6 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected Test

Rachel flipped through her stack of vocabulary note cards. Tucking her legs crisscross applesauce style, she moaned, “Mom, can you email the teacher and ask what the test will be like?”

“Nope.”

“Please,” she begged.

“Rachel, I could contact the teacher but you need to know this information backwards and forwards.  If you know you will only be given a multiple choice test, you will only study to recognize the answer. You need to know this information inside and out. You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested.”

As soon as I uttered that last sentence, the Holy Spirit nudged me. I did not feel a tangible nudge, but rather a nudge in my spirit. You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested, echoed my words. Where those really my words to begin with or did the Holy Spirit plant those words in my mind to speak to Rachel? Either way, those words penetrated my soul with a deeper significance than my daughter’s upcoming vocabulary test.

Are you ready for your test?

The fact is each one of us will face a test in life. Sometimes we have ample time to prepare such as preparing to launch young adults to college or transitioning aging parents into an assisted living facility.

Other times, tests strike like a bolt of lightening leaving us blindsided and dazed. Caught off guard, these pop quizzes feel more significant. Unexpected health diagnoses, the death of a loved one, an accident, separation, or job loss are weighty pop quizzes.

You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested Click To Tweet

Pencils ready.

Unexpected tests are inevitable. The good news is God’s Word gives us detailed instruction on how to prepare for the tests and pop quizzes of life.

I am not a theologian or Bible scholar. I am a Christ follower who has survived the tests of a miscarriage, depression, a strong-willed child, betrayal, and most recently an unexpected health diagnosis resulting in an invisible chronic illness, the loss of my job and our beloved home.  I do not pretend to have all the answers but by remaining rooted in these six areas have helped me (and my family) through our tests and crisis of faith.

6 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected Test:

  1. Seek: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11
  2. Abide/ Remain: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
  3. Surrender: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
  4. Obey: “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.” Psalm 119:57
  5. Trust:“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
  6. Pray:“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Extra Credit

If you want to dig deeper into God’s Word read the following verses for extra credit.

  1. Seek: Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 27:4, Psalm 119:2, Isaiah 55:6, Lamentations 3:25, Hebrews 11:6, and Matthew 7:7
  2. Abide/Remain: Exodus 33:14, Psalm 92:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:7, John 16:33, John 15:7-10
  3. Surrender: Isaiah 64:8, Psalm 37:7, Mark 10:28, Matthew 16:24-25, Galatians 2:20, Romans 12:1
  4. Obey: Luke 11:28 Psalm 119:88, 168, Ecclesiastes 8:5, Matthew 8:27, John 14:23-24, Romans 2:13
  5. Trust: Hebrews 6:19, Psalm 20:7, Isaiah 26:3, Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 37:3, Psalm 44:6-7, Jeremiah 17:7, Isaiah 26:4
  6. Pray: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Matthew 6:6-9, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 26:41, Luke 22:40, Romans 8:26

“He is a faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9

~April Dawn White

©2017 April Dawn White, All Rights Reserved.

Life is Hard, but God is Good

Is God good?

I don’t know what prompted my husband to ask the question. It was an ordinary day. We were zooming down the road to Rachel’s (aka Pop Fly) softball game. Shifting into fifth gear, my husband turned toward the backseat and asked, “Is God Good?”

Rachel, our twelve-year-old, immediately answered, “Yes.”

Non-verbal sounds emanated from Andrew’s throat with a not-no-sure moan.

Chris asked again, “Andrew, Is God good?”

“Well….um…” He began.

Panic raced through my veins. Have I failed as a mother? I wonder.  I pray, “Lord, why isn’t he answering this question? Lord, help him to know the truth.”

“It’s just that…” He continued struggling to form his thoughts.

Memories flash through my mind of all the bedtime prayers, family devotions, long discussions about hard topics, vacation Bible schools, and even private Christian school. Yet my fourteen-year-old son struggles with this three-word question.

Sighing, Andrew spoke, “God is good, it’s just that life is hard right now.”

Continuing he said, “Mom has an illness and is unable to work. Dad has all the weight on him right now. I broke my ankle and we need to sell our house.”

Keeping his eyes on the road, Chris nodded, “You’re right Andrew, God is good and life is hard right now.”

Turing to look at him in the back seat, “Andrew, both of those statements are true. The reality of our current situation does not change the fact that God is good.”

