Saturday, June 4, 2011
Like from proverbs, I'm trying to think how to practically make my ear attentive to wisdom and incline my heart to understanding.
Which leads me to think about Jesus, especially the earlier years of his life that aren't mentioned much. Primarily, I'm speaking about Luke 2:52, which says, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." At Kanakuk and Kids Across America, this is known as the Four Square Life.
Now, I'm pretty practical and logical when it comes to problem-solving. I identify the question, and then I look for the answer and act on it. My question is this: what practical ways can I grow like Jesus?
So, also being a goal-oriented person, I've set some goals for myself for this summer so I can better and more effectively serve the Lord on a daily and consistent basis.
Based on Luke 2:52, rearranged to fit my personal priorities:
1) in favor with God - spending at least 20 minutes of solid, solitary, unobstructed prayer time each day, in addition to time in the Word. For this, I don't want to get too caught up on the amount of time and run the risk of becoming legalistic with it, but I am aiming for quality.
2) in favor with man - intentionally serve one of my fellow staff members, outside of the people in our office, as well as write someone from back home each day. I have to be careful and pray for God to keep me humble in this as well. The purpose of gaining favor with men is to allow God to open doors for his glory through that, and I know myself well enough to know that I'll need to keep a careful eye and a check on my motives in gaining favor in the eyes of others, because it's definitely not about me.
3) in wisdom - memorize the book of James. In my quest to figure out how exactly to incline my heart to wisdom, the Lord has shown me that hiding his word in my heart is a great place to start.
4) in stature - do 10 pull-ups by the end of the summer, be able to swim butterfly well again, and run a 10k (in the Missouri mountain-hills, mind you) in 55 minutes. Working out here is becoming one of my favorite ways to pass the time. This area is so beautiful, and I love to go off and explore new running routes. Also, my office is full of guys who like to work out and are all on board with helping me train to meet my goals. Especially the 10 pull-ups. Garrett, Thomas, Zach, and Billy are all keeping me accountable, giving me pointers and schedules and exercises to do. It's so fun!
So those are my overall summer goals. More than anything, my prayer is that after this time of growing and stretching and challenging, I'll come out on the other side looking more like Jesus.
Monday, May 30, 2011
We are God's workmanship. He is the artist. We are his masterpiece. How blessed it is to have the privilege to be molded by the beautiful hands of the Father.
Let's take a look at the clay. What kind of clay is easier to work with - dry or wet? Even if you have never seen it done, that's a simple question to answer. Of course wet clay will be better to mold, to form into the perfect vessel meant for a specific purpose.
So if we're the clay, and we truly desire to be used by God, we must remain wet. Clay dries quickly, so a one time flood isn't enough. It's a daily bath, a constant stream, consistent immersion in the Lord. If we really want to be a vessel that the Lord can shape and mold, spending time with him, soaking in him, is vital.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I try to imagine what it would be like to be there. To have known Jesus as a man. To have watched his ministry first-hand. To have seen him killed on the cross. To have witnessed the resurrection. To have him appear to me, the God-man, alive again.
But what about this day, the in-between? Jesus was dead, but not yet risen. Did the disciples mourn? Did they have trouble sleeping? Did they wake up sick with the realization that he was gone? And what about Mary, and Mary Magdalene? They were at the tomb, waiting, when Joseph brought Jesus' body. Did they sit in silence as the stone was rolled, sealing off the one they loved? Did they cry? Did they finally pull themselves together and walk home for the Sabbath? Did any of them have doubts about his true identity as the Son of God?
I wonder sometimes why none of the gospel authors wrote much about this haunting day. Like it almost didn't exist. I bet it was eerie. I bet the emotions were perhaps some of the most devastating in history. The confusion. The heartache. The emptiness.
Praise be to the Father that he did not leave us there.
I imagine what it would be like to see my PawPaw again, sometimes. I was very young when he died, not even four. Death made his grand entrance into my life in a hospital room in Montgomery, AL. I remember him so clearly, so vividly. What would it be like to see him alive again, in this life? I imagine that feeling, and then multiply it by infinity.
Jesus is alive. Jesus did rise. How do I know? I see him, everywhere. My relationship with him has changed me in ways no other relationship has or ever could. He is the joy of my life. He is the peace that calms my storms. He is the husband, always faithful.
I thank God that his plans are always bigger than my vision. That's the theme, from creation to Jesus to now. And these plans are always better than my hopes. I fight for rest in that, when anxieties pile and doubts rear their ugly heads.
