Solid

What was the staple item of your childhood Easter basket? Was it jelly beans? Chocolate eggs? Marshmallow Peeps? Cadbury mini-eggs?

For many of us, it was, of course, the chocolate bunny. This timeless treat has topped-off baskets for decades, giving parents an endless variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes to choose from. Dark, milk, or white chocolate? Added peanut butter or caramel? Goofy or life-like? Life-size or dentist-friendly? And the biggest one: Solid or hollow?

Growing up in a family of three children with a limited budget (or maybe just a smart mom) meant that even though I hoped every year that my box would say “solid,” a “hollow” bunny was what I would find. From the outside, a hollow bunny looks like tons of chocolate. But when you bite into it, you realize you’ve been duped – it’s really not more than a few bites!

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The words of Psalm 115 give us a clear picture of the difference between our “solid” God and the “hollow” idols we might be tempted to worship instead:

Our God is in heaven;
 he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
 made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
 eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
 noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
 feet, but cannot walk,
 nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
 and so will all who trust in them.
(v. 3-8)

From the earliest times, human beings have attempted to explain the mysteries of nature and the purpose of life by pointing to the spiritual. The notion that there could or maybe even has to be something beyond what our eyes can see lies within us all. Paul puts it this way in Romans 1: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (v. 20) This notion was meant to lead us to seek after and know the one true God.

However, by the time Psalm 115 was written, the people groups surrounding the nation of Israel had conceived hundreds of “gods”. These divine “beings” served to explain the mysteries as “everything that occurred, whether good or bad, was attributed to the gods”* More than that, they brought these answers down to earth. Gods conceived by human brains could only resemble earthly things, which gave them the ability to be visualized and then replicated into physical ‘idols’.

Most importantly, the attribution of specific powers to individual gods made them seem, even ever so slightly, under human control, as it was assumed they could be appeased through worship and sacrifices. Life in those times depended thoroughly on unpredictable, uncontrollable forces and these gods appeared to offer protection, satisfaction, and livelihood. So the people worshiped them. Even the Israelites, though they knew the one true God, also knew that He “is in heaven” and “he does whatever pleases him” (v. 3), so they constantly succumbed to the temptation to bow down to these more ‘manageable’ gods.

But the Psalmist declares that even though these “gods” looked like they had something to offer, their offers were empty. Conceived by human brains and made by human hands they held no power and could not bring the protection, satisfaction, and livelihood they promised.

In my 2019 suburban life, many of the big questions that at one time mystified people have been answered by modern science. Also, the majority of my daily life does not depend on the forces of nature – though I sometimes pray an event will not get rained out (or maybe that it will 😉), my success or failure does not depend on their ‘favor’. Medical knowledge has explained most illness and disease and I don’t live in fear of invasion or war.

The temptation to worship other gods isn’t a thing in my life.

Or is it?

I may not be bowing down to Ba’al, but if I had that new ______________, I’d be satisfied. I’m not asking anything of Asherah, but man, life would be so much better if ______________ finally happened. I’m not imagining myself in debt to Dagon, but if I could just accomplish ______________, I’d finally be ‘there’.

Every time I expect a physical item, social interaction, goal completion, or emotional sensation to bring me satisfaction, there’s a chance that I’m making an idol of it.

Every time I put my hope in something that’s created by human hands or conceived by human brains, there’s a chance I’m going to find it hollow and unable to produce what it appears to be promising.

And every time I bite in, it’s not long before I realize I’ve been duped.

The Psalmist says in verse 8, “Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them” and that’s exactly what happens. Trusting in something that’s hollow only leaves me hollow. I felt empty and I thought that that thing, person, experience, or feeling would be the thing that filled me up, so I took a ‘bite’. But after I chewed and swallowed, I was still empty. It looked like it had a “mouth,” but it turns out it couldn’t “speak”. It appeared to have “eyes,” but it couldn’t “see”. Its “ears” weren’t capable of “hear[ing],” its “nose” couldn’t “smell,” its “hands” couldn’t “feel,” and just because it had “feet” didn’t mean it could “walk”.

My prayer lately has been that my hollowness would cause me to long for the solid fulfillment only Jesus can give me – and that I would continue to experience disappointment when I put my trust in the things of this world. When I find myself frustrated with that thing I took a bite of, I thank God for the reminder that only He can satisfy!