I realized the delay in Andrew’s response was not due to a lack of knowledge, but rather a crisis of faith. Deep down he knew the right answer taught by his parents, the church, and even his school. However, his teenage brain had developed deeper thought processes. Truth and reality wrestled in his mind.

Life is Hard, but God is Good. Click To Tweet

There will come a time in everyone’s life when there is a crisis of faith.Surrounded on every side Truth and reality will wrestle in our minds.  Which one will win? Much of the outcome depends on our perception of God. Do you perceive God as good? If you struggle in this area, try this this exercise in faith: for one-week jot down everything, you are thankful. Big or small, write them down and give God praise for His faithful provision.

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles: Guest Post by Amy Ahrens

I am honored to introduce you to my friend, Amy. When she shared this principle with me, I asked her to share it for Red Chair Moments. Enjoy! ~April

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles

by Amy Ahrens

Recently, I pulled on a sleeveless dress to wear. Observing myself in the mirror, I realized I needed to start working on toning my arms. At the gym, I asked the physical trainer about toning my upper arms. Once I was taught the exercises, I began to implement them into my routine. If I put on that same dress today, would I miraculously have toned arms? No, it will take several weeks of exercise before I start seeing results of this discipline.

Later that week, I facilitated the Experiencing God, Bible study by Henry Blackaby. The class discussion for the week focused on the difference between being self-centered and God-centered. One of the women raised a great question, “Now, that I’m aware that I’ve been more self-centered, how do I change to be more God-centered?”

I responded, “Just as my upper arms were not toned overnight, in a similar way, becoming more God-centered is not going to happen overnight. Once you become initially aware, ask God to help you become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s voice in your day-to-day life. Ask for the courage to listen and obey.  As you begin to “exercise” this muscle of listening and obeying, the more strengthened and toned this muscle becomes.”

However, the more we ignore and disobey God’s Spirit, the harder our hearts become to hear His voice.  It’s like each time we put another cotton ball in our ears, until there are so many we can’t hear anymore.  The hardest times to listen and obey are in the tense situations, such as an argument where you sense the Spirit cautioning you not to speak hurtful words,  but you are so angry that you find yourself doing it anyway.

Take baby steps. Start exercising your spiritual muscles by obeying in the non-tense situations. This could be when you feel the Spirit nudging you to reach out to someone who is hurting or by praying if God wants you to fast.   Fasting is a spiritual discipline like communion, prayer, and reading your Bible.  It is the act of denying yourself of particular foods, drinks, or a meal, or activity (such as TV or social media).  When you deny yourself, and feel that craving for whatever you are sacrificing, reach out in prayer. Cry out to God in a hunger for Him.  It makes you more aware of what He is doing in your life.  By fasting, your prayers will be more fervent, and it exercises that spiritual muscle of becoming more God-centered.

This year for Lent, my daughter felt led to fast from ice cream and soda. It was difficult for my husband and two teenage boys to remember. However, it was a great learning experience for her. Shed had to stand firm when people around her were eating or drinking those items, and not bring attention to herself. Ultimately, it deepened her relationship with God. Each time she cried out to God during those difficult times of craving ice cream and soda, was reevaluating why she was fasting to begin with.

Sometimes God calls us to fast when He knows we are about to encounter a trial. It strengthens us as we shut out the noises of the world and connect to the Vine (John 15:5) When we remain in Him, we produce His fruit (Gal 5:22-23) in every area of our lives.   Trials would be those “tense” times, and after strengthening those muscles, then we are more likely to be “toned” and to act in God-centered ways in the midst of the hard times.

The more we obey and experience God at work, the more we trust Him.   We see in the Bible how God works in unexpected ways, and as we see Him working in our lives. We also see that He answers in unexpected ways. Trusting in God’s promises when we can’t see His hand will tone our spiritual muscles.

Amy is married to Peter and together they have 3 teens.  She works from home as an administrative professional in addition to owning her own Mary Kay business.  She serves in her church as a middle school small group leader and coaches and mentors moms of young children through a ministry called Moms & More.

The Sudden Move of God Doesn’t Require a Running Start

“God doesn’t need a running start.”  —Althea Brown

Suddenly I awoke to the sound of bass boats zooming down the lake. The roar of dozens of engines reverberated across the water. If it had been only one bass boat the sound would not have woken me, but today must be a tournament day.

In that early morning semi-sleep state, birds chirped a delightful melody while the bass boats accompanied in a harmonious roar. This symphony welcomed the introduction of springtime on Smith Mountain Lake.

As I awoke, God suddenly reminded me of a recent conversation with counselor, Althea Brown. She said, April, “God doesn’t need a running start.”

