Finding Peace in the Pandemic

Preparing the Heart:

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The morning mist over the pond at the farm.

My boys are restless. I feel their bottled energy as they slug around the house with that wild look in their eyes as if they hear war drums in the distance but are forced in their barracks unable to join comrades in battle. My hunter runs off to hunt the woods daily. My fisherman runs off to catch those bass in the pond. My youngest son runs between the two. They’re biding their time in quarantine as best they can.

Meanwhile, beyond the farm fences, out there in the real-world, there’s a dangerous invader whose sticky barbs have infected every aspect of our lives.

The enemy loves to break everything at once.

Have at it, as long as he can’t break our knees.

There’s a quote in The Art of War by Tzu Sun, “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”

Which brings us to the question, what do we hold dear? Money? Time? Conveniences? Church? Education? Entertainment? Sports?

Satan has tampered with all of it. But here’s the thing…

God’s allowed it.

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Unfortunately, many times we push God behind those things we hold dear. And once God is pushed out of that space inside us reserved for Him, a vacuum is created that is filled with something dirty. On a personal level, it doesn’t have to be a virus it could be a god we’ve created on our own. That thing that started out innocent enough, maybe even it was once a good thing, until we poured our everything into it. We should all ask ourselves, is there anything or anyone we think about more than God? Is there anything or anyone we hold more dear than our Heavenly Father?

So why has dirty Corona taken over the world? Every country has pushed God out. To mention a few…

In the United States, we’ve decided to abolish absolute truth. The Word of God has become debatable around the campfires, while we shoot holes through passages establishing God’s authority on mankind. We’ve even allowed some pastors to dispute the Word of God from the pulpit. We’ve made vulgarity and sinister evil into entertainment. We’ve given Hollywood and the secular music industry the power to dictate the standards of morality. The ones who are courageous enough to take a stand for absolute truth, are pushed by political correctness to the front lines to be squelched.

Throughout the European countries beautiful churches stand empty. Worshipping God has become old school. Some churches have even been sold to be turned into restaurants, pubs, or even a skate park. Can you imagine skating on a ramp while Jesus watches bleeding from the cross? (Netherlands) In Italy, while church pews remain bare, hordes willgather to hear the Pope. Are they worshipping God or man?

China…I’ll never forget an article I read in Marie Claire featuring a dead baby girl lying in the city gutter on the street. The journalist snapped pictures of people walking on by, even stepping over her, not one person appeared shocked to see a dead baby lying there. It seemed as if this was an everyday occurrence. Until an elderly man stopped. He placed his hands on his hips and looked down for a moment. Relief, someone cared. The man went into a nearby store, came out with a black trash bag, and threw the body in it before tossing her into a dumpster. It was a perfect illustration of their cultural position on the sanctity of life.

Before we Americans pat ourselves on the back for how we regard human life, we are heading in the same direction. In the United States we’ve killed 50 million babies since abortion became legal. Case in point, in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo was so proud of passing expanded abortion rights in New York, he lit up the One World Trade Center in pink. Was he celebrating the increase of infant death? Three months later, he’s battling the highest death rate for Corona in the United States.

Corona is the natural consequence of our pushing God out of His place of authority. He’s the Decider of life or death. It is unfortunate that all citizens suffer the consequences for a nation that has thumbed its nose at God.

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How do we prevent Covid 19 from destroying our peace or taking our joy?

Believe it or not, we can look to the source of the virus for that answer. While many churches have become bloated, boastful, proud entertainment hot spots, they lack any true power to fight the spiritual forces of darkness. Meanwhile, the humble underground meetings of devout Christians in China whose members risk everything to worship have become a beacon of light for the rest of the world to follow. We now have to worship in our homes. We are being humbled and just maybe God wants His church to transform in the process.

We fight Covid 19 in the humble repentance and surrender of what we’ve held dear. Surrendering those things to our Heavenly Father as an offering and placing Him back in our lives where He belongs as Lord will equip us to handle any weapon the enemy uses against us. It is in the surrender we find peace, joy, and contentment no matter what our circumstances. Healthy or sick.

“Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:2-3 English Standard Version.

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Tomorrow Passover begins, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the plague that entered Egypt. The Israelites protection from the plague came in obeying God’s command to sacrifice a lamb and paint the blood over their doorway. Then God told them to remain inside. If they remained inside protected by the blood barrier the angel of death would pass them by.

Today, there’s power in the blood of the perfect Lamb Jesus Christ. He provides our protection from the barbs that stick. Besides, He’s a God who’s familiar with the pain from barbs and can be trusted with your life.

Won’t you hide yourself in Him?

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” Isaiah 26:20 ESV

If you’ve never given your life to Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him to be your Lord and Savior. It is not too late.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Won’t you accept Him today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Stretches Your Heart

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Bella and her cousins who are her stand-in sisters.

