Archive for August, 2008

 The last few times I’ve taken an antibiotic, it has done an excellent job of killing not only the bad guys in my body but also the good guys, leaving me with very serious cases of an intestinal virus that only one antibiotic kills and that not very easily. So my doctor and I have been trying to avoid putting me on any antibiotics for the last few years. Well, a CAT scan of my sinuses revealed that the sinus infection I’ve been fighting for months is winning and we decided that it’s time to risk the antibiotic again.

But this time I’m being proactive. Each time I take one of the antibiotics I also eat some probiotic cheese or yogurt. So three times a day as I take my prescribed pill, I am praying for the antibiotic to kill the bad guys. Shortly thereafter, I am praying as I eat my yogurt or cheese for the good cultures to grow strong within me. We’re almost two weeks into the regimen and so far the good guys are winning.

I know, I know — TMI. But the whole process has been a “live” illustration of Romans 7. There is a battle within me to follow God’s ways or my own ways. God’s ways are the “good” culture within me. My own ways, my sinful ways, are the nasty viruses that lead to sickness, hospitalization, and if not arrested, even death. The battle wages constantly, every second of every day, sometimes behind the scene, sometimes in a more “in-your-face” way. But always there’s a battle going on.

Paul put it this way:

“It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” (Romans 7:21-23)

When the bad virus within my body takes control, I become a slave to it. My movements and activities are limited until the bad guys are brought under control again. It is the good guys within my body that bring the bad guys under control. When the bad guys grow in strength and number, I am down for the count. When the good guys grow in strength and number, health and life returns to my body.

Often, God uses the natural to give us insight into the spiritual. When I fill my spirit, mind and emotions with viruses, things that are not of God, I will reap the consequences of that unhealthy diet. The good that is within me is outnumbered and outgunned by the bad that I am feeding. When I fill my spirit, mind and emotions with the things of God, I build up the good within me.

With natural eyes, I can’t see the good and bad spiritual cells within my body. But then with natural eyes, I can’t see the good and bad physical cells that are within my body. But in both cases, they are there. Both the good and bad physical and spiritual cells are alive, ready to grow at the slightest feeding. Which will you choose? Lord, help me to choose life!

In Deuteronomy 28-30, Moses reminds the Israelites of the blessings God promises those who keep their covenant with Him and the curses that will follow those who step out from under the protection of God’s covenant.  In chapter 30, he concludes his discussion:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the LORD your God and to obey him and commit yourself to him, for he is your life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a)

Lord, help me to choose life!

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“Do not consider it a hardship when you release your servants. Remember that for six years they have given you the services worth double the wages of hired workers, and the LORD your God will bless you in all you do.”     Deuteronomy 15:18

I can imagine that it would be easy to consider it a hardship to release one’s servants in the seventh year. As an employer, I know that it’s hard to lose employees. New employees must be found and trained. In the interim, I have to work long hours to accomplish my work, my lost employee’s work and the extra work required to find and train the new employee. Sometimes that doesn’t even feel like treading water, it feels like drowning!

But just as God created and is in control of seasons in weather, He also creates and controls seasons in our lives. Our challenge is to accept each season, no matter how short-lived, for what it is and for what God wants to do in it. The huge blessing that comes out of being able to develop such an attitude is that life (our inside life) becomes much calmer – we experience that peace that Scripture promises us. We are no longer at war with the circumstances of our life, fighting them to somehow prove ourselves the victors and the circumstances our slaves. Instead, we accept the circumstances and win victory by trusting the One who creates and controls the circumstances.

The physical spoils of the battle are similar – in both situations the circumstances are faced and dealt with. The emotional and spiritual spoils are radically different. When I fight my circumstances all day, I end the day frustrated and stressed out. Emotionally I am spent and possibly short-tempered or impatient. (Yes, yes, I know these aren’t fruits of the Spirit, but I’m being honest here.) Physically my body is absorbing the day of stress in ways that might not immediately be identifiable, but in the long term may mean an unhealthy weight gain or loss, damage to my heart, high blood pressure, or any of a number of other significant health issues. However, when I accept my circumstances and trust that God is working in and through them, I spend the day at peace inside and I end the day with that same peace. My stress level is down. I may be thankful that the day is over, but I am also grateful for God’s presence throughout it. I am less likely to develop the health issues related to living a stressful life.

