Fight to Be Faithful…Refreshed and Ready

Recently, I read something from Kevin DeYoung, “As a pastor, everything seems more important and more urgent than being in the word and prayer. We must fight to be faithful.”

Indeed, in ministry there is often the tyranny of the urgent and many expect the pastor to be available to them as needed. It is, without a doubt, the pastor who is faithful to cultivate his time in the Word and prayer that best nurtures his congregation, best ministers in his community, and best expounds on the Bible in teaching and preaching.

The same could be said for the believer in every sphere of life. Regardless of the age or level of activity, we often justify our “me” time, our “down” time, but that’s the irony of it all. For the believer, our greatest rest and reward is in His Word. Our best “me” time is nestling up to our Abba Daddy and hearing His heart. We are better equipped for all of life when we listen to our Lord’s heart and let Him hear ours. The opportunity to revitalize, restore, and refresh is found in the presence of our Savior. And yet, we all succumb to satan’s whisper too often flowing from our own bent – “I just don’t have the time.”

I remember being so exhausted when I was the mom of young children, especially once I started homeschooling, that I didn’t think I could wake up early and function. And, if I stayed up late, it was to finish tasks undone during the day.  I just needed rest!

Yes, that is legitimate! Jesus rested and called his disciples to do the same, so that is good. But some of my sweetest times were either sitting alone quietly and letting God’s Word be a balm for my weariness or having a little one snuggle up next to me asleep (or not) and having it open while I held them, sometimes reading aloud so it would also penetrate their head and heart as well. I was always amazed at the refreshment I got from it; so much more so than if, when holding one of my sleepers, I turned on a mindless t.v. show for the noise factor.

And, then the days would get hectic again and I would forget how life giving it was as I got back to the demands that seemed to claw at me.

Today, there may be opportunities for a prolonged time to bask and there may be other times when I have to grab five minutes. But oh the strength gained regardless!

One of the ways I find to hide God’s Word in my heart throughout the day, both now and when I was busy with preschoolers all the way up to my high-schoolers was by way of music.  Music that is drawn from God’s Word – all genres from kids’ praise to Christian rap to bold music with solid truth to quiet praise and worship – has always penetrated its way into my heart in a manner that God often brings it back to my mind to refresh and even challenge me at just the right moment. We can be sure of the promise found in Isaiah 55:11: “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Music has a unique ability to pierce through the noise of life and adhere to our hearts and minds.

Paul reminds believers, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8) Not only does disciplining ourselves to be in God’s word and prayer refresh us, it makes us ready for the inevitable clash; for truly every believer has times when life is fraught with discouragement and pitfalls – times when, in our weariness, we are more vulnerable to temptations and less likely to be “ready to give reason for the hope that we have,” let alone be salt and light. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that equips us to battle through those things that threaten to unravel our worlds.

The more we are in God’s Word, the Bible, the more we realize that it is our very life and breath. It is His gift of strength for our journey, for our conflicts, and sometimes for the tediousness of the everyday when we fail to see His beauty in the grind, the revelation of His glory in the commonplace, and His call for us to be His ambassadors of grace to the soul thirsty world among whom we live and move. The more we are in His Word, the more effective and content we will be in our individual lives and roles.

In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was busy doing good things; but Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better and it would not be taken away from her. She was drinking in the Savior while Martha was serving and missing out on the refreshment. Her work of service was good, but Jesus knew that time with Him was better and was what she needed.

Work, service, recreation, and fellowship with others are right and even necessary; we were created for it all! We should nurture our families and enjoy them. We should care for our bodies and enjoy God’s creation. We should foster the talents and gifts God has given us. His Word calls us to be in fellowship with other believers and to be a conduit of God’s mercy and truth to the unbeliever. We can laugh at a funny movie and cry at a sad one. We can wisely tweet and Facebook and Instagram and enjoy it (as long as it does not control us)!  We should make an impact in the places we call “our world” and abroad. And, yes, we need time to just be still or even nap.  All of this is good!

But, if you are anything like me then or now and if we are honest, though there may be seasons of life where those things are hard to come by, it is often not that we have too little of those opportunities and have to fight for them. Rather, we often have to choose to pull away from some task that must be done “now” or some relaxation into which it is easy to settle and, instead, fight to be soul satisfied; not as a legalistic checklist but to enjoy our Redeemer and to “do” life well!

So we must, as Kevin DeYoung says, “fight to be faithful” – fighting our complacency and self focus.  Instead, relying on God’s strength, we choose the self discipline His Spirit provides that leads to fulfilling our true heart’s hunger, comforting our soul with the peace that will come, not from another triviality with which we often fill our time but from the Word that is living and active. It will come from pouring out our hearts to the One who is ready to take our burdens and give us rest.  Lifting hands of praise for the goodness He provides.  Laying before Him those things from our hands and head that draw us away from Him.

