beyond our understanding..." Job 37:5) Storm-lovers may know these benefits, but storm-haters like me.....never knew. Yes, these ugly, destructive, inconvenient storms have BENEFITS! Benefits that are necessary just for us to sustain life. As much as I would like to think that the world would be grand if it never rained or stormed, truth is---it wouldn't be. It would seem comfortable, but there would be no growth, no replenishing, no renewing...

*The same rain that floods and soaks us, is the main source we need to live and we need a great downpour! The storm we don't want to encounter is the same storm that is a lifeguard for our Spirit. One that gives us a great downpour of our main source.....Jesus.

*The storm that drastically drops our temperature to cooling lows, is the same storm that is preventing our earth from overheating. God dropping temps to low, dropping us to our low, is providing relief. Relief from the hot, stale, stagnant places in our spirit. The areas that are in great need of a cooling,  which slow us down....just enough to put our focus back on Him.

*The lightening that lights up the sky and strikes down trees and power lines, is the same lightening that provides nitrates to the soil. Soil we need to provide vegetation and nourishment. Just another attribute of a storm that is necessary. One that God allows which seems ominous, yet is helping us when we can't comprehend or understand.

*The dirty, mucky air that we breathe day in and day out, is being cleansed each time a storm comes through? Remarkable. Only God could perform such a thing. While things are sunny, comfortable, and bright we "think" we are breathing freshness. We "think" that we are always inhaling the good. However, sometimes there must be a shift. A shift to "cleanse our air" and bring us back to where we need to be...which is to notice His work. His sovereignty, His delicate care of every detail of our lives. Him loving us enough to cause a storm that would cleanse, purify, restore, and grow us.

"He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor."
 -Job 37:6-7

So, would I LOVE for another storm to roll through?.....I wouldn't necessarily choose it. Nonetheless, I will say that I have a greater appreciation for His works and more patience for WHATEVER HE COMMANDS. There's peace in knowing that He orchestrates ALL things. There's growth in knowing that the uncomfortable places, the hurt, the "why do I have to go through this storm" parts are still a part of His plan. We don't have to understand it all, and many times the why and how are what trip us up. Why would he allow the scary, dark, ugly storms? and then once the storms pass you see the benefits that you were blind to all along. I never cared if there was any beauty in the ugly before. I just wanted the beauty to stay and the ugly to go away. I didn't want to wait until it was over. I didn't want to be uncomfortable. I didn't want to "go through." But, I'm learning you must. Storms are going to come whether we want them to or not. No stopping it. No trying to dodge the bad and only accept the good. No changing the sovereignty of God. The huge blessing is that He knows exactly what He's doing, and if it hurts He's got the band-aid ready. Ready to place it on the wound. Ready to restore our spiritual skin after the tear, the scrape, the pain. I love the Message Bible's translation of Job 37:23-24, "It's unthinkable that he'd treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you're wise, you'll most certainly worship him."

So, I'm going to trust that the Lord will do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's the storm, sometimes it's sunshine. I'll bow to him in deep reverence because I don't know it all. I don't always know when I need a refresh. I don't know when I'm dry and stagnant, and need a downpour. He knows....and how nice that after the storm or stormS will come a rainbow.

I think things.....I ponder long.....and I write them down when they fill my head.

Until next time.........

*Thank you Jesus, Ann Voskamp, Kristy, and :)