Plod On Faithfully

A TRAIL HEADER IMG_2155Some days are ordinary.

Some days are mountain tops.

And some are just hard.

It’s the stuff of which life is made. And it is good…whether we feel like dancing through the day, putting one foot in front of the other, or just sitting down.

We are called to move forward, and there is joy in recognizing that His mercies are new every morning. It is our call to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2); but not just any race, “the race marked out for us.”

My life, my walk with Christ, my place in the world and the people in it will not be like any one else’s. It may be similar, but God has made me and each of us, in His image yes, but uniquely us; our circumstances are just what He intends for such a time as this.

And, He who has “marked out” a race for each one will not leave those He calls His own to run it alone but will prepare us for the journey, come alongside, even carry us at times, and use it all for His glory and our transformation!

A couple of months ago, we were in Colorado and decided to do what we thought would be a semi-short, fairly laid back afternoon hike in the mountains around the perimeter of the town close to where we were staying.

It began relatively easy and, early on, I found myself running up some parts of the path, exhilarated by the beauty and eager for the adventure. Rather quickly, however, we realized it was not all going to be a smooth, well-defined path with little elevation change. There would be places where the climb was grueling, the path beneath us rocky and at the same time, slippery, and the markings not so clear. The corridor would get narrow and the edges steep. We would grow thirsty, having not brought as much water as we probably should have.A TRAIL IMG_2086

It was soon evident that we would come to more than one crossroad where we had to decide whether we would persevere and finish the course or take a short cut and miss completing the much anticipated afternoon of exploring we had undertaken.

There was actually no way either of us would consider cutting it short; even if, when we grew weary from the varying conditions of the trail and the heat, we had to plod from time to time. That was part of the beauty and adventure of it.

In the end, it was closer to nine miles and the temps soared in the lower elevations; not particularly long but more rigorous than we anticipated.

Still, had we chosen the “easier” way, we would have missed the green pathways where we stopped to watch a young doe moving unafraid under the trees. We would have lost the opportunity to look out over the highest point of the trail at 8,557 feet, to watch a hawk catch the wind, sailing across a chasm, and to view the various peaks and valleys that declared the glory of God simply by their presence. A TRAIL IMG_2158

We would have failed to come across both the rushing waters and steady flow of different waterfalls and a cool mountain lake that alerted all our senses! Our encounters with a man who shared his story and a mom and dad with eager teenagers who joined us for a time would have been missed. The sheer joy of the journey and finishing what we had begun and endured would have been wasted as well!

It was not just the experiences from the hike that we remember and in which we have satisfaction but, in finishing; what it did “in” us and what it taught us about ourselves and, more importantly, about God and our relationship with Him. It was also a reminder that we need each other in this journey as we regularly encouraged each other to press on.

The paradox was that we were so tired yet so refreshed! And isn’t that part of what perseverance does in us?

“Let perseverance finish its work (in us), so we will grow, lacking nothing in Christ.” (James 1:4)

Perseverance isn’t dependent on the circumstances in which I live and breathe but upon whom I rest and find my ultimate satisfaction. And that One calls His people to be, as Joseph Wheat has said, “faithful plodders.” We are not called to be stoic in the face of sorrow, slap on a fake smile when our hearts are breaking, nor be arrogant in our demands that God answer every prayer in our timing and according to “our will.”

He knows our sorrows, allows us to weep, brings others to share our tears, and holds us in the darkest nights. He allows us to ask questions but then calls us to trust Him for the answers even when we can’t see and our hearts don’t understand.

He knows we live in an easily shaken world that defies Him and that can so easily distract us from a determined walk with Christ that is distinctively different and provides a firm foundation as it is grounded in His Word, Truth.

He knows we are continually faced with things and people that seek to rival our affection. He understands the enemy of our souls tempts us to satisfy our hunger and cover our shame, hurts, and loneliness with substances, experiences, and the noise of mindless activities rather than learning to be still, seeking that redemption, healing, and satisfaction in the only One that is not a temporary fix but a lasting transformation, and spending time with others who find joy in desiring the same so we are mutually encouraged to stay the course.

He knows we need the exhortation of one another so we “may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13) nor overwhelmed by the sheer exhaustion of living in a world that seeks to call good, evil and evil, good.

And so, out of His great love and tenderness, He appeals to us not to neglect meeting together. Rather, give one another confidence…

“…to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of (us)… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Though my “hard” may be different than others, my temptations may not mirror another’s, and my places of rest might not look like yours – every redeemed child of God is called to that same perseverance because each of us is called to fix our eyes on the same endpoint – Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith.

We aren’t given a view of what is ahead or even just around the next corner.

God doesn’t call us to plow ahead, full speed, beating out every other runner nor hold back in fear.

Instead, He equips us for and calls us to an unwavering…

Endurance.

     Steadfastness.

          Diligence.

In order to run the race with perseverance without burning out, to be able to “mutually encourage,” and to be a “faithful plodder” who knows that our help comes from “…the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1), we must first learn to “Be still and know that (He is) I AM, God!” (46:10)

In fact, we have Jesus’ example to follow. Even He, God in the flesh, had to get away from the crowd! Spending time with others is a good thing, but getting away, talking to and hearing our Father’s voice; feeding on and savoring His Word as though our lives depend on it, because they do – is life-giving. Resting in our Abba, who stands ready to strengthen, equip, and just hold us when we are weary with the race or when temptation increases, allows us to take that next step.

As we grow in our understanding of what is needed for faithful perseverance, our longing should be for more of His presence and His Word for which Jesus commended Mary. While Martha ran around meeting needs, a good thing, Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better and it would never be taken away.

At times, we may need to ask Him to restore that longing, but it is in those times when the hunger wanes, we must run even more intentionally into the arms of the One who is able to restore the joy of our salvation and our very souls!

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (none of which comes from the Father) but from the world” (I John 2:16) will distract us from keeping “our eyes fixed on Jesus” so we must also be deliberate about guarding that which has been entrusted to us; turning from “godless chatter and opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (I Timothy 6:20) that explodes all around us but is nothing more than the Deceiver whispering across the ages, “Did God really say?”

The more we idly engage the world, its ideas, and its systems in direct opposition to and defiance of the very character of God, instead of “renewing our minds” (by His Word), “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and answering accordingly, the more we will soon realize we are no longer just “in the world” but “conformed to it.” (Romans 12:2)

In that conformity, the less we will persevere, the less faithful we will plod, the more we will turn our gaze from the Savior and soon find ourselves “sitting in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1)

There is nothing that robs us of joy more.

It is God’s mercy that the Bible warns us through the life of Demas, who was, at one time, in ministry with Paul as a faithful “fellow worker” in the gospel, but who, not being watchful, became in love with this present world” and deserted Paul. (2 Timothy 4:10) He quit running the race.

It is God’s grace and power, that gives us “everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Peter 1:3), that calls us to be diligent and devoted to His Word and sound teaching (I Timothy 4:13-15), that pursues us and infuses us with joy then beckons us to use every opportunity to encourage each other to the same.

