Maybe you’re feeling out of sorts like you don’t fit in, like a penguin on a hot sandy beach looking for cooler waters. Or maybe you feel like you’re the only one doing what you’re doing, and you wonder if the world is looking at you like you’re nuts.
You are not alone, my friend! Check out the rest of my blog post here.
I want to thank you for reading my blog posts/stories here at Training for Eternity. What a blessing you’ve all been to me! (And a great big shout-out and THANK YOU! to those of you who’ve been following this blog since October 2016. I can’t believe it’s been that long!)
I’ll still blog about the lessons God is teaching me here at Training for Eternity, but…
God has been stirring something new in my heart for a few months, and I’m finally able to share. I have a new website, joeyrudder.com, for this “new” journey where I’m writing stories (and blog posts!) of faith and hope to inspire my fellow underdogs to fight the good fight. I hope you’ll come check it out and follow me there!
Just a sample from my homepage:
Are you an underdog? If you are, you don’t quit. You’re stubborn enough to ignore the naysayers who tell you you’re not going to make it. You push on. Even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard. There have been times, your darkest times, when you’ve considered giving up. But that tiny spark of yours, the one about the size of a mustard seed, ignites something else that keeps you going… [read more]
And a glimpse at my first blog post:
Waiting is hard work. It’s especially difficult for the underdog. You might feel like you don’t have much support or encouragement, that others don’t believe in you and actually voice such things. You might even feel like you’re stuck in a prison of sorts waiting for the moment when you’ll break free and step into your calling –what God created you to do… [read more]
I hope you’ll join me over at my new website. I’m excited to experience the “new” God has waiting for me…for us!
With things still spinning outside my window (pandemic, politics etc.), I’ve been calling out to God and asking Him what I should do.
I mean, really. We all have a part. We all have a purpose. (Are you asking Him what you should do?)
For me, it all goes back to the word He gave me for this year: Believe.
At first I thought the word was just for the Christmas story I wrote last month. But the more I travel into January, I know it’s for this year. (He gave me another word, but I believe that’s something He’s going to do and is already doing. But that’s for another post.)
But the believing, well, that’s up to you and me.
We believe God parted the Red Sea, and Jesus calmed the storm. We believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We believe the countless times when Jesus showed up people were healed, changed, challenged, and redeemed.
Don’t let the storms, the cresting waves of this world threaten you, scare you, or send you running for cover, my friends.
Believe in God. Believe in His power and His promises. Believe in His faithfulness and His love. Believe that He never leaves you. Believe that He has good plans for your life. Believe that in all things He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. Believe that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father right now, interceding for us. Believe the Holy Spirit is on planet Earth, inhabiting the spirits of the willing vessels who surrender and call out to Him, inviting Him to guide, counsel, comfort, and direct. We don’t have to wander around aimlessly and hopeless.
We don’t have to lower our heads as discouragement tries to weigh us down.
We lift our eyes to the hills, where our help comes from, and we praise our God because we KNOW He is faithful! He always has been and always will be. And nothing is impossible for Him or too hard for Him.
When we believe in God, we are turning our eyes (see, that’s our part) to focus on God instead of the noisy waves crashing all around.
Do you remember what happened when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus while he, Peter, was walking on water?
Peter began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, and immediately Jesus saved him.
Wherever you are today, my friends, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Stay focused on Him. And if you give into your flesh and you look away, don’t give into the sinking. Don’t give up. Call out to Jesus. Immediately, He will be there to lift you up.
Don’t doubt. Believe.
“‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:22b-24 NIV.)
When my daughter hurried to the car after stepping off the school bus, I knew something was wrong. “There’s a shooter,” she said.
She explained a few miles from our house, a man had shot at police and was on the run.
We hurried inside, locked the doors, and watched a plane as it began to circle our yard. It flew so low I wondered if it skimmed the top of the maple tree in the front. The growling of the engine grew loud every time the plane approached and became a small speck in the distant sky as it made its rounds, searching for the shooter.
