Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Less Distraction in a Distracted World

Hello everyone! I hope you have been good. :)

I've been...what's the word for being in the middle of a seven things and feeling lost?


Oh yes. There's so much going on these days! I mean, spring has sprung and summer is approaching! My younger sister recently got engaged. Changes with work. Changes with family. Changes with life! I can't even log onto the internet without opening up Facebook, Amazon, and at least two of my e-mail accounts.

I'm going to be totally honest with you guys. Reading my Bible lately has been hard. My mind has been all over the place. Poor God and my Bible time have been getting pushed back, pushed back again, and sometimes forgotten in the wake of a crazy day.

I just hate that. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only Christian who has this problem, but I know that's not true. When life is this crazy, it's hard to focus on the message God's trying to get into my multi-divided brain.

But I have good news! I have the key to being less distracted in a distracted world. Yes. Really. The Key. Captial T. Captial K. And I'm going to tell you what it is.

First, I want to share a Bible story with you guys. This story is about King Joash and Elisha, and whenever I read this now, all I can see are distractions. Not my thousand plus distractions. The distractions distracting King Josah.

But you'll see what I mean.

"Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, 'My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!'
And Elisha said to him, 'Take a bow and arrows.' So he took a bow and arrows.
Then he said to the king of Israel, 'Draw the bow,' and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, 'Open the window eastward,' and he opened it. Then Elisha said, 'Shoot,' and he shot. And he said, 'The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.'
And he said, 'Take the arrows,' and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, 'Strike the ground with them.' And he struck three times and stopped.
Then the man of God was angry with him and said, 'You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.'

2 Kings 13:14-19  (ESV)

Recently at youth group, I had the opportunity to share this story about Joash and Elisha. Before you guys think that I'm a crazy youth leader, I learned every trick I know from my youth pastor/aunt. ;) Something that I am quite proud and honored to say.

So, I ask for four volunteers, and a bunch of hands fly up. I call four girls to the front who I know will work nicely for this particular torture activity. I tell one girl to walk around the room, and not to stop until I say. Another girl was told to jump up and down continuously in the middle in the aisle in between the chairs. Right in the middle of where the remaining kids are sitting. I instructed another girl to stand in one corner and hit the floor over and over again with some rubber arrows I have leftover from the Palmer Nerf Christmas War of 2014. The last girl was sent to the opposite corner and had to say, "La! La! La! La," over and over again. This girl is perfectly loud, by the way.

Hehehe. The kids may act like I'm crazy, but they're the ones who volunteer. :)

I told the rest of the kids that their job was to listen to me read this story about King Joash and Elisha. Afterwards, I asked the group what they heard. Of course they heard nothing (That was kind of the point.). One young lady said she heard something about arrows. Most of the group heard absolutely nothing. When I questioned them why, one kid simply said, "Well, we were all distracted."

She didn't realize the truth nugget she had just unearthed.

Just like King Joash, we are all distracted. So, so, so distracted. It's crazy just how distracted we are. Joash was clearly very upset about Elisha passing away. His heart and his mind were focused on that, rather then on the last message from God that Elisha was trying to deliver. Then you have Elisha - the one who's dying - who is solely focused on trying to deliver this awesome message to Joash before he dies. Elisha is trying, but Joash wasn't getting it. I mean, you can't really blame the guy. Death is hard, but Joash couldn't see past that long enough to get the message from God. He went along with the shooting the arrow out the window, and he did hit the ground with the arrows three times, but his heart was not in it. He was distracted.

I can relate to Joash. If I was in his situation, I probably would have done the same thing. I told you I learned all my crazy tricks from my youth pastor aunt. Back when I was in youth group, and she told to do something crazy, I was never the kid who did it without ceasing. I didn't raise my hand like the kids I teach do. I would try my best to avoid eye contact, but not so much that it was obvious because avoiding eye contact was a sure way to get picked! When it came to group craziness, I was the one who stood awkwardly to the side, doing just enough. If I had been Joash, I probably would have done the same thing. One, two, maybe three strikes before I would have felt completely ridiculous. I would have said, "Can I stop now?" Yup, three would have been the max before my pride screamed uncle. I was a geek and a nerd in school, but I was vain enough to care that I looked ridiculous.

I was distracted. I was focused on how I might look. On how the people around me might perceive my actions. On the people who were doing this wholeheartedly, and the people who completely refused. But just like Joash, I was too distracted to pay attention to the message God was trying to get to me. Joash was focused on the physical. Elisha. Death. The ridiculous thing he had to do. He was not focused on God. There are a lot of distractions in our world. We can be distracted about how silly we look jumping and dancing when we worship. We can be distracted by hard situations in our lives. We can be distracted by trying to put food on the table. We can even be distracted by good things. Boyfriends/girlfriends. Husbands/wives. Kids. Movies. Books. TV. Music. Those are not bad things, but sometimes they take more precedent over God. I know I can plead guilty to reading my Bible while watching TV on more then one occasion. Now, whenever I read this section of Scripture, all I see are the distractions from God. The natural, everyday distractions that the enemy took and used to lure Joash's mind away from the message at hand.

