Category Archives: Things I Am Learning

The Value in Learning

Tell the righteous it will be well with them,

for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

Woe to the wicked!

Disaster is upon them!

They will be paid back

for what their hands have done. (Isa 3:10-11)

Here’s what I am learning today:  What appears to be harsh may not necessarily be so.

It sounded like the Jews of Judah would be utterly destroyed forever.

But the same God who said they would be “paid back,” also said later in Isaiah,

For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with deep compassion I will bring you back.

In a surge of anger

I hid my face from you for a moment,

but with everlasting kindness

I will have compassion on you,”

says the Lord your Redeemer. (Isa 54:7-8)

God didn’t permanently reject his people.  But he did allow them to experience the consequences of their choices.  They were his beloved children who had strayed away, but he intended for them to come back to him and be gathered into his arms and blessed like never before.

You know, the book of James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

Our trials feel harsh.  But James says to be joyful in them, because they are actually for the good.

I was talking with a friend recently, and she told me how she’s the “fixer” in her family.  But she’s beginning to realize that sometimes it’s better to not fix things for her family members, that there’s value in letting them learn from their mistakes.

And that is what God wants.  He wants us to learn from our mistakes.  More than that, he wants us to realize that there’s learning to be had in any situation.  Our agenda is to pray and ask him to fix our life right away.  But if he did, we would miss the growth.  We would miss the lesson of perseverance.

I really think God wants me to get this in my head.  After I started writing this blog, I was in my life coaching class telling my instructor how I was trying to help one of my clients come to a solution.  My teacher told me that helping the client figure out a solution isn’t always the point.  The point is also to help them see that there is value in learning from their struggles.  Ack!  There it was again!  It’s hard for me because, like my friend, I always want to help people fix things!

But even Jesus learned from his struggles.  “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

And how did Jesus learn?  By wrestling in prayer. The Book of Hebrews explains, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7)

This verse has to refer to the time when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene, pouring out his heart to God and begging that the “cup” would be taken away. As Jesus did so, he strengthened his conviction that no matter what, he would do God’s will, not his own.

What if Jesus hadn’t gone to the garden to pray?  He wouldn’t have been able to go through with God’s plan.  It seemed like a horrible plan, that he would have to be tortured and executed.  But we all are the beneficiaries of the plan.

Which brings us back to the original point.  What seems harsh may not necessarily be so.  There’s value in the learning we can have from the situation.  And what seems horrible can lead to good . . . IF we wrestle to submit and have a victory in the testing of our faith.

Oh, how we want to be able to have this victory!  And we will, if we remember that the God of Isaiah 3:11 is also the God of Isaiah 54:7-8.

That he’s the God of everlasting kindness.

That he wants to bless us like never before.

That he’s committed to us in love and faithfulness because we are his family.

For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name.  (Isa 54:6a)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (I John 3:1)

 

 

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Filed under Isaiah, Perseverance, Surrender, Things I Am Learning, Uncategorized

Balm for the Soul

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  Mark 8:35-37

Last weekend didn’t go as expected.

It started well. On Friday afternoon,  I went to Chewacla State Park with my friend Marisha, her daughter Makenzie, and our little friend Lexie.  It was a beautiful autumn day, and we had a wonderful time together.

autumn

autumn2

But then everything else I had planned for Friday night and Saturday fell through — two sets of people coming over for dinner and a women’s get together.  My spirits plummeted.  I knew it shouldn’t be a big deal, but I couldn’t help but feel down.

So I was wrestling with this, but then I thought, “Well,  I can have Saturday with my husband.  That will be great!  We haven’t had a Saturday together in awhile.”  I started thinking of how we could ride our bikes and go to coffee.  Then we could run errands and get caught up on some things we need to get done.  Wonderful!

Well, on Saturday morning, my husband dropped the bombshell.  “I want to go door knocking today,” he said adamantly, out of the blue.  I wanted to cry.  I didn’t feel like I had the emotional energy to go up and knock on the doors of strangers.  This was something I needed to pray about days in advance so I could get strength to do it.  I didn’t have to go with him, but then I would have felt like a spiritual slug and a selfish wife if I didn’t.

To make the story short, after awhile, the Spirit helped me get on board with this, and Ken and I went out in the cold grey afternoon for an hour or so and met some great people.  In the end we were very glad we pushed through.

What really got me, though, was what I realized when I was praying through my prayer list the following morning.  The second request on my list is for my husband’s evangelism.  I’ve started praying specific things for my husband that he’s mentioned to me, and that is one area he wants to grow in.

