Picture of moon and clouds

As I stepped into the cool night air, I was thankful to be living where I could walk alone in the evening with no need to fear.

I strolled a path well memorized.

Yellow lights from the windows reminded me that friends were not far. Yet I was alone enough to pray aloud.Moon and stars at night

I paused on the path and looked up. Glittering stars twinkled down at me, and the moon beamed so brilliantly that the night was not dark.

I smiled at the night sky and thanked God for its beauty. I sang a song of praise.

Then I looked up again. I noticed this time a blank spot. One section of the sky had no stars.

As I watched, the blank spot travelled across the sky. It was a cloud. I spotted several other clouds as well.

How mysterious that the stars can seem to vanish, though indeed they do not leave at all.

Then, as I watched, the moon began to fade. I saw a thick cloud slowly overwhelm its brilliance.

Something within me tightened. I didn’t want the moon to leave! Yet it did leave.

The cloud entirely blotted out the moon. The night was thrown into deep darkness.

Suddenly, I felt very alone. No longer could I see the dim outline of the path I’d been strolling. No longer could I see my own hands in the moonlight.

It seemed the moon had vanished – disappeared. At that moment, it seemed impossible to believe that the moon was there at all!

Thankfully, the cloud passed on, but a thought hung in my heart.

Sometimes in life, God seems to have vanished. Would I trust Him even when I can’t see Him?

When God’s presence is clearly seen and felt, trusting and rejoicing in Him seems nearly natural. Yet, when the clouds blot out His face, will I still trust that He’s there? Will I still rejoice in Him?

Jesus warned me that “in this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33b NIV

I don’t know what seasons of dark clouds this life will hold. I don’t know when they’ll come, but one thing I can be sure of is that:

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or abandon you.'” Heb. 13:5 CSB

I also know the end of John 16:33 in which Jesus tells me: “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33c CSB

Will I trust Him? Will I believe that His promises are true, even when I cannot see or feel Him?

Father, help me to trust You even in the seasons of dark clouds!

Packages sitting on doorstep

What a comfort that God never makes a mistake.

It’s that wonderful time of year again! Christmas day is coming.

The day we set aside to remember and celebrate the greatest gift in history: that God sent His Son for us.

For many of us, our Christmas traditions include the exchange of gifts. This is true for me.

This year, I completed a large portion of my Christmas shopping online.

I have had primarily good experiences with online shopping, so, while I know it comes with risks, I didn’t hesitate to use that method this time around.

I hunted online for the item I was seeking, and took my time studying various versions of it.

When I settled on the specific item I wanted, I put in my information and completed the purchase. It was a company I’d used before with good results, so I wasn’t worried.

I received a tracking number and the receipt. Then it was time to wait.

The evening before it was expected to arrive at my house, I decided to pull up the tracking number to see where the item was.

To my surprise and delight, the website informed me that my package had been delivered. I hurried to the door, looked outside, and sure enough, there was a package.

I opened the door, then hesitated. I had expected a smaller box.

I stooped, picking it up, but frowned. Shouldn’t the item I ordered be heavier?

As I carried the package into our family room, I read the name and address on it. It wasn’t my name, and it certainly was nothing like my address.

Still, the package had been delivered to my door, and my tracking number told me my package had been delivered that day.Person delivering package to someone

Perhaps the contents of the package were correct and they’d simply put the wrong label on it?

I decided to open the package. I slit the tape and carefully lifted the flaps… an air purifier? That was nothing whatsoever similar to the … Wait! I can’t tell you what I ordered since I’m posting this before Christmas day.

Right away I searched the company’s website for a phone number. I called to explain the mix-up. Thankfully the wait time wasn’t overly long.

The first lady I called couldn’t find my tracking number or even my order number anywhere in the system! My alarm was growing! It wasn’t a cheap item.

It took us a while to realize I’d called the American branch of the company rather than the Canadian one. They forwarded me to the Canadian branch where another lady took my call. When I explained the situation, she told me to wait a couple of days to see if my package showed up. If not, I was to try calling the delivery company. If they couldn’t find my package, then the company I ordered from would send the item again.

So I waited, with that air purifier sitting in its box waiting to see what its future would hold.

On the appointed day, I called the delivery company. I explained the situation.

