Where Do Miracles Come From

Monarch Butterfly Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

you want the pain to stop
the emotional pain
caused by the physical
the mental
caused by the emotional

you want to live again
the way you used to

but used-to’s
don’t come too frequently anymore
and you’re left
stuck in the circumstances
you never signed up for
and you try
you try so very hard
to make the best of it
but your best
measures so much lower
than it once did

and you think
there is no God
you are sure
for how could God –
a God full of grace and mercy –
do this to you?
to one you love?
and you don’t understand
and you are confused
perhaps
angry
bitter
grieving
despairing
and you’re lack
of understanding
doesn’t mean
there is no God
or that He is cruel

you hope for a miracle
but where do miracles come from
if there is no god?

do they float out of nothingness
a just become
because we will them to
or do they come from that God
you say doesn’t exist

or does he?

your answer may not come
in the way you are expecting
it may not come
at this very moment
when you are desperate for it to come
it may not come for years
it may not come at all

but still there remains
a real Father
you can run to
fall into
and find rest
and peace
and strength
and if you think about it
isn’t that a miracle itself?

Heaven’s Warriors – God’s Mighty Army of Angels

Little Church House in Woodburn, OR

Today I saw an angel. It was sitting on a bench in someone’s backyard under a flowering cherry tree. With wings fastened securely to his back and legs crossed, he was looking down at the grass below. He looked peaceful and serene and almost life-like except for the fact that this angel was made of cement.

But it made me wonder how many angels we pass by each day or who are standing with us and we are oblivious to them. For example, we have the angel of the Lord encamped around us and he delivers us from our troubles. (Ps. 34:7) And the Lord says that He has commanded his angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways; to lift us up in their hands, to keep us from harm (Ps. 91:11) Children have angels in heaven that have the divine attention of God Almighty (Matthew 18:10)! We have angels that are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:13). And haven’t we all heard the verse which tells us to not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2)?

After seeing that cement angel, I passed by another house, seemingly empty. But was it? I looked at the front porch where it was still. If a bbeliever resides in that home, it is more than probable that there stands a mighty warrior at the door post, ready for battle should harm beckon at the front steps.

I love the verse in Psalm 91, where it says, the LORD says that HE has commanded his angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways; to lift us up in their hands, to keep us from harm. Did you get that? God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and the earth has commanded – commanded – his angels. There’s no choice. He has given an order and they are to carry it out. And it concerns us! He has told them to guard us in all our ways – in all we do, wherever we are. To guard us – to stand as a sentry and protect us, defend us, be a shield, to stand watch over us and be a shelter.

Can’t you just see that? Dangers, toils and snares – and there are the Lord’s angels, hovering over you, covering you with their mighty wings so that no harm will come to you. And what’s more, they are there to not only guard you, but to lift you up in their hands. Picture that!

I love the story in the Old Testament about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He talks about how the wall is half built and then Sanballat hears about it and isn’t too keen on the whole idea. And neither are some other people who live in Judah or the Ammonites, the Arabs and more. Nehemiah hears about their plans to attack and so he stations people behind the lowest points of the wall. He encourages them to remember that God is great and to fight for their brothers, son, daughters – their families.

Nehemiah goes on to say that from that day on, the day that their enemies plans had been thwarted, half of his men did the work rebuilding the wall while the other half were equipped with every kind of weapon, ready for battle. Nehemiah tells the people that there’s a lot of work to be done but God would fight for them should the trumpet sound for battle.

That makes me think of heaven’s warriors. They are stationed at the lowest points of the walls around us. While they are encamped about us, we need to stand firm and remember that we are still called to fight as well. We are to stand guard, equipped with every kind of weapon (the armor of God). Our battle trumpet is sounding and God is fighting for us. There’s still much work to be done, but we don’t do it alone. We have mighty angels keeping us from harm in the palm of their hands. Children have their own personal angels, capturing the attention of God concerning them. We have angels who are sent to serve us. Ministering angels. Angels that are there to care for us, look after us, comfort, tend to and, again, to guard us.

Angels don’t sit out in the garden with their legs crossed, staring at the grass. They stand near us, ready to fight. They are heaven’s warriors, sent personally by God to care for us. Those whom they lift up in the palm of their hands.

Do you believe in angels?

Just One Rose

Just Peachy
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

A  woman who wanted affirmation from God that He did, indeed, hear her desperate prayers. She had been raised to believe that laying a fleece before Him was taboo, but at this point in her life, she didn’t know what else to do. Her bitterness and sorrow were growing day by day.