2,000 years ago today, in the midst of such turmoil, God was planning the greatest victory of all time. He was abolishing my sins from the past, present, and future. He was preparing the way for Christ's righteousness to be credited to me so that I would no longer live under the yoke of slavery and law, but live free and fully alive under the freedom of Jesus.
What makes me think that God, in his constancy, his devotion to his glory, wouldn't always seek the greatest victory from every darkness? That's his nature - that's who he is. No matter where I am, God is working things for good. He IS goodness. We see this most clearly in the resurrection.
I celebrate. I weep. I fall to my knees in thanksgiving. This weekend means life. And I want it, to the full.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I'm sick of it! Sick of his lies, sick of his cunning. It frustrates me most that he's watched me so closely and knows me so well that it works! I believe him, too often.
But I'm done. God help me, I will not take that bait anymore.
My friend came over two nights ago, essentially unannounced, and found me in a bad state. I've been walking through a valley for the past few weeks, and I was pretty bummed. He came in and sat with me and listened to me talk for a while. And then he spoke - and when he did I heard the voice of the Lord. Let me pause here for a moment. My recent prayers have been pleadings to God that he would no longer hide his face from me. When my friend came over unexpectedly and began to speak truth, I was so romanced... by God! It was a very personal thing for me. He knew exactly what I needed, and he provided it to me so clearly, in the form of this sweet man!
Moving on, I want to share some of his wisdom. Not long ago, he found himself in a valley as well. He'd read a lot of the same psalms I've been reading, he was at a low point, but he offered me the following, some precious trinkets of encouragement:
First of all, even in the psalms, like Psalm 13, when David is crying out, asking how long the Lord will turn away from him, that in the end... he rejoices. He praises God because of the joy of his salvation. The worst evil is not the pain in my circumstance, but rather separation from God - and I am saved from that! The loving kindness of God is still as powerful.
Second of all, it's easy to get caught up in what's going on in my own life - the hardships, the affliction, whatever - and forget about everything else. But that's never how we're called to live. I should be a servant, in every circumstance. I'm not good at that. I tend to give my stinky circumstances permission to run rampant. I'm learning to remind myself that situations don't dictate my joy, God's calling on my life, nor my identity. I'm learning to reclaim the ground that's been taken from me, in the name of the Lord.
And here's the biggest thing, the thing that hit home: not allowing circumstances to steal my joy. This is my battle. This is where I've been asking the Lord to fight for me. This is where I've been claiming Exodus 14:14, which says, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." My friend explained it this way: when you value something, you can often times subconsciously allow your heartstrings to intertwine little by little into this thing. And when this thing goes up - well, you do, too, and all is well. But when this thing goes down, you fall along with it. Sometimes our low points come when the Lord has to clip those heartstrings away from things where they don't belong. Which is everything, minus one. The only One who deserves all of our affections, all of our devotion, all of our heartstrings, the fountain of all of our joy. Sometimes, he must clip them away before they have time to really take hold, in order to protect us from future pain. And yes, it is painful, but it must be done.
I guess this valley has been a rebuilding process for me. I've had my heartstrings clipped, but they are where they belong. They might sting a little, and I'm still being tested daily. But my heart will sing no other name than Jesus. It takes the fire to get us here, sometimes. But what a precious place to be. In the beatitudes, we see certain circumstances that Jesus calls blessed. They are blessed because they have nothing else to hold on to. They are at the end of their ropes. THAT, my friends, THAT place is where we encounter God for real. THAT is the blessing.
So, I don't know if, at the end of this journey, the things that I valued will still be there for me to delight in again, while still keeping all of my heartstrings wrapped around my God, or if there will be new joys gifted to me. Either way, I know that in the end, I will love him more, and what a treasure that is.
Monday, April 11, 2011
"Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can't see it. So quietly submit to be painted, i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk - don't keep on looking at it." -C.S. Lewis
Saturday, April 9, 2011
What does that even mean?
I don't have a whole lot of answers, but I know what the Lord is teaching me, so I'll start there.