So that means that God was answering my prayer, and I didn’t even see it!  Instead, I wanted to oppose it.  Oh boy.  It makes me laugh and shake my head.

oblivious

Last weekend was a great illustration of the root character weaknesses that God has been revealing in me   — the need to control, and the need for personal affirmation (i.e. glory hogging).  It was so hard for me when things didn’t go according to plan.  And it was hard when I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish things, because doing things makes me feel important and valued. It assuages my insecurity.

I’m declaring smackdown on these weaknesses!  Here’s the verse that has been helping so much: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matt 10:28

Do you know what brought that verse to my attention?  It was quoted by Max Lucado in response to the Texas shooting. Lucado could have said a lot of things to help us deal with such a horrific event.  But instead, he got to the root of the matter.  We aren’t to fear the evil outside.

texas shooting

We’re to fear what will happen if we don’t deal with the evil inside.

I have a lot of inappropriate fear.  I fear that I will do the wrong thing today.  I fear that I did the wrong thing yesterday.  I fear that things aren’t going as they should. I fear that something bad will happen and mess everything up.

anxiety3

And what is appropriate fear?  It’s to fear the things that are destroying me on the inside.  And those things are the need for control and the need for affirmation.  Or in Biblical terms, they’re pride and more pride, with a side of unbelief.

So all of this leads up to today’s passage from Mark, and how Jesus said, “Those who want to save their life will lose itbut whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”   My heart is so convicted to realize that my efforts to control, so I can “save my life,” are having the opposite effect.  They’re causing me to lose my life, my soul!  I keep trying to figure out how I can fix what seems to be going wrong.  Doing that is hurting instead of helping!  My way of operating is innately destructive.

Now I’ve started to say, “No” to my deep craving for stability, and instead plunge myself into the goodness that is God.  I’m looking to him, not myself.  I ‘m losing my life a thousand times a day, to save it.

When Jesus said these words, he was dealing with people who didn’t get it.  They were worried about bread.  They told him he shouldn’t suffer.  In this passage, he was trying to key them in on what they really needed — to have a purity of heart and singleness of mind.  To know that the only thing that matters is the soul.

Because it’s the double mindedness that drives us crazy.  James wrote,  “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  (James 4:8b )   And he explained what this can look like: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there there is disorder and every kind of evil. .” (James 3:16)

If our desires are for anything else, we end up like I was this weekend, feeling disordered,  emotional, confused and fearful.

Having a singleness of focus will see us through the troubled waters of our days.

troubled4Learning to be single minded has been like balm for me.  I can feel healing in the places I’ve inadvertently been damaging.

Here are some ways I’m working on being constructive, instead of destructive.  Perhaps they will be balm to your soul, as well.

  • Repeating passages over and over to myself that remind me what my inner state should be,  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc.” (Phil 4:8) and, “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, etc.” (Gal 5:22) 
  • Praising God throughout the day, which is much more appropriate than micromanaging him!
  • Picturing myself, like the elders in Revelation 4:10, laying my crown at the feet of Jesus.
  • Picturing myself going to God and drawing from his well of  goodness, rather than giving into my desires for control and affirmation.

crowns

 

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The Best Day Ever!

best-day-ever

Yesterday morning, I got up as I usually do, with a feeling of apprehension.  It was like there was like the word “SHOULD” stamped across the day that was to come.

And then I looked at Facebook.  A Facebook friend posted that her son, who is about 8 or 9, gets up every day and says, “Today is the best day ever!”

“Why is it the best day ever?” she asks him.  He answers by naming all of the things he is going to do that day, or that are going to happen.

This really convicted me.  Because I so rarely have that attitude.  Instead I have a heaviness.

So as I thought of this, I had my quiet time.  I was studying the chapter in my “Spiritual Discovery” book about motives and desires.  It asked, “Why do you do the things you do?”  I had to think about that for a bit.  I brainstormed and wrote down three top motivations:  to be productive, to not fail, and to be in control.  Basically,  I want to be secure.  I want to build this safe strong life where I am not vulnerable.

And then it seemed like the Spirit moved me to read about Jesus, and I read Luke 4 with the question in my heart: What was Jesus tempted to desire?

The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.Luke 4:3

Jesus was tempted to try and take care of his own needs, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5

Jesus was tempted to fill his needs with the wrong things.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Luke 4:9-11

Jesus was tempted to make something happen so he could be assured of his value to God.

