(Thanks so much to everyone for your kind comments and wishes on my last post, "Happy Birthday to Me!". Your comments on the blog, by email, and on Facebook blessed me. God bless you all!)
Yesterday felt like a new beginning! We have been working really hard this summer (and at times gotten really discouraged) trying to get out from under the clutter and stuff in our life, and to get ready to homeschool our girls this year (we begin today). It has felt like, and been, a non-stop summer in which almost every free minute was focused and there wasn't a lot of rest or stillness. Coming home from church yesterday—the teaching over, and an afternoon of (hopefully) rest and preparation for school today ahead—felt like it was the beginning of a whole new chapter or part of our life. I feel like my summer to focus on clearing out "stuff" is over—what is done is done and what isn't just isn't—and that I am ready to begin this year with a renewed focus on this eternal battle we are waging and what God has called me to be in it---His child, a husband, a father, a pastor, and a soldier of Christ called to show His love, sacrifice, and power to the world.
I feel like there is a narrowed beam now in my life---a focus brought to a fine point---and it is the tremendous trust and responsibility God has given me to raise my girls, be the husband He has called me to be, and to draw close and intimate with Him and to carry His battle to the enemy in force. I am sick and tired of the victories of the enemy in people's lives that I know—victories in their marriages, attitudes, bodies, choices, finances, etc. The Bible says that Satan is a thief, a liar, and a murderer, and that his goal and aim and work is to steal, kill, and destroy. The Bible alludes to him and his hosts as serpents and scorpions (and even to death's "sting"), and it says we are given authority to trample on them and I am ready to start stomping!
I know that ahead there will be victories, and there will be defeats—that there will be joy, and there will be tears—but I am so tired of things being gift-wrapped and handed to the devil instead of making him fight for them, and I am so tired of acting like he (and his work) is some huge opponent when my God who dwells in me has defeated him! I am tired of it seeming like it is the devil who holds the universe in his hand when in reality it is God who so huge that He holds the universe in His hand and the devil is somewhere, some speck, down in it!
I felt excitement yesterday afternoon—like a new start, a new focus, a new passion, and a new expectancy and hope were coming over the horizon my way. I am anxious to slow down a little, draw closer to God, hear His voice more, bear His image more powerfully, and hit the devil hard and heavy. It was with this in my mind—and this sense of excitement for what is ahead just below the surface in me—that I saw something amazing, just by "chance," yesterday.
In the afternoon one of our cats wanted out of the screen porch. I let it out and as I did I "happened" to glance down toward the little fountain I made which is just outside the screen porch. This is a traditional "drinking spot" for bees (which are good!) and yellow jackets (which bite hard, swarm, ruin your time outside, and are just wicked and bad!). The day before we even saw a hatch of some new creature swarming around the fountain—they looked like baby wasps with evil looking tails/stingers. Well, down along the side of the fountain was a beautiful, green, majestic looking Praying Mantis and it was eating one of those nasty new flying bugs (see picture above). This Praying Mantis had the bug in its "hands" and it was going to town on it. I called the family out to see it and took some pictures. A little while later I went back out to check on it and it now had a yellow jacket in its "hands" and it was eating that (see second picture, below). I immediately was struck with multiple things:
1) It was a PRAYING Mantis, and it made the normally vicious looking wasps and yellow jackets look small and pitiful as it grasped them and devoured them.
2) The wasps and yellow jackets, with their bites and stingers, reminded me way to much of the allusion to serpents and scorpions and things that sting, and here they were completely overpowered and destroyed by a PRAYING Mantis.
I still believe God speaks in visions and pictures like He has throughout His Word, and I made the decision right then to receive that. I have never seen anything like it before, I almost didn't notice it, and it was utterly amazing. I told Mary Ann, "That is awesome! On the day our new 'life' is beginning we see a PRAYING Mantis devouring stinging bugs. I take that as a sign that there are going to be some great victories ahead where Satan's sting and hosts are rendered powerless and destroyed! What an awesome sign! I receive that!"
Call me crazy and way off base and theologically fractured. That is fine. We can agree to disagree. But for me it was powerful and awesome and I don't believe it was a coincidence. They may be a little gross, but I love these pictures, and I just wanted to share them with you as well. God bless.