The topic of God's will has been a huge thing in my life the past few months (hence several of my recent posts). Am I in it? Do I know it? Can I find it? And then I realized all the questions I'd been asking concerning his will made it lots about ME, and not as much about his power. So, I talked to a friend, and he asked me several questions and really helped me to understand a few of the ways I'd been looking at it wrong. Let's look at scenario A. Imagine a straight line as "God's Perfect Will for My Life." Now, my view has always been: stay on the straight line, if you make a mistake and veer at any point, well, you're out of God's will and now he has to do certain things to bring you back. In this case, God is reactive. In this case, an imperfect person is being asked to follow a perfect plan. How well does that work out?
Now, onto scenario B. God in his foreknowledge and omnipotence saw each of my missteps from the beginning of creation and instead of punishing me for them by asking me to follow a perfect will anyway, he's proactive, not reactive. He orchestrates his perfect will for my life around those "mistakes" (now let's put them in parentheses) because he is sovereign. Sovereign - he rules supreme. How much more does that magnify him and his power? Like in every other situation of interaction between God and man - Jesus coming to earth being the prime example - GOD COMES TO US. He meets us where we are.
And so that leads me back to this idea of freedom. Having my eyes opened to this truth, how much more does that free me to walk unchained? If I really believe this in my life, my decisions, I'll be a lot less paralyzed by the "what-ifs" and a lot more free to live as I've been intended to. This is not a do-whatever-the-heck-I-want-to-because-God-already-knows-about-it card that I get to play whenever I want now. We've been given the Holy Spirit, with his convictions, for a reason. Sin is always contrary to God. More of what I mean is, if I'm not sure of God's leading 100% but I am faithful to pursue him and listen to his voice in me, I have no fear of the steps that I take, if they're "right" or "wrong". It means, to an extent, I trust my emotions (after all, they make great servants, though terrible masters). "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). Yes, still be intentional about seeking God's will. "Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure" (Proverbs 4:26). But also know this: "For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths" (Proverbs 5:21). God is all the more intentional. This means even though I don't know much, I walk in what I do know and God will take it from there.
So what do I know? Well, for starters, I do know for certain that God wants us to be in communion with him, always. He wants us to love him first, then love others. He wants us to pursue holiness as Christ was holy. He wants us to be his hands and feet. So, the working out of my salvation, my freedom, is doing these things and trusting God with the rest.
There have been times when I've had to make a decision, not certain one way or the other what was "right". I trust that God knows best. If God wants me going the direction I've chosen, I believe he will affirm me in that. If he doesn't, I still believe ultimately his plan includes my decision, and he's worked it so that I learn things along the way that he wants me to know, as he puts circumstances in my life to take me the direction he wants. But it's not in vain. That maximizes the glory he receives, and makes it all for my good as well. And isn't that what he said he's after anyway? Don't we all know Jeremiah 29:11? Time to start believing it!
But let's not stop there. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Friends, God wants to be found. Sure, sometimes he may choose to be mysterious or aloof for a time to cultivate faithfulness, but in the fullness of his timing, he wants to be found. Jesus speaks to his disciples in Matthew 10:26, saying, "Have no fear, nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." God speaks through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 42 verse 16: "And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know; in paths that they have not known, I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them." God wants to be known. We are made in his image, and what is one of our greatest desires? To be known! To have another know us completely and understand us. I believe God is that way, too. And that reassures me in times when I feel like I don't know a thing. To know that the darkness will become light for me to see allows my heart to rest in his faithfulness.
I also must trust in his timing. Again in Isaiah, in chapter 48 God speaks this:
You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.' You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
God reveals things to us at the right time, when he knows we're ready. More freedom can be found here. Instead of trying to manipulate the things around us, we are free to live unbound when we know and believe that God will meet our needs, give us all that we need - physically and spiritually - at just the right time.
Oh, how I crave this freedom! And it is mine! It has been gifted to me through the sacrifice of my brother, my husband, Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!
How will it change your life to truly walk and live in the freedom that Christ offers? Not bound to anything of the law, but locked onto God and his promises? Don't waste any more time - breathe in deeply this LIBERTY like you were always created to!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
O God Most High, Most Glorious,
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but thou are for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ's precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great Shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence,
sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I'm doing the Relentless Acts of Justice through World Vision for lent this year. This week we are called to be vulnerable. As part of my challenge to myself, I've decided to share something with whoever reads this. Something personal.
In my time with the Lord yesterday, reflecting on the goals I've set for myself this lenten season, I realized something. I have always had a deep desire to be in the will of God. I've claimed that as the object of my ambition time and again, and yet... it dawned on me. I don't want to be in God's will because I want His best in my life. My desire isn't spurred on by the hope for utmost glory to God. No... no. My desire to be in God's will is out of fear. Fear that otherwise, I'll miss something. Fear that not being in His will means that my life won't be as "happy" as it could be.
