Simple

In the winter, the sun can be deceiving. Some days when the thermometer is at its lowest, way past zero, everything will be bathed in brilliant light. You can look out the window, and it will appear as if it’s warm.

I was in the bank, and one of the tellers looked longingly out the window. Like she was missing a day at the beach.

“Oh, look,” she said. “The sun is so pretty. It looks nice out there. Is it?”

Both of my hands had the beginning of frostbite just from the short walk from the car. I was astonished at her question because this lady has worked there for a really long time. If she had just flown in from Tahiti, this inquiry would not have been surprising. It’s just a well known fact that the most bitter of weather is accompanied by sunlight here.

“I want you to imagine crawling into your refrigerator, and the tiny light bulb is the sun. It’s like that outside.”

“So, it’s cold then?”

“You aren’t missing out on anything,” I said, trying to have enough feeling in my fingers to sign my name.

If you have to drive somewhere, it’s necessary to have sunglasses unless you don’t value your retinas.

The challenge on days such as this is how to get your windshield clean. Subzero weather causes the fluid to freeze instantly. So at times, you just have to wing it until you can deal with it later. In fact, your entire car can look like you went off-roading because of the salt and the sand that is put down.

You are in good company in traffic, though. Every vehicle looks the same, its original color muted and encrusted with a white ash, chalky like coating.

You really do not want to brush up against that. If so, your clothes look like you just came out of a fireplace. That white jacket that you just had to have will be in the wash every other day with a heavy dose of a whitening agent. The minute you dare step outside with it on, all the dirt in the world jumps on you.

One time, I couldn’t figure out why my steering wheel seemed to have a mind of its own. It wanted to keep veering me off to the right for some reason. I fought with it until I pulled into a parking lot.

My wheel wells were full of thick, heavy snow that was stopping my tires from working correctly. I had to kick it all off. From experience, if you let that sit long enough so it freezes and you go to use your foot to remove it, it’s like stubbing all your toes against a brick wall. You learn as you go.

So you would think there would be nothing new until there is.

I got into my car on a frigid morning, after an overnight temperature of thirty below. We have lived through a polar vortex, so while that might seem unreal to some, we don’t bat an eyelash. You can’t. They are frozen solid.

I pulled out into the street and put on my sunglasses because squinting leads to deeper crease lines and wrinkles which is the gateway to more purchases of anti-aging lotion.

While I was sitting at the light, I heard a weird cracking sound underneath my left eye. That’s when the entire lens fell into my lap. The cold air and the heat blowing at full blast onto my face had created a situation that had caused the plastic to split apart. Similar to putting an ice-cold object into a hot oven. The two extremes don’t mix well.

I examined them and saw the small but fatal crack. It didn’t seem fair to let one of my eyes be shielded while the other would take the brunt of it all. That’s what happens when you raise two kids. You apply it to all aspects of your life forever.

I had to forgo the shades, and I struggled to see the road, but I didn’t have that far to go.

The next few days were cloudy, so I forgot about not seeing until, on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself driving directly into a highly blinding sunset. With my windshield filthy, it was nearly impossible to detect where I was going. I tried to clear it, but it froze, which I then had to defrost. This caused a fog that didn’t help either.

To add to the challenge, I was going somewhere new and not close to home. I was listening to the directions being read to me.

I had this verse pop into my mind:

You walk by faith, not by sight.

No kidding. What about driving?

I made it to my destination, where I stayed until after dark with no glaring orange orb to fight with on the way back.

My sunglasses are an item so mundane, but they play a significant role in my ability to function. I don’t think many of us realize how important something is until it’s no longer available. We take it for granted. It’s always going to be at our fingertips until it falls apart, sometimes right before our eyes. Or on our face.

It gets me to think about what else I don’t give enough credit to. Hand soap, for example. Hand sanitizer. What if that was unavailable or paper products or over-the-counter medicines? What if toilet paper suddenly disappeared from every store shelf because people started hoarding it for no good reason?

Crazy, to think of, I know. Like that’s going to happen.

I can replace what has been damaged, so that’s a good thing. Other times, you just have to learn to go without.

Driving with my vision obstructed was not easy, and I found myself instantly asking God to guide me. Cars were zipping all around even while I was going the speed limit. So while it was slightly scary, I felt that familiar sense of protection encompassing my car.

