Tuesday, June 25, 2013


There is nothing quite like a camping trip to test the bonds of community.  Without the comforts of running water or a soft bed, our sin nature floats closer to the surface.  It is easy to murmur or complain and to live selfishly.  The temptation to assume the worst of others rather than the best rides on the tip of the tongue.  

I just returned from a camping trip with a group of young students.  Some of them I had only just met.  Half way through the week, my regular Bible reading led me to 1 Corinthians 13.  Whew!  What a convicting chapter!  I could take just one of the many traits mentioned characterizing love and never get it right . . . such as patience.  But the Spirit of God knows just what we need for the strength to endure suffering.   

I had never slept on a cot before.  I did not know that cold air circulates underneath and for that reason, a buffer is needed.  Coming from the heat of the desert I had not brought along enough warm gear for the chilly mountain air, resulting in five nights of little sleep and miserable tossing and turning. 

But the girls in my tent were cold as well and so we got creative.  All the coats and towels my family had brought we laid out underneath us.  But there was still not enough to go around.  I heard the Spirit prompting me to give away one of the thin foam mats and a blanket I had brought for myself.  I resisted because, well, I am getting up in years and think I need certain comforts.  But love compelled me to give those items away. 

As I've been meditating on the book of 1 Peter,  I've come to realize that trials come not because we are mature, but rather because we need to grow up.  It is humbling to realize that I have not yet grown up in some basic areas, such as love.  So often I am just a "noisy gong or a clanging symbol."  (1 Cor. 13:1)  But God is getting us ready for glory, fit for heaven where there is no sin.  Sometimes it seems like I receive the same test over and over because I stubbornly refuse to respond in the correct manner as I know that I should. 

This summer, my local church has challenged all of us to memorize 1 Cor. 13 together.  I haven't started yet, but am thinking I need to do that today.  Memorizing a passage does not mean we have conquered its application, only that it is incorporated into our brains.  But this is a good start.  If it is in our minds, then our hearts can more readily know the Spirit's prompting and receive strength for living it out. 

Sometimes it is tempting to dwell in isolation where we can live only for ourselves.  But community is a good thing.  There we are sharpened, "as iron sharpens iron", to be conformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.  (Prov. 27:17)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tender Moments

Every once in awhile, God makes His presence known to me in a tangible way.  It always comes unexpectedly and I call it a God-thing. 

I do not usually attend youth group with my husband, but this last week he invited me to tag along because of a special event they were doing.  And so I did.  We arrived at the church early and to kill some waiting time, I sat down at the piano.  Thumbing through the hymnal, I ended at number 250.  As my fingers stumbled through the notes, the words met the need of my heart.

"Calvary covers it all, my past with its sin and shame.  My guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there, and Calvary covers it all."  by Mrs. Walter Taylor

My mind often works overtime with self-accusations and in that moment, God reassured me that He had it covered, that "there is now no condemnation in Christ."  (Rom. 8:1) 

That same evening I wandered past the church library's free book table.  Students were arriving and so I quickly grabbed a book that caught my eye by one of my favorite authors, Charles Swindoll, called Hope Again.  It was subtitled, When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade.  Later that night I realized this book was none other than a study on the book of 1 Peter, the one I recently memorized.  Since then I've been soaking up this book and can scarcely put it down. 

These two surprises were like God said to me, "I am here.  I'm not too busy with all the other people in the world to attend to your needs or to know your heart."  And the really special thing about it all?  It was my birthday.  God making His presence known to me was the greatest gift I could ever ask for.  A God-thing.

I think God delights in popping in on us, but so often we fail to notice.  For those of us who know Him, His presence is, in truth, with us always. (Heb. 13:5)  But sometimes He surprises us with an acute awareness of it.  This I love, precious and tender moments with my Savior.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Grace and Peace

A few weeks ago I completed a personal goal--memorizing the book of 1 Peter.  Though the Word is incorporated into my brain, my real reason for learning it was that it might be woven into my heart to promote change in who I am.  God is holding me to that goal, but not in the way I anticipated.  Instead He has brought fiery trial into my life.  A test?  I don't know.  But one thing I do know is that God, by His Spirit, is proving Himself sufficient to work out that Word in my life.

1 Peter 3:11 calls us to "seek peace and pursue it."  I know Satan's greatest weapon is division among believers.  He takes great delight in our squabbles and misunderstandings because it causes us to lose our focus.  Therefore, in pursuit of peace, I have rewritten my former post, On Becoming a Woman Part 4.  I do not apologize for its content because I believe it to be accurate to Scripture.  The Word of God cannot be compromised, even though it does offend.  But I am sorry for the confusing manner in which I wrote it, resulting in hurt and division. 

