Green landscape in Guatemala

Wherever you go, God is there

Have you ever tried to run away from God? If you think about it, trying to escape God is pretty silly. But that doesn’t stop us from attempting it anyway. The Bible is full of examples of how people tried to get away from God because they didn’t want to do what God has asked them to do.

Jonah is probably the most popular story along those lines. And look what happened to him.

Green landscape in Guatemala

Green landscape in Guatemala

But today’s verses are Psalm 139:7-10.

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

This is one of David’s Psalms, and when I think about trying to escape from God, this is what I always think of. God is everywhere. If we don’t want to listen, we can ignore Him. If we don’t like what He’s saying, we can shun Him. But we can’t get away from Him.

I’m getting ready to fly across the Atlantic today to visit my friend in the United Kingdom, and I’m not sure where I’ll be sitting at this point. So I may end up to a talker, which is perfect fine, but I don’t like to talk on flights. Not generally.

If I do end up sitting next to an extrovert on the flight, how rude would it be for me to shut my eyes and ignore them? Maybe you’ve done that before, and that’s fine if that works for you. I’m not going to weigh in. But I think we do that with God sometimes. We close our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears, and sing a song to ourselves, all the while knowing that He’s sitting right beside us trying to tell us something important.

The thing about actively ignoring someone is that it wears on you. You get tired of it, and there’s always this little voice at the back of your head telling you that you should just stop acting childish and listen to what the person next to you has to say.

Maybe that’s just me.

If you don’t want to listen to God, fine. But stop trying to get away from Him because that’s just silly. And know that the longer you ignore Him, the bigger fuss He’s going to have to make to get your attention.

What’s truly comforting about not being able to escape God is that no matter where you go, He’s there. I’m going to be in Scotland and England for the next week and a half, and my God is already there. And that brings me joy and comfort and certainty.

On that note, since I’m going to be traveling and the time zones are so different, I have decided to put AlwaysPeachy on hiatus for the duration of my trip. I’ll start up again when I get back on July 8. However, if you would like to keep track of me, I’ll be posting as frequently as possible on my writing blog, http://AmyCWilliams.com. If you think about it, please pray for my brother and me as we travel. We’d like to keep all of our luggage and make all of our connections. Thank you so much!

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Walking in the storm with Jesus

It seems like 2013 has been an active storm season. People in Oklahoma have just been pounded, and while we in Kansas haven’t seen as much damage, we’ve certainly had our fair share of storms this year.

A storm chaser friend of mine tells me that I live in the Bermuda triangle of weather. And I’m really beginning to think that she’s right.

I was laughing last night as I was finishing up my packing because a pretty bad storm with lots of wind and rain and thunder just appeared over my house. It happened Monday night too, where there was just a little green on the radar and the moment the storm got to my house on the map, it blossomed into this terrifying looking swirl of reds and yellows.

And last night, the red and yellow just parked on top of me for a little while. Just in Reno county. Nowhere else.

And, yes, more branches are down (How is that possible? I have twigs instead of trees! Where are all these branches coming from?), but the basement stayed dry.

I thought it was interesting that this storm appeared out of nowhere last night because I had been thinking about what I was going to post this morning. I heard something on the radio yesterday that really encouraged me, and I thought I’d pass it along.

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 14:24-27.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Everybody knows this story, just about. If you’ve been a Christ-follower for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that Jesus walked on water and calmed storms. This is one of those iconic stories, and if you want to read the whole thing, you can find it in Matthew 14:22-33.

Usually everyone talks about Jesus walking on water. Or later in the story, Peter walks on water for a little while, and that has been something people talk about a lot too. But a comment I heard on the radio, made by Christian music singer Natalie Grant, has changed my perspective on this verse.

She pointed out that Jesus didn’t calm the storm from the shore. He didn’t calm the storm and then go out to them. No. He walked out to them in the storm, met them where they were, and then stayed in sight throughout the storm until He decided it was time for it to stop.

Have you ever thought of it that way? I hadn’t.

Everyone experiences storms in life, those difficult circumstances that weigh us down and frustrate us. Everyone goes through those times. And in the darkness of those moments or those seasons of life, it’s really tempting to think that Jesus isn’t close at hand. Because if He were close, there wouldn’t be a storm, right? Isn’t that our logic? If Jesus is around, everything will be fine?

Well, that’s true. But sometimes our definition of fine needs to be adjusted.