Let me give you an example: On his way to work at the hospital last week Phil prayed “Lord, this evening is in your hands. Whatever you have for me tonight, I trust you to handle.” It was the worst night he’s seen in the sixteen months he’s worked there. But because he had prayed on his way in, giving the evening to the Lord, there was chaos and tragedy around him but he remained at peace because he knew that the Lord was there in the chaos and tragedy. It was the season God had for him that night.

How much easier it is to go through difficult times when we recognize that everything is in God’s hands and that we might be facing challenges in this season, but tomorrow, next week, next month or next year is coming and a new season will begin. This is temporary and God has something for us in it now. The sister to this attitude is knowing that God is in control. Did you get that? You don’t have to be in control! What a relief! It’s an even bigger relief when you realize that the One who is in control is better at it than you are! Let it bring you peace. Let God prepare a table for you in the midst of your enemies – whether they are human or paper enemies!

I wrote earlier that when we accept each season for what it is, we are no longer at war with the circumstances of our life, fighting them to somehow prove ourselves the victors and the circumstances our slaves. The truth is that we are the slaves…either to our circumstances, or to the One who controls them. We are at the mercy of much that happens to us each and every day of our life. We can’t change most things and trying to do so brings only that frustration I’ve already written about. Let’s choose instead to be slaves to the One who controls our circumstances. I’m learning that it’s a way better way to live.

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Until three years ago, I was a life-long suburbanite and I loved it. Then I discovered small town living! My town is so small (how small is it?) that my husband and I got our picture in the paper last week (page one of Section B)…because we had our more-or-less annual “Hovatter Hot Dog Day.” Which being interpreted means we had about 40 friends over for a backyard weenie roast. And it made the local paper!

It took quite a bit of getting used to, this small town living, but it’s been a delight to us all along the way. We are “townies,” but within 5 minutes of getting in the car I can be driving through corn fields or past my favorite sheep or cows. Within about fifteen minutes, I can be deep into corn field driving. And every Thursday morning I spend a good half hour driving through corn, soybean and wheat fields on my way to a weekly business meeting.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog. DeKalb corn (that’s the brand whose logo is a flying ear of corn) has a slogan on all their signs that gets me thinking most Thursday mornings.

DeKalb Corn
Strong Roots
Strong Yields

I’ve been praying that my life would become like DeKalb corn! Apparently (and actually I know almost nothing about corn), DeKalb propagates their corn to develop especially strong roots. The results of being “well rooted” is, in their words, “strong yields.” In other words, having strong roots means that the plants will produce lots of corn.

Scripture has something to say about strong roots. The most commonly quoted passage is in Jeremiah:17:7-8:

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” (NLT)

Trusting in the Lord grows strong roots within us – roots that nourish us in times of heat and drought and enable us to prosper, continuing to produce delicious fruit. And producing delicious fruit is what Jesus said we were “appointed” to do (John 15:11). Colossians 2:6-7a reiterates the message: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught…” (NRSV).

          Lord, I want to have strong yields.

As I continued to think about the phrase “strong yields,” it occurred to me that there is an additional meaning to the word yield. It can mean “to bring forth” as described above. It can also mean “to surrender or relinquish to the physical control of another : hand over possession of” (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary). And I couldn’t help but think how appropriate the slogan was when that meaning was considered. When my roots are strong, when I have been “built up in Him and established in the faith,” my ability to yield control of my life to Him becomes much “stronger.” It happens more quickly and in more difficult situations.

          Lord, I want to yield strongly.

Well, all of this eventually drove me to DeKalb’s website to read about their strong rooted, strong yielding corn. (Yes, I guess I am a bit nerdy.) Slogans being what they are, I only learned about the strong roots and yields from their flying corncob road signs. From their website I learned that there is a third distinction: strong stalks. What good are strong stalks? Well, apparently, strong stalks improves “standability.”