The lady checked their system and found that my item said it’d been delivered. They even had a picture of my house to show exactly where the box had been left on my front step. Yet somehow they’d given me the wrong box. On top of that, their system said the air purifier I received was still in process of being shipped.

She promised to look into it more closely. If I didn’t hear back from her by the following day, I was to call the company I ordered from so that they could try sending the item to me again.

When I had not heard back from her the following day, I called the company I’d ordered from. They looked into the situation and willingly sent me the item again.

This time the package arrived on the appointed day. It was a smaller, but heavier box. The label had my name and my address on it.

I eagerly opened the box. It was the item I ordered, neatly cushioned with bubble wrap. Relief.

As I reflected on this experience, and tried to guess how the mistake occurred, I realized there is a lesson about God’s character to be reminded of here.

We, humans, make mistakes. God never makes a mistake.

The company delivered the wrong package to me. It didn’t fit my needs. It didn’t have my name on it. It wasn’t intended for me.

God never does that.

In the Bible, we read: “As for God, His way is perfect…” (2 Samuel 22:31a NKJV)

God never makes a mistake, or as I heard a speaker say, quoting a child, “God never says oops.”

I say oops far more often than I care to admit. What a tremendous comfort can be found in knowing that God never says oops!

I like how the verse ends: “The word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31b NKJV)

As I unwrap my gifts this Christmas, I want to remember that God never makes a mistake in what He gives me. He knows what He is doing. He is trustworthy.

May this truth warm your heart this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

     Doors with Christmas wreaths

Disgruntled boy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

 

Have you ever seen a child having a temper tantrum? As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen countless. Thankfully, the children in my class typically learn quickly that a tantrum won’t get them what they want. Have I learned that having a tantrum against God doesn’t help?

Child crying. Tantrum or meltdown

Did you know? While they may look the same, there’s a difference between tantrums and meltdowns? A meltdown is when a child is overwhelmed or over-exhausted to the point of breaking down in tears and frustration. A tantrum, on the other hand, is a controllable action. It is a decision (though potentially subconscious) to behave a certain way in hopes of getting something. 

Not too long ago, little Tommy, a 2 year old, had a tantrum. 

He had just arrived in class, and wanted something he wasn’t allowed to have. Upon being informed that he couldn’t have it, he started crying and declared even louder that he wanted it. Pretty soon he was lying on the floor screaming.

I tried to talk him out of it (without giving him the forbidden object), but he wouldn’t quiet. I tried distracting him with exciting toys, but he cried harder.

Therefore, I moved to another part of the room, though still watching him out of the corner of my eye. I gave him space to scream it out while I went about my morning with the other children.

Finally, after a considerable length of his crying on the floor, I noticed his tantrum beginning to lessen. As his crying decreased, I came alongside him. I gave him a toy and reminded him that we’d soon be cleaning up for our next activity.

It took him a few more minutes with a teacher by his side, but soon he got to his feet and joined the other children with the toys.

He yawned a few times and, indeed, appeared rather sleepy. That tantrum had taken a lot of energy. He was mellow, though happy now and engaged with the activities.

His tantrum left him tired and didn’t get him the thing he wanted.

Not long after that day, I happened to be reading Proverbs chapter three in my morning devotional time.

Prov. 3:5-6 is a beautiful passage that I’ve been encouraged and challenged by many times in the past. In fact, in my post “My Cat is Bad at Following” I use these verses. In case you need a refresher, Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I continued reading. At verse 8, the image of Tommy on the floor crying, then being so tired after, came to mind.

Prov. 3:8 NIV says:

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Because of a health issue I deal with, anything saying it will give health catches my attention. I want to know more.

What is the “this” that will increase my health? I had to look back to find it.

At verse five, which I quoted above, a new paragraph starts. Verses five and six talk about trusting God rather than my own understanding. Verse seven is straightforward. It says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

Trusting the Lord and not being wise in my own eyes sounds like the opposite of a tantrum. Tommy wasn’t trusting that I knew best. He wanted what he thought was best and wouldn’t listen to my reasoning.Girl feeling unhappy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

Sometimes I’m like Tommy.

Sometimes God says no, but I still want that thing. Sometimes God says move, but I want to stay. Sometimes God says wait, but I want it now.