She approached the throne of God and made her request known. She asked her heavenly Father that  if He was listening, to send her a red or a yellow rose.

She awoke the next morning, dressed, and headed off to work. All was usual. Even the co-worker that came into her office. And, this wasn’t just any co-worker, but the one that annoyed her due to his perky, joyful attitude. He was too happy and that annoyed her for one simple reason. She wasn’t.

As usual, he was his regular self – full of perk and joy. And full of the smiles she had come to nearly despise. This particular day he greeted her, hands behind his back. She wasn’t in the mood for smiling or merriment. Somehow he had sensed that from her lately and on this particular day he brought her a gift. “A little something,” he felt prompted to explain, “that I thought would cheer you up. The red one is to remind you that you are cherished by a big God and the yellow one is to remind you that He is in control and wants you to be at peace.”

Before he could finish, tears were streaming down her face. The years of sorrow and loss that had turned to bitterness and despair, washed away with the tears that ran down her face that day. God had been listening and answered not just with one rose, but two.

After reading her post, I sat at my computer, staring at the screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It was at that very moment that I, too, prayed for a rose. A fleece in the form of a scented bloom. I would not be so bold as to be specific as to color. Any rose would do. I wasn’t picky.

While in the process of moving, packing up our too many belongings, putting them in storage and heading who knows where, we are, I guess one might say – temporarily ‘homeless’. Unable to meet our financial demands in our current place of residence, we are seeking God’s will for the next placement, while not knowing what that looks like or where it is.

With each box that is taped and labeled, the question remains in the back of my mind as to when these boxes of mementoes, memories and more will be opened. The bigger question that haunts me is whether or not we are doing the right thing. Believing we are and at the same time, feeling like we’ve gone absolutely crazy.

So, sitting there before the computer, I laid a fleece before the throne of God. I asked for affirmation that we were making the right choices and doing the right thing. I didn’t need to know where He was taking us or when or how. I just wanted to know we were being obedient and not on some crazy path made of our own accord.

The next day my son was visiting and I was in the other room when the doorbell rang. He answered it and I could hear him talking to someone. By the time I got upstairs, the visitor had left. I asked him who was at the door and he said it was one of my friends. She had brought something for me and he had put it on the kitchen counter. I turned around and looking into the kitchen, there on the counter stood six perfect, as beautiful as I’ve ever seen, red roses from her garden.

I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God. He doesn’t just answer our prayers, but goes beyond what we could have imagined, assuring us that he is indeed listening and answering in abundance.

My Superhero

img_0346Who Is Your Superhero?

My family and I were sitting around the dinner table, talking about how our day had gone. My youngest son, then 15, began to tell about an assignment he had been given by his teacher earlier that day.

He was to research a career choice that he was considering after graduating from high school and pursuing college studies in that field. He has held an interest in the medical field and has often talked about becoming a Physicians Assistant. Since this choice had already been taken and couldn’t be duplicated, he was asked what his second choice was, at which he promptly replied, “A Superhero”. At that point, his teacher informed him that he needed to take this assignment more seriously. To that, his response was, “What about all the little kids who need Superheroes?” Needless to say, he ended up doing a report on Lifeguards.

Everyone at the dinner table laughed. Except me. I admit that a slight smile did creep across my face, but given the mood I was in, I silently muttered under my breath, “I need a Superhero.” Within seconds, a small voice from within whispered, “I’ll be your Superhero. ”

A true friend will usually stop what they are presently doing and give us their undivided attention when we need it. Their words of comfort and encouragement can often be all that is needed for us to press on. Their words of advice may be just the key to solve our current dilemma. They can be just the vessel from which the wisdom of God will flow. But how often do we, in our cries of distress, seek out someone who we hope will rescue and save us from the doom and destruction that surrounds and threatens to destroy us? If we hang around long enough, we learn that our friends, our family – they aren’t Superheroes. They can’t remove the darkness. They can’t fill the void that was left by a loved one.

How desperately the creator of our hearts, our minds, and our souls, desires the place in our hearts that we give away so readily to others. When all our other resources have been exhausted, we often have the tendency to turn to the One who knows us best – last. The One who searches us, has examined us, knows us, understands and sees us – He who is intimately accessible – He is the one to whom we should most readily run to in our time of need. The One who sees the beginning from the end, who knows every turn, sees every obstacle. He is the One best able to help.