When I realized this, I broke down. For the past month or so, I've felt very poor in spirit... which is something I'd been praying for, but what that feeling brings with it is more than I bargained for. Nonetheless, I've been humbled time and again, and even when I don't feel like pursuing God, even when I want to give up, I can look and see Him, every single step of the way. Loving me even though I'm a failure. Pursuing me even when there is nothing desirable about me.
And still, is my desire for Him actually hiding a desire for ME? I hope that isn't true, but I know that sometimes, it is. I should want to be in God's will, each moment, each breath, not because of what good it brings me, but because of the way it will glorify God.
So, about three hours after I had this come-to-Jesus, I get an email from a woman at Brook Hills. I applied about a month ago for an internship with this church, a position I wanted very badly. Turns out, they never received my application and have already made their selections.
This isn't God saying, "Nope, sorry, Leigh... better luck next time." Rather, it's Him gently whispering, "Beloved, trust me. I have plans for your life so much better than your own. Allow me to glorify myself in you, and then you will truly live." It's silly, but I have to remind myself often that God does love me. I think sometimes in my mind I try to make God human, and so I expect Him to stop loving me when I mess up. But God is GOD. Therefore His love is perfect. Therefore nothing I do or don't do will make Him love me more or less. Therefore He never stops seeking to perfect the work He has begun in me... no matter my flaws. Just because I've fallen short of Him by obeying selfishly doesn't mean He's throwing in the towel.
Even more, I'm cognizant of the fact that God is omnipotent AND omnipresent. He's all-powerful, always present. Not just in OUR present, but all places at all times. Therefore, He doesn't just know the future - He's there. And He sees everything I don't, on a much grander scale than I could ever fathom. His sovereignty is so far-reaching... to the ends of the earth and the depths of my heart. My sorry little outline of the life I think I want pales in comparison to the role God has me playing in His story. So a turn I don't understand from my point of view is perfect on God's map.
It reminds me of the verse, Romans 8:28:
Where I am now is a place of total humility, recognizing that God's plan is divine and mine is not, His will is sovereign and mine is not, my life is His, not my own. And I've just got to keep learning, by the power of the Holy Spirit, how to live out this faith that I profess, minute by minute and day by day.
God, you are all-powerful, almighty, gracious and wrathful. You hold all things together and you work all things for good. Please give me a teachable heart, that I might learn to follow you not out of fear but out of joy. Joy that you have chosen me to play a small role in the great story of your renown. I love you.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
"God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better."
"This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness."
"The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment. 'If a man will let himself be lost for My sake,' Jesus said, 'he will find his true self.' A Christian woman's true freedom lies on the other side of a very small gate---humble obedience---but that gate leads out into a largeness of life undreamed of by the liberators of the world, to a place where the God-given differentiation between the sexes is not obfuscated but celebrated, where our inequalities are seen as essential to the image of God, for it is in male and female, in male as male and female as female, not as two identical and interchangeable halves, that the image is manifested."
"God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to."
"Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next."
"Often a Christian man or woman falls prey to that cruel and vexatious spirit, wondering how to find marriage, who, when, where? It is on God that we should wait, as a waiter waits--not for but on the customer--alert, watchful, attentive, with no agenda of his own, ready to do whatever is wanted. 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.' (Ps. 62:5 KJV) In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and resistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love, and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms, will find strength and peace."
"Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands."
"Choices will continually be necessary and -- let us not forget -- possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them."
"Loneliness comes over us sometimes as a sudden tide. It is one of the terms of our humanness, and, in a sense, therefore, incurable. Yet I have found peace in my loneliest times not only through acceptance of the situation, but through making it an offering to God, who can transfigure it into something for the good of others."
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in my mountains of sin, I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.
Over Thanksgiving break, I went to Guatemala and served for the week in an orphanage, Casa Bernabé. My friend and co-worker from last summer, Hamp, and I met our friend McKenzie at SIFAT in July when she was home visiting. See, she's from Louisiana, but she works/lives full time at the orphanage in Guatemala. So, she invited us to come down, and although I don't know if she actually thought we would, we made the plans!
I fell in love with the place. The kids, the staff, other volunteers, the land.
