EBOLA AND ISIS AND WARS–OH MY!

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The sky is falling!

The sky is falling!

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday the country learned that a second healthcare provider in Dallas, Texas, has been diagnosed with Ebola, and the media is exploding with finger-pointing stories blaming the hospital, the workers themselves, the CDC, the government, and anyone else we can think of to assign guilt.

Of course, what lies behind our furious scramble to identify fault is our fear of losing control over this painful and deadly epidemic. If we can find someone to blame then perhaps we can correct the problems and return to our previous state of innocence.

By “innocence” I do not mean that we have been unaware of the turmoil that is swirling around the surface of our world. Yes, our troops have traveled far and wide striving to quench the fires of disaster that persist in erupting. But most of the devastation has been “over there.” The bullets and bombs and barbary have generally missed us—with notable exceptions of terror. The current events mean we actually may have to face the global fire ourselves, and that thought is terrifying.

As the wife and mother of healthcare professionals, I have to admit to being fearful. I am afraid for my family and subsequently for myself. There—I said it. I know we aren’t prepared for a national disaster on the level of what is happening in West Africa, and I am afraid.

But God (to borrow a show-stopping phrase from Scripture). . . Yes—BUT GOD.

God is not surprised, unaware, or afraid. He IS omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign. And He loves us which is why He has tried to prepare us for the disasters that are sure to come.

“… because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

            “But in those days, following that distress,

“ ‘the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

            “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:19-27)

Yes, I know Jesus’ words referred to events that were soon to happen in the lives of his hearers, but as is true of many of the prophetic words in the Bible, they also refer to events that have not yet taken place. Jesus wanted his followers to be prepared for what was to come so that they and we would not despair when the great trials came.

Well ... maybe not so near as I think?

Well … maybe not so near as I fear?

You’d have to be crazy not to fear the evil that is facing our world today. ISIS, Ebola, and even the many natural disasters such as fire and flood that seem to be increasing (although statisticians disagree—thank goodness). There is scary stuff happening in this world!

But I, you, and we don’t have to live in fear! Can bad stuff happen? Oh yeah. Will bad stuff happen? Absolutely. That’s why Jesus told us it would. But that doesn’t mean that this is IT—even though it is good to remember that one day it will be.

I know I tend to overreact when faced with stressful stuff, and I pray that a year from now I’ll read this post with embarrassment over being so worked up. (Yeah—I stocked the pantry just a little extra prior to January 1, 2000.)

But even in my hysteria there is God and He is good. And that’s why my thoughts have been dwelling on the following words:

“Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things … And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Be on guard by keeping abreast of current events, dwell on the good and lovely things, and peace out, my brothers and sisters. Aren’t you glad He’s coming again?

 

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?

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By Lisa Huddleston

Sunday was a special day. For the first time in quite a long while, we had all three of our grown children and each of their significant others together at one time in our home! It was simply grand, and I’ve been savoring moments from that day as this week progresses, smiling over quirks and differences, and delighting in each one of their unique personalities. What a blessing it is to have these kids in my life!

Nick, Becky, John and Sarah--Crazy group hug!

Crazy group hug!

This morning as I tried to catch up on my “daily” Bible reading schedule, I was reminded of my kids and the fact that I am God’s kid and how much we all love to give good things to our children—but sometimes we would like to have them ask for what they need.

My kids run the gamut when it comes to the “willing to ask” spectrum. One wouldn’t ask for help unless a life depends upon it. One will ask but with great regret and hand wringing. And one is happy to ask and persist in asking—it never hurts, right?

I think perhaps I fall somewhere within the first and second of these traits. Sometimes I am too proud to ask others for help. I can do whatever I need to on my own. At other times, when I really feel broken, I will ask, but with much apologizing and great shame. Rarely do I ask with comfort and joy (or confidence and faith). More’s the pity, I think.

As I read in the Gospel of Mark this morning, the Spirit asked me to consider the importance of asking.

Chad and Heather

Chad and Heather

First I noticed that the father of a son who had seizures asked the disciples to heal his boy, but they could not so they brought the child to Jesus. And the father asked again. Not with great faith but with very little. “If you can do anything ….” Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” To which the hopeful father answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:22-24).

I get that. Many times I don’t want to ask because my doubt gets in the way. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed, that maybe God can’t or won’t provide what I need. Often, my best and only prayer is, “Help my unbelief.” Ask!