This went on for hours.
I’d asked close friends to pray. Calls and texts came in, asking us if we were okay and telling us to stay inside.
I prayed while my daughter and I went room to room in our house as we watched the sky for the plane and searched the shadows of our yard for an armed stranger.
Of course God was there. And in the brightness of day as we kept watch, I had peace.
But night came and there was no keeping watch beyond the beam of my flashlight. The plane was gone and the quiet was unnerving. Police cars raced by our driveway, their lights flashing in the darkness, their sirens silenced.
I breathed easier thinking, They must have got him.
But another call came. “They think he’s somewhere on your road.”
I’d like to tell you I still had peace. I want to tell you I cried out to God in that very moment and He brought me His peace that surpasses all understanding.
But it didn’t happen that way. I didn’t cry out to God just then.
I’d been relying on my sight, and now it was extremely limited. My ability to monitor the situation had been stripped away with the light. I reasoned I could still listen.
But every creak in our house, every sound I’d heard a thousand times before suddenly made me question the source. My stomach soured and burned. My head started to throb when I heard a helicopter circling, the red infrared light hovering above the shadowed trees.
My husband was completely calm with the seriousness and stability of a soldier on duty while our daughter watched the helicopter in between answering her friends’ texts.
Me? I paced and sat. Paced and sat. Answered my phone and paced some more.
It wasn’t until I was in the shower, my sight and ability to hear limited to the confines within the shower curtain and the sound of gushing water, that I finally cried out to God. My flesh wanted to hurry, so I could get back to the living room and keep an eye on the helicopter or stand in our darkened bedroom to listen for sounds outside our window.
Thankfully, my spirit won over my flesh, and I stood in the shower and prayed.
Please, God. We need You. I don’t know how any of us will get any sleep tonight if this goes on. Please keep the police officers safe. Please protect the man they’re after too. Please Lord, help them find him.
When I returned to the living room after my shower, my husband told me, “You can relax now. They got him.”
You can relax now.
I have to wonder if my Heavenly Father told me that very thing the moment I finally cried out to Him instead of relying on me with all my ridiculously limited abilities.
Yes, I can hear Him now:
Relax, child. I am. And I am here.
I want to remember this:
Every time things are out of my control.
Every time I can’t see the outcome of a situation or even what’s going on around me.
Every time I stumble over my human reasoning and weaknesses instead of living by faith.
And I want to remember how God cares for His children, even when they are pacing in the dark or crying in the shower.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV.)
I was lying in bed last night, listening as the wind roared. It was as if there were a thousand mighty horses stampeding through the woods surrounding our house, bringing a powerful force with them. Hail hit our window and lightning lit up the room as the horses came closer.
I prayed, remembering a time when Jesus was with His disciples in a boat and a terrible storm raged.
“He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:39-40 NIV.)
The lightning faded from our bedroom walls and the power went out. The glowing lights from our alarm clocks were gone, the light illuminating our backyard, also gone.
It was completely dark. The thunder rumbled in the distance, the rain continued to pelt the window and our roof.
And somewhere in the midst of the darkness, I fell asleep and slept peacefully.
When I got up this morning, I thought about that wind. I went to Scripture and read about Elijah hearing the voice of God after the wind.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV.)
I believe God spoke to me after the wind of last night’s storm through His Word this morning just as He has done for so many of us so many times.
What He revealed to me was this: God is in the darkness.
“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21 NIV.)
“Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” (Psalm 97:2 NIV.)
We don’t need to be afraid. We are in a storm, a darkness of uncertainty.
But we can be certain God is with us in this darkness.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12 NIV.)
Darkness is simply another place where God is, another place where we can trust Him. There is no place where we can escape His presence. No storm too great for Him to reach us. No home or room too isolated where He can’t meet with us.
We must have faith and believe God is working all things out in the darkness, in the place where our eyes fail us, the place where our faith is tested, the place where we are still and listen for His whisper.
