Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Friend A Day #9 — Believing in the Possibilities

sailboat 2

At house church this week we talked about the faith of the centurion in Luke 7.  I think what set the centurion apart was that he believed in possibilities, that good things could happen.  His heart hadn’t grown cynical and jaded.

(Jesus) was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. . . .  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  . . .   When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

I think of the things that keep us from having faith and believing in possibilities.

Doubt is toxic to faith.  We read James 1:6-7 — But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Instead of doubting, we should realize that God gives generously to all, without finding fault.  A quick word study — generous here means “simply, sincerely, graciously, bountifully.”  Finding fault means “without reproaching, reviling, upbraiding.”

It’s encouraging to see that God wants to give to us bountifully, without being nitpicky and saying, “I won’t give to you because you do such and such.”  Yes, we need to have faith.  But God isn’t interested in withholding because of our mistakes and shortcomings.

Fear is toxic to faith.  It holds us back.  We don’t even step out.  We don’t even put something out there that God can work with.  We are afraid of failure, afraid God won’t care enough to answer, so we don’t believe in the possibilities.

And we need to believe in the possibilities.  I love how Mark Batterson put it in “The Circle Maker.  He said, “You can live with holy anticipation.”

I want to live in holy anticipation of how I will see God work through each day.

Yesterday we saw God work.

I took Marge to a medical appointment, and we shared with the nurse, Maggie.  Maggie told us how she is caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.  She told us how just had surgery on her neck, and now has to go to physical therapy.

We told Maggie about church, and how it was like family.  She seemed interested, but a lot of people do.

But then while Marge was with the doctor, I was dozing in my chair, and Maggie came and said, “I’m sorry to wake you up, but can you tell me where your church is located?”  How many people take the initiative to come back and find out more?  That was so cool.  We’ll be praying for Maggie.

Holy anticipation opens the door to possibilities.

Doubt and fear shut the door.

In closing, I want to say something about completely relying on God.  It comes to me now more than ever that God’s way is the only way things will work out in each and every situation.

I’m not praying enough.  I have to pray about each situation, because on my own, just leaving things up to whatever, things may not go the right way.  But if I pray, God is watching over and guiding the situation.

I’m like a sailboat and God is the wind and the current.

I need to pray and then trust that God is taking me in the direction that is GOOD, give myself over to Him completely, with joy.

Totally relying on God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5

And totally living in eager holy anticipation of the adventure.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.  Ps 5:3

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Finding Heart, Finding Dreams

It says in Proverbs 4:23,  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

I’m seeing that I’ve lost heart lately because I’ve lost the excitement that God will fulfill my dreams.

Everything flows from the heart.  The heart should have excitement in it about God, awe at who God is, utter thankfulness for what He has done, anticipation for the immeasurably more that He is working and will do.  This excitement shapes our whole lives.

I was reading about Samson lately.  You know, David should have been the weak one, and yet he slew Goliath.  He wouldn’t lose heart at the huge challenge Goliath was. David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”  I Sam 17:32

But Samson ended up being the weak one.  I think the reason he gave into Delilah was he got worn down and weary, “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.”  Judges 16:16

Samson lost his zeal for the fight. That is really what it was. Previously, he was chomping at the bit for a fight, ready to battle the Philistines, tie up foxes, go after his bride’s family and friends.

It is so easy to lose the zeal for the fight.

Lamentations describes it well.

“Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.”  Lam 5:15

Lamentations goes on to plead, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return.  Lam 5:21

What is the cure?  Being restored to the presence of God.

I love this little verse — “Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”  Ps 41:12

I love the mental image of God holding us upright, no matter where we are, setting us before him, so his face can shine on us ALWAYS.  When we know we are with God, our heart becomes excited again.

It’s like this passage from “The Circle Maker”by Mark Batterson:  “God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers.  If you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers.”

And Batterson reminds us that God wants us to pray BIG prayers with BIG dreams:  “God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less.  . . There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayer, performing miracles and fulfilling dreams. That is who He is. That is what he does.  And the bigger circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory.”