What will satisfy our true thirst? What will be our key to discernment, to choosing wisely, to relating well to others, to enjoying God’s many gifts to us, and to serving but the Word of God dwelling in us richly?

Like Mary, there are times we need to stop doing “Martha” things and sit at the Savior’s feet, soaking in His truth and basking in His presence. The journey will be sweeter and more delightful with the new perspective and we will be refreshed and ready!

Snow Day…All Things New

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I went to bed with little expectation of seeing much of the “white stuff” when I woke up the next morning, a dusting perhaps. But God gave me a stunning surprise – the view out my window in the pre-sunrise moments looked promising. But when the morning began to shed its light on my yard and neighborhood, what I saw was total beauty!

Now for those of you to whom snow is a chore or to whom a foot or more is a daily or even a seasonal occurrence, you would laugh at what ended up being an inch and a half to two; but for those of us who rarely see snow in a winter, I was giddy for I am always in wonder of its beauty. And yes, I love a good snowball fight, a little snow cream, and my feeble attempts at making a snowman. But so many other things also flooded my mind yesterday as I saw what had transformed my yard over night and then as more blew in heavy yet softly, quietly.

Winter had taken its toll on our land and the day before yesterday it was looking rather bleak, brown and muddy with a patch of bright green where we have a garden of lettuce. But as I stood and watched the transformation, I was struck by the newness, the fresh reality that filled my vision.

It was the same acre of land – nothing had been done except that with which our awesome God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had chosen to delight us. He had gloriously crafted each snowflake and let them blow over the cold, grey day after ten days straight of frigid rain that threatened to tamp down the mood of many I came across. It was His hand that created the freshness and led to a lifting of the heart! Though it was short lived, the moment was not lost and did much to renew our spirits. It was temporary joy that brought with it, eternal perspective.

At times, we can view our lives through the same lens. Either we get caught up in the daily-ness of it all and become tyrannized by the urgent so that we miss and/or forget the truly important. Or we grow weary because of circumstances – our own choices or that of others or any number of “hard things” that come with living in a fallen world.  Our fears can weigh us down as we focus on the “what ifs” instead of looking to and embracing the God who holds all the “what ifs” in His hands; He Who knows the final outcome and has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can begin to see life in the greys instead of the rich hues hidden beneath even the mundane, the sorrow, or the fear.

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that He has made and is in the process of making all things new! We can look on situations in our lives and in the world and culture around us and grow discouraged, even fearful of the dismal perspective at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6 that, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

It is a fact; it is a promise! He who is able to “wash me (so that) I am whiter than snow!” (Psalm 51:7) is able to bring a fresh perspective, a richer view of circumstances, yes. But He is also in the process of actually making me more like Himself and of doing astounding things we cannot see.

Just as the snow fell quiet in the night and transformed my little piece of the world into a place of wonder that lasted for less than a day, our God is actively working to do the remarkable but with an eternal exclamation point!

Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Though this was written hundreds of years ago to a different people, God has not changed and He is still powerfully and lovingly at work in a world crawling with terrible situations! We don’t have to doubt that or wring our hands in fear. We work, yes. We act, indeed. We do all that He calls us to do and then we rest in Him and in the plan He is unfolding regardless of what is before our eyes.

Our winter yard is again brown and muddy for the sun returned and quickly melted away the snow. But my heart holds to the visual picture of truth that God gave me yesterday in the midst of our brief winter precipitation that will be indelibly marked upon my heart and that will be brought to mind as I view the pictures again and again.

That truth is more significant and far more eternal than a fleeting snowfall – that the everlasting God of the universe has, through the work of Jesus Christ, made me “whiter than snow” through the forgiveness of my sin and is continuing to change me for His glory and that this same God is the Lord over all aspects of my life as well as that of nations and rulers. I am given opportunities every day for fresh beginnings and a greater awareness of His love and power to make all things new!

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“I Believe; Help My Unbelief”

There have been and still are times in my life when I have had no doubt of God’s goodness and His control, but when, at the same time, my “feelings” wrestle with the truth on which I stand.

It is that paradox of Him being so very good and yet there being evil, injustice, and pain in this world – sometimes of our own making and sometimes stemming from the actions of others. Thankfully, I am reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that those feelings are from a deceitful heart and I can never trust that above the heart of the One who created me and who knows my needs and wants even better than I know them myself. Indeed, I must never trust my “feelings” over what God’s Word says is true!

Unquestionably, I cannot always see the goodness of my God in the moment as He will not be put in a box nor neatly tidy up every situation in a specified time frame. For that, I give thanks because if I could bind the God of the universe and understand every action He takes or allows, He would not be a God worthy of my all; He would be finite like me. As it is, He is not limited and He is more than worthy of my surrender.

And, yet, this infinite God is also so personal and loves His children so deeply that, while He calls for our obedience and our submission, He also understands our frailties and tenderly comforts us in those moments of life that create fear, feel stifling, or that leave us unsteady. And He is not angered by honest questions that come from a yielded heart.