In the past few years, I’ve gone through seasons of having a form of tantrum against God. Times when I am frustrated because He hasn’t taken away my health issues. Times when I remind God of all the serving opportunities I’d be thrilled to be involved in, but have had to turn down because my health isn’t good enough. Wouldn’t it be better if God took away my health issues so I could serve more?

Yet whenever I get into that mindset, I am not trusting God. It steals my contentment. I find myself frustrated and joy-less.

After seeing how clearly Tommy was exhausted after his tantrum, and after reading Prov. 3:8, I realize that these seasons of tantrum in my life only burn me out, rather than convincing God to change His mind.

While it doesn’t take away my health issues, being content to trust the Lord’s understanding rather than my own does make a noticeable improvement for my physical health, and even more so for the health of my soul.

Oh, that I would learn to always trust the Lord rather than tantrum against Him.

*Note: details of this allegory have been altered to preserve confidentiality
River with ice melting along the banks. God is working to melt the ice in me. S. J. Little

Autumn, my favourite season of the year. The leaves turn colours, the air is crisp, and the first snow coats the ground.

I was recently blessed to be able to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I enjoyed the opportunity for quiet morning walks and time to reflect and press deeper into my relationship with Jesus.

Although it had snowed a couple of days before I arrived, the temperatures during my stay reached above freezing.

As I strolled through the forest on my second morning, I followed my footsteps from the previous day to a rocky beach along a nearby river where I’d sat the day before.

I looked up at a sound, not quite sure what it was. River with melting iceAfter watching and listening for a time, I concluded that the sound came from the ice on the river as it melted. Indeed, the ice lining the edges of the river was far smaller on this second day than it had been the day before. No longer was the ice threatening to span across the river.

As I ran my gaze over the melting ice, my mind wandered back to the things I’d been pondering and praying about at this beach the morning before. They were painful thoughts rather than pleasant. Thoughts of some challenges I’ve been facing in my life recently. Thoughts which, at times, inspire tears.

Looking at the river, I recalled a common allegory. It pictures me, a Christian, as a channel through which God’s love can flow. The love doesn’t come from me. Rather, God is working through me.

Sometimes, however, things in my life hinder the flow of God’s work through me. In the same way, the ice on this river hampered its flow. Indeed, the ice had constricted the river to a mere half of its typical width. Yet now, as the ice continued to melt, the river flowed more freely and fully.Cracked ice on a river - S. J. Little

Using this allegory, God reminded me of a different perspective on the challenges I’ve been facing. God is using them for good. 

In my life, I have areas, just like the ice, constraining the flow of God’s work through me. In order to melt that ice inside of me, God is allowing these challenges. They hurt and throb, perhaps like fingers thawing after a snowball fight. Yet, somehow, the end result will be good, as I lean into God during this time of challenge.

These challenges are melting those troublesome areas of ice within me, that I may more fully be available for God to work through me.

Is this an easy thing to remember? No, but what a burden it lifts when I do remember.

Indeed, I write this post as a reminder to myself to keep my eyes on the end result, rather than the current challenges which threaten to overwhelm me.

Romans 6:3-5 is a good reminder for me along these lines.

“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts…” Rom. 6:3b-5a CSB

In reflecting on these things, I have found A. W. Tozer’s words to be true.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer

Oh, that I would remember that God is working in me when challenges come.

Am I following God, rather than trying to lead Him? My cat isn't good at following me! - S. J. Little

How well am I following Jesus?

Meet My Cat  

I have a cat named Midnight. He is quite the character and has become very social.

My cat looking to the left. - S. J. LittleWhen he was younger, we had his brother as well. Midnight would always let his brother do the talking. I remember watching my siblings try to coax even the tiniest mew out of him with little success. In the years since his brother passed away, however, Midnight has found his voice. Now he often shares his opinions loudly, though at times he merely squeaks.

It’s funny how cats have their own personalities. If you’re a cat lover, you may understand. Midnight’s favourite human food to beg for is the milk left after cereal. His brother, however, was far more interested in ice cream. When Midnight begs for a bowl, he’ll sit a distance away with his back towards the person. As they reach halfway through their meal, he might move a little closer and peek at the person. Only once the spoon is scraping the bottom of the bowl, will he sit at the person’s feet peering up at them. His brother was the opposite. He would boldly sit by the person, staring at them as they ate. With his old age, Midnight is beginning to pick up some of his brother’s boldness.