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil store up in him.  Matt 12

This word “stored up” is a word for the place people put their most treasured possessions to preserve them.

What do I value, that I treasure in my heart, as Mary did?

Do I treasure my relationship with God?  Do I have the faith that he rewards those who earnestly seek him?

Do I treasure my future, the excitement about how God will answer me with awesome deeds of righteousness?

May I be fully restored before the throne of God, seeing his beauty and his desire to answer prayers, to spread his light in ever increasing glory.

May HE and my dreams become my treasure once more.

Let me have the eager anticipation, just for this moment, that today I can have a victory, I can meet my new best friend, I can learn something helpful, I can make a difference.

 

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Trust: Our Boat in Turbulent Waters

Kayak

“I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. . . “  Jer 29:14

This past weekend I read this verse with a very troubled woman.  It spoke to her very heart, about how she had been in a bad place, and felt trapped.  She wept as we discussed that God is faithful, and He is delivering her from that place.

And that is the theme I am thinking of for myself lately.

That God delivers.

Because I really feel that I need to be delivered.  The moods of menopause and the remnants of the flu have left me feeling depressed almost constantly.  I’m not sure what to do.  I have to study out that God is faithful.  He watches over me, and he will deliver me, at the right time.  I have to believe that there is something good just over the horizon.

Day after day announce how HE delivers!  I Chron 16:23

This is what David declared after he was appointed king by the leaders of the people.  For years, he had pursued by enemies in the desert.  But now his time had finally come.

And when that happened, David couldn’t stop glorifying God: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.”  I Chron 16:8.

God brings us back from the desert places.  Time and time again, faithfully, He IS our redeemer.

My people have been lost sheep . . .  They wandered over mountain and hill . . .  Yet their redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name.  (Selections from Jer 50)

Here are some other great verses on deliverance —

  • The LORD’s angel camps around the LORD’s loyal followers and delivers them. Ps 34:7
  • You encircle me from back to front, placing your hand upon me.  Ps 139:5
  • Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.  Ps 32:7
  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isa 43:2
  • He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. . . He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  Ps 18:16, 19

Of course, our ultimate redemption is through Christ.  I wrote this passage down for my quiet time yesterday morning, and amazingly, as the Spirit works, this was also read by Rob, who did the sermon yesterday at church!

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Gal 4:4-6

We’re God’s beloved children.  He gave his everything to adopt us. We’re not to live in fear.

Why do we feel fear?  Because it feels out of control.

But it’s not.

We’re passing through the raging waters, but they will not sweep over us.

You know, the verse says we won’t drown .  But it doesn’t say we won’t be thrown around by the current.

Jesus’ disciples experienced the full brunt of the storm when they were on the waters, so much so that they thought they were going to die.

But Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  Mark 4:40

He expected them to be calm in the face of turbulent storms, in the face of things that seemed out of control.

They would make it to the other side.  There was a way.

Because God was there.  The angel of the Lord surrounded them.  He didn’t abandon them to the storm.

And the same is true for us, for me.

My moods feel out of control.  But I cannot give into discouragement.  God IS with me.

He will deliver me at the right time.  I will make it through.

He will surround me with songs of deliverance.

 

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Pressure Relief

stick

Pressure!  Oh what pressure I usually place on myself.

After I was sick for a week and didn’t have to do anything, I was clear to me how much I motivate myself with a stick.

The stick of fear of failure.

The stick of “should.”

It seems like my life has been a pattern of pressuring myself and finding relief from the pressure.

For a few days of illness, I had perspective.  I was feverish, so I didn’t HAVE to do anything.  If I did read the Bible, I did it because I wanted to.

And now I want to go forward doing things because I want to, not always pressuring myself.  It’s not like I haven’t made advances in this before.  But being sick showed me that I still have a ways to go.

