Peace! Be Still!

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Peace – be still!

Sometimes those are the hardest words to hear.

Sometimes they feel like platitudes.

Sometimes we cannot fathom that either are possible.

Yet, Jesus, God in flesh, spoke these very words – to a raging storm.

And, it obeyed.

Peace – be still!

We want what they convey, but we know we can’t muster it; too often, we can’t settle our own souls.

But God!

And, sometimes, it is in those “But God” moments, that all we can do to utter a whisper, to not let the terror of the turmoil, the hurt of the heart, the discouragement of the moments piled upon moments, or the overwhelming heaviness of life set in.

It’s all we can do to utter a whisper, but it’s all we need.

Jesus!

Peace – be still!

If Jesus can say that to the winds and waves and they surrender to Him, can He not also say that to our trembling souls?

Can He not make it so, settling our hearts Himself by His Spirit?

There is no storm so fierce that the Savior cannot still it – even if it is in us.

And, if the storm still rages on, He will hold His child, steady us, and cause us to be still.

Peace!

 

But God!

 

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Several years ago, we had a particularly full year and a half or so – a whirlwind of highs and lows.

We saw our daughter marry, our youngest son graduate college, and our oldest son completely change career paths, setting in motion significant change.

Then and even now…

In and outside our family, we’ve seen beauty and brokenness.

Relationships flourish, even restored, and relationships end.

Health return and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

Sometimes the roller coaster of happiness and weariness has felt overwhelming.

BUT GOD!

Oh, how I love those two words that hold such truth! For in them is abiding joy…regardless of circumstances.

His call is to lay down our burdens. He may not always give the answers we want, but HE will BE our peace and HE will give us rest in the midst.

How many times have we watched things happen seemingly out of control?

How many times have we or someone we love been hurt by another?

How many times have we known what God was asking us to do, and, yet, our response has been a whiney, “But, God…”? And, in that instant, we are the petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations, what will make us “happy,” or how we believe we should respond to hard people. In general, we plow ahead, confident of how we think we should react to life with its occasional (sometimes feeling more like routine) curveballs regardless of God’s direction.

Yet, it is also in that moment that, if we will be still and listen. If we will run to His Word and not harden our heart to His voice, we will hear the Spirit of God speak as He reminds us that He isn’t surprised by any unexpected turn, any unmet expectation, any physical pain, or any hope deferred, even if unforeseen or unanticipated by us. Our Lord and King, our Adonai – God, whose tender love for His children never ceases, is actually doing so many more things than we can see.

Because of that we can say in a different tone and with a humble, submitted heart, even if through tears, “Yes this…BUT GOD!”

And it is good!

He may be disciplining us, His beloved children, who often need a reset, yet sometimes fail to see it.

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule that directly or indirectly affects us or others.

He may be preparing something far greater for us than we can know or begin to imagine.

He may be using circumstances and even wounds from others to make us more like Himself and able to empathize with another, help another heal, or show the same grace and mercy we have been given.

He may be teaching us to forgive even if the hurt is never acknowledged and we are never asked for forgiveness.

He may be teaching us to die to self.

He may be working through our response to our circumstances to point a watching world to Himself.

There are myriads of ways that He uses the most difficult times for His glory and our good. But always He intends that we set our gaze on Him instead of what we see with our eyes or feel with our hearts.

Always, He is seeking to draw us near and set our feet on the firm foundation of Truth.

So, He calls us to “not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

As redeemed children of God, we have the privilege to not grow weary as we pray, as we set our hope on the faithfulness of our El Shaddai – our all sufficient One, the unchanging truth of God’s Word, and the “LIVING hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” so that we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:3, 8) even when, at times, our hearts are breaking and the very breath of life seems to be sucked from our lungs.

We have the responsibility and the power to not grow weary as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to the contrary, to do it our own way or respond to hurtful people in like kind.

We have the God-given charge to not grow weary as we re-format our thinking, not allowing the temptation to think outside God’s Word to set up camp in our hearts and minds but rather, to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It may be that we are to ask the Lord to show us our faulty thinking in the moment and intentionally remind ourselves of what is true and/or it may be a proactive choice to change what we allow and choose to put in our minds and dwell on which then permeates our thoughts and how we respond to our emotions and temptations.

We have the opportunity to not grow weary as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances, trusting man, or gaining our identity from another’s opinion or treatment of us, but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.

Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

We do not rest on what we see. We do not rest on what we feel. We rest on truth…

He is faithful.

He is merciful.

He is Redeemer.

He is the Mender of the brokenhearted.

He is Healer – sometimes of our broken bodies but always of our broken souls as we call on and submit to Him.

He is the Father who disciplines and sometimes lets us have our own way to show us the deceitfulness of sin and our need of Him.

He is our Abba Daddy who is ready to restore us to Himself and draw us near as we repent and return.

He is unchanging.

He is our peace.

He is good.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  (C.S. Lewis, Aslan being a character picture of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin), made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”  Ephesians 2:4-7

 

When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy! Revisited

Sometimes I listen well.

Sometimes God needs to get my attention.

Sometimes God shouts!

Today He shouted!

It wasn’t in anger.  It wasn’t in chastisement.  It was from the tender heart of my God Who sees, Who knows my weaknesses, Who knows my sometimes fearful heart but Who loves to pull me close, steady my heart, and remind me of Who He is and what is true.

In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Fear.

The things that were waging war on my mind are real, but they are not outside the hand of God; they are insurmountable only as I try to, in my mind and often actions, fix them or worry them into submission.

But in the hands of my Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control and self-sufficiency and point me back to the true King, the true Salvation, the true Peace!  He is doing HIS good work, not my own, in each circumstance and person.

After what seemed like hours (and may have been), I asked  the Lord to help me stop “thinking,” to be my rest so I could sleep; I eventually drifted off.

The morning light came and with it evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to them, and He has been shouting all morning long, “I love you!  I am not caught unaware!  I am still on my throne and I am still making all things new!  You may not see, but ‘Be still and know that I AM God!’”

Circumstances may not have changed in the world around me or in my world as I rose out of bed, but they are known and being sifted through the hands of our very good God.

And, even as I write this, I laugh and also cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to that truth again and again as a reminder…if we will just get still and ask Him for eyes to see and ears to listen.

So may I share just how He did it on this one particular day, while recognizing that He does it so often?

Sometimes I am listening but other times I miss His still small voice as well as His shouts!

In preparation for getting everyone off to their day, I headed to the kitchen.  Before I had my first cup of coffee, God was already putting things in front of my eyes to strengthen my heart!

First, came a morning Twitter notification over my phone from Kevin DeYoung (While I don’t get notifications for all, I did have specific people who I know write truth and I want to see it when they do so I set it for such)!

“To start the day without prayer is to suggest the devil is feeble, God is irrelevant, and we can handle things on our own.”

After which God brought Psalm 5:3 to my mind, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

And again, the Word hidden in my heart came to my head.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

That first cup in hand and waiting for my son to come down for work, another friend’s reminder…

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come … He will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4

I hurriedly grabbed my Bible and opened it to Isaiah 35 and read more.  That was prefaced with verse 3:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” and THEN, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come!”

Feeling a little more refreshed and with a knowing smile on my face, I saw an opened devotional.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  Exodus 14:13. 

I read on and couldn’t help the tears of joy that fell as I realized the Lord was holding me in His arms and saying, “Keep listening child; I’m speaking to you and always will! You just need be still!”

“These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is… brought into difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, ‘Stand still.’… Despair whispers, ‘Lie down and die; give it all up.’ But God would have us put on…courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness… Precipitancy cries, ‘Do something. Stir yourself.  To stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.’  (It says) we must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything….But Faith (in the One true God)…hears God say, ‘Stand still,’ and immovable as a rock, it stands. ‘Stand still’;—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God will say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, ‘Go forward.’” (Charles Spurgeon)

And, as if that were not enough, as I was pulling up that devotion to share in this blog, He continued to pour on the encouragement and challenge,

“So don’t lose heart. Have the same kind of confidence as the widow (in Luke 18). Pray with the confidence, not that precisely what you’re asking will be given, but that God will give what He knows is right. Perseverance is less about getting what we want, and more about believing that God hears us and will provide what we need — which is oftentimes something we have to grow into, especially when we ask, full of good intentions…God is never bothered when we pray by faith. Never. And perseverance is trusting this truth, as we keep asking for what’s right as far as we know, until God does what is right — either by giving us our desire or correcting it.” (Keep Praying that Prayer by Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God)

Coincidence?  No, you see God has said that His Word “will not return to (Him) empty, but will accomplish what (HE) desires and achieve the purpose for which (HE) sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  

He has also said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you wonderful things that you did not know!”