Next I read that the disciples did not understand what Jesus told them about his impending death and resurrection, but they “were afraid to ask him about it” (9:32). Wonder what scared them? Did they think Jesus would laugh at them or chastise them or punish them? Were they afraid of what the other disciples would think? Oh, how a fuller understanding of Jesus’ words would have comforted them when the time came for them to be fulfilled.

Sarah and John

Sarah and John

I understand this reason, too. Who wants to look stupid especially when others seem to be much more assured and confident in their faith? It’s hard to admit to ignorance, but it’s so much better than remaining in it. Truth beats back our fear and provides what we need to persevere through hard times that are sure to come. Ask!

Next I noticed the rich man who asked Jesus the most important question. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). How did Jesus respond to the man? He “looked at him and loved him.” Jesus saw into the man’s soul, he knew the sin that was hidden there, but he LOVED him!

Sometimes I hesitate to ask because of my sin. I know how unworthy I am, and I know that my Heavenly Father knows how unworthy I am. I can’t wear a mask with God. But I’m grateful to be reminded that my Father loves me, and a loving Father wants his children to ask. Ask!

Finally good ol’ James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked for power, to sit on either side of Jesus’ throne. I think Jesus realized their naivete, patted them on their heads, and knew that soon they would see their mistake. But he didn’t tell them not to ask.

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Sarah, Heather, Chad, Becky & Nick around our table!

Have a stupid question? (And, yes, there are stupid questions!) Ask Jesus anyway—he may smile and pat you on the head, but he’ll never tell you to stop asking. Ask!

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (11:22-26).

I don’t have the space to do justice to these words, but, no, if I ask for a red Ferarri Jesus doesn’t mean I’ll get it. Jesus spoke with metaphors that his audience clearly recognized and understood. Even Jesus asked to let the cup of his suffering pass him by, and he didn’t get that. But he also taught his disciples to pray, “God’s will be done.” Ask!

If we come to our Father trusting in the right way and in the right things, we can ask our Good Father anything and know that he will hear our prayer. Ask for more faith, less fear, more understanding, less pride … more of him and less of me. He will answer and give us what we need.

There is very little I would withhold from my sweet children—anything I have is theirs! “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11).

ASK!

ARE WE ALL ‘GONE GIRLS’?

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I don't care. I still hate this phrase.

I don’t care. I still hate this phrase.

By Lisa Huddleston

I just finished reading the much acclaimed novel, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and all I can say is “Wow!” Not that it ended just as I would have hoped, but still, could there be a better book to represent who we are as people in this image-driven moment in time?

Don’t worry—I don’t plan to discuss the carefully twisted plot of the book and possibly ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it or seen the movie—but I would like to take a few paragraphs to consider how like that girl many of us actually are. How much time do we spend contriving our public personas, crafting our profiles, and posting pictures that flatter the image we want the world to see while all the time we feel as though we can never truly be known or at least not truly known AND still loved?

Whew! Heavy, heavy stuff.

I have to confess to being guilty of sometimes being a “Gone Girl.” I delete the ugly pictures. I omit the bad moments or thoughts or actions from my time line. I post the happy things, the cheery things, the thoughts and pictures that everyone can ‘like’ without fear.

But, of course, there is more to me than my profile, and a lot of it isn’t too likable. And, of course, those with whom I actually live know many of those unlikable traits and still manage to like and even love me. My friends, my family, even my husband are able to overlook the dark moments that sometimes break through my bright covering.

But I wonder how much darkness would be too much? I mean no one, no human being, can really love unconditionally. Sooner or later, there is a last straw that can drop—if one were to let all the straws fall.

And that’s why we can’t let all the ugly show. We need people in our lives and too much ugly is simply repellent. (Notice how I have switched to the pronoun “we”? I’m hoping you get this and that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I really do want you to like me. In a pitiable, Sally Field kind of way.)

Maybe that’s at least part of why this time of life is so difficult (the middle-age, post-children era). I don’t know what roles to play. Sure, I am still some of those people I have been in the past, but none of them feels like the real deal. And I just can’t tell you what that real deal is! So often I feel as though I, too, have “gone missing.” (What a stupid phrase!)

Just yesterday I exposed to my ever-patient husband that I feel another change in the air. I need a new wardrobe, a new set of costumes to wear, but I just don’t know what clothes fit me now. And I wasn’t just speaking metaphorically.

Well … if you haven’t read the book, do. Then we can talk without spoiling the plot, ok? Are we all “Gone Girls” in one way or another? Not sociopaths (I hope!) but people living out roles that make us acceptable to others for one reason or another and give us something we feel we need?

Let me know. It gets lonely out here waiting to be found.