 

 

With the boys back in school this week, I’m longing for the smell of fall candles, cooler evenings, and a pot of chili, but we are in our hottest time of the year here in Florida. I wonder if I’m the only woman who gains weight in the summer and loses that weight every fall and winter. I suppose it’s because I tend to hibernate through the hottest months and when that first breeze kisses my cheek, I take a long stretch and become alive again. I’ve told my peoples I’ve decided to become a European. I’ve outfitted my bike with saddle bags, mirrors, head and tail lights, and a cell phone holder. I’ll be the biggest bike nerd in Dr. Phillips. I have a plan to fit exercise into my day, get ready for it… I will bike to the grocery store. Of course, I know this seems a bit counterproductive exercising to get food, but I see it as a way of shooting two chickens with one bullet. Contemplate my brilliance, I can only buy that night’s dinner ingredients, which will keep me from buying anything unnecessary. Save money…loose fat…fetch dinner. I see it as a win-win-win. Make that three chickens. The truth is I’ve been seeing that middle-age monster lurking in the shadows and I know he’s out to get me!

 

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Aubri, Bella and Sunaeya with Sleeping Beauty.

 

 

            There are times our heart needs to get into shape in a spiritual sense as well. When we’ve had an absence of hurt or joy in our lives, our heart can go into a complacent hibernation. Sometimes, this is caused by protecting our heart too much, by tucking it in a dark cave.

             This week, we celebrated my daughter Bella’s fourth birthday. Every year when her birthday rolls in I can’t help but think of my sister Tricia. When I announced I was pregnant with Bella, it didn’t go over so well. We found Tricia an hour later sobbing on her friend’s sofa.

            “I’m so sorry Tammy,” she said. “I’m happy for you and Jay, it’s just this… while you are getting ultrasounds, I’m getting PET scans, while your body is creating life, mine is creating cancer, while you are looking forward to the day you meet your baby, I’m dreading the day I say goodbye to mine. You’re looking forward to the future, while I’m holding on to the past.” It was a painful irony.

 

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Months later, Tricia and her last visit to Florida.

 

 

            The next morning, we stood outside our parent’s home riddled with guilt for the pain we caused the other.

  “I’m sorry about last night,” she said.

 “There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I said. “I would’ve felt the same way. I want you to know I wasn’t trying.”

            “I know God is giving you this baby to… ya know… keep you busy so you’ll keep going when I go.” She smiled and placed her hand on my belly. “You’re already showing.”

            “My body knows what to do by the fourth one,” I said.

            Her eyes met mine. “When she comes, I will go,” she said.

            Although she whispered the words, I jumped back as if she’d punched me. “Wait, No, You don’t know everything Tricia Baines. Besides, I know you’re wrong because Jay only makes boys.”

            She grabbed my arm. “I know okay.”

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August 7, 2014

 

 

            The moment Bella propelled herself into my world, my heart stretched between conflicting emotions of incredible joy and wrenching pain. I smiled through tears at my tiny baby before Tricia’s words flooded my memory, and I let out a sob. Tricia happened to be in a Virginia hospital bed as well that day. True to her prophetic statement, she died around the same time my baby was born, exactly nineteen weeks later.

            After she passed, I kept having these terrible chest pains. Convinced my pregnancy had put a strain on my heart, I underwent an EKG, and a stress test. When the tests results were in, Jay and I sat in the cardiologist’s office for a consult. I knew he was going to tell me I’d need some sort of heart repair, but instead he looked up from his file and said, “Everything looks good. Your hearts in good shape.”

            “No, that doesn’t make sense, my heart hurts.” I said pointing to my chest. “I’m having this sharp stabbing pain.”

            “Have you experienced anything traumatic lately? Have you been under any strain or anxiety?”

            Jay nodded. “Her sister died.”

            “That’s not it!” I said pointing at him. “I’m fine with that. This is physical pain.”

            “That’ll do it to you.” The doctor turned around in his chair dismissing further objections. “Looking over your tests, your heart is great. Our bodies have a way of letting us know when we’ve experienced something difficult.”

 

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Tricia with her children: Caleb, Peyton and Cody.

 

            Every Bella birthday, I celebrate the day my heart stretched and in the looking back, I’ve come to realize a stretched-out heart can only hold more. My larger heart holds more compassion, empathy, and love than it did before, allowing more blood to flow through…more life.  I believe sometimes God lets our heart stretch between pain and joy so we can feel a tiny bit of what He felt as He watched His Son die on the cross. He must have mourned watching the pain and suffering of His Son, all the while feeling great joy for the birth of salvation for mankind.

 

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Newborn Bella flew to Virginia so many times to see Aunt Tricia, she became a frequent flyer.

 

            Has there been a time in your life when your heart stretched? See it as a blessing. Or do you feel your heart has been in a complacent hibernation? Stop protecting it. It needs exercise. Pull it out of the cave.

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Happy Birthday Isabella Fawn Adams!

 

 

Have a great week everyone!

Nature is Crying out for Redemption

When my boys were little we’d play a game in the car. They’d name everything altered in nature as a consequence of sin.
“Weeds…mosquitos…thorns…animals killing each other… etc…” They’d shout from the back seat.
“Creation cries out for redemption too.” I reminded them.