By the time dinner had ended that evening, I had already gone through my list of help in the last 24 hours. I had enlisted my husband, to whom I poured out my heart. I had confided in a dear friend and cried with my daughter. The darkness lay heavy upon my heart, with no hope of light piercing its clutches. Even my son, the “wanna-be Superhero” tried some counseling techniques on me. It is not until I cried out for a Superhero did I actually find One.

As I sat there, knowing that gentle whisper to be the heart of God, shame quietly filled my soul as I realized in my own efforts, I had sought answers in my own way to help ease the pain that I was experiencing. While thinking about God in the midst of the battle, I hadn’t seriously called upon Him to instruct me. He is a God who sees the smallest details of our lives, sees the beginning from the end, makes the earth shake and the mountains tremble. He has the power to turn every pain into a purpose. Surely – surely – this God, my God, can win this battle for me. Surely my God can zap my foes and turn them around, running for cover. In that moment of truth, as I confessed my sin of having other gods before Him and neglecting to call upon His power first, a supernatural strength empowered me. Hope was restored and peace permeated my heart and destroyed the despair that hung over my head like a raging Godzilla. The demons disappeared. My Superhero had saved me.

Sometimes when we cry out for help, the answers come simply.
Yes.
No.
Go.
Get out.
Problem solved.

Sometimes we learn the answers are not so simple and can be hard to understand.
Stay.
Persevere.
Trust.
Endure.
Wait.

Sometimes the answers do and will come through the voice of a spouse, a friend, a pastor or even a stranger. It is clear that God places special people in our lives, whom He supernaturally enables to help us through the hard times, but they are there as a catalyst and not as our cure-all. Only God has the power to do such supernatural things. Only He brings the comfort that eases the pain and heals the hurt. It is best to call on Him first and then allow Him to bring to us those who can best be used for His purposes.

I AM. To Moses who floundered in his doubt, he said, “I AM THAT I AM”. He is a shield, our protection from the storm. He is the light in the darkness. He is the Almighty, the great Comforter and Healer. He is all that is needed. He Is.

Psalm 9: We Are But Men

Cabinet Mountains Photo by Sherri Woodbridge
Cabinet Mountains
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

A paraphrase of Psalm 9

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the wonderful things You do for me.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

Because you go with me, my enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you – You are to be feared.
You have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You are holy and just.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

The way of the wicked leads to death and destruction.
You, oh Lord, have already destroyed the enemy,
the memory of them and what they have done.

Why? Because you reign forever;
You have established Your throne for judgment.
You rule the world in righteousness,
in fairness, impartiality, and justness.
You, oh Lord, are a refuge –
a safe place to run to,
a place to hide
for those who are,
for those who have been,
and for those who will be
oppressed,
filled with sorrow,
abused.
You are our hiding place in times of trouble.

Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Sing praises to the Lord,
tell others what he has done.
For the One who fights for us remembers;
He does not ignore the cries
of the afflicted
of the hurting
of the oppressed

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they themselves have hidden.
The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are caught by the work of their own hands.
The destruction of sinners is of themselves.
God remains in control.

All the nations that forget God –
they will live an eternity of torment.
But our God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

Arise, O LORD!
Do not let mere mortals defy you!
Do not allow them to ignore and disobey any longer…
Judge the nations!
Strike them with terror, Lord;
 let the nations know they are but men.

Job and His So-Called Friends

IMG_6930.JPGI began to read in my Bible, the book of Job, chapter 42. When I came to verse 10, I decided to read the whole book of Job again. Once again, I was amazed at the insensitivity of Job’s friends.

Here is a man who is down and out and yet, his friends have nothing but bitter, condemning words to offer him in his time of need. Their so called ‘friend’. Reading through this book, it made me look into my own heart and examine my relationships, past and present, where I have felt confused and hurt by words or actions of others, and it also made me examine how I could have been a better friend in some of those relationships.

When we get hurt in a relationship, we often end up feeling that it was the other person’s fault. It often takes tears, soul-searching, and honesty on our part to realize that we had something (even if perhaps it was just a small part) to do with the break down of that relationship. It could be anything from not being sensitive enough to the others needs, to saying something out of line. It is in times like these that to do anything less than searching our hearts, would be to fall into the trap where Job found himself. Only – Job didn’t realize he was there.

In chapter 32, a new voice is heard after the reprimand Job’s friends bring to him. Job, throughout the book up to this point, always comes back to stating that he has done nothing wrong. That his life is blameless. He is convinced that his plight is due to the fact that God has left him, is angry with him, has turned away and forgotten him. He wonders what he has done to deserve his state of condition..