I truly believe that everyone is going through a storm in life, whether it’s work or family or whatever. We’re all surrounded by aspects of our life that we can’t control. We’re all being threatened with waves we can’t see over, with dark clouds that block the sunlight, with wind that makes it difficult to move, with the uncertainty of how long the storm will last. And it’s so easy to get so wrapped up in the storm that we forget to pay attention to Jesus. He’s standing right there. In the storm, in plain sight.

And, like in the story, He may even be calling you to get out of the boat and come join Him on the waves. I think it’s awesome that He didn’t calm the storm so Peter would feel more comfortable walking toward Him.

We may have to go deeper into the storm before He’ll choose to calm it down. We may have to go through a lot more trouble. But as long as we keep our eyes on Him, we won’t sink.

Don’t forget that He’s there. Don’t get so overwhelmed with the difficult things in your life that you think He isn’t right there with you. Remind yourself that He has walked out into the storms of your life to stand with you in your darkest moments, and when you can see Him, don’t take your eyes off Him.

Just think. Storms are powerful things, with a beauty that calm, peaceful days can’t quite capture. But we’re afraid of storms–and rightly so. But if we walk with Jesus, the storms can’t touch us. So don’t be afraid of them. Embrace them. Walk in them along with Jesus, and you’ll get to see the storms from a different perspective. Because if the storm can’t hurt you, then you just get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God is exalted in our stillness

I’m busy. I’m beyond busy. I make a headless chicken look calm and organized. There are so many things going on in my life right now, and most of them are good. Some of them don’t meet the traditional definition of good, but I’m trusting that God will take care of that.

But I learned something at the writing workshop that I attended this year, and really it didn’t have much to do with writing.

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

This is part of the large passage I put up yesterday, but this verse is so good, I wanted to revisit it. The first line is familiar. It appears in many other places throughout scripture. I think one of the first places is in the Book of Exodus when Moses and the Israelites are trapped between Pharoah and the Red Sea. But it also appears here.

At the writing workshop this year, the presenters really focused their keynote sessions on resting and peace. They don’t tell us exactly what we’re going to be hearing when we sign up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And I ended up bawling through most sessions because peace is something I really need, but as a performance-driven perfectionist it’s something I usually deny myself.

So when this verse came up–and subsequent statements about living in God rather than working for Him–I started seeing this statement from a different perspective.

Be still. Know that He is God. And He will be exalted.

Do you read any stress in that statement? Do you see anywhere in that statement (notice the quote marks) where God is saying we have to work ourselves into a pit for Him to be exalted? No.

See, that’s what’s amazing about God is that He will be exalted whether we work for Him or not. He will be exalted whether we acknowledge Him or not. I mean, for Pete’s sake, even rocks rejoice and give Him praise. He doesn’t need us to. He wants us to. He wants to have a relationship with us more than anything, but He doesn’t need us to be exalted.

I run myself into the ground on a daily basis. Sometimes on an hourly basis. And while I don’t think I’m wrong to live that way, I shouldn’t do it all the time. I don’t take sabbaths. I don’t ever slow down.

Well, I shouldn’t say not ever because I’ve had to. Some health issues have finally forced me to take a breather–health issues related to the amount of stress I put myself under. And the irony of my stress is that usually it’s self-inflicted. I expect so much more of myself than anybody else does. I set impossible goals, and then I kill myself trying to exceed expectations.

No, it’s not wrong. Yes, we should always do our best. But God doesn’t say stress yourself out so I can be exalted. He says be still, know He’s God, and He’ll take care of it.

So how are you doing on that score? Being still is more difficult than it sounds. Knowing God is God? You wouldn’t think that’s hard, but it’s not easy either. Why? People don’t like standing still, and people don’t trust very easily. Not really. It’s not our default setting.  They’re both choices we have to make.

Be still. Know God. That’s all we have to do.

Are you stressed out today? Have you worn yourself out working for God? Have you driven yourself to the edge of your sanity trying to accomplish a goal you set so that God will be pleased with you?

Guess what? God doesn’t need you. And maybe He’s called you to do something, and that’s great. And it’s great that you want to do your best for Him. But He never calls you do something alone.

So stop stressing out. Be still. Know God. He’ll be exalted. And actually, He will be exalted more in your stillness than He would have been in your stress.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t be afraid of trouble

Do you ever feel like life is just too much for you? Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed with the task God has asked you to do? Or have events in your life become so heavy and difficult that you wonder if God is still listening?

If you haven’t and you’re a Christ follower, it’s just a matter of time. If the things in our lives didn’t overwhelm us, that would mean we’re not doing things for God. Living for God is always outside our reach alone; we need His help. And honestly, life is just too much to handle without Him.