There was no need to panic but to trust that everything would be okay. God has promised us a helper who is always available to send assistance no matter what occurs. It can be applied to any circumstance. In John 16:13, it says,

But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. (Message)

There isn’t anything that is beyond heaven’s help if we allow it. If you ask, even if it’s the most complicated request ever, there will be a response that will be given.

A highly respected spiritual leader said that her one and only prayer in the morning is this:

“Help!”

The rest of her time with God is gratitude. She doesn’t go through a long list of requests but feels that this is all that is needed for heaven to send what is required.

She has embraced Psalm 139:4 that says,

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me, and you’re there, then up ahead, and you’re there, too, your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Message)

Sometimes you find exactly what you need when you pay attention to and apply what is simple.

Best Advice

“Pick someone in the room that you think God wants you to talk to.”

This wasn’t my usual Saturday morning, but I chose to attend a workshop to learn how to hear from heaven more acutely. I wasn’t the only one as there were probably fifty of us who had shown up. It seemed that we were willing to jump over some barriers to access higher abilities.

One of the mental hurdles I have had to overcome in this area is that I am “hearing voices”. That implies that this practice isn’t usual and should land one in a padded cell with a syringe plunged into the upper arm.

How many Hollywood productions have been made that depict a character who gets a bad nose bleed or excruciating headaches when they have otherworldly experiences? They spend most of their time clutching their foreheads and try not to hemorrhage. The brainwashing has been that if you have a gift to interact with the divine, you have to suffer physically or be super weird.

If you get past all that, bring on the poltergeist and dark forces ready to wreak havoc in your home. Who wants to tangle with an unruly spirit that will require an exorcism? Just because you went looking for answers, now you have to move.

If that doesn’t stop a person, then the sheer fact that the One who made everything would want to speak is somewhat staggering. Why would God want to take the time to talk to us? Isn’t that kind of presumptuous with all the trouble going on in the world?

Any one of those scenarios can keep us closed down and shut off.

I knew exactly who I was to speak to on that particular morning. The entire hour that we sat listening to the presenter talk about his experiences, my attention kept being directed to a woman across the room. It began with a slight nudge.

“Do you see the lady with the purple glasses?” the still, small voice whispered.

I scanned the attentive audience, and I saw her wearing reading glasses. It’s always subtle at first like that. It seems like it’s my idea to look up, but later I realize I was told to.

I focused back on what was being taught.

“Do you see her scarf? It matches her glasses.” Accesories are important.

As people began looking around to see who they should pair up with, I went right to her and said,

“I’m supposed to tell you something; I have no idea what it is.”

“I’m so relieved you came over. This is so hard for me to do, and I want to learn how to do it, but I’m a little scared.”

“I think we all aren’t totally comfortable with it, but we can try.”

She and I went to a quiet corner away from everyone else. We were given easy-to-follow instructions on how to get a message.

First, we were to ask what God wanted this person to know. Next, we were to ask for a specific verse if there was one and then to get a vision of what was needed. That sounds like a lot, but we were told we could do it, so the idea was to believe we could.

I started by asking the first question. Both of us shut our eyes, and she grabbed my right hand. I had to brush away the thought that I was with an absolute stranger. I didn’t know her even thirty minutes ago, but now I was to deliver important news from God.

“A special place has been prepared for you at the table,” I said. I could see her sitting in an elaborate venue, surrounded by others and being served. She looked relaxed with a radiant smile.

“Do you spend a lot of your time giving to others and not yourself?”

“Yes. I’m a pastor, and I’m always helping other people but not me.”

“Do you feel guilty when you take time for yourself?”

“Yes.”

“God wants you to know that you need to take time for yourself and let other people help you. You are burning yourself out trying to be nice.”

“You’re right,” she said quietly. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt calm, but I had no idea if what I was saying would be accurate. To have her confirm it kept me going.

“I see you wondering if you can clean up the tables or get the other people something to drink. God says no. Sit down.”

She laughed.

“That’s me. Right when I start to enjoy myself, I think I have to jump up and do something, or I’m being lazy.”

“You aren’t giving yourself a break. You are going to break down. So listen to what is being said. God is telling you to rest. Let others serve you for once. You are supposed to enjoy life just like everyone else. You can be happy even when you aren’t working. Don’t let people take advantage of your kindness. Put up boundaries and have some balance. Otherwise, you aren’t going to be able to help anyone. You are going to start resenting the whole thing.”