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*https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Idolatry

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Hindsight

Speaking of the cold… Can you figure out this rebus word puzzle?

Rebus CHILL

If you got that one, can you get this one? You’re getting warmer!

Rebus SPRING

Over the past few weeks, the girls and I have been working hard to solve a collection of rebus puzzles.

Some of them are so obvious, you can’t not see the answer right away. The letter “P” with an arrow pointing up above it? That’s “Pup,” of course.

Some of them require a little out-of-the-box thinking. The letter “S” with a rabbit next to it? Srabbit? Sbunny? What’s another word for ‘rabbit’? Oh! It’s “Share”!

Others you feel like you could stare at for hours and never figure them out. The letter “G” with a circle underneath it? “Go?” Nope, that’s not it. Oh – how about “Ground?” Nope. It took weeks, but we finally got it – “Underground”. Get it? The “round” is “under” the “G”. 🤦

Every time we open up a new ‘level’ in this app, we flip through the puzzles and do our best to solve them. Some we get on first glance, some take a little collaborative thinking, and some leave us saying, “We’re never going to get that one!”

But, guess what? We always do – and then say to each other, “How did we not see that?”. Once you’ve “seen” the answer, not only can you not unsee it – you can’t imagine how you ever didn’t see it in the first place!

Hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, foresight – or even in-the-moment sight isn’t! Hard situations and crisis moments can leave us feeling puzzled and unsure of what to do. There are so many times I wish God would just hand me a list of “Instructions on How Mandy Desilets Should Handle This Exact Situation”. (Wouldn’t that be great?) He’s promised to guide me and I’m looking to Him for help, but sometimes I feel like I’m staring at the picture thinking, “I can’t do this!”

In Psalm 25, David sings about the ways God guides us:

Show me your ways, Lord,
   teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long…
Good and upright is the Lord;
   therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
   and teaches them his way.
(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9)

Because our God is “good and upright”, He doesn’t just keep all that goodness and uprightness to Himself – He is always actively leading us, as His children, toward goodness and uprightness. He does this by revealing His own ways to us and instructing us in how we, as humans, can act in those ways as well. As our Guide walks in front of us, so can we put our feet where His feet were and walk in the direction He points.

Life would be a whole lot easier if I always walked in His ways, but as much as I want all that goodness and uprightness to characterize my life, the forces of fear, judgment, and pride tend to speak just as loud (if not louder) and I end up letting them guide me instead. Although I wish I never had any failures, every time I handle a situation poorly I can look back, see clearly what I should have done, and let it become something my faithful Guide can use to show me the right path.

When we look at our rebus puzzles now, after completing several levels, we have a strategy:

  1. Details. Though not every detail of the picture is significant, you have to break it down into parts. Does that little stem off the top of that pod of peas resemble a letter? Yep! That’s an “R” which means the answer is “Pear”!
  2. Position. Short words like on, in, of, or, and, etc… find themselves inside lots of other bigger words. An “ant” “on” an “F”? Or is the “ant” “in” the “F”?
  3. Synonyms. Sometimes the word is just is what it is, but sometimes it’s not. That’s an “L” floating in water. Is that water “liquid”? Some “waves”? A “lake”? The “ocean”? A “sea”?
  4. Big Picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and end up trying too hard. It’s a picture of an upside-down hanger. Is there a letter in that? A number? A shape? What’s another word for “hanger”? Oh! 😂 It’s a “bat” – an “upside-down hanger”!

Every time I’m facing an “I don’t know what to do! I can’t handle this!” situation and I’m looking to my Guide for help, there’s a good chance the Holy Spirit’s going to point backwards – not to shame me for my mistakes, but so He can use the hindsight I now have from a previous situation to guide me in this one.

  1. Details. Does this situation resemble another that I’ve faced? It may not be exactly the same, but there’s a good chance I have been here before.
  2. Position. When I faced this situation previously, where was my heart in relation to God’s? Was I laying it open in trust? Or was it closed up in fear and doubt?
  3. Synonyms. What were my options for action/reaction? How many of them were based on fear, judgment, or pride? What did I choose and how did it work out for me?
  4. Big Picture. Was I overthinking then? Am I overthinking now? Do I need to step back and think about the obvious, general commands and ways of God?

The first verse of Psalm 25 is: “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” Trust doesn’t come naturally – it’s built over time and every opportunity that’s placed in front of me is a stepping stone. I might not know exactly what to do, but letting the Holy Spirit use that 20/20 hindsight view will give me some clues!