There is joy in this journey on which God has called us – this life lived for Him. But there are times we won’t “feel” it and will, instead, have to choose it. It isn’t an emotion or a reaction as a result of a circumstance; it is an abiding rest in knowing who we are and whose we are. It is leaning into the One who has not only marked the race for us but runs it with us, infusing us with the very breath we need.A TRAIL IMG_2239

As we set our hope on Him, God will renew our strength that, at times, will falter, so that we will “soar on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

By the work of His transforming grace, don’t give up, flee to Christ and what is before us, that very race He has marked out for you and me!

Flee to redemption and His purposes for us rather than to the very things that are killing us spiritually!

Don’t miss the joy! Look up and see Him who is doing a “new thing” we can’t perceive!

Look up and see Him who is faithful!

Plod on Redeemed Followers of Christ and finish your race! But plod faithfully, purposefully, deliberately, intentionally bringing others along with you!

“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6) 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of evil one.” Ephesians 6:10-11 

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them…” I Timothy 4:16

Speaking to God…and Listening: He is Personal!

HIGHLANDS

I love knowing that the God of the Bible is personal; that He hears me every time I speak and delights for me to come to Him again and again.  I can pray big and I can pray bold because He is the God who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”  (Ephesians 3:20)

As I grew up, praying to and thanking my heavenly Father was something both taught and modeled as active and relational. It was part of life, but it wasn’t “just a tradition.”

As the years went by, I submitted my life to Christ and began learning to live in a more personal relationship with Him, as all must choose one way or the other (…salvation is not a family “gene” to be granted – it is a one-on-one, chosen response to God’s gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus!*). I was encouraged by others, who discipled me and led into a deeper walk with my Savior, to have honest conversations throughout the day as well as intentional time alone with Him; to come to Him in prayer with praise, thanks, and repentance!

Prayer is not a formula; it is coming as we are into the very presence of the living God! And we can do that because of Jesus!

I love to drive down the road, listening to great music, singing out loud! It’s a delight to my Savior to hear me sing songs that praise Him and/or set my eyes on Him, regardless of whether or not it is simply a joyful “noise” to others.  It is, in essence, a musical prayer of praise!

I love to be busy around the house, ride my bike or walk, get in the car and head to work or anywhere else and just talk to my Savior, sometimes through laughter and sometimes through tears. And I know He hears.  I know He rejoices with me when my joy is in Him and in what pleases Him. I know He delights when, in humility, I come to Him in repentance and say, “Forgive me. Change me.” I know He weeps with me when my heart is hurting.

I love to join with other believers laying out our joys and sorrows before the throne of grace and with my husband bringing our children and those we love before this One who knows before we speak yet wants to hear from our lips.

And I love to leave the distractions and find my quiet place alone to pour out my heart to my Father while opening His Word to hear His voice as well!

God is personal; He is ABBA, Daddy! And He knows me, my heart, and my thoughts better than I know myself.

So today, sometimes I pour out praise and sometimes pain. But, if I’m honest, sometimes I simply complain.

I want answers and, too often, I want them in my timing and the way I think best; and, if not, I want to know why. It’s in those complaining moments, I wonder if I am too casual with God Most High!

Yes, he wants to hear my hurts – but complaining can lead towards spewing it all out with little or no desire to hear His response in return. He is my tender Savior, but also my Mighty King!

The Lord doesn’t mind my “whys,” but He wants me to learn to submit them to Him when He doesn’t give an answer…or at least not the answer I want. But it isn’t the attitude of a dad who says, “Because I said so!” and walks away disgruntled or irritated by the question.

No, it’s very much – “I AM God and I said so!” But with the tender protective attitude of “I hear you, but I know what you don’t know. I see what you don’t see. I want more for you than you want for yourself – because I know what that looks like so much better than you. Yes, it is for Me, God Almighty, to get the glory because I am worthy of honor and praise! (That’s not arrogant – it’s fact!) But I answer according to My will because I love you that much. I love you enough to sometimes say ‘Yes,’ sometimes ‘No,’ and, at other times, ‘Better’ – you just may not recognize the difference…yet!” (To be clear, I know those words are not “quotes” of God from the Bible; rather, a conversation I imagine He might have with me – based on His Word).

As with any relationship, we know and love one another, and increasingly so, as we talk to each other, speak, and listen. If all we do is talk, then walk away or tune out as the other is sharing their heart, not really interested in their thoughts or assuming we know what they will say, do we really know someone? Can we truly love them well? Is it any different with God?

Often, I’m brought up short as I consider the words of a favorite song, “…I’ve tried to hear from Heaven. But I talked the whole time…” (“What Do I Know of Holy?” – Addison Road) when God just wants me to simply “Be still and know that I AM God…” (Psalm 46:10).  And so, as I am reminded of this truth, I’m still learning to pray and listen well…seeking to be still, asking Him to renew my heart and give me a steadfast spirit and open eyes and ears.

More and more, I recognize I DON’T “get it” a lot.  But I don’t have to always understand what God is doing. He is God; I am not. And that is good.

As I have been praying lately for family members, close friends, and some situations for which I have no answers and with outcomes I can’t control, I recognize how my expectations are too small in light of the power of the God of the universe! I see how I unintentionally attempt to limit God when I think my prayers are just the right answer. I miss the fact that, in His timing and ways, He is doing 10,000 things I can’t even begin to see!

I have watched Him turn certain situations around 180 degrees from how I thought they needed to be “accomplished” for a certain outcome and He provided that outcome or better…without doing things my way. How thankful I am when He adjusts my heart to His will, tunes my heart to see His answer in that moment, and doesn’t always give me what I ask for.  I have seen Him soften and transform hearts I had doubted would ever be changed!

But God!  Oh, to see with His eyes always.

We can come as a child, believing yet, at times, asking Him to help our belief; waiting in expectation!

From the outset, we are told to come into His presence with praise (Psalm 100:4) and thanks (Philippians 4:6)!  Don’t our hearts begin to hear His heart as we first choose to put our eyes and our focus on the goodness of our Savior before we lay out our requests, our pleas, our hurt?  We can walk on the churning waters and call out for His help with eyes fixed, not on the circumstances around and beneath us, but straight ahead at Jesus, as Peter did and was able to walk on water!

We are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) with our confidence fully placed on the One to whom we pray. It is not our words that change things; rather, it is the actions of the only One who hears! There are no “perfect words” or “professional pray-ers;” none so eloquent as to peak the interest of the Almighty. He hears the hearts of those who come to Him in humility and recognition that HE alone is able! He hears those who say, “I believe; help my unbelief.” He hears through our tears and our joy!

I have found myself more and more asking the Holy Spirit to “intercede (before God’s throne) for us with groanings that are too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)  So often I don’t know the words to say as I pray, but He has them and they are perfectly tuned to the heart of God.