Stand fast in the darkness, stand firm in the faith, and cling to the King of Kings.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV.)
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV.)
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8 NIV.)
“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Revelation 19:16 NIV.)
Calling 911 and telling the operator our propane tank was leaking put a lot of things into perspective. But first, let me explain something.
The coronavirus is a thief and has been trying to steal my focus. (Is it trying to steal yours? Your peace?)
I was finally going to my first writer’s conference in Georgia at the end of March. I’d been hoping and praying about conferences for years, knowing it’s the best way to meet an agent.
Of course, roadblocks popped up in front of me concerning this conference, so I prayed about each one. And I watched as God made a way for me, removing each roadblock. (Conference cost, plane ticket cost, traveling alone, hotel cost, and our daughter’s school schedule – God provided through some lovely individuals who blessed me beyond words.)
But then came the coronavirus. (You know, the one we keep seeing pictures of, those little blobs floating around wearing spikes – a synonym for corona, by the way, and according to my medical dictionary, is “crown”). And so the conference was canceled.
I’m being honest here. I fell apart. I sobbed and questioned why God would move all of the other roadblocks and yet allow this one to stay. I wondered if I should still go to Georgia; if I might bump into the agent I was hoping to meet. When I asked God, I heard in my spirit:
Don’t look for the agent, look for Me.
So when this virus began stealing everyone’s focus, I fought to look for God. (Not an easy task when the focus of the world all around seems to be on this virus!) I looked for God and saw Him in some pretty amazing ways. (Just look at the surge of scripture on social media!) But I had no idea I would see Him the way I did yesterday:
I realized I’d left our mudroom light on while backing out of the garage, so my daughter got out of the car to turn it off. That’s when we smelled it. I didn’t know what it was, but when she said it smelled like eggs, I knew I needed to check our propane tank.
Our propane tank was hissing and the smell was strong. I rushed back to the car, called 911, and drove to the end of our driveway.
Silence. I watched our house in the rearview mirror as we sat in the car and waited for the fire department. And I cried out to God to protect everyone and our home, my voice breaking, the words falling short.
But I was looking for Him. In that moment of complete helplessness, I looked for God in that moment and cried out to Him.
And He showed up.
He came with the roaring siren of a fire truck and four firemen to turn off the tank and inspect our home. God protected everyone involved, and He kept our home safe. And when I walked side by side with those firemen back into the house, I knew God was already inside and everything was going to be okay.
When things leave us holding our breath, anticipating tragedy, look for God, my friends, and cry out to Him. Don’t allow those microscopic blobs wearing their tiny crowns to steal your focus or your peace.
Fix your eyes on the King of Kings who wears many crowns and has you in the palm of His hand.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV.)
“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.” (Revelation 19:12a NIV.)
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 NIV.)
“That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13 MSG.)
Are you facing an overwhelming obstacle and you’re at your wits end? Maybe debt is circling around you and you can’t see a way out; all you see is how it’s about to cave in and crush you. Or maybe you’ve got a health issue the doctors can’t solve, and you’re so tired of being sick and tired.
Whatever your obstacle is, no matter how hard you try to fix it or figure it out, you can’t. You just can’t.
It’s an uncomfortable place to be, isn’t it? Feeling helpless. Feeling as if you have no control in the matter. It’s as if you’re waiting for a strong wind to knock you over. At least then, you begin to think, I can get a break.
But what if I told you this is a good place to be?
That’s right. When you are completely helpless and you’re facing a situation that you simply can’t fix, there is only one thing to do.
Cry out to God. Cry out in your faith.
Think about it. If you just escaped a terrible situation and there were some awfully cruel people chasing you to bring you back and suddenly you found yourself stuck as they closed in behind you and before you, lots and lots of water, what would you do?
Another scenario to think about:
What if you were facing an enormous, monstrous man dressed in armor (armor that probably weighs more than you!) who wants to squash you, your family and friends, and your way of life? What would you do?
