Friday, October 02, 2009

Where I am Right now... another character building journey

"We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character." ~ Oswald Chambers

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
(Romans 5:1-5)

It's been a hard year But I'm climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's

Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember

And I feel you here And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful

It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like...

Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb
Less like dying, more like transcending
Less like fear, less like an ending

And I feel you here And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars

Just a little while ago I couldn't feel the power or the hope
I couldn't cope,
I couldn't feel a thing

Just a little while back I was desperate, broken, laid out,
hoping You would come
And I need you

And I want you here
And I feel you
And I know you're here

And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt

Look less like scars
And more like... Character

by Sara Groves from her album All Right Here

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Whenever I start doubting the day to day, I put this song on repeat and play it over and over until I'm solidly where I need to be again.

by Natalie Grant from her CD Relentless.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Life Verses... from where else? Lamentations.

I really am, if you know me at all, an optimistic and hopeful person. Over all. But I must admit that there are times that I get caught up in the hard stuff, and when I sit back and think about it, there have been some real moments of trial in my life, times of testing, going through a fire if you will. And sometimes, I've ended up a little bit (or a lot) bitter...regretful, but true.

But you know what? It always comes down to the lovely recall that my Savior is faithful. My God is the one true God, and in spite of my venting...fighting...shaking my fist at God, each and every morning he returns to me true, full of mercy, full of never ending love, always faithful.

And that knowing is why my life verses come from the oddes of places for a hopeful person, the book of Lamentations. I speak of the day that it became apparent that my the crux of what matters in my life were contained in these verses in this post. It's actually a sermon (sorry.) that I was privileged to preach when our much longed for daughter Bug was a month old. She came to us through a long and winding road that includes infertility and loss and adoption and on that morning we were celebrating her joining our family with our church family through a shower for our daughter. It really was glorious. And the song I chose to close the service was this one... Great is They Faithfulness.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions,
they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And that wasn't the first time we've used that song in celebration. Our wedding day we sang it together with the 400 and some family and friends who joined us for that amazing day. And since our wedding day, we've had this favorite hymn a part of the celebration of Bug and Si's dedication ceremonies, when we committed to raise them to love Christ, giving them back to God for His use. Because of what this song represents to me, I can't get through it ever without tears flowing, hands lifted in praise for I know He is faithful. He is. All I have needed His hand does provide.

And these verses from Lamentations are the crux of life for me. Where I end in my own attempts to keep up the hope, when I can't find peace, I needn't look further than the only One in whom we can find true HOPE... a faithful God whose mercies fall without measure, whose love is sure and endless.

When you start the book of Lamentations, it sure doesn't look like this is where it is going. The author of this book is definitely at the end of his rope. There's nothing, absolutely nothing that has happened in his (or her!) life that makes sense, that "feels" good, that seems right. And still, he/she gets to the point of nothingness... no joy... and...

Even at times when my soul can't find peace, when the happy stuff is hard to see from here, this ONE thing I call to mind and then I have HOPE... the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Your Faithfulness. The LORD is my portion. And therefore I will hope in Him." (From Lamentations 3)

from Sara Groves' CD Conversations

That is where my hope is found... wholly, solely in a God who loves me unfailingly, whose mercies cover my sins, my fears, my struggles, my life.

Sometimes hope can only be found in the end of knowing what it is to live without hope. Sometimes hope shines brighter when you've gone through the trial. Maybe that is what makes the trial, the something to lament about, worth it. I cling to that... and hope.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Fear? Jesus shows his storm-killing power.

One day Jesus got into a boat with his closest friends, the people who (supposedly) knew him best, and he said to them, "Let's go to the other side." So they started across the lake and while they were sailing, Jesus fell asleep. A huge windstorm swept across the lake, and the waves were fiercely beating the boat, which was filling with water faster than the disciples could get it out, and they were in danger. They went to where Jesus was sleeping quietly on a soft cushion, shouting and screaming "Master, we are dying here! Don't you care about us????" Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind, and shouted to the sea, "PEACE! BE STILL!" And then he turned to his beloved friends and said, "WHY ARE YOU AFRAID? Do you have so little faith in me?" They stood there in awe and in fear and said to each other, "Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?" (From Matthew, Mark and Luke)...

I forget, so easily forget in the middle of the storms in my life, that my Beloved Friend Jesus has power over the winds and the waves. He will never fail me, even when it seems he is sleeping through the worst of my pain. I believe always...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Fear? Even though I am powerless, He is Strength.