But the purpose of me writing is not to talk about my time there or my desire to one day go back. I met a guy named David, who is also from New Orleans and was the one who invited McKenzie to Casa Bernabé for the first time. Well, David needs your prayers. This is from his profile and explains the situation better than I can, so see for yourselves:
“I arrived at Casa Bernabé (orphanage where I have been living for a while now).
One day I went to the baby house here at the orphanage. One of the American girls who was watching the infants had her hands full. She asked me to take one of the crying babies into my arms. She handed me this small little girl and I just remember staring at that little face filled with tears and wishing that I could make her laugh and stop crying. After a few minutes she stopped. I asked what her name was and they said, “Her name is Juliet.”
Since that day, I have watched Juliet grow up. I have had the chance to spend time her everyday. I have taught her to be tough. She knows not cry when she falls down, she gets right back up and brushes herself off. She is intelligent. She is beautiful. She is brave. She isn’t scared of dogs. She loves riding in my car. She loves to laugh. She loves it when I throw her up in the air as high as I can. She loves going on walks with me. She loves when I carry her but knows that she needs to walk on her own too. She wears Saints shirts. She won’t let anyone but me hold her when I’m around. She cries when I leave the house. She is funny. She watches movies with me. She isn’t scared to play with the big boys in the house. She loves playing with sticks. She loves to swing. She loves to give me kisses. She loves to love me.
Everything that Juliet loves, I love about her. She is my baby. Juliet is the most amazing gift that I have received in my life and she IS my daughter.
This Monday she will be going to a court case, which could possibly send her to live with an uncle in the family. I can’t give details but the truth is that it will not be good for her. It is a delicate situation.
The bottom line is, in the beginning, I didn’t choose Juliet. She chose me. She is my life. I can’t imagine my life without her. I can’t imagine not being able to protect her and care for her.
This Monday is a vital moment in our lives. We need your prayers. We need your voices raised to the One who will bring justice and fight for Juliet.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
When you find yourself longing for everlasting, complete happiness given from above, and long to depart from your tired soul so that you may see my glory, open your heart wide and drink in this holy inspiration. Give fullest thanks to the heavenly Goodness that treats with with descent from on high, visiting you Mercifully, stirring you up and powerfully lifting you up so that you will not fall down to earthly things by your own weight.
Daughter, the desires of some ablaze toward heavenly things, but yet they are not free from temptations of worldly affection. Do not ask what is delightful and profitable to you, but what is acceptable to Me and is for My Honor. I know your desire and have heard your grief. You long to enjoy liberty of the children of God and to be full of Joy. But that hour is not yet present. There still remains a time of fighting, labor, and trial.
It is I. Wait For Me. you must be tried on this earth and tested by many things. You must put on the new self. You must often do what you do not want to do, and leave undone what you would prefer to do. When others succeed, you will not. Others will be praised, while you remain unnoticed. To others, this office will be committed, but you will be accounted fit for nothing. But consider, beloved, the fruit of your labor, how quickly the trials will end, and their great Reward. Rather you will have the solace to strengthen your patience.
One day, in heaven with Me, you will have all that you can desire. There you will have within reach all good, without fear of losing it. There, your will, always being with mine, will not want any outward or selfish thing. There, no one will resist you, hinder you, or stand in your way. All things you desire will be present to Replenish your love. But now, child, at present, Bow yourself humbly under it all. And let this be your constant desire, that whether in life or death, I may always be Glorified in you. Wait a little while, and bear this cross courageously; life everlasting is worthy of all these conflicts.
If you could only see the saints in heaven who are rejoicing now, who in times before were struggling before like you, truly you would quickly humble yourself to the ground, and not long for pleasant days in this life, but instead Rejoice to suffer distressing trials in My name. If you allow these things to sink deeply into your heart, how dare you complain even once? Should not all labors gladly be endured? It is no small thing to lose or gain sight of the kingdom of God. For what you love, you will take delight in. Lift your eyes and strengthen your weak knees, for the King of Glory will sustain you. Endure with steadfast hope in what I promise."
Let that truth seep into your heart and your mind. Even if you're hurting, even if your trial seems unbearable, take heart, have good courage, and remember that you serve a just and merciful God who loves you.
Monday, February 21, 2011
I think what's making it most difficult to not be angry with God right now is that following him has caused her this much pain. It's not everyday that you go running to someone who hurts you. What she has to remember, though, is that it isn't the Lord who is hurting her. He is testing her, making sure that when she says, "God, you are enough for me. You are all I need. Even if my hands are emptied of everything else, I am satisfied in you," that she means it.