These things really hit home with me.  In a nutshell, Jesus was tempted to satisfy his desires and needs himself, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.  That is what I’ve been struggling with.   I’ve been trying to satisfy my desire to be safe by spinning my wheels all day with productivity and trying to doing what I “should” do, instead of going to God to meet that need.

Seeing that was a breakthrough!  So yesterday, when I started feeling insecure and scared, I went to God and asked him to help me.  The hardest time was the afternoon.  As the day got later, I began to feel a slump in energy and motivation.  Usually this would be a real downer for me because I wouldn’t feel like I could perform the way I needed to.  If I was going to be with people, it would be hard to be giving.  I would just feel blah.  I would have to just keep pushing through somehow.

But this time I prayed, over and over, that God would give me some strength and joy in my heart.  As I was cleaning to get ready for House Church to be at my house, I started to sing spiritual songs.  The next thing I knew, I was feeling energized and excited as I sang.  Ken got home, and I was upbeat and positive.  People streamed in the door for house church, and I joked with them and enjoyed talking with them.  It was great.  I was thankful.

At the end of House Church, Mike closed out the lesson by saying something that was so God.  He said that as we study our Bibles and mature, each day can be the best day, because we see new things about God and this helps us to grow.

I started my day with hearing about each day being the best day, and I ended my day in the same way!

And it was the best day.  I learned something new about God.  I grew.

It wasn’t without struggles.  It didn’t go perfectly.  But I was able to go to God when I was lacking, instead of pumping myself up with thoughts that I SHOULD be able to handle the lack.

And God came through.  I had some great interactions with friends. Good things happened.

But I don’t want it to be about what happened.  Because even though God is giving to me over and over again, and I am soooooo thankful, I don’t want my happiness to depend on that.

I want each day to be the best day because I connect with God as the source. Because I drink the living water.  Because I am wonderfully filled by just being near to God.

Because HE meets my needs in a way I cannot.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Ps 73:28

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

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Breaking My Addiction to Order

control-freak-quote

I’ve recently realized that I am addicted to order.  I so badly want things to be neat, tidy, and under control.  There’s nothing I hate so much as the feeling of chaos, that I am just bouncing around in life like a pinball; the feeling that I am powerless over a downward spiral of negative events .

Order Or Chaos Directions On A Signpost

And when I experience these feelings, what do I often do?  I turn my fear and anger inward.  I inflict hatred upon myself.

Creating order is my way of coping.  If something goes wrong, I immediately start asking myself, “What can I do?  How can I batten down that thing that’s flapping in the wind?” I want to be like the  Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike.  I so strongly believe that I need to do something to stave off chaos.

dutch-boy

It doesn’t seem like a bad plan.  But it only works until the next thing goes wrong.  It makes me angry at myself, because I can’t fix things to create the order I crave.  It places my confidence in my own efforts, and not in God.

I’ve come to realize that this pattern of thinking is a stronghold of Satan in my heart.

So I’m deciding to break down this stronghold.  It’s a familiar battle.  I’ve known for years that something is wrong, and I’ve tried to address it.   I’ve seen Christian professionals who taught me more healthy ways of thinking.  I’ve taken medications that made things not bother me so much.  I’ve learned may truths as a Christian that have been effective, and have given me peace.

But I haven’t been able to correct the root of the problem.  And that is what I am battling now.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am reading this great book, “Spiritual Discovery,” and it is helping me more than anything  ever has to identify what attitudes in me are causing the dysfunction.  I feel like I am rooting out Satan where he has been hunkered down in a slimy pit of lies, a fortified hidey hole that I haven’t been able to uncover.

In Psalms 51:6 David says to God, “Behold,  you desire truth in the inmost parts.”

This verse that resonates with me.  I’ve got to root out what I’m feeling and identify the lies.  I have to find truths that combat the deeply seated false beliefs.

What lies am I discovering?

The lie that the world should be orderly.  I live in a fallen world, full of sin and weakness.  I can’t expect it to be otherwise.

The lie that God is not in control, or that he doesn’t care enough about me to do something in my life.

The lie that everything is in a downward spiral.

The lie that chaos has the upper hand, and that God isn’t working his good and perfect will on the earth.

The lie that what seems to be failure couldn’t be a part of God’s plan.

The lie that I need perfection and order.  It’s the same thing as craving material things.  Orderliness never lasts.  It’s a terrible thing to need, because I can never be satisfied for long.

And now that I’ve identified the lies, the next step is to pinpoint the truths will be effective weapons against these untruths.