Have you not known or heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint.
He does not grow weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint.
He strengthens the powerless.
Even the youngest will faint and be weary...
even the young will fall exhausted.
But those who WAIT ~ HOPE ~ for the LORD, shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:27-31)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Speaking of Fear...

This series of posts has been in the works for a couple of years, really. For most of 2007 and early 2008, I spent an afternoon a week heading to see a Christian counselor in order to make sense of some of the things that had happened in my life. Regardless of how much faith I have in a "God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20), I struggle with an anger that sometimes scares me and often affects the most important relationships in my life.

And in this time of counseling, it became increasingly more clear that my anger had become a crutch to NOT deal with what was underneath.


Fear was underneath.

Fear of an uncertain future.

Fear for my kid's health.

Fear for my family's well-being.

Fear for what hard thing would be coming my way next.


Fear turned to an outpouring of anger that hurt those around me, and I couldn't...wouldn't let it keep happening. That time taught me so many things. Since my counselor was outwardly Christian, we could talk about how much of my anger was directed at God for fear of what HE would do next to us. The downside at times of being a follower of God is that you can grow to expect good things from him, and get lulled into the belief that obedience garners his favor. That surely if I am doing His work, with all that I've sacrificed to be His servant, surely his favor would be on us, and only good things would come our way.

And then they don't and unacknowledged disappointment can sometimes turn into a seething that breaks up the soul. And I was heading down that path, and it was plain scary. I could see life falling apart if I didn't get control ~ my first thought, although it was really healing and understanding I was looking for ~ of it... loss of relationship with the people I loved most ~ Hubby, my two precious kids, dear family, friends, even the God I serve ~ loss of comfort in not knowing myself, loss of hope for a future that has years of potential left, and so much more.

That seething... scary... sad... when faced to the truth that it was less about what I had felt others and God had done to me, but more about how fearful I was of the unknown that might be lurking around the next corner, or in the dark shadows ~ that seething became less my comfortable friend ~ living mad ~ and more the adversary I had to fight.

So I turned, as I have learned to do so many times in my life, but of course, fail to do often enough, to the Place with the Answers, my Bible, the Book where you can get to know God better to understand the "whys" and "whats" and other "w"s that mark the questioning life.

And in it I found word upon word and passage upon passage about what God thinks of fear. How God expects us to handle the fears we encounter in living in an uncertain world. And most importantly WHO GOD IS in the world and why that means we can live the fearless life.

Over and again, as I found hundreds* (literally!) of places where God addresses our fears, turth was revealed. In the end, fear, whether for my own safety or the safety of my family can be very real. But you can't live there. And even further, MOST of the time, my fear came from the possible growth that might happen if there were more hard circumstances to come in my life. I wanted to curl up and say "God, have we not done enough work in this area? What more do you ask of me?"

And in the end, the question, the only question that remained is this:

Do I not trust God, know him enough, to know he’s taking care of me?

His WORD reveals who He is to anyone who wants to know him. So what does the Bible ~ the whole of it ~ say about my fear, and who God is in the middle of a world that leaves me fearful. Who is God to me that I don’t have to fear?

After searching his Word to know God more it became clear that God doesn't just coddle us into trusting Him. He commands it. He demands us to trust him. And He ALWAYS says these things...


Be strong.

Have courage.

Be still.

Know me.

Seek me.

Trust me.

In these commands lay the hope for my future, one not laced with anger and fear but with optimisim and joy. It is truthfully the way I've been striving to live these last many months. It is a journey of healing, of seeing His Light, and learning again how God does have my best in mind, even through the hard stuff.

The next several entries will be just a tasting of the many passages that brought God's truth about fear to light for me. I hope they do for you as well.

*My Scripture search was very basic and didn't require the Seminary degree I have (although that came in handy). I started on a personal prayer retreat, opening my Bible to the concordance and listing all the passages found there. And in reading those passages, I found cross-referenced passages that led me to more and more verses on the topic. This is for me, how I truly begin to know and understand God, not by staying in the main stream (although many of the passages I am choosing to outline in this series are main stream) but seeing the stuff in the lesser known corners of the Bible alongside the lauded and well-loved passages. That's just a hint of how you might go about doing your own study on a "topic" you need to hear from God about.
Sometimes it is hard to feel like He is listening.

Does He hear? Does He care about the things that matter to me?

But in this doubt, it hits me time and again.
He has proven Himself true.
I can trust the Unseen because He is not unknown to me.
And he wants me to cry out to Him with my needs, but in the end, He also wants what is best for me.