And, I take pleasure in being able to pray, “Jesus, take what I’m praying and adjust my words and my heart to be in unity with the heart of the Father” – asking Jesus to intercede for me and for those I love as well because He is at the right hand of God doing so for us! (Romans 8:34)

Equally, God has called us to pray for our enemies; for those who have hurt us or those we love deeply and for those who have sinned against us, spoken falsely about us, or attempted to harm us. It is by His grace we can do so and it is His mercy that changes us and enables us to long for their heart change (and, as needed, our own).

I am also humbly being reminded to pray, “Not my will but Yours, God” – all the while asking Him to adjust my heart to pray that faithfully and honestly. Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will in the garden so much so that he sweat drops of blood and, yet, He submitted and went to the cross for us. I pray God will give me a submissive heart to pray and live those words well.

Praying the very words of God back to Him, even inserting names and places, is powerful and effective but also extremely personal. We are entering the throne room of God, bringing His Word to bear on our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray. We know that His Word is living and active and doesn’t return void. We know His Word is His will, so we know we can pray humbly yet boldly and intimately, such as:

“Lord God, I ask you to “fill (insert “me” or another) with the knowledge of (Your) will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that (he/she) may live a life worthy of the Lord and please (You) in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of (You),God,  being strengthened with all power according to (Your) glorious might so that (he/she) may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:9-11)

I’m learning (again) that God wants me to have open hands, not hands that seek to fix anything (though there are times He wants us to be His hands and feet). Rather, He calls me to, before all things, lay people and situations at His feet, step back, and remind myself as I tell Him, “Yes, Lord, they are Yours; yes, Lord this is Your situation to do as You will. It may be easy or it may be hard, but it will be from Your hand!”

We can honestly pour out our desires and our questions then leave them in the strong Hands that are good, even when it doesn’t “look” or “feel” good! We can fully trust the One Who Himself is Faithful and True.

I will still crank up the music and sing out loud as I drive down the street because it resets me heart! It takes my mind off me and whatever weighs on my heart and exalts Him!

I will still choose to give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances when I “feel” like it and when I don’t! (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I will still pour out my tears before God, as David did in the Psalms. “My tears have been my food day and night…” (Psalm 42:3) and as Jesus encouraged us to “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I will still pray without ceasing for broken bodies, wounded hearts, devastated relationships, self-pleasing lives and choices (recognized or not), and unredeemed souls. I will wrestle before the throne of God on their behalf out of great love and through tears, as Paul did for and wrote to believers in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “out of great distress and anguish of heart…(out of) the depth of my love for (them).”

But, in the end, I will cease my striving, open my hands, and with thanksgiving in advance of or in spite of the answer, say, “I will trust You, Father!  Speak for me, Jesus! Holy Spirit, intercede with groanings and longings I can’t express…pray as I don’t know how to pray.”

He will hear. He will do just that.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (my) heart and mind in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:7)

*You can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You can learn more about that relationship and chat live with someone at https://needhim.org/knowing-jesus/  or feel free to ask questions here.  I would love to have a conversation giving you reason for the hope I have in Christ!

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 8:23  But God has provided a way:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

God Is More Than Able

IMG_7150

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

God is able.  We know that.  We don’t doubt it.  We want our lives to reflect a deep assurance in Jesus so that others will know the God in Whom we trust.  And yet, there are times we forget and allow our fears to overtake what we know and step off our firm foundation to a place of shifting sand.

It’s so easy to trust, when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and when we “feel” His presence.  But when the winds shift and the waves get wild, too often we shift our gaze inward to self or outward to circumstances and we falter.

Can’t we, at times, relate to Peter, the disciple who boldly declared his allegiance to the Savior, yet later ran in fear when asked if he knew Him?  It wasn’t his intention; but, in that moment, he hesitated.  He had moments of both trust and the lack thereof throughout his life.

In Matthew 14, he boldly declared his faith by looking intently at the Savior and, thus, was able to walk out to Him on the water when Jesus said, “Come.”  But when Peter began to focus on the raging storm around him, taking his eyes off Jesus and putting them on what he could see, he began to sink.  It was Jesus who had to save him when all he could do was cry out; just as He is faithful to do for us when we call out in our weakness.

God lovingly commands His children to keep our eyes on Him – yes, because He is worthy and yes, because He is good!   But it is also because God knows that we are only steadfast, confident, and able to stand firm when our eyes are completely fixed on Him through His Word, the Bible, and our daily, even minute to minute, communication with Him through prayer.

These aren’t legalistic rituals or “spiritual” exercises to soothe the soul on the surface. Rather, it is time to climb into the lap of our Abba Father, our Savior, our Comforter and to rest instead of wrestle; to put our confidence in the hope that is grounded in a Person, namely Jesus, not a “hope without substance” philosophy devised by man.

It might be a designated time or an impromptu moment of praise, an outpouring of our pain or doubt, or a humble moment of repentance when His Spirit convicts our hearts and we must set our sin aside so we can again firmly walk in truth.  When we are in relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ, we can come at any moment – He desires it and beckons us to it.

God loves for us to bring Him praise, unburden our hearts, pour out our fears, and lay ourselves bare before the God who knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves.  When we don’t understand the circumstances around us, we have a Father who is not afraid of our questions and who even allows us to ask “why.”  But then He tells us to trust in what we cannot see rather than demand that He change our situations or readjust His will and His ways to suit ours.  We are called, as children, to open hands; to a humility that says, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord.”

And, we are invited to a greater hope and purpose that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)  Many cling to that verse as if it is quick fix – that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will do whatever we want Him to do.  But it is so much richer and more redeeming than this short-sighted view.

The paradox is that if we truly grow in our delight of the LORD – if we earnestly seek Him and know Him – our desires will be transformed to reflect His desires, our wills will be changed to want His will.  In so doing, we will receive the double satisfaction of having a heart after our Redeemer and He, in turn, will fulfill His renewed purposes and our redefined desires.  Through it all, He gets the glory and we receive the joy!

We see the chaos; He sees where He has said, “this far and no further.”  We often miss seeing the mercy and grace in situations, but make no mistake, everything that touches us is full of both, even when we don’t see or feel it.

Our covenant keeping God sees the full picture clearly, from start to finish.  We see only where we stand in a moment’s time and even that imperfectly.  If we will trust the heart of the One who, in His great love for us sent His Son to redeem us and make us His own, we can rest, even give Him praise, in the middle of the moments that sometimes rock our world, the daily grind of the ordinary, or the difficult life situations that are part of our everyday, because we know that what He does and what He allows has a greater purpose now and in the future.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.  If we have God’s say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways!” 

And again, Chambers states it so clearly,“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.” (from Love: A Holy Command)

Yes, He is preparing to do exceptional things even as He is already doing in the present.  Indeed, he is doing much in and through us, though we may not yet touch that reality and though we may, at times, hold up open hands through tears!  We know that because, as we look back, we can often say, “Now I see what God was doing all along and it was flawless!”