In Mark 7, when the father of the ill son asked Jesus to heal him, he said, “I believe; help my unbelief.” How faithful was that! He was acknowledging that He believed Jesus was able but also admitted his own deceitful heart that was found lacking. He meekly laid out his wavering spirit before Jesus and boldly made his request.

It is the way I am learning to pray because, while I have no doubt about who my God is and what He who created me and redeemed me is able to do, I sometimes hesitate to be bold wondering if He will desire and be willing to do that which I ask. And so I ask, believing yet confessing my unbelief, and I finish with “…but, Lord, if you have better in mind for me and mine, help me to be faithful in the waiting and the answer.” Sometimes the situation changes, but I know that, ultimately, the best answer is when He changes my heart before He changes my circumstances.

God loves the fervent and heartfelt cries of a humble heart bent towards Him. Our surrender becomes the open door for Him to surprise us with joy!

Not for A Moment by Meredith Andrews

You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it’s hard
You will never leave me
After all

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

Ready, Set, Live…

God has given me a love for words and I have found throughout my lifetime that I often express my heart and soul best through that gift of the written word far more clearly than the spoken. I love to encourage and exhort; express and delve deep into a thought through the musings of my pen to paper.

Recently, I was asked if I have a blog or had one in the past. Though I write often and share with individuals and in other social media formats, I have never published a blog. But God has been challenging my hesitancy.

Could it be that I, who find some of my greatest delight in the written word, have opportunity to share what is on my heart?  I am well aware that I do not have all the answers and I am under no delusion that I am the most eloquent wordsmith.  What I do know is that God has every answer for every question and it is my desire to use what God has given me to point others to that knowledge as well!

There may be many or few that read it. My heart is that those who do would be encouraged to seek the God of all Creation and His Word more closely and that they would either be led into a relationship with Him and/or drawn closer to and steadfast in Him.

And so my mind continues to embrace the idea and the same theme persists – my life has been and is a journey that God has orchestrated and on which He has remained faithful to lead, direct, encourage, challenge, and grow me…quite often in spite of me!

And into that life, he has infused music in general, song lyrics in particular – at times a balm for my restless and weary soul, at others a challenge to my willfulness, and, at still other points, a reflection of the inexpressible joy I have in walking this road.

Two songs in particular continue to echo in my head in relation to this idea of blogging. The lyrics to Sara Groves’ “This Journey Is My Own” and Michael Card’s “Joy in the Journey” have long been expressions of my heart. (Below you can read their words and find links to listen).  For truly “I am not my own; I have been bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20) so the journey on which I find myself is one I walk primarily with my Savior; it is to be the tool of the One Who created me, Who has known me since before time began, and who is in the process of “completing the good work He began” in me.  (Philippians 1:6)

I wrestle, I rest, and I rejoice because of Him!  And, as I walk with Jesus Christ and am changed by His Word, it is my prayer that it increasingly transforms my every thought and informs every conviction I hold, every decision I make, and every action I take; that it causes me to see each person I encounter as one created in His image, each needing a relationship with the Savior.

On this journey, there is great joy in the midst of both immense victory and periods of deep sadness. Indeed, there is a “wonder and wildness to life!”

It is in the context of that “wonder and wildness,” “freedom,“ and “joy” that I live! It is in relying on Him to make me willing and able to grow in my knowledge and love of Him, and thus, in obedience; it will not save me nor make me more acceptable to the three times holy God, but it is part of the journey on which He has released me to live!

Obedience is not always comfortable or convenient, but it is the evidence of a life redeemed by the Savior who is “able to do immeasurably more than we could think or ask” (Ephesians 3:20) and a joyful expression of my reliance on and thanks to Him in whom I find my truest satisfaction.

It is in this life that I long to “give reason for the hope that I have!” (I Peter 3:15)

So I begin another part of my journey and invite you along. Walk with me if you will as I post and if you are encouraged to seek the one true God of the universe and walk closer to the Savior, then my joy will be made even more complete.

I am always ready and eager to talk with anyone who asks me to give that reason!

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JOY IN THE JOURNEY By Michael Card

There is a joy in the journey; there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life and freedom for those who obey.
And all those who seek it shall find it, a pardon for all who believe.
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind.

To all who’ve been born in the Spirit and who share incarnation with Him,
Who belong to eternity stranded in time and weary of struggling with sin.
Forget not the hope that’s before you and never stop counting the cost.
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost.

There is a joy in the journey; there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life and freedom for those who obey…

THIS JOURNEY IS MY OWN by Sara Groves

When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone; this journey is my own.
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval; this journey is my own.

And why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price.
And what does it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life

So much of what I do is to make a good impression; this journey is my own.
And so much of what I say is to make myself look better; this journey is my own.

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now; this journey is my own.
‘Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down…

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of One (repeat)
‘Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price.
And what does it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life.