I’ve been doing a lot of dog walking lately, since we adopted Ralphie, our little rescued Yorkie-Poo.
He’s blind in one eye and has a cataract in the other, although his hearing is really good. He absolutely loves to go on walks, and it’s good for me, too.
Ralphie seems ecstatic with a sense of freedom and autonomy, as his retractable leash allows him to go up to sixteen feet away. As a pet parent, I particularly appreciate the feature of the “stop button” as I call it, that allows me to instantly push a button so that his leash won’t let him go any further — until I release it.
Whenever he’s headed the wrong way, or towards danger –like an oncoming car, giant mud puddle, or even a passerby — I can instantly limit his “freedom” and force him to stay very close to me. He may not like it at the moment, any more than a toddler rescued from running into the street, but it’s for his own protection- because I love him!
Ralphie actually hates walking in grass, and especially if it’s wet! With his short stature, the grass constantly rubs (tickling or irritating) his belly, so he avoids until he just has to go, if you know what I mean. It seems a necessary evil!
We live in a beautiful, and yet imperfect world. Whether people of faith or not, we will all suffer things that just come with being human.
Inevitably, some of those things will be inconvenient, uncomfortable, frightening, frustrating, hurtful and even devastating.
However, there is a vast difference in our lives when we allow God to hold the reins, allowing Jesus to reign in our lives!
Look at the promise of Psalm 1:1-6:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take… but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away… For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”
Similar to the Ralphie photo collage (as God reminded me during our walks), here are just some of the blessings and undeniable advantages of allowing God’s Word, the Bible, to “reign” in our lives:
 Following God’s Word in our lives helps protect us from danger, whether physical or spiritual. God gives us wisdom and discernment, as we study and live by His Word. There is safety in holding ourselves accountable to other mature believers, and maintaining close relationships with like-minded people who encourage us to walk in obedience to Christ. Just as rules and boundaries are good for our children, this design of God is for our benefit, not to keep anything good from us! He is a GOOD GOD and loving Heavenly Father! [Top photo: Ralphie is protected from danger as I pull his leash to steer him away from an oncoming car.]
Psalm 84:11-12 is one of many passages that describe these benefits: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
 Believing and living by the Bible brings peace and purpose to our lives. To realize that God is always with us, through every obstacle and heartache, brings great peace! Isaiah 26:3 promises: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [Middle photo: Ralphie looking back as if to say, “Are you still there?” God will never leave us alone!]
One of my favorite passages concerning the peace that is available to the follower of Christ is in Philippians Chapter 4:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! …. Be anxious for nothing [don’t worry about anything!], but in everything by prayer and supplication [petitioning God], with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Parts in brackets added for clarification.]
 Studying the Bible makes one wise (which helps everything in life!). We need wisdom and discernment to accomplish anything good in life, and to avoid making disastrous mistakes. We need the wisdom of God for successful and fulfilling relationships, careers, and financial decisions. To intimately know our Creator helps to shape our view of ourselves, the world, and Jesus, Himself.
Read these two translations of Psalm 19:7:
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (King James Version)
“The Law of the LORD is perfect, restoring life. The testimony of the LORD is steadfast, making foolish people wise.” (International Standard Version) [Bottom photo: Ralphie walking in my shadow. Staying close to God, under “the shadow of the Almighty” is a wise choice.]
Right in the middle of writing this article (Friday, Oct. 26th, 2018), I had to stop suddenly upon receiving a tearful phone call from my daughter-in-law. She and our son Aaron’s cat had just died! Sweet Freyja had been sick for a week, and was only three years old. Even sadder, Aaron and his wife are going through a divorce, and Aaron had JUST been laid off from his job the same day!
We all sobbed together as Aaron and my husband took turns digging a hole in which to bury Freyja. Aaron’s heartbroken words still haunt me and pierce my heart:
“Going through this darn divorce, losing my job today, and now my cat dying– all at the same time — it’s too much!”
A few weeks ago when Aaron’s wife first announced she wanted a divorce, a shocked and devastated Aaron was truly broken. Since they came to us to talk about it, I felt the freedom (and prompting from the Holy Spirit) to tell them the truth, as lovingly as possible.
“You each need to repent of your own sins and turn back to Jesus. You need to get in church, one that teaches and lives by the bible, and allow God to teach you how to love- and to forgive- each other. Whatever your job, career, or marital partner (or none) that you end up with, you’ll never be happy without serving God. You have a choice to make, and I pray you choose wisely.”
Often it feels as if life pushes us into a corner, harnessed by a very short leash that we can’t get out of.
Often it feels as if life pushes us into a corner, harnessed by a very short leash that we can’t get out of. When we feel trapped and hopeless, often it’s the only way to get our attention. Pain and trauma in our lives causes us to “do or die” — either examine our ways and priorities and (with God’s help), change our course. Or, we can choose to “die” — just give up, as those who succomb to addictions, anger and destructive habits, and often – suicide.