If Joash had been more focused on God's message, then maybe he would have kept striking the ground. Think about it, if he had been into it, he would have hit the ground seven, eight, nine times easy. Without even thinking about it. Elisha said if only Joash had kept striking the ground, then they would have rid themselves of Syria forever, but instead they would only kind of flick the Syrians. His focus was set on earthly things.

God's words may come to us at inconvenient times   it certainly did for Joash   but we need to be so set on God, that we are able to hear Him speak at any time. Look past everything, and look forward to God.

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:2

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:31-34

"For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:5

"Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you." Proverbs 4:25

My friends, that crazy message God's given you, that insane desire He's placed in your heart, the impossible task He's given you has a purpose. If we will keep our minds set on Him, then when His word comes to us, it won't seem inconvenient or too difficult. Look forward and straight to God so that the other stuff flies by you. Keep your mind set on Him! That's when the awesome God stuff starts to happen. That's when lives are changed, people are saved, and victory is won!

And that, my friends, is how you are less distracted in a distracted world.

I hope you all have an awesome end of May. I will see you again on June 1st!

V. Joy Palmer

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Hehe. I'm a big Home Improvement fan. I thought this clip might be funny convey just how much we appreciate our dear old mums. :)

Seriously, though. Birth moms, mother-in-laws, aunts, and stepmoms - you guys are a big deal! In this season of my life, I am especially thankful for all the moms God has given me.

I've been thinking a lot of a very special mother... You might be familiar with her.
Her name is Mary.

His little head was all fuzzy.
Mary watched the cooing baby beside her. Her husband, Joseph, was fast asleep. She should be sleeping, but her eyes were glued to the wide-eyed baby.

She couldn't believe Jesus was already six months old. Soon his fuzzy little head would be covered with a full head of hair. She reached out to caress his head, trying to shake away the painful thought.
The rise and fall of many in Israel...
Such a big job for one so small. He had such serious eyes for a baby...
The Son of God.
The air whooshed out of Mary's lungs. Tears sprang to her eyes as she tried to block out the coming words...
A sword will pierce through your own soul also...
She wiped the tears away quickly. This was silly. She knew he was destined for big, Godly things. He wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for the Lord's intervention.
But when she looked at his precious little form, she couldn't imagine him being anything other then her little baby.
Based on Luke 1:32, 2:19, 2:33-35
Mary stored all these things up in her heart, and while we don't think about it, she had to war with herself, too, over Jesus' destiny. It had to be so hard for her to let go of Jesus! To give Him back to God, knowing the pain that awaited Him. She was given this perfect, little baby, and the day was coming when she had to let Him do what He came here to do. How long had she faught with her heart before that wedding day in Cana when she told the servants to do whatever Jesus said, because she knew Who He really was. Not her baby boy, but the Savior of the world. Then how hard it must have been for her to see Him dying on the cross - for us!!
Because you do all that for us.
 You give us to God, and trust His plan for us, even when it's rough. You support us when you just want to shelter us. You give us life, love, and encouragement. You're are first friend and our permanent cheerleader. Thank you for loving us, and for giving all of us the courage to follow God's plan for our lives.
"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." Proverbs 31:25-30
Is it any wonder that the Proverbs 31 Woman was a mom? Today, we rise up and call you blessed! Thank you for all you do! We love you! God bless you greatly and in every area of your lives!! Amen.
 See you guys on May 20th!
With some big news! ;)

V. Joy Palmer

Friday, May 1, 2015

Green Grass

Hello guys! I can't believe the rains of April are over and we've welcomed the flowers of May.

Everywhere but here, that is. Here it's still raining.

Cold and rainy.

We'll get a few gloriously warm days, and then I wake up the next day in the frigid cold, look out the window, and cry my eyes out.

Because a new layer of snow is covering the ground.

Oh, happy days.

I've been thinking about when the first snow falls during the year. It always falls on green grass. Then the second snow falls, then the third and fourth and so on. Finally, the spring comes, and when it all finally melts away, you find some frozen but green grass underneath.

I just found myself thinking, "Good for you, grass!" Seriously. I'm not crazy. It weathered the storm. It stayed green despite tons of snow being dumped on it. Now...eventually...anywhere but here it would can enter the spring season, letting the old die out and new life replenish it.

My next thought is going to sound a little crazy.