Through it all – past, present, and future – He gets the glory and that’s just how it should be because He is more than able; He is good!  And that is not dependent on His answer!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus…”  Hebrews 12:1-2

MAKE MY LIFE A PRAYER TO YOU  by Keith Green

Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what You want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave, through Your Son, You sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair, It comforts me to know You’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank You now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live
And share the hope you gave to me, the love that set me free.
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head –
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

(Originally posted June 2013)

“Fear Not,” Said Daddy

The day was clear and the sun was shining; all seemed perfect for a family outing at the amusement park! To me, there was no better place in all the world to just enjoy being seven years old.

We quickly got our tickets and, with me way ahead of my brothers, sisters, and parents, we entered my “perfect world.” I ran first to the race cars, then the airplanes, the boats, the water flume – all the rides that were just my size. For one with so much enthusiasm for adventure, it was almost overload!

After about an hour, my parents led me to what they said would be the “most fun of all.” As I stared up at the monstrous creature before me, tears filled my eyes! My “perfect world” no longer seemed so perfect and my enthusiasm all but vanished.

“Come on, honey,” Daddy shouted, “You’ll love it!”

“I can’t, Daddy! I just can’t!” I cried, “It’s too big, too fast! I’m just a little girl!”

“You can do this…But I’ll let you make that choice; wait for us here while we go,” he said as they all ran excitedly up the ramp and towards the enormous roller coaster.

I sat on the bench with my head in my hands and cried, not only because I was having to wait alone and I wanted to not be afraid but also because I knew how disappointed Daddy would be in his little girl. He knew my love for trying new things so I’m sure he was surprised when I stood resolute. I’m also sure his heart broke a little when he saw my tears falling.

But my daddy knew this moment in time was bigger than what loomed before me; he knew it was an opportunity to teach and to train. And it was the way he raised us – taking those teachable moments wherever they arose.

So, when they all got off and were getting in line again, he tried once more to convince me. “You don’t have to be afraid; I’ll be right there beside you.” But I stayed firmly planted on the bench while everyone else ran back around for the second time with smiles and laughter.

As Daddy got in line for the third time, he felt a tug at his shirt.   Looking down, he saw me staring up at him with a cautious smile.

“I’ll go, Daddy, if you’ll sit beside me.” I barely got the words out when it was time to board the ride.

Eyes closed tightly, hands gripping the safety bar, I snuggled close to him as the ride started off with a jolt. We were sent soaring, higher and faster. Slowly my eyes opened a little at a time.  It was terrifying but so much fun.

This little girl who loved adventure, climbing, and proving she could do what the big kids could do and love it, was in her element. But first I had to face my fear.

Too soon it came to an end and we had to get off. I ran to the end of the line and, with great boldness, declared, “If you don’t mind, Daddy, I think I’ll ride alone this time!”

And sitting in the very first car all by myself, eyes wide open, and with a great big grin on my face, I was off on the first of many wild roller coaster rides without my daddy.

In fact, it was just the beginning of a lifetime of “facing my fears,” one of those life lessons my dad brought home to my heart over and over again.

Most of my life, if I said I was too unsure or afraid to do something, his immediate response would be, “Then you need to do it!”  And when I would tell him of an experience where I had to put that encouragement into action, I could see his smile and hear his joy through his words, “That a girl!”

In the moments when he was there at bedtime and we would be making up stories and talking about the day, in the opportunities when we would be driving in the car on a quick errand or a long trip, he would remind me that we face our fears – every time – because we don’t want fear to cast a shadow over our lives, we don’t want to miss opportunities, and we can know that, because we are His, God is with us, bigger than our fears.  He would remind me that I could face the impossible because He is bigger than the impossible. He would remind me that the scary things of life can be and should be faced knowing God can be trusted to walk with us and give us the courage to do or to endure.

The roller coaster was one of the first of many “face your fears” moments in my life. But it wasn’t the biggest nor the last.

Sometimes I have risen to the occasion and sometimes my fear has caused me to “stay firmly planted on the bench.” And always, I heard and still hear my daddy’s voice, “You can do this…I’ll be right here beside you.” And, while I know my dad has not been right beside me in each of those moments, I have known his encouragement and have always known that my Abba Father, God who is my tender heavenly Daddy, is indeed right here with me.

I hear the voice of my Heavenly Father say, “Fear not…”

I’m thankful that my dad began to instill this truth of God in my heart that day and, as I grew, he brought it back to Who gave him the courage to face his fears – though it was sometimes hard to imagine that the man who pushed the limits on adrenaline pumping experiences and new challenges had any fear. His confidence began with the One who walks us through adventures and valleys, thrills and incredibly stifling places, strong, healthy bodies and those broken and racked with evidence of the curse.

And, I’m thankful that, in some of his last days here on earth before he stepped into eternity where, for those redeemed by the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, fear is extinguished forever, before the God he loved and proclaimed, I was able to spend time by his side.

And I had the privilege and joy of speaking that truth to him, his once strong body and sound mind now frail, “You’ve told me all my life and I’m going to remind you now, Daddy: You don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here for now, holding your hand. But, most of all, Jesus is right here with you walking you through it all. Our God has told us, ‘Fear not…’ Hold on to and keep your eyes on Him!”

He looked at me through tired but still twinkling eyes, with that winsome, crooked smile that was uniquely my Dad’s and whispered, “It’s good to know I was heard; I guess I’m getting it back now. And that is good.”

Thank you for giving it in the first place, Daddy. Thank you for pushing me to step out beyond my fears as a little girl and also as a young woman, and, in the frightening moments not to look at the circumstances. Thank you for reminding me to look at Jesus.

You have no fear any longer, Daddy; I’ll see you when God calls me home and, in that moment and in the meantime, I’ll remember not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!” Isaiah 41:10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…for I am the Lord your God…do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isaiah 43

“…do what is right and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Peter 3:6

                                                    ***     ***     ***     ***

“You can grieve for me the week before I die, if I’m scared and hurting, but when I gasp that last fleeting breath and my immortal soul flees to heaven, I’m going to be jumping over fire hydrants down the golden streets, and my biggest concern, if I have any will be my wife back here grieving. When I die, I will be identified with Christ’s exaltation. But right now, I’m identified with His affliction.” RC Sproul

1998 Dad and Me

Even When Trembling, Stand

IMG_7485 after shower manual

A friend is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. A family member lives day to day with a debilitating disease. A family we love is torn apart, a marriage marred. An expected outcome comes to a heartbreaking halt. Across the nation and the world, news flows that brings a shadow on the soul.

Yet, through it all, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as every generation before, in need of truth and hope.  That “truest true” – the one faithful, constant, factual hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty, power, and guilt of our sin but it is also is able to redeem our fear, our pain, and our limitations because He is more than able.  It is not always a physical freedom or a restoration of how we desire things to be, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.

What causes the redeemed child of God to face sorrow without despair is the intimate knowledge of and our relationship to the One who tenderly and firmly holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and our good.  Though it is not always “good” as we define the term and His “better ways” for us may not always be visible to us at first glance, it is so. For everything that touches us is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that filter as only He can. He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!