And He has promised that when we call out to Him, He hears and responds.  “I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”  (Psalm 120:1)

So He sent a variety of people who had no idea how what they shared was going to be used but who were faithful to do so.

Equally true, He has used the Word stored up in my heart that He alone can bring to my mind as I need it;  His words repeated back to me, to encourage, strengthen, equip, and calm His child!

I honestly laid it out to Him I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice and have my heart and mind redirected.

And as I stand in awe that the God of the universe who loved me enough to redeem me through the work of His Son, Jesus, on the cross would also choose to speak to my heart and steady my “feeble arms and weak knees,” He reminds me yet again, “Be still and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10) 

And He takes me back to another time long ago when concerns weighed on my husband and I as we talked while driving around town with our then just two small children at the time.

From the back seat came a little voice.  I can still hear; our then three year old daughter singing “I cast all my cares upon You; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.  And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.” 

It was His voice through hers then and now, a child singing faithfully with steadfast, solid truth from I Peter 5:7.

My confidence is in the fact that “He who began a good work in you (and me), will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6) 

He is isn’t weary of my wrestling.  He isn’t shaking His head saying, “Do I have to remind you of My faithfulness again?”  No, He is carrying me to completion, gathering me in His arms, and reminding me in a myriad of ways that He is faithful, that He hears when we call to Him, and that He answers even if our fainting hearts sometimes cannot or do not hear.

So I “go forward” even as I am praying that I will continue to learn to just “be still” and rest in Him rather than look at circumstances beyond my control.

The conclusions to the “details” of  life that can cause my heart to tremble and grow weary may not be my timing or my ways, but my God is indeed making all things new, beautiful in His time and according to the riches of His grace.

He is amazingly writing my story, with its twists and turns, within the greater story of His redemption from creation to His return.

Speak Lord! I’m listening!

We Said “I Do” and Meant It – That’s the Beauty of Grace

32 years and a couple of months ago, my hubby and I said “I do.”

We had no idea what that would mean, but that’s beauty of saying “I do” in the power of Christ!  It’s just one aspect of the grace God pours out on relationships between two who love and fear Him.  The grace to grow up together, make mistakes together and apart from one another, the grace to love when it’s hard, the grace to forgive and be forgiven, the grace to laugh and the grace to cry – always together!  It’s the beauty of grace.

Very soon, we look forward to our only daughter making those same vows to a young man we have prayed for all her life, though we didn’t know his name.  God’s answer, with this particular young man, is a gift to both our daughter and to all of us.  And, one day, the Lord will bring those wives for whom we prayed, to our sons.

As they prepare, we pray diligently for them both knowing the great joys and the sorrows will come; it is both that shape and solidify a relationship that is grounded in Christ and that is committed to intentionally saying and “doing” “I do forever.”  It is the relationship where both choose to grow in their walk with the Lord and to being humble and transparent with each other, no matter how hard it is or what it exposes; never hiding parts of ourselves.  For it is when the two are one in every way, even in humility and trust, sharing their strengths and struggles, wrestling and battling with and for each other (Ephesians 6:10-18), that the enemy can have no room for deception and division.  It’s the beauty of grace.

Recently, I watched our own wedding; the video tape etched with the years but the words, from the heart of God, still bold and true.

32 years and a couple of months ago, my hubby and I said “I do.”  As I listened to these vows and the charge from our pastor while my hubby was away on business, I sat in the living room and prayerfully and thankfully said “I do” again. And, yes, through the good and hard times – and, as with all, there have been both – I would do it all over again with this man, “the one whom my soul loves.”  Song of Solomon 3:4

I share these words for encouragement and challenge, whether you are married now or not.  If so, commit to your spouse again; if not, prepare your heart and mind, make your choices wisely, and realize that every decision we make has an effect on the one to whom we have said or will say “I do.”

Choose to love intentionally, deeply, faithfully, fiercely!  It’s worth it!

And when you blow it – big or small – don’t hide.  Take it to the cross together quickly.  Don’t let it linger.  Learn to say, “I blew it.  I’m sorry,” not “I’m sorry, but…”  And learn to say, “I forgive you.”  That’s the beauty of grace.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:15

In 1983, these words were spoken to a young bride and groom:

“The vows you are about to take are not a statement of feelings.  You are not saying to each other: “This is how I feel about you.”  You are saying, “This is what I intend to do.”  You’re making a statement about commitment, not about your feelings.

