Hard Pressed But Never Destroyed

January 4 2013BMy best friend and I not only shop together, call and text but we also pray together and share scriptures when needed.
So, today I’ve been praying for a specific need because that was her morning text. This afternoon she called a bit depressed and perplexed. I did what a friend does: I listened, agreed, offered comfort, listened some more, offered a bit more advise. When our silence grew deafening, the only thing I knew to do was pray over the phone for her in her ear.
She’s a praying woman and I know she will find her answer.
Afterwards, I began trolling through a list of things, although I’m supposed to  finish a chapter of my novel and send out two resumes. I was growing weary at the writing, and daunted by the task of job hunting. In my list of things, I found the following devotion that represented the day, ironically, I’m sure my best friend sent it to me on January 12, 2012.

Hard Pressed, But Not Destroyed

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, We are preserved not pickled! 2 Corinthians 4: 8 to 9 (NIV).

The Message translation of the Bible says this ”We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us in trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us our lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!”

When the sailors of old faced the worst of the storms, they would call out to encourage one another with this statement of faith, “Hold fast”. When the wave buffeted against them and the winds howled and the storm raged, and it seemed like everything was against them, they would call out, “hold fast”.

Ephesians 6:13 – 14  (NIV)  says, “and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then”.

At times we may feel like we are going through the mill, and we are having a hard time. That is the time you need to hear these words “Hold fast! For the storm will not last forever.”

Notice if you will, that no matter what life throws at you, no matter the circumstance, there is a  “But not” from God, but not crushed, but not in despair, but not forsaken, but not destroyed! -Because God is an awesome God. We are preserved not pickled!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 4: 8 -9 (NIV)

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

No matter what we face, not matter how difficult the storms of life, it will not last forever, we will be preserved not pickled. Because if God be for us who can stand against us? Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Bed & Breakfast

Elba  WELCOME.

Sweet home Alabama.

Now that I had arrived safely in Elba, Alabama, the next stop: Florala for a Friday night event, and then a Saturday drive to Panama City Beach. I had no clue of the distance between Elba, Florala and Panama City Beach, nor did I have hotel reservations in Florala when my mother said that’s too much driving.

At 4 p.m., we set off to reach our destination before nightfall sans a place to rest our head. Additionally, we waited for my cousin in Florala to call us back with directions and an address.

In the parking lot of Subways, I checked my telephone for hotels. One night stays, pricey.  Finally my cousin called with directions. I asked her about hotels and she paused.

“I didn’t know you had planned to stay,” cousin Hazel said. “I would invite you to sleep at my house, but I haven’t cleaned and I’m leaving early in the morning or Pensacola.“

I heard the trepidation in her voice. As the event planner, she needed to arrive at six, two hours before her guests. She said, “Come on, I’ll arrange a place for you to stay.”

“She’ll arrange a place at friend’s house,” my mother predicted.

“Maybe, she’ll let us sleep on the floor,” I said.

“It’s an adventure,” my mother said. “God’s in control.”

“I did fly first class, unexpectedly,” I said.

We set off standing on God’s promise.

I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
 make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Isaiah 24:16, The Message).

Five minutes across the Florala city line, my cellphone rang. Hazel asked our location, afterwards she Elba florala WELCOME.instructed me to pull over. She parked next to us. After family hugs, she said, “Check-in is at 6:30 p.m.”

We followed Hazel to her home. A beautiful home with room enough to house us. Again we sat and chatted about distance relatives.  As a writer, Hazel and my mother told stories about family members that were characters in novel, a family saga. This reminded me of words of a famous author, “A good writer has a storyteller in the family.”

What a blessing to sit with two wise women with family stories, that I could fictionalize in a novel sequel.

Family storytellers.

Family storytellers.

At 6:20p.m., we headed to Lake House Bed & Breakfast. The owner welcomed
and escorted us to one king size bedroom and one queen on the first floor.

brabhamlakehouse

“The house is empty tonight,” he said. “Check out is 11 a.m. And what time would you like breakfast?”

I met Hazel in the hallway and asked if we should pay now or in the morning. She simply replied, “All has been taken care of. Just enjoy.”

My second God-sized gift in less than 48 hours.

lakehouse BTwo hours after lounging in the sitting room, sipping tea, Hazel returned to the Lake House and gave us a tour of Florala. Then pulled into the driveway of another cousin whom we hadn’t seen in a year.

I knocked on her door. She opened it and screamed, “My cousin from New York.” She slammed the door.

An impromptu family reunion; plans only God could have ordained.

Hooks Cousins

Hooks Cousins night out.

My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.
My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.