When we opened our eyes, she got out a tissue to wipe away tears.

“It’s hard for me not to do it all for everyone all the time.”

“Do you ask for help?” How did I know to ask that? Because we had a lot in common.

“No. I try to do it all myself. I don’t like asking for help, and no one usually offers.”

“Then you have to ask, and don’t feel bad about it.”

“I will. I don’t want to burn myself out. I like what I do, so I don’t want to ruin it.”

Then it was her turn to be in the hot seat to see what I needed to hear. It took her a minute to pull herself together after what I had said.

She retook my hand, and we closed our eyes.

“God, what do you want Chris to know?”

I instantly saw myself sitting in a canoe drifting in a river. The sun was bright, no one else was around, and it was peaceful.

“Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. God wants you to rest. I see you floating in a…a..a..” She paused like she couldn’t find the right word.

“Canoe?”

“Yes!” She said. “I didn’t want to say it was a boat because it isn’t.”

I saw everything before she said it, and when I would describe something, she saw it too.

“You are sitting in a..” She was at a loss for words again.

“Meadow? With flowers all around me?”

“Yes! And God wants you to rest and see the beauty of creation. Don’t be so busy that you don’t stop and see it.”

In the end, we walked away, no longer not knowing one another.

We didn’t have special powers come over us. There was no chanting in Latin involved or burning of incense. What did we do? We asked.

There are many sources of information available to all of us anytime we want. The news will tell you what’s going on. And usually, it’s not good. If by chance, you get Chinese food, a fortune cookie can be your guide. But that generally wears off and doesn’t provide a lot of depth.

I recall having a Magic Eight Ball when I was a kid. I would think of a question and shake the heck out of it, hoping for the answer I wanted to hear. Through the little window, the smoky blue water would reveal words on the plastic triangle inside. The worst result was: Answer Unknown. How frustrating is that? I wasn’t any further ahead in life with that response! It proved to be unreliable, leaking all over the place, and it got tossed.

I realized that after taking the class that it’s vital to be able to hear on a level that is above the physical to benefit myself when I cannot sleep and I don’t understand a difficulty I am up against. Another advantage is to use it when bringing comfort to others. It’s amazing to speak something that immediately brings relief to another. You know it isn’t you, but it is straight from heaven.

You can begin to apply this from Jeremiah 33:3:

Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (ESV)

Then there’s a bonus thrown in if you do:

How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true! (Luke 1:45, Good News Translation)

When you take the time to get quiet and ask for answers, it builds your confidence and boosts your mood; it changes your mindset and strengthens the bond between you and the unseen realm. And just like anything else that you give a priority in your day, it becomes easier to execute.

Soon, you will only want to seek that which offers you something of great return like nothing else can. You won’t want to settle for anything that leaves you feeling unfulfilled and empty. You don’t have to chase it down like a crazy person, thinking that others have the answers for your life. And you come to know that God directly gives the best advice.

(THEN WHAT?!)

In Hot Water

I had just looked at my bank account and felt a momentary sense of peace and calm come upon me.  At this time of the year my thoughts begin to turn to the holidays that are coming and added spending that I will do.  I was contemplating how much money to put into my savings when my phone chimed with this text from one of my daughters:

“Not sure if you know this, but I just took a shower and the water was cold. I had the thing all the way turned over to hot because I was freezing and it was just warm not hot. I turned on the bathroom faucet all the way to hot and it was the same thing as the shower. Kitchen sink too. Saying this just to tell you not to worry you.”

This began a chain of events including finding the number to the utility company to see if someone could come and check on my water heater. This was Thursday, and I was told no one could help me until Sunday. I was prepared to tough it out for three days, but by evening I discovered a puddle of water around the tank that indicated it was leaking, so I called again and was told someone would be out by morning.  Amazing how when something leaks it gets quick attention.

A friendly and knowledgeable man showed up promptly the next day and informed me that a new water heater was in order.  Not really surprised, I spoke with a man in the service and parts department and was told the amount that I would have to come up with to cover the replacement. Because hot water is a necessary commodity, I gulped down my astonishment and gave the go ahead for the new item to be placed in my home.

