Have you ever heard the idiom “Waiting for the other shoe to drop?” 

This idiom figuratively means to wait for an event that we feel will definitely happen. According to Inc.com this old saying originated in the tenements of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th century. Back then apartments were built with bedrooms on top of one another. It was common to hear your upstairs neighbor take off a shoe, drop it, and then repeat the action. It became shorthand for waiting for something you knew was coming. 

Our family has stood in the valley of the shadow of death for a month or more three times: once each when my mother and my oldest sister Bea were on a ventilator for a month and my sister Lillian was in a coma for a month before passing. Now my  47 year old niece, Dana was laying between life and death on a ventilator after being attacked by COVID-19.  I spoke with the nurses and doctors often to glean what knowledge and information I could about her condition so I could pass it along to our huge extended family. The doctor had anticipated Dana being on the ventilator 10-14 days, we were at day 18. Things looked bleak. 

When my mother and sisters were in the hospital I found myself feeling anxious and, as the saying goes, “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Was I doing the same this time around? 

In the early hours one Sunday morning  I was doing my daily devotional reading which included James 1:2-8. The heading to the passage read: Faith Under Pressure.  

 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind- whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. 

The passage of scripture really struck home for me. My faith was indeed under pressure. 

I had heard down through the years that we should never question God but didn’t James say If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. 

I needed to know. I needed to know what to pray, how to pray. Yet all I could do was groan and moan, being reminded of the scripture saying: 

And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26 TPT 

After reading James 1:2-8 that morning I started to ask God what is the lesson our family needed to learn. Closer to home, what is the lesson I needed to learn? Why was our family going through this again? While in my heart I know God is sovereign but my head wanted to know if my faith or lack thereof had any impact on what we were going through, again. We read all the right scriptures, prayed all the right prayers of faith. I had joined my faith with that of my family, church family, and friends as we prayed and believed God. Yet my mother and two sisters had died. Why God, why?  

Praying in those wee hours of the morning inspired me  to search for the what rather than the why.   

I knew I was on the right track after reading this ‘Uncommon Key’ from Tony Dungy’s book “The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge” 

When God unfolds His plans in your life that you don’t understand, don’t ask why, ask what. What do You want me to take away from this, Lord? Trust that God will show you one day how it all fits together.  

I felt in my spirit that our plight had to do with our testimony. Our testimony, our family testimony has been believing until the end. Believing until the last breath. But God, was I believing until the last breath or was I waiting for the last breath? Was I believing for what I prayed for or was I the weak link? Was I, as James admonished us not to do, offering “worry-prayers” 

Was I believing but expecting the worst? Feeling dread every time the phone rang?  

 When there is a family medical emergency I always did research. This included a lot of reading and examining statistics. I worked in the histology lab, I helped with autopsies and I have seen some very poor outcomes. Also, my niece’s husband and son tested positive, and my brother and aunt had recently died from COVID-19. Could I even believe and expect for the best? 

Could I, like David, ask God the hard question of 

Psalms 139:23-24 (KJV) ?

Search me, O God, and know my heart: 

try me, and know my thoughts: 

And see if there be any wicked way in me, 

and lead me in the way everlasting. 

 Was I afraid to ask God to search me? Well, YES. My faith life would be forced into the open if God searched me. I was afraid that it was me who needed work, needed the hard work.  

Could I, like Jonathan McReynolds in the song “Situation” say —I’m not asking God for an outcome, or praying for results, or hoping that it all goes exactly how I want. Could I  just invite God into the situation? https://youtu.be/U8A1YwM_jWc (listen here)

I found, after surrendering to God’s searching, that just asking God for help, asking Him to come into the situation, allowed Him the opportunity to do the work…the work of searching, seeing, and then  leading me in the way everlasting. 

So this time around I waited everyday for the good news, the GOD news, that no matter what the outcome, God has it in control and all things are working for the good.  

We prayed patiently and believed for nearly another month before getting word that Dana was off the ventilator and upgraded to an aerosol trach, she was walking shakily with the assistance of a walker, but walking. She was on the way to recovery. It was another week before her COVID test came back negative after being persistently positive for nearly two months.  

Then early one morning in late May I received a text-Hey Aunt Sharon, I’m coming home today.  

Hallelujah!!! After having five members of my family affected by the coronavirus I learned I did not have to wait for the other shoe to drop. I can wait on the Lord, I can be of good courage, I can believe until God completes His work. 

How often has a new Christian or friend asked is ____ a sin? You can fill in the blank with any number of responses. Smoking, drinking, pre-marital sex, gossip, divorce…the list goes on and on.

I often wondered why this question was asked so often…are we trying to find out how much we can get away with and still make it to heaven?

When we consider “what is sin?”

By the Strong’s definition sin is:

  • To be without a share into
  • Miss the mark to err,
  • Be mistaken
  • To miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor,
  • To do or go wrong
  • To wander from the law of God, violate God’s law,
  • Sin – that which is done wrong,
  • Sin – an offense, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act collectively,
  •  The complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many

So just pick your poison and define what is sin.