God’s Word upholds us because it is not just “comfortable quotes” that can be framed and hung on a wall to make us feel lighthearted and at peace for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows us to hobble along.  It is rock solid truth on which we can “hang” our very lives and which causes us to walk steadfast, to stand and, when we have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ…regardless.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just for us and we choose to not only believe it but to live it out even when our steps are trembling. Our God who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady, as He reminds us of His very great and precious promises.  (2 Peter 1:4)

Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady.

So evident was this in Martin and Gracia Burnham’s lives as she recounts their ordeal and God’s tender mercy to bring to mind what was written on their hearts.

Read and be encouraged for the days when life is “just as it should be” but also when “live spins out of control!”

How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?

‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well.

On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately. Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.

Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’

We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.) ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ?’ (Ephesians 1:3)

We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’

(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year.  I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)

“Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support –

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience);

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience).”

(Lyrics from Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe)

Even When We Cannot See

MissouriArkansas barn at sunsetSEPIA

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

There are days when to be “Be still and know that HE is God!” (Psalm 46:10) is so easy.

In those times, my heart and my head agree with each other, and I almost dance with joy in experiencing both what I know and what I feel in tandem.

Certainly, I experience it when there is much to be celebrated. To lift my hands to the One from Whom all blessings flow is easy and immediate.

There are other times when what I “know” about our very good God, what I “feel,” and how I respond clash loudly! In those times, I, for all intents and purposes, choose not to be still. I don’t always ask “why” well and, I have to admit, my “why” is more like the rant of a petulant child.

But, to be in the midst of turmoil of my own or another that I love or to watch the world turn upside down in a variety of ways and yet to “be still” is not a reflection of my own strength. Rather, it is a supernatural gift of a gracious God who, in the middle of my pleading, of laying my heart bare before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, lifts my eyes and my heart to “see” Him instead of the moment. He holds and steadies this child, tenderly, even when He chooses not to calm the storm. And, in those times, He is also in the process of refining my heart.

We often have a desired outcome, an expectation for our circumstances; a way we believe is best and right.  At times, it may deal with the externals and the “haves or have nots” to which God says, “There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).  Yet, when it comes to physical illnesses, most would not argue that our requests are reasonable.  But, God’s ways, that sometimes “seem” difficult or mistaken to us, always lead to “life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19) because they are grounded in the firm foundation of His loving sovereignty that knows the end from the beginning and sees what we cannot. And, even when it doesn’t “feel” good, we can “know” it is.

All too often, I (and I think it is safe to say, “we”) “feel” – regardless of what we “know” – that for God to show His love, He must answer our requests exactly as we ask, fulfill our every desire, especially if they are “good” desires. Or, if He doesn’t, that He will immediately provide an explanation for us to see what He’s doing, not just with eyes of faith but with our physical eyes!

But it is not always the way of our Father. He says, “Trust me” even if it hurts. He says, “Trust me” even if it makes no sense. He says, “Trust me” and let me do “exceedingly and abundantly more” – not only more than we can think or ask but also more than what we can perceive with our eyes.

What the Israelites could “see” was a vast army heading in their direction to bring destruction. And yet, Moses told them to “be still” and watch God fight for them!  What? They had a clear view of the immediate danger, but they could not “see” what God had in store, how He would protect and defend them. Even so, indeed, as He did time and again, He delivered them.

The same is true for His children today; He calls us to “be still” and watch Him fight for us; even if His deliverance is, at times, hard. He calls us, often a forgetful people, to remember His faithfulness in the past so we will stand on that same promise of faithfulness in the present.

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them…Not only may you see a tiny fraction of what God is doing in your life; the part you do see may make no sense to you.” (John Piper)

The other day, as my husband and I talked about and prayed for a situation that someone we love is facing, he reminded me of Joseph, sold as a slave by his brothers yet, in time, raised to a place of prominence to be an avenue of provision and protection. Could he “see” the faithfulness of God in that moment when he was taken away? Did he “feel” the love of God in that instant? Or did he cry out with an honest groan, “Why Lord?” And, yet, as we are given a view into his life, we are able to observe his faithful obedience to God. We watch his trust in the One he knew to be the sovereign Lover of his soul. We witness God honor that one who learned to “be still” and watch the Lord fight for him. And, through His Word across generations, we now get to see many of the “whys” to God’s ways; that He allowed Joseph’s hardships so he might be a place “for such a time.” God was doing “good” long before the “good” could be seen!

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

Knowing that the Lord Himself is going before us and behind us is not a small thing nor is it a fanciful hope; it is the reality for those who are redeemed children of God, loved deeply by the One who doesn’t always give His demanding children just what we want but always gives just what we need and what will ultimately be for our good and a glory to Himself! And when what He gives is painful, He walks through the fire with us, He holds us close, and He says, “Be still and know (hold onto and experience) that I AM God.”

This side of heaven, we will not always do that well. But, by His grace, may we be found faithful, trusting, and “still” more with each day!

***   ***   ***    ***    ***    ***    ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Excerpt from “Even If” by Mercy Me   (Music and lyrics so often draw my heart in…as do these.  So thankful my son shared this song with me some weeks ago)!

 It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

 I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand.

But even if You don’t.

My hope is You alone.

 …God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul. 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

 You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All my days.

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may.

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can.

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

 

Your Kingdom Come

IMG_4010   Circumstances. They bring joy or sorrow. They are fleeting or constant. They change and can threaten to undo us emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually. We can be laughing one minute; wringing our hands the next. We can feel peace and turmoil all within the same hour. We are told not to worry, but how do we steady ourselves?  How do we maintain our joy? I have often spent time in the Word of God, talking to Him and asking just those questions.

For God has indeed created us to “glorify Him and enjoy Him forever,” but He also created us to be relational people living between the “now and the not yet.”   And when, in the course of being human, pain comes either from a broken relationship, a frightening medical diagnosis, a wait that takes longer than we would choose, our own choices or choices of ones we love that cause heartache, or other scenarios that lead to sorrow, we often ask how we can glorify Him and enjoy Him in the midst. But it is in laying that hurt bare, unashamed before our God who sees, in total need of His grace, that we begin that journey to joy regardless of the circumstances.

At times, I am able to rest well in the arms of my Savior, to lay myself and the burdens and idols of my heart on the altar as a living sacrifice and say, “They are yours, Lord; I give them and my striving to ‘fix’ the situation up to You.” But there are other times I find myself either trying to “crawl off the altar,” as Pastor Randy Pope has said, or pull back those loved ones or circumstances I have given over to the King of my heart as if I can make something good happen in fashioning them according to my design!

No, there is only One who, by His grace, can make something beautiful of stifling situations or bone wearying loss and, it is when I find my joy in the hope of Christ in me, of Christ working “all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” that I can, once again, let it go into the hands of the One who can do immeasurably more than I can think or ask – each time a little longer than the last.