God doesn't break us to leave us broken. He breaks us to rebuild and restore. He takes us through the fire so we can come out on the other side more holy. It just hurts to be broken, it burns to pass through fire.
Since she made this tough decision, she has been racked with doubt and uncertainty that is surely of the flesh. So not only must she trust God that what he called her to do was right, but she must trust him completely with her heart and her future. God knows best, that's what I tell her. And he knows the difference between good and best, when it comes to our lives and our future, and especially timing, even when we don't see it at all.
Someone once told me that our lives are like blankets on a loom. We can only see the underside - the one that isn't that beautiful, with the extra threads hanging all over the place and the knots visible. But God, the Crafter, works from the other side and sees the bigger picture, the masterpiece. Another friend told me recently that God is a Painter, and even when it looks like there's a mistake, a stray mark of paint or a wobble, that he uses it to make the finished product even more beautiful and more unique. After all, no two blankets or paintings are the same, are they?
My friend said one of the hardest things is not being able to physically feel God right now, in her time of suffering.
It's hard, isn't it? It would be so easy if God were sitting on the couch with us, holding our hand, walking us through our hard times while telling us audibly how much he cares about us and how special we are to him. But he doesn't do that.
I think maybe that it's more sanctifying for us and glorifying to him to put our faith in him without seeing him, trusting him when our human eyes are only capable of seeing this human world. But I heard a wise man say that the spiritual realm is so much more real than the meager world we're in. After all, we don't have a soul.. we ARE a soul. We just have a body. So for us to get beyond this world and trust in the other is very glorifying to God, and to him be all glory.
So, right now, she has a decision: to continue trusting God. She knows that he is strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Each morning she will wake up, renewed, trusting that the Lord will provide her daily bread. Just make it through each moment, and God will give her the faith and the courage and the strength that she needs then. In that moment. And then renew it for the next. She said she has to be careful of not looking too far ahead, and like Lot's wife, not looking back, but trusting God right now. Because he is enough. She is satisfied with her hands emptied of everything else, even if it doesn't always feel good. She sees some purpose in her suffering.
The most important thing in her life, she said, is that God is glorified. And while it's difficult to stick by that when it feels like her heart is crumbling into little pieces that maybe won't fit all back together the right way again, she is more certain than ever that the goal of her life is to see God's glory and make it known here on earth.
Because he is good. He is loving. He is working together for the good of those who love him.
He is enough.
And she knows that the purpose of running to him is not to get relief of her pain, to receive blessing after blessing, to get a glimpse of her future, or get strength not her own. The purpose of running to God is to get GOD. He is the prize.
Even in pain, even in suffering, even in heartache, HE IS THE PRIZE.
Friday, February 11, 2011
But, being a time of new beginnings, as I have always viewed the springtime, I have been so compelled to share a few thoughts.
1. The friends that I don't deserve.
2. The sun warming up the air today, although still not at a comfortable hammock temperature.
3. Music that stirs my heart and leads me to tears.
4. Watching friends plan weddings.
5. People I love in Spain, Guatemala, and Bolivia.
6. Diet Coke.
8. Cleanliness and organization.
9. Watching children play, and the affection in their small hands.
10. The smell of coffee in the morning.
11. Old friendships rekindling.
12. Letters in the mail.
13. Big smiles.
Anyone thinking, "Uhh.. #7? Do you mean, like.. Olympic time trials?"
Let me expound.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith producing perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Maybe we've read that a lot. I have, and yet, while I think I always said, "Yeah, James, so true. Let's still have joy even when times are hard," I'm not sure that I actually did. Or even understood it. Until now. And while I don't claim to understand completely or have anything figured out, because I don't, I do think the Spirit has enlightened me a little bit as to what that's really like.
Trials do two things for us. First of all, like James says, testing leads to perseverance leads to maturity. Hopefully, if we continue to seek the Lord in tough times, at the end of them, we'll look more like Jesus. And isn't that the goal of our lives? It's not always mine, that's certain, but it should be, and I try to make it be. Second of all, any comfort or ease or happiness that is sacrificed and laid at the feet of Jesus when we endure trials shouldn't even be considered a sacrifice, for what we are gaining - more of Jesus - is so much greater. Trials let us show the world that these earthly things are not our treasure, but Christ is.