So I’ve written down some magical ANTI-PRESSURE verses I’ve found —

I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free.  Ps 119:32

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Gal 5:6

 The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

But to the one who does not labor, but believes only in The One who justifies sinners, is his faith accounted for righteousness.  Romans 4:5

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 8:1-2

My other ANTI-PRESSURE is to keep meditating on the incredible, unending GOODNESS of God.

And along that line, I’ve been sampling this book, “Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.” by Timothy Keller.  Do you do that — download the sample 0f a book on Amazon and read it, because you don’t want to pay the $10 for the whole thing?

I do that a lot.  And sometimes I find some good stuff.  Like this book on prayer.  Keller quotes I Peter 1:8 —

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

And Keller makes the point that Peter, “assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal.”  In explaining this Keller said, “people have a potential for a personal knowledge and experience of God that beggars the imagination.”

Our relationship with God has the potential to be larger than life, more beautiful and enthralling than any piece of art.   There is no limit to the joy we can have as we get to know God.

And all of this can eclipse the “shoulds” and the pressure.

You know, I find that gratitude is like breathing.  There is always something new to take in with thanks.

And this reflects what Keller’s citing  of Scottish theologian John Murray, who wrote —

“It is necessary for us to recognize that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith. . . (God) communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love. . . communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion.”

It’s all about communion.  It’s about taking in God’s goodness, and giving him, in turn, thanks and praise.

I want to make it about doing.  I want to find a formula and follow that every day.  I want to tell myself that I’m successful.

I pressure myself.

But God makes it about his mercy and his overflowing goodness.  He makes it about a relationship that gives, and gives, and gives some more, so that we don’t have to pressure ourselves with need upon need, and thus “should.”

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . . If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  John 15:5, 7

 

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From the Fuzziness of the Flu

So I have had the flu since last Friday.  A present from my grandkids.

I have been having a lot of spiritual thoughts swirling in my head, as I drift about between fever spikes, sleeping and lucid moments.

Here are a few of them.

“People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  I Sam 16:7

As I try to repent during our month of repentance at church, and have my heart be more what it should be, it came to me that David is a great character to study out.  He was the man who was chosen for his heart.

And what a heart he had!  One thing that stands out is how bold and faith filled he was.  The best known example is when he stood up to Goliath.

But he was also completely devoted to God.  He wrote love letters to God:  Psalms.  It occurred to me that David was a man who had spent much time in the field, and thus he had much time to develop a relationship with God.

Maybe being sick, or even having times where I have to slow down, isn’t such a bad thing.  It gives me time to focus on my relationship with God.

David’s heart, his relationship with God, SHINES through the Psalms.  He declares things like,

  • But I trust in your unfailing love. . . ”
  • “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” 
  • “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his ways. 
  • “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress and My Deliverer.”

David was so confident in God, so confident in God’s goodness.  I want to have that kind of heart.

David was even confident in his own righteousness.  I don’t want to be prideful, but I think there is something to be learned from this.  After all, we are to take up the breastplate of righteousness to fight the powers of evil.  I can be more confident of my own righteousness.

So what I’ve started doing is listening to the Psalms more.  I have the Bible app, and I put it on audio as I do various things around the house.  It is awesome!  It reminds me of so much my heart can be.

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  Romans 4:3

If I change nothing else, I want to BELIEVE MORE.

Sunday morning I got up,  feeling better, but not sure if I was well enough to go to church.   I struggled with thinking whether I should try to push through, wondering if I was still contagious.   But then I saw with eyes of faith, and it was like a beam of light in the room.   I needed to stay home and take care of myself, keep my germs to myself, and it would be okay!  I WOULD believe that God is good and He is in control.

I am continuing to hold righteous BELIEF before me, like a torch, as I navigate my days.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused.  Number 11:1

I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but I am convicted again.  I need to read Numbers often.

I complain too much, when God is working so hard on my behalf.

God was taking care of the Israelites, and instead of thanking him, they complained about the quality of what He gave them.  I do the same thing.