DOG DAYS

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Hazy, hot, and humid week at THE Wilson County Fair.

The 2014 Wilson County Fair.

By Lisa Huddleston

1. Hazy, hot, and humid are the three most commonly used words.

2. THE County Fair ends this weekend.

3. We only need to mow the yard every other week.

4. The trees look tired of holding up dry, so-over-the-green leaves.

5. Visions of pumpkins, sweaters, and bonfires dance in our heads.

6. The public pool closes in one week.

7. The kids are already back in school. (Poor kids, poor teachers!)

8. Most of the flowers look just plain sad.

9. Cracker Barrel already has Christmas decorations on display.

10. Even the dog wants to stay inside in the air conditioning.

Making the best of dog days.

Making the best of dog days.

How do we get through the ennui? Find reasons to laugh, take it one moment at a time, and know that soon and very soon it will be autumn.

I’m thankful for the promise found in the changing seasons, for the beauty that is to come, and for the sound of the lawn mower that my son is riding to cut the grass one more time. 

Baruch HaShem!

 

BEFORE THE LAST STRAW

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Oh, my aching back!

Oh, my aching back!

By Lisa Huddleston

Some days I feel as though I just can’t take it anymore. Just one more word of bad news, of suffering due to disease or choice or pure evil, and I’m finally going to crack.

And despite all the well-intentioned (and true) articles people have written, posted, and shared about how to effectively impact issues like genocide, starvation, disease, depression, suicide, injustice and so on, I simply and honestly feel powerless.

And that powerlessness leads me to despair.

But God reminds me that He is the power in my life–and in all the other lives that are currently inhabiting this scarred and bleeding planet. When doubt, despair, and powerlessness threaten to rip me apart, this truth holds me together like gravity for my soul:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28, The Message).

As He died in our place, He even prays in our place! He is the power for the powerless, the prayer for the prayerless, and the hope for the hopeless.

Oh, may thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven … before even one more straw can fall. Amen.

TIME TO WAVE THE WHITE FLAG

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Ready to surrender?

Ready to surrender?

By Lisa Huddleston

“See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life” (Jeremiah 21:8-9).

I have written on this passage of scripture before; but every time I read it, I am struck anew by its counterintuitive, countercultural way of following God’s will—SURRENDER.

And not to some glorious call to service in an exotic and exciting location. Nope. God told his people to surrender to a brutal and foreign and heathen king.

How could that be God’s will for his people? To command them to serve and pray for a heathen kingdom? But that was exactly what he required.

It was shocking then, and it is shocking today. But sometimes God’s will is like that. It goes against what we and the culture around us expects—even the religious culture. (Disclaimer: God will never command us to sin!)

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s will was for his people to surrender to a heathen king. No glamour, no glory, no obvious victory.

For me today, it may be to lead a quiet, contemplative life here on Hudfarm, far away from the busyness that my world applauds both inside and outside the church.

What is God’s surprising, even countercultural will for you? He promises, “You will … find [him] when you seek [him] with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13)!

Ready to wave the white flag?

INVESTMENT RETURNS

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Who knew I was paying it forward to myself?

Who knew I was paying it forward to myself?

By Lisa Huddleston

“On what are you basing this confidence of yours? … On whom are you depending?” (Isaiah 36:4-5)

How I wish I had the confidence I once had! Confidence that led me through faith in God to step out of the mainstream, to homeschool our three children all the way to through high school, and to always feel as though there was a next “big thing” just around the corner—new goals to conquer, new dreams to dream.

Now I have so many doubts. I have seen many long-time friends struggle, and I know the struggles I have faced. I’ve seen victories as well as failures, and I admit that my confidence has taken some heavy blows.

But recently I have felt a boost, tentative and hesitant, but still a lift. And it’s coming from the faith of my children.

I see one courageously taking a risk by leaving her full time job to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree and a new career. I see another confidently looking for a place to use his talents in a way that will empower him to make a good but unconventional living. And another working long, steady hours to support his family in every way he can. I am proud of these three, and thankful that they appear to have kept the confidence I once invested in them in safekeeping so that it is still there for me to draw from. (And I am thankful that they often remind me that it was their father and I who taught them to live this way—especially when they see me lagging.)

“On whom or what am I depending?” It’s been harder to answer this question in complete honesty over the past couple of years; however, I am passionately thankful for this surprising return on my previous investments. This “old” faith revealing itself in new ways may get me through this dry spell and be exactly what I need to move from strength to strength: a well of living water that never runs dry. Thanks, kids.

 Baruch HaShem!