Elihu, this ‘new voice’ that is heard towards the end of the book, begins telling his opinion of the plight that has befallen Job.

“…My words come from an upright heart… my hand should not be heavy upon you. But (speaking to Job) you have said… ‘I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy…’

By this time I imagine Job was feeling rather picked upon. Elihu, however, brings to light a different perspective of Job’s lament.

He begins, in chapter 34, to remind Job of the words that had come out of his very mouth. In verse 5 Elihu says to those listening, “Job says, ‘I am innocent, but God denies me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’ Elihu goes on to say, “what an is like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with wicked men. For he says, ‘It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God.’

You must remember the Lord never slumbers nor sleeps. And so, He is listening to this conversation. I wonder if finally, in verse 38, God finally says, “Okay, that’s enough. Time to get involved.” He comes ‘out of the storm’ (verse 1). If He came out of the storm to speak to Job, does that mean that all the while, He was actually in the storm with him? Was He in there, being tossed and turned with each cry of despair? Does it mean that He never did forsake Job and that there was a purpose in Job’s suffering that the human heart could not perceive?

I wondered that as God began to speak to Job. I also thought, if it was me in Job’s place, I’d be shaking in my shoes, at the very least. God begins by saying, “Brace yourself like a man.” I can just picture being blown away at that point and all areas of me were exposed for what they were. For three chapters, God reminds Job that He is speaking, and in no uncertain terms, just who He is. In chapter 40, God gets even more serious. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.” I can just picture Job at this point, wanting so bad to say something, then thinking better ofit. Following that reply is the Lord’s answer and again it is, “Brace yourself like a man…”

After listening to God for what probably seemed like an eternity, Job replies to the Lord. I have to admire the courage of this man. He was not afraid to be candidly honest with the Lord. He knew the Lord had heard his every word, good and bad and there was no sense in hiding from him now. There was nothing to hide. All had been exposed.

“I know that you can do all things… Surely I spoke of things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Confession and repentance. Job began his trial as righteous and blameless. Through his trial, his pride got the best of him and God called him to the carpet. He recognized his sin and confessed it with a repentant heart. God was pleased and restored him. However, the story didn’t end there.

God turned to Eliphaz, one of Job’s “friends” and said that he was angry with him and the other two hooligans because of what they had said about Him was not right. The way out? Job was going to have to pray for his friends. And, he did.

I wondered, how many times have I been hurt and scorned by friends and the last thing I felt like doing was to pray for them? I do remember though, at an early age, the importance of that lesson by a high school teacher. I was confiding with him how I was having a difficult time with a peer in one of my classes. He told me to start praying for her and having no reason to doubt his advice, I did. After many weeks, I am not sure that God changed her heart or that He changed mine, but we ended up becoming really good friends.

“After Job prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” That is the verse I started at before I went back and started again at the beginning. It was the part of how Job had prayed for the friends that had given up on him. The ones that only added to his pain and suffering. The ones that were ready to walk out on his life and give him up for dead. Instead of casting off their friendship after all was said and done, he obeyed as God commanded and prayed for his friends. It is only after that act of obedience that God blessed him. Was it because he obeyed? Was it because there was total forgiveness toward Job and his friends, brought on by Job interceding on his friends’ behalf? It is rather difficult to pray for someone whom you have a grudge against.

Friends don’t condemn and berate. They support each other and pray for one another. And when they do that, they are friends forever.

The Words of Our Mouths

IMG_8561.JPGIn the book of James it says,

With our tongues we praise our Lord and our Father,

And then we turn around and we curse man – our co-workers, the members of our family, our friends – those who have been made in the very likeness of God himself. James says that out of the same mouth comes both praise and cursing.

(James 3:9,10)

He goes on to say that if we consider ourselves religious (we pray, we worship, if we give our time and our money) and yet don’t keep a tight rein on our tongues, we are deceiving only ourselves. We’re talking the talk but our walk is worthless.

St. Francis of Assisi once said,

“Preach the gospel.

Use words if you need to.”

(James 1:26)

Lord, may we do as David did in the Psalms –

May our lips overflow with praise, as we allow You to teach us Your truths…

May we tell of Your wonders and be glad and rejoice in You – May we sing praises to Your name and allow You to show us Your ways and teach us Your paths,

For it is in You alone that we have hope…

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.

(Ps. 19:14) (Ps. 119:172) (Ps. 25:4)