Psalms 19:12 (KJV) asks “who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”Then the Passion Translation asks the same question in a slightly different way it asks, “Without this revelation-light, how would I ever detect the waywardness of my heart? Lord, forgive my hidden flaws whenever you find them.

Collective sins are referenced in Romans 3:23 (KJV): For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…

And sins that are a bit closer to home are talked about in James 4:17 (ESV): So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Could these secret faults, these hidden flaws, these collective sins, these close to home sins be those things that come from the doors and windows of our mouths because it’s living in the hidden corners of our hearts.

I am remembering the story of Peter denying JESUS that fateful night before His crucifixion.

After the resurrection of Christ and before he went home to  glory, Jesus gave Peter a job interview. Jesus knew Peter’s resume (Peter betrayed and denied knowing Jesus in His hour of need, Peter was impetuous, Peter assaulted with a deadly weapon military personnel, all of this on one night) but after a three question interview , (do you love me more than these); Jesus reinstated Peter, he gave Peter the position with the job description to feed my sheep.

The Bible is silent on Peter’s “these” just as it may not spell out our “these,” but we can examine ourselves, asking ourselves ‘do I love God more than my pet habit, more than my rituals, more than my pet addiction, more than being in my comfort zone?’

When I was a young new Christian it seemed everything was a sin (wearing pants, wearing lipstick, roller skating, dancing, pop music, going to church without hose). If it was fun it was spelled “SIN.” The only things that were not sins seemed to be eating and going to church.

Through all the don’ts I emerged  strong in my Christian faith knowing that like Peter if I loved God more than “these”  then He could use me in His service, if I loved God more than “these” I could be His light.

The next time the dilemma of what is sin comes up consider this: do I love Jesus more than THESE?

It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent 2020!

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of what most religions call Easter, but we know and celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior and call this Holy Day Resurrection Sunday. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Just as we at Victory Christian Assembly have done. We will baptism our prepared baptism candidates on Good Friday.

Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

During Lent many people sacrifice things like chocolate, social media, parties…you know, things they enjoy doing.

Speaking of sacrifice, in February 2019 Mark and I were invited to a military Distinguished Cross ceremony. This is an awarded to a soldier posthumously. The sacrifice the young soldier made was heroic and saved his platoon and allowed the whole battalion to succeed. The Lieutenant General said that his actions set him apart from his comrades.

These types of sacrifice and the 9 or 10 religious associated holidays included in the lent season with all it’s tradition and elaborate displays of sacrifice are intriguing, with churches around the world encouraging their congregations to fast and make sacrifices during the season. While our temporary sacrifices help to commemorate or mark this season, and war heroes sacrifice for their countries, it is only the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made that makes eternal differences in the lives of men and women. It is this one sacrifice that makes our relationship and direct access to God possible.

Soon we will celebrate Palm Sunday, which is one of — the moveable feasts or holidays during this religious season that is based on the cycles of the moon. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem amid cries of Hosanna as people lined His path with palm branches;

Matthew 21:8-11 (KJV)
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

Within that same week they were crying crucify Him. Popular opinion is something else! It changes often just like the wind; but the sacrifice Jesus made, the blood He shed will never loose it’s power.

Most religions include communion in their Lent celebrations. And Jesus reminded us of this in this scripture:

Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are retelling the story, proclaiming our Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 (Passion Translation NT)

This is why the religious part of this relationship during Lenten season has become so special to me; it keeps me reminded of the ultimate sacrifice of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Back in the day we would sing the old dirge ‘lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget thine agony; lest I forget your love for me, lead me to Calvary.’ WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

Years ago I was a member of a workgroup Bible study. The group leader asked each group member to share a study of a favorite scripture. Most of the group would wing it or have their presentations written on small cheat notes. At the time I used a program for the Logos Bible that had a lesson builder and of course I made copies of the lesson for each participant. 

Now, I am no theologian, and don’t have the best memory, but what I strive for is the spirit of excellence. The spirit of excellence is totally different than doing things perfectly.  The spirit of excellence means that whatever you do, you give your all and your best. You go that extra mile and you never stop at just “alright.” You work toward excellence even if no one is watching, judging, or grading. 

For example, maybe you are not a solo singer. If you can sing though, you can join or start a choir, a quartet, a group or just come to church and join your voice with the corporate body of Christ. What matters is singing with gusto and all that’s within you. So what if you cannot play the keyboard or the drums, can you play a brass or woodwind instrument, can you clap your hands?  Maybe you are not a boss but you can be the best employee that your boss has. Can you talk or write – then write and read your poetry, share a Bible scripture, give your testimony. Do you have an expressive face and movements? Then mime.  Are you good at doing hair? Remind someone of how special they are because God knows the number  of hairs on their head. Or are you good at body building, strength training or exercising? Encourage others that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and  they can be their very best. 

You may not have what it takes to be a pastor, but you can support the pastor’s vision. Sometimes we may not be the one right out front, but the ministry of helps is always looking for “help” so do like  the Nike slogan and Just Do It. 

But guess what? Nike was not the first one to encourage us to give it all we have. 

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (MSG) says:

This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!

Martin Luther King, Jr.- once said,

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michael Angelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

SO, whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might just as if you were working for the Lord.