My cat rings a bell when he wants more canned food. That way it doesn't dry out when he isn't hungry - S. J. Little
Midnight ringing the bell for food.


Midnight is also a very smart cat. He’s learned to open doors. At one point, we had to devise a lock for the cat food closet so he and his brother wouldn’t break in. We’ve trained him to ring a bell when he wants canned food, and I’ve taught him to find some place other than my keyboard to lay down when he wants to cuddle but I’m busy on my computer. Yes, he is a smart cat… most of the time.

He’s Not Good at Following

The one thing he has never seemed to learn is how to follow well.

It has happened often that, when I head down the hallway, he gets excited and wants to come along. I start down the hallway at a decent clip, and he hurries just ahead of me, as though trying to lead me. As I turn to enter a room, I trip over him, because there he is, right where I was planning to step.

It gets worse. Sometimes he will zig zag directly in front of my feet! Not only that, but, looking from above, his coat appears entirely black – not a helpful thing in a dark hallway at night.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve accidentally kicked him because he dodged directly into my path. That’s not including the times I’ve managed to avoid him by stumbling and almost falling myself.

What a silly cat. He’s so eager to go with me, and even lead me, but doesn’t know where I’m going. How can he lead when he doesn’t know the direction? He could have saved himself many a bump if only he’d learned to follow.

Following God

Following – that’s what God calls us to do. We are to follow Him.

As you read through the Gospels you’ll quickly see that Jesus often called people to follow Him. Most times there is no record of Jesus telling them where He would lead them, or what their life would look like, but the call to follow is there.

How to Not Follow God Well – Like My Cat

Did you know there are examples of people in the Bible who tried to get ahead of God when it felt as though He was taking too long? 

Abraham and his son Ishmael are a blatant example of this. God had promised that Abraham would have countless descendants, but many years passed without Abraham having a single child. Abraham and his wife Sarah were old. They decided that rather than waiting for God any longer, they would help Him out by taking matters into their own hands. Abraham took Sarah’s maid as his wife and had Ishmael by her. That was not following God’s plan, and later their actions led to trouble in their family. You can read the story for yourself in Genesis, especially chapters 16-17, 21. My black and white cat sitting on an orange chair. How well are you doing at following God? - S. J. Little

Another way to not follow God is to run in the opposite direction as Jonah did. That never turns out well in the end! (Jonah 1)

Am I trying to get out ahead of God, or running in the opposite direction, instead of following Him?

Thoughts About Following God

So much could be said about following God, but this is just one blog post. There’s no way I can fit it all in! I’ll try to stay brief. 

Throughout the entire Bible, we see God leading people. Sometimes His leading made sense to those following, but there are also many times when it made no sense at all! Take Jericho for example, or Naaman. (Joshua 6; 2 Kings 5)

Sometimes following God means waiting, such as in Acts 1:4, when they waited for Pentecost. However, waiting doesn’t mean sitting idly. In Acts 1:14-26, they spent the time praying and they chose a man to replace Judas. They were doing what needed to be done, while seeking and waiting for God. I’ve long loved Psalm 37:34: “Wait for the Lord and keep His way…” Yes, we must wait for God, and that time of waiting often includes going about our daily lives in a way that is honouring to God.

Are You Following God?

My cat trying to help me study the Bible. - S. J. Little
Midnight trying to help me study the Bible.

I wish I had some concrete formula for discerning whether or not I am following God well. If I had such a formula I would gladly share it with you, but I don’t.

Following God can look very different in different people’s lives. Even in one person’s life, following God may appear very different in each season.

What I can say is keep seeking after Jesus. Read the Bible often, spend time in prayer, and be in fellowship with others who know Jesus deeply. Then He will guide you, and if you’re not following Him, He will reveal that to you and help you change course. Sometimes His leading will be loud and unmissable, but other times it may be a quiet door opening that, after prayer and consideration, seems good to step through.

Final Thought

Let me leave you with a likely familiar verse from the Bible.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know Him,

and He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Are you following God today?