If you get that, can you get this one?

Rebus TRUST

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Think

A 30° day in April is worse than a 10° day in January. After basking in the glory of 75° and sunny this Saturday, we were all tricked into putting away the hats and gloves and winter coats. Make way for spring! Or so we thought…

And then Monday happened. And 30° happened.

In January I had the ability to give myself a swift kick in the pants and just get outside. For the first time in many years, I reached my winter goal of getting at least one run or hike in every week – no matter how cold it was. When Saturday’s t-shirt and flip-flops weather hit, I felt like I had crossed the finish line!

Then I looked at 30° on Monday morning, and the last thing I wanted to do was voluntarily go outside when I didn’t have to! “But it’s cold,” I thought, “and I’m so sick of the cold. I just can’t.”

But after forgetting to say “Decaf” when ordering my Americano that morning and having the feeling I might spontaneously combust if I didn’t do something active, I put my shoes on and went anyway.

And guess what? Seven minutes in and I was rolling up my sleeves thinking, “I’m roasting. I should have worn a lighter shirt!” 🤦

This is not a new lesson for me. I learn it every. single. time. I go for a run in the cold. I never want to get my running clothes on because all I can think about is how cold I’m going to be. I never want to walk out the door because all I can think about is how warm and comfortable my house is. There are many days the warm house and warm clothes win and I can’t get myself to do it!

I know the discomfort of the cold will only last for approximately seven minutes. Seven minutes is less than a mile. In seven minutes, I will forget that I was ever cold! But sometimes seven minutes feels like a long time.

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Being a follower of Jesus and being comfortable are phrases that rarely show up in the same sentence. We like all the stuff about how much God loves us and how He’s got a plan for our lives – but this whole ‘deny yourself’ thing isn’t much fun. Deep down I know that God’s infinitely wise voice is leading me toward all the good things He has for me, but sometimes I’m not so sure I want to go that way!

In Romans 13, Paul pleads with his readers to “wake from sleep” and “put on the armor of light” (v. 11-12). He instructs them to “walk properly as in the daytime” by living life as if this “light” was shining on them, exposing their actions at all times (v. 13). And how should they do this? First, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and second, “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (v. 14)

When I ‘suit up’ for my day, ‘clothing’ myself with Christ is a great place to start. Connecting with Him and being reminded that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) snaps me out of my self-focused, comfort-driven daze. But that doesn’t mean it completely goes away! Throughout my day, it’s a guarantee that temptation will fade right back in – whether it’s an invitation to gratify my sinful nature or the thought that I’d rather turn around and go home than follow through with an opportunity God has placed in front of me.

When Paul said “make no provision” he meant to not ‘enable’ or ‘allow for’ sin and disobedience to happen.* The way we do that enabling is, as the NIV translates, by “think[ing] about” it. Of course we must “think about” our choices, but Paul is talking about the kind of thinking that plans ahead with a focus on the fulfillment of a desire. In other words, the more I think about my desires, the more I’m likely to make the choice to fulfill them.

Making “provision” happens when I engage in lengthy debate with myself over a choice. Is that really the Holy Spirit leading me or is it just my guilt speaking? I start to rationalize: “I think I can probably handle this, it’s not really that bad. I’ll just do it this way.” or “I’m just so stressed I need to do/say this right now because it will give me relief”. Or “There’s no way I can face that situation! I won’t handle it well!” and “Serving in that way will take too much of my energy and I’m just so tired…”

Lately, once I’ve decided I’m going for a run, I don’t think – I just go. I’ve learned to not, as my Grandma might say, ‘hem and haw’ over the decision. I get dressed, throw on my shoes, and run out the door before I have time to talk myself out of it!

I don’t want to be uncomfortable. And ‘denying myself’ is a fast track to uncomfortable. Obeying God when He’s leading me out of my comfort zone? I don’t think that’s going to feel good. It would be much easier to stay in my warm house, in my warm clothes, sitting in my warm chair… Yeah, that would be better. 😉

But when I do obey, does the initial discomfort last more than seven minutes? Honestly, I’m not sure it ever does. Temptation tends to lose its power, and those hard things never end up being as hard as I thought they’d be. It’s amazing how quickly I *warm up* after taking those first steps to just do it!

*https://biblehub.com/greek/4307.htm

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