The truth that God is vastly good.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  John 1:5b

The truth that there is hope.  God is holding my hand through the raging waters.  He will not let go because He is committed to me, because He dotes on me. He is my lifeline. He is my helper. And by His strength He will drag me out of the suction of the currents.

grip8

“he pulled me from the surging water. . .He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.” (Ps 18:16b, 19)

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Ps 139:10)

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” (Ps 40:2)

The truth that God’s whole direction here on earth for all time was and is to reach out to me, to sacrifice for me, to make a way for me to come into his arms.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Eph 1:4-5

The truth that there will be a heaven that is order and perfection.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Rev 21:4

The truth that weakness can actually work in my favor.  That I actually need weakness to empty me of myself so I can be filled with HIM and transformed.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  II Cor 4:16-17

For when I am weak, then I am strong.  II Cor 12:10

I’m telling you, these truths are hard to remember sometimes!  But I want to learn to listen to God and the truths he’s trying to tell me.  I want to hear his song.

The song Joseph heard when he told his brothers, “you meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.”  The song Joshua heard when he knew he could take the promise land.  The song David heard when he faced Goliath.  The song Jesus heard in the Garden that carried him forward.

The song I begin to recognize when I’m thankful.

The song that sings, “Trust.  You are in my loving arms.  I will keep you from harm.  My hand holds you tight through the waters that sweep.  My goodness surrounds you.  My army is there.  Sshhhh, my beloved.  Be quiet.  Know that I am weaving the thread of my will through your life.”

Ah, that’s the key — finding that thread of his will in my life.   But as I said, it’s so tough to do.   The other day Ken and I were driving back from Atlanta and I was trying to find the Auburn football game on the radio.  I painstakingly switched through static, oldies, commercials, sports talk, whiny country music, pulsing R&B.   I finally found a broadcast of the game, but after 30 minutes, we got out of range.

radio-dial

That’s what it feels like to me when I try to tune into God’s will.  I have to be patient and still and sift through a lot of voices in my head until I can hear his voice.  And then through the course of the day the voice gets obscured, and I have to wrestle all over again to hear it.

But when I do, it’s so powerful.   I feel like am a part of something huge and beautiful and meaningful.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Ps 139:16

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Eph 2:10

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  Acts 17:26-27

I’m learning that faith isn’t just believing.  It’s hearing God’s voice.  It’s knowing God.  It’s tuning into his will.  It’s a deep and vibrant connection to God’s very heart.

I’m learning that the cure for my addiction to order is to find God’s better order.

And now, as my day draws to a close and the recollection of challenges I faced are like specters tormenting me,  and I feel engulfed by worry and fear and emotion, I force myself to stop and listen. I remember who God is.  I remember hope.  I remember the heroes of faith.  I remember the love that’s like a waterfall.  I remember that HIS will will carry me along and sustain me through the scariest times.

And I feel better.

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!  Ps 142:3a

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.  Isa 42:61

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Being Refined, Part II

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,  Mal 3:3

My last blog was on being refined.  But there’s so much good stuff I’ve been learning.  I can’t stop with just one post!

So for this blog, I investigated how silver was refined in the olden days.    I found out it was a pretty arduous process of putting the silver ore over a blazing hot fire and keeping it there until the impurities have separated and burned away.

refining2

If that is a metaphor for how God purifies his people, it doesn’t sound like fun!

Does God refine the all of us like this, or was it just the Levites at that time in history?

In I Peter 1, Peter talked about the many “grievous trials” the first Christians endured, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

It sounds like the refining of faith through testing is a process God likes to use for Christians.

Rats.  I wish I was like James, thinking it’s great when there are challenges!  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

But more often I want to avoid the unpleasantness.  I haven’t been blogging partly because I had several bouts of depression.  When I’m depressed, I feel like a failure.   The voices of self-accusation are so loud!  It is very hard to feel like I am pleasing God.

And I’ve also been ADD.  My mind has been like a bee flitting from flower to flower, and not able to land in one place for long.   Plus, I’ve been working through the emotional fallout from some situations that upset me.

Is this refining?  It’s been making me feel like I’m becoming more unspiritual, not more spiritual!

It’s funny to me — last night we were talking at house church about the widow who gave two mites, and I saw how ironic it was that Jesus commended this woman who probably didn’t look sharp or well put together, and derided the teachers of the law who did look sharp and well put together. (Mark 12:38-44)

In my own life, I tend to think I need to feel and look like I have everything under control.  But maybe that’s not what God is seeking.