Deuteronomy 30:19: “I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live.”
John 10:10: “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Parentheses added for clarification)
The worst isn’t over for Aaron, by any means, but God is most definitely working! Aaron immediately (the following Sunday) began going back to church with his dad and me, his first time since dropping out of church during high school five years ago. He not only attended the worship service, he is also involved in a weekly bible study in an adult singles Sunday School class.
I have seen Aaron’s countenance change, day by day, as he’s also been reading the Bible and praying frequently. Only five weeks into his “newfound faith”, he lost his job — and his beloved pet. I know that Satan does not want Aaron (or anyone) serving God, and will do anything to attack, harass, and trip him up.
Aaron’s dad and I (and a few close friends) are praying that God will continue to strengthen Aaron and show His faithfulness and mercy to him, in this critical hour of need. (I would also invite your prayers for him!) Jesus, please REIGN in his life, and by Your grace, help Aaron to hand over the reins of control to You, Lord!
FLASHBACK to COZUMEL…
As I prayed late last night how to finish this blog, the Lord immediately flashed a scene in my mind of April 2015. My husband, Hank, and I were in Cozumel, Mexico, on a cruise we “won”. It wasn’t truly free, as advertised, but it was deeply discounted, and we were thrilled to be amid clear blue waters and sunny days for a while.
Even though we’d signed up to go snorkeling, winds were high and waters choppy enough to cause the snorkeling company to cancel and refund our money. Locals suggested we go further up the beach to a more peaceful (and cheaper!) location to snorkel, so we grabbed a taxi.
Since Hank is severely claustrophobic with a snorkeling mask on his face, he begged off, promising to cheer me on from the shore.
The teenage boy who worked there held my arm as I climbed down off the dock into the water — still a bit choppy. Even though I had a life jacket on, it was a bit frightening to not be able to touch bottom — especially with waves splashing in my face. Much to my chagrin, apparently the mask was leaking, and it filled with water as soon as I looked down into the water.
I held tightly to the steps of the dock while “Manuel” found me a new mask. He also brought a flotation board with a rope attached to it, and offered to let me hold it as I swam — alone. By this time, something was happening to me that I’ve never experienced before, or since.
I had a full-blown panic attack.
I was hyperventilating, felt like I was having an asthma attack, and was crying like a little child. I’ve always had a fear of drowning, and (as many of you know) lost my younger sister who drowned in 2004. Quite embarrassed by my reaction to the choppy, deep waters and my mask (even the new one) still taking on water, I felt helpless and very small.
All the desperate prayers I’d been praying were immediately answered, however, when Manuel made the most reassuring promise:
I promise not to let go of your rope! I’ll be holding on to you the entire time, so don’t be afraid.
Holding on to the floating board with its rope gripped tightly by my guide, my breathing finally slowed and my tears ceased. Trusting the one who was holding on to me, I was able to enjoy the incredible sea life abounding under the surface of the water. Manuel even took photos for me – for free — using the waterproof camera I’d borrowed from my mom. (I joyfully gave him a tip later!)
Within just minutes, I went from having a panic attack to laughing out loud, giddy with the excitement of a young child seeing such breathtaking sights for the very first time.
FEAR almost made me turn back. Panic at the unknown, the obstacles, the thought of making this journey without my husband (and feeling quite alone, therefore) almost caused me to climb back up onto that dock and forfeit my $20 — and the chance of a lifetime.
Knowing that an experienced, reassuring and faithful guide was holding my rope – holding the reins — made the impossible — possible.
I leave for Nashville in 38 hours, driving by myself to attend the annual staff gathering of my ministry headquarters, Artists in Christian Testimony, International. I’ll be playing the piano, singing and helping lead worship (with Rob Frazier) on Thursday morning. Three days of training and encouragement, then I drive back home.
For those 1,200 miles and at all times, God is holding my reins. He’s in charge of my vehicle, my steps, my protection, my relationships with others, divine appointments, and my provision in every regard. His angels are always on duty and I am in good hands!
In seven days, I will see a gynecologic oncologist in Tulsa to schedule surgery to remove a large tumor from my abdomen, discovered only three weeks ago.
When I first got the news of the tumor, I panicked — just for a second. Then the peace of God came over me, as I remembered what is true! The God of all comfort and Prince of Peace is my refuge! Jehovah Rapha is the LORD, my Healer!
Jesus REIGNS in my life! There is no circumstance allowed that gets past His divine permission or redemptive plan. I am standing upon the Rock of Ages, Who is not shaken or intimidated by anyone or anything. I am His and He is mine. He loves me and even laid down His very life for me!
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Does Jesus reign in your life? Is He holding your reins, or are you? I urge you to surrender the reins – and the reign – to the One Who made you and loves you. His ways are perfect and trustworthy.