By afternoon, two men had arrived armed with tools, a garden hose and other equipment that would suffice for the dismantling of the iron monster that had decided to spring a leak.  In less than an hour, I was signing papers and was being shown how to locate the pilot light.

While running errands later with my two girls, I found myself silently muttering over the cost that I had just been charged. I was not really fretting or all out worrying but just not comfortable with the idea of that much money flying the coup at once.  I didn’t dwell too long on this inward conversation with myself but made the conscious decision to forget it and move on.

The girls and I decided to go into a gas station for a fountain drink.  When I spied the cookies in the display case I said,

“Who wants a cookie to celebrate my new water heater?”

As the three of us were standing in front of the well stocked shelves someone coming in the door to my left caught my attention.  I thought he was standing behind us but found that he had gone into the aisle directly behind me.  When I turned to look at him, I saw his hand reach out to the candy bars and move toward his coat pocket.  He saw me looking at him and quickly put it back.  He moved on, and I turned my attention back to the cookies.

For some reason, I turned around again and noticed him reaching for the same item, and when he saw me looking, he threw it back again.  I noticed that his hands were jumpy and his movements were quick and nervous.  It dawned on me that I was witnessing a potential shoplifter.  I turned away again and felt I was to remain quiet and not confront him.  We have had a series of robberies occurring in gas stations where guns have been drawn.  With my two daughters beside me, I felt a calm knowing that I was not to cause any kind of disturbance.  I felt like I was being given a command to sit and stay.

As we picked out our selections, I heard a cellophane wrapper behind me.  I glanced back to see him making quite the show of getting a rice krispy bar.  I was still uncertain if he had put anything in his pockets, however.  He walked past me and our eyes met.  He shifted his away quickly as I watched him go up to the cashier.

I was conflicted as I stood in the next line over.  Had he really been stealing?  Why would a shoplifter be purchasing something if he had intended on not paying in the first place?  I took out my wallet and stood with it close to my face but peered over it so I could see what he was doing.  The cashier slumped across her register as he began patting himself down for loose change.  He emptied out his pants pockets but not his jacket.   I could have sworn I saw a king sized Reese’s candy bar go into his left coat pocket earlier.  I wondered when that would come out to show his thievery.

He glanced at me sideways.  He knew I was watching! I began examining my bank card closer.  In normal situations I would have offered to help him pay for whatever item he had, but I knew he was stealing and he knew that I knew! He threw his change on the counter and when the girl thanked him for it, he dashed for the door.  I stood in my line still wondering what he had taken that didn’t belong to him.

“I can help you over here,” she said.

I walked over to where he had been.  On the counter were his eye glasses, a screwdriver, a bag of fruit snacks and other items he had set down in his haste to find money in his pockets.  She looked down and said,

“Oh, no.  I should go get him.”

“No you shouldn’t,” I said.  “Was he having trouble paying for what he got?”

“Yes.”

“I believe he was stealing.  Let him come back himself.”

I went on to tell her what I had witnessed.

“Please don’t accuse him of it until you have proof though, ” I said.  “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I knew for sure.  I couldn’t tell.”

“I will review the video and see if he stole anything, and if he did, he will have to give all the items back if he wants his stuff back.”

Another lady wandered over who was an employee of the gas station.  She had overheard our conversation.

“I thought he was stealing earlier.  I saw him put an ice cream cup into his pocket, and I asked if I could help him.  He said no and put it back.”

When she said that, I knew that my observations were not wrong.  He had left in such a frantic hurry not to get caught that he left what little he owned spread all over the counter.  I paid for my items and decided not to wait around to see the outcome.

When I got home, and before moving on to my next task, I took a moment to soap up my hands with an antibacterial that promises the smell of fresh ocean breezes.  I turned the hot water on and made a huge lather between both hands.  I began sending up my praises for the use again of both faucets in my house.  No matter the cost, I am not to fear how I will pay.  A way is always made for me when I ask for help.  I wish the man in the gas station was aware of this power that is available to all.  It doesn’t have to be taken under cover, but it is given freely out in the open for anyone who asks.

If he only knew that circumstances could be different so he wouldn’t be in a gas station doing illegal acts that could eventually get him thrown into jail. What pressure to exist under knowing that at any moment he could be caught red handed.   I only feel sorrow for such a man who is living life in such hot water.

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