Troubles come. That’s just life. But I’m not a good enough Christian to say I look forward to the trouble. Granted, a part of me welcomes it because trouble means (sometimes) that you’re on the right track. Trouble brings growth. Trouble brings eventual joy. And even the things we see as trouble often turn into blessings. So I always try not to judge trouble when it arrives and see it for what it can be.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

But when trouble after trouble after trouble comes pounding at the door, I get tired. Yes, each trouble is interspersed with great and joyful things, happy things, wonderful things, but it’s like the roller coaster of life never really ends and I can’t help but feel like the ride is just starting. For every exciting hill we crest and coast down at top speed, there’s another mountain to climb. And climbing up is always harder than coasting down.

I don’t do this very often, but Psalm 46 just encouraged me this morning. I have so many things going on, many good and the rest frustrating. It’s good for me to remember that God is always there, especially in trouble. I want to be thankful for trouble. I want to be thankful for the difficult things in life because they always help me in the end.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

If you’re going through trouble today, don’t be afraid of it. God hasn’t left you. He’s working behind the scenes to make sure events unfold the way that’s best for you.

He knows what He’s doing. It may feel like we’re trapped in the middle sometimes. It may feel like He’s dropped the ball. And it’s absolutely tempting to give up. But resist the urge to strike out on your own and trust Him.

And when life gets to be too much, just tell Him. Run to Him. Let Him remind you that He’s still there, that He hasn’t forgotten, that He hasn’t gone anywhere, and that He still has everything under control.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Peace like a security system

Real peace is elusive in our world, whether you’re talking about the peace between nations or people or peace of mind. People pay extravagant sums of money for peace of mind, so they don’t have to worry. But is real peace something you can buy? Or is it something you’re given?

My brain is in overdrive this morning. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but it’s jumping from topic to topic to topic in rapid sequence, which makes it really difficult to concentrate on anything. It may be because of all the exciting things I learned at the writing workshop this week. It may be because I’m leaving for England next Thursday to see the other side of my brain for the first time since January. But either way, I’m having trouble focusing this morning, so I thought I’d better stick to something simple.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:6-7.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever experienced peace that functions as a guard? The Amplified Bible uses the term garrison. Peace that guards your heart and mind. To a natural worrier like me, that sounds awfully nice. I have a vivid imagination, and I can just see worries creeping up my heart and mind like thieves or robbers. And peace, like a guard or a soldier, beats them back and tells them to hit the road.

How do you get that kind of peace? You pray about what’s bothering you. You tell God what you need and thank Him what He’s already done. That’s what it says above. But does that really work?

Well, you do have to believe. And you do have to choose to give your worries to God and choose to not take them back once you’ve let them go.

Worry is like having a guard available and choosing to guard the door yourself anyway. It’s like having a security system installed and sitting up all night in spite of it because you’re sure it’s not going to work.

Worry is a waste of time and energy and focus, and it’s something I fall prey to frequently. I try not to. I know better. But I have this propensity to take things back that I’ve already given over to God. Does that make any difference? Does that help my request get answered sooner? Absolutely not. It doesn’t change God’s opinion or His methods or His plan. It just changes the color of my hair and upsets my stomach.

So how do you choose not to worry? How do you let peace be the guard of your mind and heart? Well, to be very honest, I don’t know. I’m still working on that one, but since the Bible says this is how it works, I believe it. So it all comes down to trust.

I trust that God is going to answer my requests in the way that will bring Him glory, whatever that looks like, and I’m up for whatever He has in mind. I trust that God knows what He’s doing. The only thing I can figure out about myself is that I just need to be vigilant when it comes to my control freak tendencies. I need to pay attention when I try to take back the concerns I’ve given to Him, and I need to stop myself.

So what are you worrying about today? Everyone worries. But we don’t have to. If you’re a follower of Christ, you can pray about it instead of worrying, and God has promised to send His peace–peace so awesome we don’t understand it, peace strong enough to protect our heart and our mind from worry. But that protection won’t do us any good if we refuse to be protected.

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God does great things for grateful people

How often do we ask God for thing? If you’re like me, it’s all the time. I usually try to keep an open line of communication with Him all day long, kind of like He’s a friend walking right beside me who I can tell anything. And while I know what the format for prayer is, sometimes I just like to talk to Him.

But what I can’t seem to get used to is how to react when He answers my prayers. Have you ever been there? You ask God for something, and He responds almost immediately? It’s at those times that I really don’t know what to do or how to respond.

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are Luke 17:11-19.