And that is growing in grace; when we rest a little better, strive a little less, and trust a little more with each situation.  We are growing more and more into the likeness of the Son! Scripture abounds!  While it is good and helpful to have the Word of God set before our eyes so we can commit it to your hearts, they are not simply nice little sayings to put on a Pinterest craft.  They are the very words of God “alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12), “ God breathed…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

When I focus on the circumstances around me instead of focusing on the “joy set before me,” I tremble much; and fear and worry threaten to strangle my joy and hope in Christ! God doesn’t mind our wrestling, but He longs to hear His children humbly cry out our deepest longings, fears, and pain; for He knows our hearts better than we ourselves do.  He longs to hear us say, “I believe; help my unbelief, Lord.” (Mark 9:24)  He is not surprised by our humanness and our lack of “wholeness.” But, ultimately, He desires for us to grow in that wholeness, to grow in that holiness.  He desires to take us in His arms and bring comfort even when He chooses not to settle the storm that rages, when He calls us to wait and then wait a little longer, or when He allows things we don’t understand to continue or to find their conclusion in a way we would not have chosen.

God does not call us to deny that pain exists or to stuff our emotions.  But that pain and those emotions are often His way of driving us to our knees, breaking through our self reliance to send us before the throne of grace, humbly but also boldly because of the work of Christ on the cross and our relationship with Him!  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

Paul gives us the example of one who cared deeply, even agonized over the people he loved; and then He left them and the events swirlings around him in the hands of the One who alone can change hearts and circumstances. “Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.  Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  (Acts 20:31, 32) “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4)

It’s often a matter of where I allow my heart to dwell – on my circumstances or on my Savior.  If I hear the promises of God yet continue to say,  “I get that, but…” I am never satisfied, which leads to a deeper heartache.  But if I keep reminding myself of the truth God has given me and made known time and again, I may not “get it,” but I can say with confidence, “I may not ‘feel’ your presence or understand your ways, but give me a heart of wisdom, a heart that trusts You more, Lord, even if I cannot ‘see’ what You are doing in the middle of it all.”

Richard Rohr says it well.  “To pray and actually mean ‘thy Kingdom come,’ we must also be able to say ‘my kingdoms go.’” My hands are open, Lord.  Help me let my kingdoms go so Yours can fully come.  I wait in expectation!

“But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”   C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

From Wrestling to Rest

IMG_4079

Our God sees.

Our God knows.

Our God  reigns.

Our God never changes.

Our God is immovable.

Our God is the God of all comfort.

Our God is not surprised by our circumstances, our choices, or our wrestlings.

Our God upholds us with His powerful right hand!

Our God is a consuming fire and a quiet Peace!

Our God is our Rock and our Fortress!

Our God lifts us from the muck and mire of wounded hearts and broken spirits.

Our God devastates our little kingdoms to give us an inheritance in His greater kingdom.

Our God pursues us when we run and gently holds us until we are still, resting in His embrace.

Our God redeems.

Our God restores.

Be still.

When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy!

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 the Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control, my 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 the each of them.

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

The morning light came and with it was evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to my cries, 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 I cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to the truth again and again as a reminder!

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 “tweet” over my phone from Kevin DeYoung, “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 He had me recall, “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 “tweeted.” “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.  And before that, 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 opened a devotion.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!  Another grin.  “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!”

“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 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 that I knew I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice.

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

God is More Than Able

IMG_7150

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

God is able.  We know that.  We don’t doubt it.  We want our lives to reflect a deep assurance in Jesus so that others will know the God in Whom we trust.  And yet, there are times we forget and allow our fears to overtake what we know and step off our firm foundation to a place of shifting sand.

It’s so easy to trust, when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and when we “feel” His presence.  But when the winds shift and the waves get wild, too often we shift our gaze inward to self or outward to circumstances and we falter.

Can’t we, at times, relate to Peter, the disciple who boldly declared his allegiance to the Savior, yet later ran in fear when asked if he knew Him?  It wasn’t his intention, but in the moment he hesitated.  He had moments of both trust and the lack thereof throughout his life.

In Matthew 14, he boldly declared his faith by looking intently at the Savior and, thus, was able to walk out to Him on the water when Jesus said, “Come.”  But when Peter began to focus on the raging storm around him, taking his eyes off Jesus and putting them on what he could see, he began to sink.  It was Jesus who had to save him when all he could do was cry out; just as He is faithful to do for us when we call out in our weakness.

God lovingly commands His children to keep our eyes on Him – yes, because He is worthy and yes, because He is good!   But it is also because God knows that we are only steadfast, confident, and able to stand firm when our eyes are completely fixed on Him through His Word, the Bible, and our daily, even minute to minute, communication with Him through prayer.

These aren’t legalistic rituals or “spiritual” exercises to soothe the soul on the service. Rather, it is time to climb into the lap of our Abba Father, our Savior, our Comforter and to rest instead of wrestle; to put our confidence in the hope that is grounded in a Person not a “wish upon a star” philosophy devised by man.

It might be a designated time or an impromptu moment of praise, an outpouring of our pain or doubt, or a humble moment of repentance when His Spirit convicts our hearts and we must set our sin aside so we can again firmly walk in truth.  When we are in relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ, we can come at any moment – He desires it and beckons us to it.

God loves for us to bring Him praise, unburden our hearts, pour out our fears, and lay ourselves bare before the God who knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves.  When we don’t understand the circumstances around us, we have a Father who is not afraid of our questions and who even allows us to ask “why.”  But then He tells us to trust in what we cannot see rather than demand that He change our situations or readjust His will and His ways to suit ours.  We are called, as children, to open hands; to a humility that says, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord.”

And, we are invited to a greater hope and purpose that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)  Many cling to that verse as if it is quick fix – that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will do whatever we want Him to do.  But it is so much richer and more redeeming than this short-sighted view.

The paradox is that if we truly grow in our delight of the LORD – if we earnestly seek Him and know Him – our desires will be transformed to reflect His desires, our wills will be changed to want His will.  In so doing, we will receive the double satisfaction of having a heart after our Redeemer and He, in turn, will fulfill His renewed purposes and our redefined desires.  Through it all, He gets the glory and we receive the joy!

We see the chaos; He sees where He has said, “this far and no further.”  We often miss seeing the mercy and grace in situations, but make no mistake, everything that touches us is full of both, even when we don’t see or feel it.

Our covenant keeping God sees the full picture clearly from start to finish.  We see only where we stand in a moment’s time and even that imperfectly.  If we will trust the heart of the One who, in His great love for us sent His Son to redeem us and make us His own, we can rest, even give Him praise, in the middle of the moments that sometimes rock our world,  the daily grind of the ordinary, or the difficult life situations that are part of our everyday, because we know that what He does and what He allows has a greater purpose now and in the future.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.  If we have God’s say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways!” 