I firmly believe that in every criticism there is an element of truth.  Yet, so often my pride defends itself and is not willing to weed through the hurt and muck to find the nugget of truth.  But "faithful are the wounds of a friend." (Prov. 27:6)  A true friend does not flatter, but rather speaks honestly and cares enough to be involved in our messes.  If that is you, thank you. 

I'm beginning to see the reason for my recent trials.  God is using them to work humility into my life.  I do not want to be proud because "God resists the proud."  (1 Pet. 5:5)  What a forlorn place to be!  I long, instead, for God's grace which is poured out on the humble.  This shade of grace is become clear to me now.  Not that it was absent before.  I have been through deep valleys in the past and known God's presence that upholds so firmly.  But I'm not sure I could fully see this aspect, that the face of humility shines grace in its brightest hue . . . if I'm willing to accept it.  And only in acceptance am I able to see it. 

I just returned from a camping trip in the Colorado mountains with my in-laws.  There God gave me pictures through creation of His work in my life.  The book of 1 Peter begins with a prayer, "grace and peace be yours in abundance."  (1 Pet. 1:2)

Likewise, it ends with "peace be to all of you who are in Christ."  (1 Pet. 5:14)  

I certainly know God's grace and peace in my life, but this post is my pursuit of the same with you, 

                         that we might be one in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Faith or Fear

It began with pvc pipe, boards, and a saw.

Then came the sander, drill, and a conglomeration of wheels.

Next a test run, and . . . heat. . . for bending.

At last, a structure emerged, fit for the purpose for which it was made . . . the inspiration of the brain worked out with the hands.

When God began His plan for my life, I sometimes wonder what on earth He was thinking!  It seems like the raw materials at birth were not really adequate for the end He had in mind.  Yet, as I look at the process of anything we create, the end result is never the components in and of themselves, but rather compiled together in an orderly fashion to make a complete work of art.  And in the process, it does not always appear to be ordered.  Often there is a mistake here and there, even big gashes and slashes, but the artist learns to incorporate those scars into the final production.  Why would it be any different with God since He is our source and the ultimate Creator?

June marks two beginnings in my life.  My entrance into this world and, nine years later, the start of an abundant life found through faith in Jesus . . . my spiritual birth.  It was then, at Vacation Bible School, in a tiny church of the Pacific Northwest, that I got on the right track to begin a lifetime roller coaster of faith.  And what a ride it has been!

I've been teaching a group of 5th grade girls this week at our VBS.  One thing I love is that though the lessons I'm teaching are designed for 10 year olds, the Word of God is still the Word and powerful for impact on my own life.   The theme, Facing Fear Trusting God, is appropriate since fear has characterized much of my past.

When I first committed my life to Jesus, He began to give me victory in the tiniest ways.  To an outsider it may not have seemed like any big deal, but to me it was huge.  Since then, God has brought much bigger challenges into my life, but as I exercise faith, those fears don't loom so big.

My Dad once asked me if I still held those same fears of childhood and I had to say yes.  Though the fears are tamed, they are indeed, still there.  And if I allow them to, they still can overwhelm me.  But I've learned to use them as a launching pad rather than a squelching zap.  Just as the roller coaster gains momentum in those downward lunges of terror, so my life builds strength in each victory.

I once thought that to rely on God meant to pray really hard, that I should sit and do nothing because the work was all up to Him.  I finally came to realize that I could hide in the corner and pray the rest of my life, but until I took a step of faith to really trust God in risk, I would still be hanging out in that corner.  God is always ready to be active in our lives.  But to follow Him requires faith coupled with action which requires risk.

2 Chronicles 16:9 became my life verse.  It states that "the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."  More than anything I wanted a heart that was completely devoted to God.  And over and over He has shown Himself to be my strong support.

As I recently listened to over 200 VBS children and staff sing their hearts out, one phrase of a song grips my soul.  The song speaks of changed hearts and then states, "Stir me up inside.  I want to feel Your Spirit moving."  It is that stirring that gets to me.

My life continues to be shaken up so that I might depend on God.  Pride is ruffled, restraint is required, and seeking the best for others is what must remain in the forefront.  God never lets me get comfortable, but always provides that stirring which produces the storm.  Yet, in the midst of adversity is where I find the Spirit of God most tangible and His grace most strong.

As I continue to plunge into fear, my faith muscles are worked resulting in a deepened relationship with God.  For this reason I seek to pursue the difficult path toward healing rather than bury hurt in grudges.  Sigh.  But I don't always choose the hard way.  Sometimes I coast, thinking abundant life is found there.  But a life of safe complacency never satisfies, because I am made for the adventure and rhythms of the track.

Someday I'm going to get off of this ride and when the clacking of wheels slows to a halt, I know that if I've exercised faith through obedience, I'll be glad for the journey.

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; 
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
 2 Tim. 1:7