Part 1: Making Room for God, From Zone 4 to First Class

inside_white_plains_westchester_airport_1614_400_400_1Last week’s post was about the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today? This week, my challenge included making room for God when plans go awry. I could only face this test by living the Bible specifically standing on God’s promise, Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.

At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at Westchester Airport for a 7:30 a.m. two-leg flight. At 7:00 a.m. my cellphone rang, the robotic voice said: Your flight has been delayed until 8:00 a.m. Fifteen minutes later the same number popped up on my cell, again flight scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

Immediately, I checked my itinerary for the departure of my connecting flight, 9:50 a.m. in Philadelphia. I shoved my book and trail mix in my knapsack and headed toward the US Airways counter.

I stood waiting, watching, praying and listening as the airline representatives begin rescheduling new flights for passengers. The lady behind me asked. “What’s the status?”

My cellphone rang again. The lady said, “The flight is delayed.”

I pressed the speaker button, turned to her and said. “This flight is cancelled.”

The voice announced: 9:30 departure.

“Something is wrong,” I said. “Did you see the movie “Flight”?” I silently prayed. “Be still God is working this out. Don’t panic.”

The airline representatives rearranged passengers to different airports sixty miles south. The older gentleman in front of me looked distressed. His wife was disabled. The back and forth was not good for her knee.  The lady behind me, Jen, had spent her last dollar taxing to the airport because her friend stood her up.

“Ma’am, “ I said to the representative. “Is the plane here?”

“Yes and the crew, but it’s not leaving this airport. The hydraulic hose is the problem.”

Laguardia-airport-LGAThank you Lord for keeping me off that plane.

Then the rep told the older gentleman they would put him in a car and take he and his wife to LaGuardia airport for a straight flight.

“God is good,” he said.

“The Lord will fight for you, just be still,” I said.

Another woman said, “I don’t need a seat. I didn’t want to go on this trip anyway.”

Finally, it was my turn. US Airways representative asked a Delta representative if there were flights. “Only first class. But she can’t have it.”

I looked at the young man, “I’m not good enough for first class.” I was annoyed, but held my temper.

He looked away.

Then I said to the representative. “This young lady also needs a ride.” I pivoted to Jen standing behind me.

“Thanks for looking out,” she said.

However the representative snapped, “You want to give your seat to her.”

I bit my lip, “Be still,” I whispered to myself. “You’re right, I need to take care of me,” I said to the representative.

After my flight was rebooked, I realized my cousin had planned to meet me in Atlanta at 12:30 p.m. I sent him a text explaining I wouldn’t be in Atlanta until 5:22 p.m.; however I would sleep in a hotel and find my way in the morning.

My final destination was Alabama, a three-hour drive.

He texted back, “Let me see what I can do, I don’t want you staying in Atlanta.”

When I got in the town car, Jen followed. I offered her the front seat.

“You’re polite,” she said.

“God’s working on me; my patience and my politeness. I can be quite rude at times.” Let the Bible live in me was challenging.

One hour later, I walked into LaGuardia airport.  The line was long. “Hey,” a voice called. I was Jen. “Come stand here.”

Jen and I chatted, made our way to security and then to the same gate.

I bought a twenty-three ounce bottle of water, remembering her funds were low. For some reason Matthew 25:35b popped into my head” I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me.”

I got an extra cup. Returned to my seat and poured Jenny a cup.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Jen had a Bible. Jen carried the Bible for protection only. She stopped attending church, yet she believed in God. She didn’t read the Bible because she couldn’t understand the language. Nevertheless, she didn’t judge.

I explained that church is a place of fellowship, a place where we meet God and his people for worship. Then I suggested she read The Message version for more insight.

She looked puzzled. So, I stopped talking and offered her some trail mix.

I opened my magazine and read the following verse: Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  I chuckled. God really does have a sense of humor. In another article the writer used The Message version of Psalm 47. I ripped out that section and handed it to Jen.

“This is for you,” I said.

She read. She thanked me. She folded the torn sheet and tucked it in her pants pocket.

Minutes later we walked down the aisle of the aircraft: Zone 4 seat 34, me in C her in F. She said, “This really needs to be first class after all we’ve been through.”

“Let’s nap,” I replied. “The day will be over soon.”

Upon deplaning, we hugged each other in the airport lobby.

On my way to course B in Charlotte, my cousin texted me: We’ll be there thirty minute late.

I pulled my ticket out of my back pocket: Zone 1, Seat 4, First Class.

Reading the words twice, I hurried to the front of the line grateful I made room for God to do what He does, while I remained still.

Read Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Inn.