As I read in “One Thousand Gifts, “Always ingratitude makes the poison course.”

My ungratefulness is like a tainted well from which springs my sins and bad attitudes.

Voscamp goes on to write, “How we LOOK determines how we live . . . if we live.” (caps mine)

I have to look at life differently.  Being sick has helped with this.  Being cut off, being incapable of accomplishing much, I am so grateful for the little things I could take for granted — just for an encouraging word, just for my friends, just for a few verses I read, just for something I can get done, just for feeling better.

Being grateful helps me SEE God more.

I pray, from the bottom of my heart, that God has more mercy on me than He had on the Hebrews, for my pervasive ingratitude, and that He allows me another chance.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Acts 2:42

While I’ve been sick I read a little more of “Golden Rule Leadership” by Gordon Ferguson.  I love that he points out that all the other good things mentioned in this passage of Acts — giving to those who had need, enjoying the favor of all the people, the Lord adding to their number — came from their devotion to these four things mentioned above.  It didn’t come from their devotion to the Great Commission.

It is so refreshing to think that getting my heart right means keeping it simple — continuing steadfastly in being in the Word, praying, loving my sisters, remembering the cross.  All of this is more than enough to focus on.  And it is refreshing to think that if I do these things, the rest will follow.

This time of being sick given me a clean slate, a new perspective.

It’s like the new app, ColorNote, I put on my new Kindle.  (A valentine’s present from my hubby!)  I downloaded it and created several color coded lists that I can play with and move around like tiles.  A whole new way of getting organized, a fresh start!

That’s what I feel like after repenting, after spending days in bed resting.

My old life feels like I’ve been pressuring myself towards goal, like squeezing Play Dough through a mold.  I pray I can break old patterns and trust God’s rhythm for my life more.

Because sometimes I think God’s goal for me is more to stumble across treasure, than to push to do these great things.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.  Prov. 16:9

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Patience in the Dark Valley

What a week this has been!  Sunday we had the wonderful shower for Cecelia and Yesenia.  It was so beautiful, such a celebration of friendship and God’s goodness.

Praying at the shower.

Praying at the shower.

Then I spent Monday and Tuesday having a treasure of a time babysitting my grandchildren.  It was a great gift to be able to spend one on one time with them, to just love them over and over.  It was a gift to have visits with two of my children while I was there.  Just to see them and have time to talk about their lives was precious.  It was also a gift to have a quiet period away from everything.

God knows just want we need.

But then when I came back I found myself besieged once more by a storm of emotions.  Menopause really stinks.  I have been depressed and weepy.  The howling wolf of failure dogs me, nipping at my heals.  I hear his howls over and over.

I had a good conversation with my friend Nancy about this.  She told me I need to be patient with myself.

So read these verse on patience, and they were balm to my soul —

 Love is patient.   I Cor 13:4

Be patient with everyone. I Thes 5:2

 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.  II Peter 3:15

 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Rom 15:1

 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  II Peter 3:9

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  Romans 2:4

 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!  Is 30:18

These verses are awesome!  God is so very patient with us.  He knows we grow and come to him imperfectly, and He gives us space to do that.  And we need to be patient with others

One thing I’ve found that helps in this barrage and tangle of emotions is to embrace where I am at the moment, to relax and be wholly present.  I tend to think I need to accomplish all kinds of things, so I’m always intent on achievement.  But then I don’t feel good.  In a sense, I accept that this place of being moody is the place I am supposed to be.   And I see that in my emotional state,  I care even more for others, and I can focus on one person, and just talk to them and love them.   I have a deep need to connect with God, and I can get down on my knees and talk to Him until something clicks.  I can play the guitar and sing spiritual songs and be filled with the goodness of God.

In trusting, I can be patient with myself.

I’ll close with something from Emily Weirenga’s blog that I read that really helped me —

“One night I was so undone, I went for a walk beneath the stars and cried out to God for all of the awful.  All of the young kids getting addicted to porn and all of the hurts and the sins and the confusion.  And I heard the Lord say, “Emily-do not fight darkness with darkness, but with light.”