And your vows are being made before God.

One day you will stand before Him and you will give account for how you lived up to the vows you’re about to make.

S, when you marry D, you’re not just marrying another girl.  You’re marrying a child of God.

Similarly, D, when you marry S you marry a child of God.

And one day, He is going to ask you, “How did you treat my child?  How did you love her/him?  Did you fulfill your vows to one another?

What gifts do you bring as a statement of the purity and permanence of this marriage relationship…the rings.

When you look at marriage, perhaps the surprising thing is not that one out of every two marriages is failing.  Perhaps the surprising thing is that one out of two manages to succeed.

That when you join two sons of Adam, two sinners who have their peculiar way of doing things and their own selfish ways and mix them up and put them in the same room, it’s not surprising that there are problems…

But you have a great advantage.  You are Christians, you are children of God, and you have a pattern set before you. 

And the pattern is this, that you S are to love your wife.  The main point is – you are no longer individuals; you no longer are separate.  There’s been the creation of one person.  You no longer have your separate ways and separate dreams and separate goals and separate identities.  The two have become one.  The creation of one new person. 

So from here on out you are to think in terms of the unity.  You no longer have say over your own body anymore.  That belongs to your spouse.  And the two of you belong to one another.  You are to love your wife as you love your own self.

You spend all your time, money, and effort on yourself if you’re the average person, even if you’re the average Christian.  You are to love your wife with the same kind of attention you love yourself and treat her with the same kindness and tenderness you want for yourself.

You’re to love her as Christ loved the church.  Christian love does not seek its own.  Learn to say “no” to me (and my selfish desires) and yes to us.

And, similarly D, you’re called to be subject to and respect your husband.  To “be subject to” is not merely taking orders.  You’re being called to a voluntary submission or subjecting of yourself to S.  It’s used in the military context.  You are to subordinate yourself to the direction of the team; to work as a team going in the same direction.  Willing, positive, willful giving of yourself for S.

The apostle Paul says a woman was made for man so you are called to be a helper, a comfort, an encouragement to him; to make his dreams your dreams.  Most men need a cheerleader and that is something to which you are being called.

What will hold you both in good stead is:

1 – Be tender to each other as you speak sweetly and gently and kindly and never indulge in harshness or cruelty or abruptness.  To never allow yourself to act in an angry or harsh treatment of one another.

2 – The most important words you’re going to need to know and say are “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me.”  That you should be quick to admit guilt because you’re going to be guilty.  You’re going to fail and you’re going to fall short and sin over and over again.  So, it’s incumbent upon you, if you’re going to have a happy life and a happy marriage to learn to say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong, please forgive me for what I have done.”  And then to be quick on the other hand to forgive. 

You have a great advantage.  God has given you a pattern.  But even better than that He’s giving you the power.  He’s giving you His Holy Spirit.  And, as you seek Him, in DEPENDENT prayer, you realize that apart from Him you can do nothing, apart from Him you will fail, you will fall short, your marriage will end up on the rocks.  But, with Him and the power and the patter He has given, you stand.  You succeed. 

You need to realize how much you need Him.  Then commit to praying together and studying the Scriptures together, seeking Him daily that He would enable and empower to lead godly lives.

And, charging the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, assembled to watch this union.

Your responsibility to this couple is this:

-Rejoice with them and celebrate on this day what God is doing in their lives! 

-Support them in their times of testing.

-Forgive them when they make mistakes.

-Remember them in your prayers.

-Seek God’s blessing on their lives and on their marriage.”

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   “Together”  by Steven Curtis Chapman

Here we stand, here we are
With all our wounds and battle scars
From all the storms and all the wars we’ve weathered together
We had no way of knowing when
We started way back there and then
How the road would twist and turn and bend
We just knew we belonged together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together

We’ve climbed up mountains higher than
Were ever in our hopes and plans
We’ve held onto each other’s hands
Watched miracles unfold together
And we’ve crawled on our hands and knees
Through valleys cold and dark and deep
Sometimes not even sure if we could make it out alive together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together, together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together, together

“In the marriage journey, (relational health and) healing follows where humility and true repentance have been.”   –     Matthew L. Jacobsen

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 spreading a comforting layer on our barren ground.

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 sight.

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…including my own.

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, 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 prospects at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6: “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.’” HE is faithful 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; 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!  Praying for eyes to see those opportunities and a heart to seek what He is up to my corner of the world and beyond!

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