We can see what God is seeking by looking at the process of refining metal.  If God purifies us like silver, the following things are going to happen:

  1. We’re going to feel the heat! Refinement can’t happen if the temperature is just pleasantly warm.  In the same way, we’re not going to progress if it’s too easy and comfortable.  God’s going to put us right over the fire!!  “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”  II Cor 1:9
  2. We’re going to think it never ends. Refinement isn’t an instant chemical reaction.  It takes a good while for all of the impurities to burn away.  So we can’t expect to learn what we need to learn in a quick trial.  God works through processes.  “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Romans 5:3-4
  3. We’re going to be in a controlled situation. A silversmith has to keep a constant eye on the refining process to see when the impurities are burned off, and when he needs turn off the heat.  If he exposes it to fire too long, the silver can oxygenate too much and it will be unworkable.  In the same way, God doesn’t just expose us to heat and go off and do other things, like we do with a pot on the stove.  He monitors and protects us.  He gets us through at just the right time.  “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  I Cor 10:13
  4. We’re going to get radiant!! The end product, purified silver, is so shiny, it’s like a mirror. In Ephesians 5:29 it says that Jesus gave his life so the church could be radiant. So what does it mean to be radiant?  It means we’ve quit our whining and bellyaching and started trusting God completely!  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure …Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Phil 2:14-15

The upshot of this is that we start trusting God completely because the trials have made us realize the worthlessness of our own efforts and of the unspiritual things we’ve been relying on.

We’re studying the Bible right now with a woman who’s been through some really harrowing stuff in her life.  At this point in time she sees clearly that all of the things she’s been chasing are empty.  She told us that she is so sick of it all that she is ready to throw in the towel and give her life to God.

She’s going to God as the source.  That’s what I’m learning to do as well.  When I’m feeling weak, I’m seeing that I’ve got to rely more on the Spirit.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:13

When I’m feeling down, I’m remembering that His grace is sufficient, and that will get me through.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” II Cor 12:9

When I have a sticky situation, instead of wracking my brain, I praying more, expecting God to help me work it out.

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

Instead of freaking out at a challenge, I’m taking a deep breath, accepting it, and asking God what he is trying to teach me.

He wakens my ear to listen like those who are being taught.  Isa 50:4

It’s true, I do feel a bit haggard and worn lately – a little like a widow with two mites myself!  But I’m learning to find peace.

I’m learning that God is the god of the broken, of those who are travel-stained and stumbling on the road.   I’m learning that God doesn’t want us to always look impressive, and be able to pat ourselves on the back.

This statement resonates with me, “We miss the gospel of God:  the good news that although the holy and all-powerful God knows we are but dust, He still stoops to breath into us the power of life – to bring to our wounds the balm of acceptance and love.” (Rich Mullins)

The gospel is that we who are dust, who feel the burden of our failings, can be healed, refined, made radiant.  It’s counter intuitive, but it is pure joy to undergo the grueling process of trials, because the end is so wonderful.

Still, the end product may not look like we think — us looking all sharp and well put together.  Instead, we become joyful beggars, exchanging our dross for riches with a loving savior who is happy to provide.

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich. Rev. 3:18

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  II Cor 4:8-9, 16-17

Good things come to those who persevere!  Feeling emotional at the baptism of my friend Lauren.

Good things come to those who persevere! Feeling emotional at the baptism of my friend Lauren.

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Filed under Grace, Malachi, Perseverance, Surrender, Things I Am Learning

Teaching My Heart…

spring

I haven’t posted for awhile.  I have been going through some intense self searching.  I have been struggling with something that bothers me.  I have been on the mood roller coaster that is menopause.  So in all of this I have had some great insights and times with God.  But I haven’t felt compelled to write like I usually do.  I haven’t felt ready to share.  My head hasn’t felt clear enough.

But today I am feeling some clarity and inspiration.  I woke up at 4:45 this morning, feeling grumpy about some things that had happened.  So I prayed and talked to God about them.  It is amazing to me how He gave me wisdom and provided an almost miraculous change of mind state for me.

Here is some of what I was thinking.

I thought about the book of Job.  I’ve been listening to Job in the car lately.  I always try to have some Bible CDs to fill the space while I’m driving.  I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament.  And now I’m at Job.

I have to confess that I really didn’t want to listen to Job.  I like the first and last part of the book, but, to me, the middle is so long and boring!   But that is why I listen in the car, so I can expose myself to things that I might be tempted to skip over if I was actually sitting down and reading.

