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I cannot lift myself

Do you have one of those early childhood experiences of going to see the big man in the red suit around the Christmas holidays? We'd wait in the long line, lining up all our 'asks' in our minds, excited to tell him just exactly what we wanted under the tree on Christmas morn. We'd ask for way more than we needed and we'd hope for more than we'd receive! Sometimes I think we approach God telling him that we want ALL these blessings - each and every good thing that he has promised to us, but not really knowing what it is we have need of in our lives at that moment. Most of us do a good job with the "asking" part -- but when it comes to "receiving" we stink - either because we get upset when we don't receive all we thought we'd receive or because we don't really know how to use all we have received! We simply don't believe the provision is true, or we just don't reach out and make the blessing fully ours.

I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised. When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed. I was up at once, didn't drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders. The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out—but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me. I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true—I can't wait till morning! (Psalm 119:58-62)

It is in the times of taking those "long and hard looks" into our lives - truly seeing the way we are headed by the choices we are making - that we come face to face with the provisions of God. In the "pondering of our ways" we often realize that course corrections are in order. We have a tendency to drift without even knowing we are drifting - yet our choices are clear cut indications of the direction we are traveling! When we are "adrift" in life choices, we often find ourselves at a point where our "feet are swept out from under us". Many times we don't even know what happened to get us "down" where we are right now -- we just know we are no longer standing strong.  I sometimes feel alone in a whole crowd of people. I can be surrounded with people enjoying life and having a great time celebrating each other -- yet in the midst of all that revelry, I feel isolated and alone. I have the blessing of others right there around me, but I have not made that blessing mine!

Why is it that I get to this place? Why is it that you may find yourself alongside me in that same place of "isolation" in the midst of so much activity? It might be because we have "insulated" ourselves so that we cannot really be approached by others and affected by their lives. There are times in life that we just don't want any influence from "without" to impact what it is that we are experiencing "within". We insulate ourselves, keeping what we are experiencing to ourselves. This can be a very dangerous spot to find ourselves in -- isolated people who insulate themselves from the influence of others often drift deeper into the "stories" they are telling themselves! For instance, if we honestly believe that we have one thing the group may benefit from, we isolate and insulate so that we won't be hurt when we experience what we perceive will be their inevitable rejection of our contributions. In actuality, if we never venture out of our protection, we will never know if there will be rejection!

Have you ever brooded over a failure of some kind? We find ourselves bemoaning some aspect of character flaw that we continue to struggle with and as a result, we "pull inside" so as not to allow others to see that "flaw" any clearer than it is already apparent. Truth be told, no matter how much "cover-up stick" we apply to a blemish on the end of our nose, there is still a blemish underneath all that make-up! It may not be glowing bright red on the end of our nose, but it is still there! It is amazing to me that we think that our character flaws will simply not be apparent if we skillfully cover over them with some type of "mask" we apply. The truth is -- God is in the business of uncovering us so that we can be comfortable being just as we are -- no masks needed. We get down sometimes. We get off course at other times. Maybe the two go hand-in-hand. Yet, when we do, all we need to do is recall God's promise to be gracious to us -- a sinful man or woman, prone to act in wrong ways on occasion, given to thinking wrongly about one's self and others. The grace of God is the basis of all of God's promises toward us.

Know this - our help is found in God and no other. Recognize that the blessings of God are an encompassing thing - clothing us amply in grace and mercy. Our protector and deliverer is none other than God himself - we are to keep that squarely before us even in the times when enemy influences seemed to be closing in around us, making us feel isolated and insulated. Count on the fact that God has not lost control - even when we have taken the control out of God's hands for a while. Own up to the fact that growth is simply impossible unless God does the planting. As with our psalmist, let us remember we are to trust God THEN and NOW. Getting back up on one's feet is not an easy matter -- it is made much easier when we trust God to do the lifting! Trust him when you see no way out. Recount his mercies when you feel no hope in your failure. Open up to him when you begin to feel isolated and insulated from the very blessings he has placed in your life. Then, and only then, will you be able to say, "I am walking in every promise you have given!" Just sayin!

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