Because I was acting out of fear. And fear is darkness.”

This moodiness and all of these emotions make me feel out of control, and that makes all of my fears of failure seem like they are coming true.  But I cannot fear, because fear is participating in the darkness.

I cannot get my affirmation from achievement.  In the past, God’s enabled me to feel great about myself.  But that tempts me to get my confidence from performance.  Now, instead, I must have confidence in God and His plan.  I must have confidence that even though I feel like a failure, I am in the right place at the right time.  I must be patient and realize that things are NOT out of control.

I must fight the darkness with light, and the light is hope.  The light is being able to endure walking through the darkest valley, patiently waiting to stumble upon the table prepared for me, seeing that my cup overflows, and knowing goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.  (Ps 23)

 

 

 

 

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A Friend A Day #8 — Stumbling upon Treasure

atlas girl2

I’ve been reading “Atlas Girl:  Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look” by Emily T. Wierenga.  It’s one of my favorite discoveries lately.  I love this book about a woman who loses and finds her faith.

And this is one of my favorite passages from the book —

“But what I needed was love, to wrap me up in its arms and tell me how beautiful I was and to make me laugh. . . .There are those nights when your dad reads an extra story or sings one more song. . . There are fresh homemade carrot cakes baked for your birthday and home-sewn dressed out of red velvet. . . But when you’re young, you see the gaps more than you do the glimpses.  You see the hole more than the donut.”

I’ve been blogging so much about being thankful more and subsequently seeing God’s love more.   But the reality is that it’s sometimes not enough.   Sometimes my insecurity is like a huge chasm.  Sometimes my emotions strike up and whirl out of control inside of me like a sudden storm. And then all I can see is the gaps, not the glimpses.

So a good goal is to make the glimpses more frequent.   A good goal is to make the glimpses bigger.

And then sometimes God Himself stitches the glimpses together and I see a pattern that’s so right, so overarching, so magnificent, that I am awed to the depth of my soul and I am at peace again, knowing that everything is okay.

Church is great for that.  We sang, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being praise His name,”  and I remembered my study on that very psalm (Ps 103) this week and how it exemplifies God’s compassion.  I wanted even more to praise the Lord with all my soul.

The head of a service organization got up and expressed her deep gratitude for our group’s workday to help them on MLK Day.  I remembered how the day almost didn’t happen, and then how so many of us were there having a great time helping out, and I felt like everything was coming together just as it should be.

One of the campus girls shared a written word at communion and I was in tears at how beautiful it was, seeing how much her faith meant to her, knowing I had a small part in where she was.

Last Friday I made a new friend.  One of the women in my choral group invited me to drop by her house some time.  So I set up a time and went over.

It was wonderful.  She showed me her quilting room, where she puts together beautiful stitched projects and helps underprivileged women in the community to do the same.

I saw her indoor aviary.  It was so amazing — larger than a china cabinet, with all kinds of nests and colorful birds hopping around.

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She made me a smoothie with homemade kefir she kept in a mason jar on the kitchen counter.  It was great.

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The time was an adventure.  A treasure in a week of stumbling around trying to find my way.

It reminds me of part of one of my favorite poems my mom wrote:

“We have stumbled over trunks of treasure

In the darkness, and have laughed

Down the velvety corridors of night.”  (Marguerite Tillinghast Roberts)

We travel down the velvety corridors of night, through the wailing winds of  insecurity, the pain of feeling unloved, where the gaps are more than the glimpses, and the real challenge, the hardest thing of all, is to TRUST that we are loved, to know that we will stumble upon treasure, to know that He is the God who makes beauty out of ashes, who  just at the right time pulls back the fabric of the universe and allows us to see the myriad connections.

That is why we keep going on, keep holding on, keep reaching out, keep praying to have the heart of Jesus.

To provide for them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.  Isa 61:3-4

 

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