"What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He didn't keep His own Son from us, will He not give us everything else? Can anything ever separate us from the Love of Christ? Does it mean He no longer loves me if I have trouble, or distress, or feel hunger or pain? If I'm attacked or in danger, does that mean He no longer cares? I AM CONVINCED that NOTHING can ever separate us from God's Love. Neither death nor life, angels or demons, neither our FEARS for today nor our worries about tomorrow. No power in the sky or on the earth... nothing will separate us."

(From Romans 8)...

I am NEVER alone.

By BarlowGirl from their CD Another Journal Entry

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I serve a God Who is Able ...

I know this is the lazy way to do it, but I ask you to visit my main blog for a post that is significant for here as well. Have a blessed day...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This one is whiny and not sacred at all.

We've been planning a get away, me and Hubby, to celebrate our tenth anniversary that happens on Friday. The best laid plans are what they are and now we're not going.

In the end, it's no big deal. It's just a trip. A tenth anniversary trip with my Beloved mind you, but sick kids come first and so we're staying home. And I'm a tad (read: uber) frustrated about it. You've probably been there, not realizing just how much you needed something to happen until it doesn't. I needed this. I needed rest. I needed time with Hubby. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I needed this trip, this separation from every day life for me. I have been fantasizing for weeks about walks in the harbor, fresh seafood, a drive up the coast, breakfast in bed among other things I won't talk about on my blog. I needed it.

And our trip isn't going to happen. Bug has a bug and it's a nasty one and although she seems to be better today, yesterday decided it for us. I know this is where I need to be, caring for my kids. I wouldn't have been able to relax knowing that they were somewhere else, in someone else's care while they are feeling bad (and I wouldn't want someone doing that to me) so that part is alright. I know this is what I signed up for becoming a Momma. And it's okay.

The part though about not catching a break is what gets me. It seems that this happens way too often in our lives, where there's always something complicated that happens to change the best-laid plans. I'm a planner by nature and I've talked about the frustration that comes from not being able to plan or plans being thwarted (and I'm working through some stuff I have yet to put to paper because I'm not ready, about how the uncertainty brings fear and that fear shows up in anger about all sorts of things). But I have been trying to look at things differently. I really have.

I read a few weeks ago some wise words from Oswald Chambers...

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.

Now, Mr. Chambers is speaking about seeking God's will in future circumstances where you're asked to 'go out' without knowing. He's not talking about a canceled anniversary trip. But as I read this one thing hit me that I've been doing all along my journey... I've been shaking my fist at God, often angry because I don't understand what he is trying to do when things are hard and twisty and don't go as we hoped and prayed they would. I have been wondering what he was doing in the circumstances of my life.

But here it is... instead, I should be searching not for what he is DOING, but seeking after who God is revealing Himself to be in the middle of whatever situation I find myself. I won't say it's made things easier. Frankly it's alot easier to throw a fit and be mad that once again God didn't let me have my way. But there is solace in knowing one thing... I haven't done anything to 'deserve' the frustration (which has always been my first turn... what did I do wrong to deserve This?)... rather, I must seek for who God is as He walks with me and guides me through. That is a hard, new discipline, one that feels so very unfamiliar. It's not about what is happening, but who God is showing Himself to be in the middle of what is happening.

So I'm trying this. In the middle of tears this morning (and I'll admit in an attempt to get away from a whiny little man named Si) I went to my room and closed the door. And I prayed that God would reveal to me WHO He is in this, not WHY it is happening. I have to confess it hasn't stopped the tears, and I feel a sense of loss in all of this, but I know that God is WHO He is and that the rest of it shouldn't matter. So we hunker in for a few days of quarantine, me and the girl. And praying that the boy doesn't get this bug, or me or Hubby for that matter. As for the trip, who knows what we're being saved from... maybe nothing... but it is what it is and it is that my kiddos need me in this moment.

Cross posted at You Just Never Know

Friday, January 09, 2009

If Only I had Followed my own advice yesterday. This One's on Letting Go.

Yesterday was a hard day for me. No particular reason except I was willing to think through and admit some things that needed letting go. I find that whole idea a hard thing because it feels so much like giving up instead of anything positive. It was an emotional day. An exhausting day. A praying day. A confessing day. Of course, I did the dishes and took care of my kids and a few loads of laundry, made baked chicken for supper as well, but at the heart of it, it was a hard day.

And you know what I wish? I wish I would have taken my own advice. I'm using Oswald Chambers' writing as a starting point for my devotional reading this year. And yesterday's entry, had I read it yesterday, would have been a 'spot-on' encouragement for me in all that I was trying to work through. Lesson learned.