God doesn’t need a running start. —Althea Brown Click To Tweet

During my last counseling session, I shared the numerous circumstances that are beyond our control. Each choice, each future decision hinges on one aspect—how God will provide in a few short weeks.

During my counseling session, I was reminded God doesn’t need a running start. When God is ready, He will move. Suddenly a path or opportunity that wasn’t there before will suddenly appear.

Suddenly.

Suddenly, the word ‘suddenly’ was the focus of my Bible study. I began to dig into God’s Word and studied the times when God suddenly moved. When Abraham collected wood for the altar, he prayed for God’s sudden move. He continued the necessary preparations, while he prayed for God’s provision. Then suddenly there was a ram in the thicket.Ram in the Thicket

Moses had tended his father-in-law’s sheep for forty years. He probably wondered what his purpose in life was. Perhaps he questioned why Pharaoh’s daughter, rescued him from the river, to be raised in an Egyptian palace merely to tend sheep. Then suddenly, God appeared to him in a burning bush, giving Moses purpose and provision for the next phase of life.

As my counselor stated, “God doesn’t need a running start.” When God moves, it is a sudden move. Suddenly, the provision will be there. Suddenly what we need for the next step will show up and God doesn’t need a running start. As God told the prophet Isaiah:

“I am making a way in the desert. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19, ESV).

Friend, are you waiting for God’s sudden move? Invite Christ into your life and cast your burdens to him. Then pray and trust in God’s Sovereign timing of provision.

Lace up your running shoes and be ready when God suddenly moves.

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay  *Scripture is NIV from BibleGateway.com unless otherwise noted.

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

 

Hobbit Holes and Castles: Refuge My Word for 2017

“But as for me it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my REFUGE; I will tell of all your good deeds” (Psalm 73:28, emphasis mine).

When twenty-seventeen began, I wanted to crawl into Bilbo Baggin’s hobbit hole. I wanted to seek refuge with his books, dishes, and doilies. I had too many unanswered questions and carryover burdens from 2016. I wanted to go into hiding and wait it out while God sorted out my life.

“Tell me when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?

…The world is not in books or maps, It’s out there!”—Gandall

What I wanted was refuge, a place to go and feel protected and safe.  I wanted a place where I was cared for and did not have to make every decision. I wanted a place of peace and rest. What I wanted, God was willing to provide.

The word refuge is found ninety-eight times in the Bible. Here are a few of my favorite passages on refuge:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

 “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:19)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)

 “But as for me it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my REFUGE; I will tell of all your good deeds” (Psalm 73:28, emphasis mine).

As I began to mediate on God’s Word and study the meaning of the word refuge, peace began to flood my soul. God revealed to me it wasn’t the items I needed, rather it was whom I needed to seek refuge.

The place I envisioned as my refuge changed from a hobbit hole to a grand castle or fortress surrounded by water, bulkheads, stone towers, and cannons. Perhaps Martin Luther had this in mind when he penned the famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

What do you envision when you hear the word refuge? Have you experienced a time in your life when you felt protected by God’s refuge?  If so, please share.

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay  *Scripture is NIV from BibleGateway.com unless otherwise noted.

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Carryover from 2016: Still Waiting on God

Waiting on GodThe Turbo Tax software asks, “Do you have any carryover from 2016?

“You have no idea,” I growl at the computer screen.

It is a New Year but I never had that New Year fresh start feeling.  I have a new word, a new verse, a new promise, and a new song for this year for 2017. All of this is new for 2017, but I am still dealing with same unresolved issues from 2016.

I still have a restless spirit. I was hoping that when the ball dropped at midnight (not that I could stay awake that long to watch it), my purpose in this chronic illness would be revealed. While the house has showed numerous times, we still have had no offers. I still don’t know where we will move and I still don’t know if we will buy or build a home.

These unresolved problems I hoped would remain in 2016. However, these problems have ignored the calendar. What are we to do when it is a New Year, but we have the same old issues?

I went back to my journal and underlined each time I wrote the word ‘still.’ Then God whispered in my spirit.

 “Be still and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“Cease striving and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

God reminded me that while I might have some carry over issues, that He is Sovereign and in control. I need to quiet my restless spirit and recognize that He is God and I am not and for heaven sake, stop worrying so much.

Consider:

  • Do you have any issues from 2016 (or before) that have carried over into this New Year?
  • How does the reminder that God is in control change your perspective?

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

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