The thing is, as I listened to Job, and took in the repetitious pontificating of Job and his friends, the endless justification, the whining, the sanctimonious advising, it occurred to me that that is what we sound like to God.  We carry on in our self important bombastic way, totally caught up in our conceit.  We whine and complain, so affronted.  We go on and on, we can’t let it go.

I think God doesn’t like to hear all of this any more than I do when I listen to Job.

And I think about how it is said that Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible.  It is one of the first communications, in a sense, from God to man. And what does God want to say?  That we go on and on talking about ourselves, all puffed up in our opinions, all indignant about our situations.  That we are so blinded by our conceit that we can’t respect to Him as the Almighty and All Knowing, who knows so much better than we do the ways things ought to go.

It hit me yet again how His thoughts are not my thoughts, that way that seems so clear to me as how things should happen, may not be the way God is going.   I can’t get indignant when what God does seems counterintuitive.

Instead, I need to be much more like David when He wrote Ps 131:

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.

As I was thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that, left to ourselves, we are terrible disciplers.  Just like Job’s friends, by nature, we have a pretty poor idea of how to help one another.  And  just like Job, we are even worse at trying to reason things out and help ourselves.

And I started to be especially thankful that we have the Spirit.  While I was lying in bed, talking to God, I realized that I could let the Spirit disciple me.  The Spirit was right there, waiting to be called upon, waiting to be the voice of hope, whispering to me that God is good, that He will work out everything for the good.

It really is true that Jesus came to give us living waters.  “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  (John 7:38)  Fresh pure goodness and hope is there, bubbling up inside of us, when everything in us wants to rant at God over and over again.

So I wasn’t crazy about being up at 4:45 this morning.  But I needed to work it out, so I wouldn’t be stewing all day.  I brought my impossible situation to God, and he turned it around.

All I can do is thank God as in Ps 16:7 —

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

 

 

 

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Filed under Humility, Things I Am Learning

The Path to a Tender Heart

pathway-to-sky

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Mark 14:3-9

What an interesting place for this story.  Jesus just finished discussing all of the terrible things that would happen in the future.  And then a woman poured expensive perfume all over him.  The talk of ugliness is juxtaposed with an act of beauty.

I think the two are related.  But the first thing all of this makes me wonder is why Jesus said there had to be so many hard times.  Why does the path to his glorious return have to be paved with trials?

I guess the real question here is why do we have to go through so many trials and disappointments?  I’ve been reading a great book lately, “Grand Weaver” by Ravi Zacharias.  In in Zacharias shows us eloquently how God has a design behind each one of our lives, and that we can trust the process.  This is one of my favorite passages so far:

“…at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender.  Nobody escapes.  Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be made tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well.”

Reading this really impacted my life.  Because it made me see that I harden my heart when things hurt me, instead of letting the circumstances soften my heart.

On Dec. 22, 1998, my mother passed away unexpectedly.

My mom.  She loved to take videos of her loved ones.

My mom. She loved to take videos of her loved ones.

Ever since that time, I won’t let myself think of my mom, or that time.  I close myself off.

And I never could understand why my mother had to die.  Other people might say they found something good in their tragedy.  Not me.  I just want my mom back, want her to see how beautifully her grandchildren are growing, want her to experience milestones with me.  I’ve never stopped missing her.  I couldn’t see what good there could be in her not being here.

But now I can see something else.  I can see that there is benefit in experiencing emotional pain. The pain that I carry around in my heart helps me to treasure the relationships I have more.  It compels me to reach out and touch others in distress.  It makes me feel compassionate towards others in their troubles.

It helps me understand the cross more.

God has a plan for all of us to create more tender hearts in all of us.

That is why the story of the woman above is more meaningful.  I can’t help but think that the woman would not have been so generous unless her heart had been made tender by heartbreak in the past.  Her life had been a journey up to that point, and her inner pain welled up and caused her to pour herself out in sacrificial giving to Jesus.

The word Jesus used to describe the woman’s act is kalós, which means “attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy).”

The beautiful act of service performed by this woman would inspire others through the ages to perform beautiful acts of service as well.

And that is what I want to leave you with this Thanksgiving week.  I charge you to serve in gratitude, because you have Jesus, a place of succor, when you are poor in spirit.

Has life been painful?  Don’t shut yourself off to the pain.  Experience it, weep over it, and then let it well up in you and compel you to reach out to others, and pour yourself out on their behalf.

There is ugliness in the world, but it can create beauty.

And that is God’s design.

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Filed under Compassion, Mark, Servanthood, Things I Am Learning