Would you, like Moses and David, cry out to God and declare your faith in Him? Would you brace yourself for God to move on your behalf?
Would you stand back in awe as water lifted from its place and formed walls on both sides of you, the ground becoming dry so you and everyone with you could walk safely across?
Would you run to the battle line, reaching for a stone and knowing in your heart and in your gut that God Almighty would never let you down? Would you remember how He helped you in the past?
What obstacle are you facing? What is impossible for you today?
Cry out to God in your faith and brace yourself for the impossible to take place.
“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14 NIV.)
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22 NIV.)
“And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:37a ESV.)
“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV.)
“And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:47 NLT.)
“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17 48-49 NIV.)
“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NLT.)
Have you ever cried out to God only to be met by silence? You don’t get any answers, you don’t feel peace, and the only sound you hear is your own sobbing as your heart breaks.
Maybe you’ve even wondered, “Where are you, God? Don’t you care about me? Don’t you see what’s happening?”
I once asked God those very words. (For those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard this story. What can I say? I’m still learning from it.)
Years ago, I had questions for God, life-altering questions, so I went in our backyard to get away from everyone and everything. I needed silence. I needed to hear God in that silence.
Only God didn’t answer me. So I asked Him to let me see a butterfly if He cared about me. Just a glimpse, Lord. I looked all around our yard, in the trees that surrounded me, and in the grass. No butterfly.
I felt as if something inside of me had completely broken.
Days went by and I was so discouraged and deeply depressed. No one could help or offer any comfort. This was between God and me. And how I saw it during that painful silence, God let me down.
At that time, I had a job cleaning the church we attended. I grabbed my cleaning supplies and started on the outside of the glass doors. I noticed a moth trapped in a spider’s web on the door frame and did my best to rescue it from that monster. (What can I say? I really don’t like spiders.)
But when I finally pulled the moth free, I realized it wasn’t a moth at all: On my fingertip, I felt the gentle “pop” of a newborn, monarch butterfly’s wings as they opened for the first time; the dark, ginger-colored wings were still wet.
I held that butterfly for a long time. Watching in awe as it opened and closed its wings to dry them.
In that moment, God spoke so lovingly, so perfectly to my heart that I won’t ever forget it. He was telling me in a very real, very tangible way that He does hear me, He sees me when I cry, and He loves me enough to teach me the hard lessons.
The hard lesson of waiting on God. The hard lesson that sometimes He is silent.
Perhaps you’re there today, waiting on God, asking for an answer, and you’re being met by His silence.
My dear friend, please understand that God loves you more than you and I can possibly understand. You see, He is preparing you and teaching you to trust Him. He’s growing your faith in Him.
Just like the butterfly needs the struggle of emerging from the chrysalis in order to strengthen its wings so it can fly, we need the struggle to strengthen our faith so we learn to trust God more deeply as we walk closer to Him.
And when we walk closer to God, we learn the difference between His silence when we’ve disobeyed Him and sinned and need to repent, and when He is using the silence to teach us.
So if you’re hurting today and there is silence at the end of your prayer, don’t stop seeking God’s truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything, any sin that is keeping you from a closer walk with God.
And if you find silence at the end of that request as well, then remember God’s silence can be a temporary tool that teaches you about your loving Heavenly Father who never leaves you.
Even when He is silently holding you.
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b NLT.)
We were driving 70 mph along the interstate, traveling between a semi-truck and a car whose driver had his nose buried in his cell phone. As always, I grabbed my door handle and reached with my foot for the invisible brake on the passenger floorboard. (Note: My invisible brake only works when my husband notices what I’m doing and instinctively uses the real brake over there on the driver’s side.)
Erratic driving. Speeding. Road rage. Texting while driving (please don’t do it!!). I saw a lot of things like that, scaring me into panic mode. I noticed a car swerving and when we began to pass it, I realized it was another driver texting, his head bobbing up and down as he tried to focus on the road a little and his phone a little more. Moments later, I saw a child strapped in a car seat playing with her feet, innocently riding in the car in front of the guy texting. It terrified me, really.