And again, Chambers states it so clearly,“Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.” (from Love: A Holy Command)

Yes, He is preparing to do exceptional things even as He is already doing in the present.  Indeed, he is doing much in and through us, though we may not yet touch that reality and though we may, at times, hold up open hands through tears!  We know that because, as we look back, we can often say, “Now I see what God was doing all along and it was flawless!”

Through it all – past, present, and future – He gets the glory and that’s just how it should be because He is more than able; He is good!  And that is not dependent on His answer!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus…”  Hebrews 12:1-2

MAKE MY LIFE A PRAYER TO YOU  by Keith Green

Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what You want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave, through Your Son, You sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair, It comforts me to know You’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank You now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live
And share the hope you gave to me, the love that set me free.
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head –
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

 

And When You Have Done All…Stand

Recently, I found something that I wrote several years ago in the midst of some very difficult situations facing our family at the time.  In light of heartache and loss in our family once again, the tragedies so rampant in the news this week, and pain within many dear friends’ families, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as generations before, in need of truth and actual hope.  That one hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty of our sin but also from its power, our guilt, our fear, our pain, and our limitations.  It is not always a physical freedom, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.

What has caused me to face sorrow without despair is the knowledge of and my relationship to the One who holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and my good; not always “good” as we define it but as it is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that sift as only He can.  For He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!

His Word upholds me because it is not just “nice little sayings”  that can be framed and hung on a wall to make me feel good for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows me to hobble along.  It is rock solid truth on which I can “hang” my very life and which causes me to walk steadfast, to stand and, when I have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ.

We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just for us and, when our steps are trembling, our God Who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady as He reminds us of His very good and precious promises.  (2 Peter 1:4)

Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping that lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady as Gracia Burnham remembers and relates below:

How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?

‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well. “On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately.“Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. “We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.

Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’

We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).“One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.)“ ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”?’ (Ephesians 1:3)

We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’

(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year.  I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Delight and Desires

Longings.  Sometimes the intensity of them brings tears and great anxiety.  We long for their fulfillment, but most of all, we long for rest.

A hunger for relationship or the restoration of a broken one.  A desire to see physical healing.  A deep yearning to be parents or, as parents, to get past or at least hold on and thrive in the “grunge” moments; or at our deepest longing, to see our children “walking in the truth.”

Or it could be for a situation to be more comfortable, a new job, a different home, a move.

Sometimes our longings are for things temporal and sometimes for things eternal; but each bring their own angst until we lay them down before our God Who sees.  He is not unaware of them; He knows us better than we know ourselves so we can honestly pour them out before the One who so loves us and takes vast joy in fulfilling our desires according to His good will for His glory and our best!

Psalm 37:4 reminds us, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  So often I have heard and myself been tempted to shape that as a “gimme” promise – that if I will delight in the Lord, follow Him well, “do” for Him, and give Him great praise then He will meet my every need according to MY wishes!

Oh, even writing that makes my heart cringe because, in that line of thinking, I am demanding that God do what I ask and fulfill every desire of my heart regardless of His will or the consequences.  I am implying, in a sense, that my wisdom exceeds His.

As I look back on my life, how thankful I am that He withheld many of the then “desires of my heart” for a greater outcome I had not yet known!  His protection and His greater good for and deeper knowledge of me than I have of myself has time and again proven to be my true satisfaction!

Often we miss the nugget of truth within that verse.  For, if we truly delight ourselves in the Lord, we and our desires will be changed.  If we are growing in our knowledge and love for the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have His grace and peace and our greatest joy will be His desires for us.

No doubt there are times we humble ourselves before the Lord, we lay our requests before Him, and He says, “Yes, I will answer just as you ask; I will give you that desire exactly as you requested right now!”  At times, His answer may be almost identical to our longing; while, at other times, He fulfills it in a different way than we imagined and answers with a “Yes, but better!” or a “Wait, my child.”  But there is also that moment, as we grow in our enjoyment of Him, that He changes us and causes our wants to match His.  Indeed, there we find that our delight and our desires are one with His and we stand amazed at how He has given us His heart and brought us to rest in that!

And, yet there are situations that  require a submitted heart in the midst of circumstances that will never make sense this side of heaven.  We will have questions that are not answered and issues  that may remain burdensome.  It is at those times that we cry out for the Lord to give us a trusting heart in spite of what we see, feel, and experience.

Sometimes we will relax and never again strive for that which we once held so dear, but then there are other times we will have to lay it on the altar again and again, even daily, as a sacrifice of praise and allow Him to bring that peace that comes from delighting in His desires and timing for us.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

Cries of the Heart…part 2

In the past several days I have had conversations with several different people of various ages who are struggling with their own difficult situations.  They trust God for their lives but wrestle with the emotions – fear, anger, hurt.  The question of whether to squelch those emotions and not take them to the throne of grace or to lay their hearts before the God of all comforts asking Him to remind them of His presence and letting Him bring a supernatural peace was evident with each word.

At times, I think each of us have been there.  Our commitment to and love for Christ compels us to believe His best for us, but our emotions, often so raw, cry out with questions.

As I have written in another blog, there are times we feel like saying as the father of the young boy in Mark 9 said, “I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.”  But sometimes the enemy of our souls wants to make us think we cannot share that with God; we cannot let Him hear our heart’s cry.  How far from the truth that is!

Our reactions are not a surprise to God. He knows our needs, our frailties, and our fears.  And He longs for us to nestle in the arms of our Abba Father, our Daddy God, and be refreshed and renewed.  Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we can boldly go to Him with our pain, not in defiance, but in humility and in assurance.

Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

When we read the Psalms, we find that often David fearlessly poured out his soul to God, and God calls him a man after His own heart.  He laid bare his fears, his sin, and his anger at circumstances and injustices, crying out to the Father to be heard and longing to hear, see, and experience His presence. David acknowledged his questions and what disturbed him; but, in the end, David gave God praise and trusted in His control.  He knew, as in Psalm 5:3, that he could approach the throne of grace with assurance that God would hear and respond, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

In Dr. Ralph Davis’ book, “The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, Psalms 1-12” (a book which spoke volumes to me and which I highly recommend), he refers often to this pattern of David’s life: to acknowledge the cries of his heart and then give God praise, resting in the truth of who God is!

In Psalm 3, David cried out “Yahweh, how many are my foes!  How many are rising up against me!”  But as Dr. Davis points out,

      “In the middle of his mess, [David] is saying [in verse 3], ‘I know my God.’  In face of the threats and ruckus and theological opinions of his enemies, David turns his eyes to his protecting, sufficient, restoring, accessible God.  The God-centeredness of his gaze keeps him steady while his enemies try to decide what precise level of scum he is.”  Psalm 3:3 – “But You, Yahweh, are a shield around me, my glory and the One who lifts my head.”