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

I try not to get my hopes up when I ask God for big things. I believe that He will answer and give me what I’m asking for in His time and in His way, but I usually expect that time to be later and that way to look completely different than what I expect. But every now and then He gives me exactly what I ask for exactly when I ask for it.

It’s then that I need to remember to thank Him. That’s the response I need to have. And I just want to take a moment to do that this morning.

I’ve been praying that the workshop I was attending would be successful and it was, on many many levels. Those of you who know me very well know I struggle with self-confidence, especially when it comes to my writing. But God went out of his way at this workshop to show me over and over and over again that I’m exactly where He wants me and that the things I’ve written are truly things that can be used for Him. I talked to people I didn’t know. I put myself out there for everyone to see, and I wasn’t afraid. And I learned a lot and gained more confidence than I expected. That’s exactly what I was praying for, and that’s exactly what I got.

And I want to thank God for answering that prayer. He didn’t have to, but I’m so glad He did.

What prayer has God answered in your life recently? I’m sure He’s answered something, whether you realize it or not. Don’t be like the nine healed men who went away healed and forgot to acknowledge Who had healed them. Be like the one who came back. Thank God for what He’s done.

God likes to do great things for grateful people.

Pretty peach-colored flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Praying for flash drives and Benadryl cream

What can we pray about? It’s a legitimate question. Do you ever wonder if the requests you bring to God are too paltry for his attention? Do you ever not ask Him for something because you’re afraid He’ll think you’re being silly?

Pretty peach-colored flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty peach-colored flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Ephesians 6:18.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m at a writing workshop at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs right now. So far, it’s been tremendously encouraging, and I’ve learned a lot about some writing process issues that I’ve always wanted to ask established writers about. My parents came with me, and they’re getting to chill on the grounds and around the area while I’m in the workshop.

I love traveling, especially road trips, but the downside to travel is luggage. I hate having to lug a bunch of junk around with me, so I have learned to pack light (and to live with wrinkled clothes because I refuse to iron anything). I live my life by landmarks, even when it comes to hotel rooms, so when I walk into a room and deposit my stuff, I expect it to stay there. I get into a routine throughout a day and try to leave things exactly where I expect them to be. Now that place may not make logical sense to anyone else but me, but if I can find it again, that’s what matters, right?

Well, this morning we had a bit of a panic attack because I couldn’t find two items that I really needed–some Benadryl cream for a mysterious bite/rash that has appeared on my lower back (and is driving me nutty) and my flash drive.

Last night, I ended up searching all over the bathroom area for my pills and found them in my mom’s bags. She likes to straighten things up, and she thought my things were hers because they look exactly alike. So I asked her if she’d moved my Benadryl cream. She didn’t remember doing that, so we started looking. And that’s when I realized I couldn’t find my flash drive either.

Maybe this is silly, but my flash drive is the one thing I own that I have to have. Everything else could be blown away, but my flash drive has the last 20 years of my creative life on it. I back it up regularly, but remember I’ve been at a creative retreat for the last few days and I’ve filled it full of new material I didn’t have before. Losing it would be a terrible blow.

The Benadryl cream was an issue of comfort. The flash drive was an issue of sanity.

We looked high and low. We turned the room upside down. I looked everywhere it should have been and everywhere it shouldn’t have been, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

That’s when mom announced that she was praying that we’d find it. And I felt like a moron. Why hadn’t I thought to pray about finding it? Refer to previous blog posts. I scramble around like a madwoman trying to do everything myself first before I ask God to help.

And here’s the really big irony. The keynote session on Sunday night AND on Monday morning had been about whether or not God is enough for you if you lose everything you thought you were supposed to be about.

Yeah. Ouch.

So I sat down on the bed and told God that if He wanted me to find it, that would be great. But if He didn’t, I would still be great because He was great. And lo and behold! I glanced in my back pack (I had already looked there) and it was in a pocket.

Talk about a relief.

And then we prayed that we’d find the Benadryl cream too because my back was itching so bad I could hardly think straight. I hesitated at first because after God had already answered the BIG prayer about the flash drive, was it really okay to ask about the itch cream? That seemed kind of silly in comparison. But I remembered this verse. We’re supposed to pray about everything. Every occasion. All types of requests.

So I prayed.

And Mom found it in her cup with her toothbrush.

Go figure.

But the whole crazy scenario this morning just served to remind me that God honestly does care about what we care about. Whether it’s something big like a flash drive that stores 20 years of creativity or a tube of Benadryl cream that only halfway relieves itching, if it matters to me, it matters to Him.

But I thought it was funny I had to be willing to give it up before He’d give it back to me.