What did I do besides squirm, cringe, and reach for my handle?
I prayed. A lot.
I prayed for that child in the car seat. I prayed for the guy texting. I prayed for the young woman at the rest stop who was pacing in front of the open hood of her car while talking on her cell phone. I prayed for those riding on motorcycles, especially when they were pelted with heavy raindrops. And I prayed for the semi-truck drivers who were just trying to make a living in the middle of all the madness.
But God opened my eyes to more than those needing prayer, more than the Gateway Arch outside my window on our trip to visit family in Missouri:
I saw crosses. Small white crosses standing alone in front lawns. Three crosses standing tall on a hill. An enormous white cross, the surrounding buildings seemingly miniature in comparison. Crosses dazzled in the sunlight on the tops of churches and quietly rested in the shade alongside the highway as memorials.
They reminded me of Jesus and how His sacrifice has reached so far, changed so many lives, and touched and comforted so many hearts.
And I was reminded and encouraged when I read, “In God we trust.” I spotted those words across hundreds of miles of highway like lovely wildflowers that can’t be contained. They traveled in front of me on bumper stickers. They shouted from large decals on the backs of semi-trucks. I even noticed those words waving to me from across the street at a bank in a small town in Illinois when we stopped for gas.
Sometimes when we look out our window and all we see is madness, when the enemy tries to deceive us into believing the whole world has gone, well, mad, and we’re the only ones following Christ and we’re crazy in doing so, God reminds us of His truth and the fact that we’re not alone in our faith. We don’t have to travel this road alone. God is always with us.
And we have many brothers and sisters in Christ, right outside our window.
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT.)
Last week I watched our littlest fur baby suffer before passing away. It was just awful, and I cried out to God asking, “Why don’t you do something?” I realized I was mad at God all over again. (See more here.)
But before I could look back at the past and focus on the other times I’d watched loved ones suffer from cancer or the times we lost other fur babies to sickness and disease, before I could really start questioning God and start pointing my finger at Him (forgive me, Lord), I heard His still, small voice whisper:
“He’s after your faith.”
I’d heard God whisper those very words to me another time in my life when I had too many questions and not enough answers. And when those questions came fast, leaving holes of doubt burning in my heart with no answers to act as salve, I became an easy target.
Satan is after my faith. Perhaps he’s after yours too. He knows if he can get our faith, if he can take our shield of faith, then we’re open to whatever he throws at us. We’ll be exposed and he can pierce our lives with his lies, causing us to pull away from God.
That’s just what Satan wants to do and he will fight as dirty as he needs to so we will turn away from God. He will attack us when we’re empathizing, when we’re in agony over someone else’s suffering. We feel helpless while we feel their pain. We hurt with them, crying out for mercy, and we wait for it to come. (It’s like holding your breath for too long while you’re under water and your chest starts to burn.) We’re physically drained and mentally exhausted so we loosen our grip on our faith. In that very moment Satan strikes with a fierce lie: God doesn’t care. It’s a poisonous lie from the father of lies that will spread if you don’t see it for the deceptive trash that it is.
My friend, God DOES care. He knows when a sparrow falls. He created everything on this great big planet and knows their intricacies. Those gossamer wings of a butterfly, the highest peak of a snowcapped mountain, they have His touch. Your tender heart, the way things move you to tears and hurt you deeply, He created those fragile and delicate areas in you. He knows how to comfort you and love you when you agonize in those places.
I realized something when I fell apart last week: God strengthens our faith and protects us while we’re hurting. When we’re too weak to lift our shield or to carry our faith another step, He doesn’t just walk away, leaving us slumped on the floor alone and in tears. He comes to us, meets us right there on the floor, and covers us with His arms and reminds us:
“I am your shield.”
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” (Psalm 28:7a NIV.)