We. Should be. Like the grass.

I don't mean in the "Here today, gone tomorrow," kind of sense. I mean in the way that grass stays green despite the winter.

It freezes.

"Winter" seasons always come for Christians. Those seasons where we are tested and tried. Where we feel like we are failing. Where we feel like we are drowning. Where we feel like anything but the strong Christian we were during the happy days of summer, or the mildly uncomfortable days of autumn. Now it's negative thirty, and our faith is failing just like our heat.

When instead, our faith should "freeze" like the grass. We should remain "green." Despite the twelve feet of snow in a land where penguins wear Parkas, our faith should remain intact. Despite the little things that come when we thought we had finally made it through the worst, our faith should be green. We should still be going strong, waiting for the thaw.

Check out these verses in James.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

You're blessed if you remain steadfast. Not only that, but if you remain steadfast, your faith is made perfect. Complete. Lacking in nothing.

Oh, my faith is lacking in so much! I don't want to give into gloom anymore... I want to stand the test, and win that big shiny crown!
I want to share some thoughts with you that I shared on an old blog post on Snack Time Devotions. It was originally for my Esther/Every Stand We Make Series, but the point - minus the grass - is the same, so I simply have to share it with you guys, too!

Haman was dead.

He had been hung on the gallows designed for her cousin Mordecai. King Ahasuerus had given her the house of Haman. In return she had told him all about her family and how Mordecai was her cousin. He had summoned Mordecai immediately. Then her husband shocked her by taking off his signet ring, which a guard had pried from Haman's dead hands, and gave it to Mordecai. Esther then gave Mordecai the house of Haman. It only seemed right. Haman was Mordecai's adversary whom God had delivered into his hands.

Now she was on the ground, bowed before King Ahasuerus, pleading for him to revoke the evil plan Haman had devised against her people.

She peaked up to see the royal scepter extended towards her. Standing up, she issued her plea one more time. "If it please your Majesty, if I have found favor in your sight, and if it seems right to the king, and if I am pleasing in your eyes, please let a decree go forth issuing that Haman's letters to destroy the Jewish people have been revoked." She met the eyes of her beloved. "How can I bear to see my people destroyed?"

This was it. They had come so far. All they needed was for King Ahasuerus to give the order, and this whole ordeal would be behind them.

A real smile graced her lips for the first time in days.

The king started to speak, he deep voice resonating in the grand room. "I have given the house of Haman into your hands, and Haman was hung on the gallows as punishment for his plot against the Jews." His deep eyes held regret. "You may write as you please with regard to the Jews in my name, and seal it with my signet ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked."

The words took a moment to sink into her heart. Haman had written his edict in King Ahasuerus' name and sealed it with his signet ring. She choked on a sob. Meaning we cannot revoke the law. We've failed.

Sobbing, she dropped to her knees. Decorum and protocol were thrown to the wind. Pulling her hair and royal robs she moaned, "What was the point?"

A hand touched her shoulder. Mordecai was crouched next to her, "There is still hope my dear Esther. We, our people, can fight back."

"No," She started shaking her head.

"Yes!" He took her by the shoulders and gave her a little shake. "Right now, they are waiting to die. We can tell them to fight. Command it with the king's edict. Don't you see? Yahweh's hand is still with us. Don't despair now."

King Ahasuerus moved to look into her eyes again. "He's correct." He smiled, and Esther felt hope burn within her chest again. He nodded to a nearby servant. "Send for the royal scribes at once. You've an edict to write."

Based on Esther 8:1-9

They had taken care of Haman. Instead of being able to brush their hands off, and settle back with a feast for a job well done, they had to figure out this law. What must it have been like for Esther to plea that Haman's law to be revoked, thinking they had won this battle, only for the king to say that any law written in his name cannot be revoked?

You make it through one obstacle, and immediately another awaits. Bigger and worse then the first.

I imagine that's how they might have felt.

It would have been so easy for Esther and Mordecai to throw their hands up declaring, "Well, we tried! Apparently God's hand isn't in this after all."

But His hand was in that situation.

Just like God's hand is in our lives. When we make it through one thing, He is prepared to use that hand to help us through the next obstacle course. We may get twists and turns and bombs dropped that we didn't expect...but He did. He already has the solution. We just need to trust Him. To keep standing for Him. Don't turn back or give up. He has that but-this-way-we-can-overcome plan waiting for us.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

When we stand before God and His host of witnesses, will we be able to say that we were immovable and steadfast? That we didn't give up? That we fought the fight? That we finished the race? That we kept our faith? Will we be the green grass that stood the test of time?

When the winter comes, it's up to us to decide if we will freeze our faith and stay strong.

God bless you guys! I'll see you on May 10th. :)

V. Joy Palmer