“Who do you think will get hit by the most?”
“Aaack! I got the first one.”
“Ugh, that one hit me twice. Does it count as two?”
“No, but if there’s a tie, it will be the tie breaker.”
My husband, daughter, and I were not playing some sort of sport. We were out for a run and dodging the cicadas. Y’all cicadas are a thing!
For those of you who don’t live in the parts of the fifteen states that got inundated by Brood X, every seventeen years these insects come up from underground en masse, to the tune of billions, possibly trillions of these big, ugly bugs. They are harmless, but extremely loud (it sounds like a loud generator or an airplane landing in our neighborhood most afternoons) and so very gross. These guys are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! In your eyes, and hair, underfoot, splattered all over your windshield. They cover sidewalks and tree trunks and randomly hit you while you’re running.
It’s a crazy phenomenon that lasts a couple of weeks and feels like it’s out of some bizarre movie. But believe it or not, the cicadas are real. They’re here, there, and everywhere. And then, almost overnight...they’re gone. I have friends who know I’m a bit of a Bible nerd and ask me things like, “How can you believe everything in the Bible? Isn’t some of it a bit far-fetched?” Ummm, you mean like a plague of large, winged, singing insects? Seems pretty probable to me.
So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. --Exodus 10:13-15
The appearance of the cicadas actually cements my faith. God can make swarms of insects. Not usually as a punishment as He did to the Egyptians, but He is certainly capable of creating countless critters out of nowhere. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. Therefore, it’s easy for me to buy into all the other plagues listed in Exodus, as well.
“Okay,” my friends might say, “I’ll give you the plagues, but how about Jonah and the whale? Getting swallowed by a giant fish and being spit out sounds more like the fairy tale Pinocchio than something that could really happen.”
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights...And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.--Jonah 1:17, Jonah 2:10
Tell that to lobster diver, Michael Packard, who just last week got completely swallowed by a humpback whale, was inside the whale’s mouth for 30-40 seconds, and then the whale spit him out.
My point? The Bible is the Living Word of God! Yes, some of it sounds crazy. But so does the actual news, documented by scientists, photographers, and eye-witnesses. If we can acknowledge that there can be plagues of insects and that a man can be swallowed by a whale and spit back out, we can look at some of the other amazing things in the Bible and contemplate their truth. As the Apostle Paul tells his friend Timothy, All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). So do you believe these promises?
Bugs and whales are interesting, but these promises? These are ones I desperately want to be true. I crave peace. I’m sick of being judged and would love to be saved from all the comparisons in this world. I want all the beautiful dreams of my heart to be possible. I long to prosper. To have Jesus with me, always, to have Him never leave me--sigh, what a relief! And a full, abundant life? Yes, please!
The Good News? All of it is true! The bugs and the fish and the promises of a loving God who created you and me and longs to spend time with us. He doesn’t force us into a relationship with Him, because what kind of a relationship would that be? But instead, He invites us into one. All we have to do? Believe.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” --John 3:16
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I’ve danced, run, played softball (abysmal disaster), and taken my share of aerobics, spinning and Pilates classes, but last week was the first time I’ve ever tried yoga.
I sat on a thin mat with my legs criss-crossed. The teacher began, “Go into prayer position with your hands folded in front of you and your eyes closed.” The room full of strangers wearing spandex pants and tank tops were posed to pray? Maybe I should have tried yoga a long time ago.
She continued, her voice a peaceful, deliberate cadence, “If you’re spiritual, say a prayer of thanksgiving, maybe for the lovely breeze coming through the windows or for some reflective time today, or you can dedicate this workout to someone or something special on your mind.”
I inhaled and exhaled and prayed. Not the kind of prayer I so often say – a ‘to do’ list of wants and needs and demands on God. No, a different kind of prayer -- the kind of prayer when I don’t talk at God, but with Him, and actually give Him a chance to be heard over the noise in my head.
Class continued with an hour’s worth of poses and movements stretching muscles I didn’t realize needed to be stretched. The instructor peppered the class with comments like, “If you’re feeling particularly stretchy, lift your left leg over and behind your right leg.” She didn’t demand we do the move, but gave us the chance to do something even better for our bodies, if only we’d give it a try. Much like God doesn’t force us to go outside our comfort zone, but He gives us amazing prospects, if we’re willing to strike a new pose.
“If you’d like to get a deeper challenge, pull both arms behind you and turn your gaze upward.”
Did she really suggest I look upward, if I’d like a deeper challenge?
God’s just waiting up there with an incredible opportunity, if only I’ll look up to Him. God wants me to stretch! God wants to stretch me!
And God wants to stretch you!
What is it that God has been challenging you to do, but either you let your agenda drown Him out, or you haven’t felt particularly stretchy, or you’ve felt challenged to the hilt already?
I know. Just like you, I’m ready to pull out my iPhone, tap the Notes App and show God the list of reasons I’m not equipped for His plan. I don’t have enough time, experience, strength, contacts, expertise, resources, money, Twitter followers etc. to execute His plan.
Moses was weak and nervous and stuttered. But God said “What’s that in your hand?” Moses answered, “A staff”. And all Moses needed to take on the powerful pharaoh of Egypt and free an entire nation was that stick. David was young, inexperienced and ridiculed by his own brothers. But, David didn’t need King Saul’s armor or sword or army to take down the biggest terrorist this side of the Jordan River. He only needed five small, smooth stones. And Peter? Jesus asked him to leap out of a boat in the middle of the sea and “Come ahead.” Jesus didn’t throw Peter a raft or scuba gear or water skis. Peter just needed his own feet to walk on water! Well, they needed a stick, some stones, two feet and … faith. Maybe all we need to be stretched is our faith and something as simple as a yoga mat.
We all have constraints. But God doesn’t care. Like my yoga instructor, He doesn’t demand we accept His challenge. But He knows if we step up, the blind will see, mountains will move, seas will part and justice will be done. His Kingdom will be a better place. We will feel invigorated, empowered, energized, peaceful and comfortable in our own skins, because we’ll be living out His plan for us.
How is God asking you to stretch today? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment on where your legs and arms and gaze need to go to get a deeper stretch. And when you’re done grab your mat and strike prayer pose.
Laura L. Smith