I stated this to my brother-in-law, Thomas upon passing a moss heavy tree. He stated he loved the Spanish moss and found it beautiful.
“It is a parasite.” I said. “It robs the branch of air and sunshine, slowly choking the life out of it. The branch will eventually break away from the tree. Spanish moss is one of those consequences dating back to Eve’s disobedience.”
I equate it to sin. It may appear beautiful, but slowly it entangles our hearts and minds to the point we can no longer recognize the light of truth, the touch of the Holy Spirit.

Last weekend, at the farm,I thought about nature wanting to be free from the binding of sin.
In the morning, the goats bleat as the food tractor comes by. I stood on the porch to witness the chaos. The creatures stampeded Zach almost knocking him down, as he poured their food into the troughs. The many babies, all different colors followed their Momma’s and jumped excitedly, imitating the behavior they see, for they are still on the tit. I leaned over the bannister with my coffee and laugh. Jay tells me some of the babies have been trampled to death at feeding time. My laughter dissipates. Goats are no better than people I guess. How many human babies have been trampled by their parent’s greed or ambition?
There is a papa goat in the bunch. He is larger than the others, Colin likes to call him Sensei, for you can tell he is wise. He moves methodically throughout the herd and watches outside the fence, as if he is the goat’s protector.

Late morning, I stopped by the cows, as I jumped out of the ATV, the herd stared at me. I take their picture. The sun and wind flittered in their coats.The Momma cows moved closer to their calves as I approached the fence. They looked at me with those intelligent eyes as if they wanted to receive my affections, but knew of the unseen barrier between us, tearing it down would only bring us heartbreak.
I recall a passage in Isaiah, “The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.” (Isaiah 11:7) One day, cows will receive affection from man, for now they yearn to be free from the duty of provision and returned to the perfection of God’s ultimate plan.

It is no secret the horses are my passion. A passion born in my youth on hot Saturday afternoons. I’d hear the ring master’s voice over a loud speaker echo through my yard. I rode my bike to the stables to watch the horses circle the ring. It was not a place I was treated well by the spectators.
My sister once asked me, “Why do you go there, the people are so mean and snobby?” I didn’t care, I was mesmerized by the fancy horses and their prancing. Compared to the girls riding, I looked a mess, I had stringy blonde hair, a dirt smeared face, and was sweaty from playing outside all day. I enviously watched the girls in the riding attire moving fluidly with their shiny steeds.

Yesterday, I remembered the feeling as I drove up to the horse pasture. There are five horses on the farm, who see themselves as Golden-doodles, unaware of their strength and size, they crowded me against the fence, and I shoved them back. The sight of a halter slung over my shoulder began their restless circling, for they’ve been released to their wild nature far too long. I approached the one I wanted and she turned in the other direction.
I kneeled to appear less threatening. “Sugar… Come here Sugar.” I said softly. “I’m just going to give you a bath.”She slipped her head into the tool of submission, as if she understood. There is healing in washing a horse. I worked the lather into her coat and rinsed away the dirt and grime, the water flowed down her muscular flank. Once the oils and dirt encrusted in her coat are removed her true color appeared in the sunlight…sleek and shiny. She became new, while I wore the dirt on me. I worked through the tangles of her mane and tail, sometimes having to tug hard to release the knot.
I gave her carrots as a treat. She gobbled them up greedily. The soft of her muzzle tickled my hand, I couldn’t resist the sweetness of it, I kissed her and drank in her smell.
We walked through the breezeway of the barn, she called to the herd. They met us at the gate. I attempted to remove her halter, but the alpha-female named Zoe, chose at that moment to bite another in the rear, which started a frenzy.
I am slammed against the fence and Sugar now spooked, turned to run. I snatched the lead line and dug my heals in, determined not to let her go. Her eyes turn wild as the other horses circled around, tempting her to drag me.
She stomped her front legs and thrashed her head back and forth, but my will was stronger.
“Sugar, I have you! Come back.” I remembered to calm my voice, while she remembered the gentle touch of my hand. The wild white of her eyes disappeared, as I pulled her close. She trusted again. Once her halter was removed, she stood free, but reluctant to leave my side.
For a moment I brushed my face against her muzzle before pointing across the paddock to the others.
“Go!” I said. She obeyed and turned to join them.
I sprinkled carrots around their trough, hoping they’d each get a few. Sugar watched me from afar. As I drove away, she was eating the carrots alone.

The spirituality of the experience was not lost on me, for God loves me like that. He saw this dirty, country girl leaning against the bleachers longing to be clean and wearing fancy clothes and riding prancing horses.
He invited me into his shade, washed and brushed my tangled life, took the dirt upon Himself, and left me shiny and new. He didn’t let me go when I gave into temptations. He held the reins when I tried to buck and run. His will was stronger than my own. He told me to “Go”, go and tell others what He has done for me. There is peace and blessings at the trough of the Savior.

Though nature is crying out for redemption, crying out for God’s perfection, it beckons us to witness the Great I Am as well. Nature demands us to lean in, watch, and listen to the message of a Savior, to look past the creation in order to praise the great Creator. When is the last time you looked beyond a herd? Past the Spanish moss blowing in the breeze?