Mr. Chambers used the story of Abraham and Isaac to show us how God reveals himself not as a God who necessarily DEMANDS us to give up our life physically as a sacrifice for him (although that is part of the willingness in discipleship and many people do this every day), but that God expects us as His Followers to experience the sacrifice through death that gives us a glimpse into what Jesus did for us.

"And Abraham built an altar . . and bound Isaac his son." Genesis 22:9
This incident is a picture of the blunder we make in thinking that the final thing God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not - "Lord, I am ready to go with death" (Luke 22:33). But - I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.

We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this blunder, and the same discipline goes on in our lives. God nowhere tells us to give up things for the sake of giving them up. He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having - that is, life with Himself. It is a question of loosening the bands that hinder the life, and immediately those bands are loosened by identification with the death of Jesus, we enter into a relationship with God whereby we can sacrifice our lives to Him.

It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a "living sacrifice," to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. (Romans 12:1) This is the thing that is acceptable to God.

As I read the Abraham story this morning (a day late, but really, right on time...) It hit me again how many times God asked Abraham to let go of what he knew and the things he desired to follow Him into the uncertain future (at least to Abraham!) and God didn't say "this is how it's going to be for you... follow me and life will be like a cruise in the Mediterranean". I mean, read the WHOLE story of Abraham's life (it's starts in Genesis 12). It's one kerfluffle after another but all the while, Abraham is following God through it. He's never asked until this moment 10 chapters later to give up as much, even though giving up home and land and country is alot.

Isaac was no ordinary son born to two naive young people blissfully embarking on their family planning experience. He was promised from the beginning and Abraham and Sarah believed and laughed in God's face at equal intervals. And then there he was, after all the wishing and hoping and begging and trying to make it on their own, there Isaac was in the flesh, a son to love, and Abraham was asked by God to march up a hill and lay him on the altar. And the crazy guy did it. And God proved that He doesn't want us to give up things for the sake of giving them up, and he doesn't expect us to always understand His ways. He asks us to give up things because we (I) end up setting them , my hopes and dreams I create for myself, on MY OWN ALTAR, rather than allowing the circumstances God has me in to reveal something of Him to me.

Maybe ~ yes, probably ~ I've been worshipping at the altar of my own hopes and dreams rather than giving up what I need to in order to find more of myself in my life with God. I've always believed in a determination that pushes through to dreams fulfilled but that determination is only legitimate if God is actually the fuel ~ the life~ that pushes me through. Only if I want what He wants is that hope legitimate.

God doesn't ask me to let go of things because He's mean and doesn't want me to be happy. He wants me to let go of MY things and dreams so that He can show me the walk down the mountain where you rejoice in the fact you know that you know that you know that God is in THIS.

I am certain that Abraham must have felt an overwhelming sense of living in the presence and will of God as he walked down that mountain with Isaac in his arms. How could he doubt anymore? Maybe that's what I need to embrace... yes, it is. Instead of being sad over the loss of a dream, of not getting exactly what I want, but knowing God has asked me to give up some things so that I might know him better, and that I can in spite of the heartache, know that I live in His presence, that I am in His Will.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

On Looking for Balance.

It seems I took an abrupt halt in my Advent writing. It happens. When life heats up for my family, writing and thoughtful reading takes a back seat. That is something I'm working on and hoping against hope to find more space for in the near future. I had alot more to say but I will say this, God is good and He truly is "God With Us" and was with us throughout all our Advent and Christmas celebrations. It was a blessed time for me and my family and the true meaning of Love's Pure Light breaking through the darkness of this world was truly evident.

And this year one commitment I've made has been to more disciplined reading even if it is a few minutes a day in order to keep up my thinking on the very real need I have for spiritual growth. I'm reading through My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. If you've never done it, I recommend it highly. Each and every day it gives me something to think about and pray about, something that makes a difference and draws me (hopefully) closer in my relationship with God. I hope to talk about some of those things soon. I hope. I long to, actually.

Now on this "balance" thing... that's what I'm looking for? I know that I am a better person, wife, mother, pastor when I am enjoying a more intimate time in my relationship with Christ. But I do not want to pursue it out of guilt in the way I was taught from early on, as in the "you HAVE to read your Bible and pray THIS much each day or you're not Christian"... I want to enjoy it without guilt. And find balance between allowing myself a pass for the times when life overwhelms me and the longed for time with God/prayer time doesn't happen and disciplining myself to make it a priority when it's easier to just ignore it. Balance. That's what I'm looking for.