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”  (Ephesians 6:13, NIV). Sounds like another way of impressing upon us that we are to “live [our] lives in Him.”

          Lord, I want to still be standing after the battles you send my way.

At the risk of belaboring the point too much, the DeKalb website throws in an extra advantage: “better drydown.” In short, the corn is drier at harvest time, requiring less effort (and therefore expense) on the part of the farmer to get the corn ready for market. In other words, DeKalb corn requires less “babying.” Strong roots really do have benefits! 

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15

          Lord, help me to grow strong roots.

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You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.
                Psalm 92:4 (NLT)

Wow! Am I “thrilled” at what the Lord has done for me? I am challenged by the word “thrill.” We talk about “thrill” rides – those that cause a bit of fear within us, take our breath away, then make us laugh with excitement. Does what God has done for me cause that reaction?

If not, I don’t think it’s God’s fault. I think perhaps it’s because my focus is more on the challenges of the day instead of the goodness of my God. I am seeing the petty problems in front of me instead of the tremendous grandeur of the long view of my life.

It’s not that I am some great person or have done such great things. Quite the contrary. Rather, it is the uncountable good things God has done for me and in me that is the “tremendous grandeur.” It is the beautiful clothes and jewels God has given me. You might see the shorts and T-shirt I have on. But God has clothed me in tremendous grandeur.

He has taken a rebellious young woman, focused only on herself and the gain she would someday have and turned her into a less rebellious middle-aged woman, focused at least somewhat on others and the gain she might help them have. None of that is to my credit, but it is all for my good.

He has worked in me a satisfaction that was sorely missing, taking away a striving that robbed me of joy. Again, this was not of my own doing, but a gift from God. And I am truly thrilled by this…it’s just that I often forget about it in the midst of the troubles of the day. Lord, help me to remember.

I usually don’t strive any more. I still pursue excellence, but I am usually able to remember that only God is perfect and He is immeasurably happy with me whether I am able to achieve all I want to achieve or not. That makes me able to relax and experience the thrill of all He has done for me. When I am striving, when I am uptight about accomplishing what “needs to be done” I also see only the shorts and T-shirt. Lord, help me to stay focused on the grandeur that I might always be thrilled with the life you’ve given me.

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So this morning I was on my way to a family reunion. I was supposed to be there early because I was one of the planners. The reunion was a bit more than an hour away. I was running late. And the car in front of me was driving below the speed limit. Aargh. Finally, I reached a decision point — do I go straight, which is a little longer, or veer left and stay with the slow guy. I opted for the slow guy, hoping I’d be able to pass him soon.

Much to my delight, he put his turn signal on soon after the go straight/veer left decision point. He’s going to turn into a local restaurant…after coming to absolute stop before making a right-hand turn. Aargh. But finally he’s turned. Sigh.

And another guy pulls out in front of me going about half the speed limit — much slower than the first guy. He begins to wash his windshield spraying me (through my open car windows) with windshield washer fluid. Guess I should have gone straight instead of veering left. But Mr. Windshield Washer (sloooowwwwly) pulls into a parking space on Main Street in the little town we’re driving through. By now I’m more frustrated at how slowly he’s pulling into the space than happy I’ll no longer be behind him.

And then God speaks to me. “What makes you think your schedule is more important than his?” Ouch! And I realize that impatience is almost always (always?) placing my agenda, my schedule, my plan above someone else’s…and quite likely God’s. I don’t know what the two drivers in the slow cars are going through — who they were driving to meet or what they would face when they got there. Perhaps they needed to drive slowly because their minds were on some tragic events in their lives. Perhaps they are naturally cautious people. Their reason is pretty irrelevant. God seems to have placed them in front of me so I might as well sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Who has He placed in front of you lately? Is He teaching you patience on the road? It’s probably one of the best places for learning it! Enjoy the ride!

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