 Again, in Psalm 6, David pours out the “agony he knows.”  In essence, David often says in the Psalms, either directly or indirectly, “How long, O Lord?”  Dr. Davis writes,

     “…the problem of time contributes to his agony.  This is one of our perennial problems with God’s ways.  We have our calendar. We have figured out how long we can hold out.  And somehow Yahweh allows our urgent deadlines to pass.  Why?  David’s ‘How long?’ means: How long will you allow this to go on?  Why don’t you intervene and give me relief?  Why does He wait?  Why does He hold off?  When we say God will intervene sooner or later, why does it always seem to be later?  Our troubles, it seems, are as much with God as with our circumstances.”

But then Dr. Davis reminds us that David settles his heart on the character of God.  David “is resting on Yahweh’s character, in the sort of God he has declared himself to be…[the God of covenant love, ‘hesed, the devoted love that pledges never to let go of us’].  Sometimes this is your only stay in trouble…”   And though nothing has changed in that one moment, he presses in on truth that sustains his hope, “For Yahweh has heard the sound of my weeping!  Yahweh has heard my plea for grace!  Yahweh will accept my prayer!” (vv 8-9)

As we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in our lives and grow in our love and knowledge of Him through His written word, the Bible, we also mature in our understanding of His heart and the freedom we have to lay bare all that we are before Him – even our cries.

God points us to the Psalms to remind us that it is what He allows, even desires of His children.  He knows our hearts even better than we do ourselves, but He delights when we ask and expect Him to respond, to draw near to us.  He is the God of all comforts and He delights in us drawing near to Him so that He, in turn, draws near, holding us close regardless of our circumstances and our questions.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Love this song by Josh Wilson –  A great reminder that when we can’t stand on our shifting sand, He carries us!

Lyrics:

I try to catch my breath
It hasn’t happened yet
I’m wide awake in the middle of the night scared to death
So I prayed God, would You make this stop
Father please hold on to me, You’re all I’ve got

Carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I’m ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now
God carry me, carry me, carry me now

Jesus calm my heart
Come near me please
Lord don’t let these worries get the best of me
Oh I believe, that You’re still here with me
Cause You meant what You said when You said You’d never leave

So carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I’m ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now
God carry me, carry me, carry me now

Carry me
God carry me
Carry me
God carry me

I’m at the end of myself
I know I’ve got nothing left
Feels like I’m stuck in the valley of the shadow of death
And I’ve been down here so long
I just can’t find my way out
Oh God I don’t stand a chance
Unless You carry me now
God carry me now

Carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I’m ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now
God carry me, carry me, carry me now

Carry me now
Carry me now
Carry me now

It’s A New Day

It seems that in recent days, there have been a lot of difficult circumstances for those I love.  And there have certainly been tragedies in the weather and by way of other’s actions that we hear daily.   A tornado in Hattiesburg, MS, a snow storm in the eastern part of the United States, political turmoil, a life taken in anger, an unborn life taken out of fear, bodies wearing down from disease or age, discouragement from life circumstances, lost jobs, consequences of our own choices, a broken heart from betrayal – all are evidence of a fallen world and of fallen people.

My heart has grieved with each story that has been brought to me and I have taken every one of them to the Lord.  I have been tempted to say, “I wish I could do more; I wish I could fix ‘it.’”  Last night was no exception.  But He gently reminds me that when I lay them before the throne of the Almighty God, it is not the “least” I can do but the very best.   For as Zechariah 4:6 says, “it is not by my might or my power but by His Spirit” that healing begins, continues, and finds its fullness.

I woke this morning and God, in His goodness, put a new song in my heart (Psalm 40:3)!  He pointed me back to the hope that I have in Christ!  Sometimes He changes circumstances and sometimes He chooses to allow the situations but changes us in the midst of them.  I am still to pray and where I can, put forth action; but, ultimately, true healing will be found for all who need it only in a relationship with the living God through the work of Jesus!

And, even in the midst of the “hard,” our God’s mercy is evident, His glory revealed!

***   ***   ***

“It’s a New Day,” has been in my head, on my heart, and welling in my soul this morning reminding me that, regardless of the circumstances, I am alive in Him and no circumstance can change that.  It is not only a future hope but a joyful celebration of the present certainty!

It’s A New Day by Kristian Stanfill

It’s a new day!

Everything  changed when Your love came into the darkness and You sent the light of the Son.
You sent the light of the Son.
Wake up, open your eyes, no longer dead, we are alive!
Rise up children of light. Open the doors. Go let it shine!
There is freedom in Your kingdom.
For You Jesus, we will be dancing, forever Your joy is our song.
Song for the broken – let it shine!  Into the shadows – let it shine!
Hope for the whole world – let it shine!

One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill

Higher than the mountains that I face

Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
Because on and on and on and on it goes.
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.
And I never, ever, have to be afraid.
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid; there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.
Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.

Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Cries of the Heart

There are times we cry.

Yes, we long for and delight in tears of joy, but what of the moaning of the heart?  Tears may be tender and quiet; at other times they come almost violently, physically draining – weeping of deep sorrow.  The grieving may come from the physical pain of illness, loss of life, the betrayal of a friend or a loved one, the death of a dream, watching a loved one wrestle and drift, the waiting that does not fit our time table, or a myriad of other reasons.

Great joy does not always exclude sorrow.  There are times my greatest joy has come from my deepest sadness and loss when it meant that God had torn away something that was not for my ultimate best.  At other times, the profound sorrow led to a deeper understanding of and dependence on my tender Savior.  He has often turned my “mourning into dancing.”  (Psalm 30:11)

Seasons of life have arisen when my own compromise with that which I know God had called me to or away from was made to extend my comfort.  But no lasting comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure comes from being the prodigal – either running to the far country or just outside the walls of His protection.  Tears that flow from leaving behind something that was not His best or was totally contrary to His heart are dried in the reality of the sure hope that my God knows what is the most excellent path for me and will bring it to completion if I will just surrender and trust.  His course may not always be easy, but it is, ultimately, the most pleasant.  It may not come with immediate relief, but He does promise the “still rest” as we remain steadfast waiting for our faith to become sight.  And, oh that amazing view!  But even if it never becomes sight this side of heaven, it will be worth the surrender of my will.

The cries of the heart often stem from the longings with which we were created and which, when fulfilled, will be satisfied – but only partially here.   As glorious, pleasing, and satisfying as they are now and will be in this life, they are only dim reflections of things we cannot even imagine!  They are gifts that delight from the hand of our good and gracious God, intended to point us to a greater love, a grander gift, a deeper joy!

“Now we see through a glass dimly…but then we will see (clearly) face to face…now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)

Will I allow the cries of my heart to be dried by the hand of my Redeemer and King as I rest in the hope of a greater promise?

“And in Your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like…character.” -Sara Groves

Snow Day…All Things New

DSC_0510 highlight
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!

DSC_0491 8 x 10                   DSC_0489 5 x 7

                                               DSC_0487 5 x 7

“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 desires 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 my 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 admitting 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 bring before Him.

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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 and, in the process, encourage another?  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 He 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 or who wants to share their own journey that we might “mutually encourage” each other!

BLOG PHOTOS road journey Ready Set Live 
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.