Monday, March 30, 2015

Comfort on the Other Side

Nothing about last week was normal.  Arriving at the heart of our Colorado mountains, we awoke to a snowstorm which hijacked our visit with in-laws.  Accidents at the tunnel closed I-70, and so we turned around and went back to the condo, lugging bags back up the very stairs we had just come down.

Grateful for free accommodations, we spent the next two days playing games, reading books, watching movies, and soaking in the hot tub.  I know, it sounds cushy, a blessing in disguise, yet, it was not exactly how we had planned to spend our spring break.  We knew there were disappointed grandparents on the other side of the mountain and precious time intended to be with them was wasting away.

However, I do not believe anything happens by accident.  We can certainly make our plans, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.  One thing was needed.  Rest.  It forced us to contemplate and to simply be still.  We came without a laptop, without workout videos, and without activities for the kids.  I even forgot my camera.  

But, before leaving home, I "happened" to grab a book off the shelf titled The Great House of God by Max Lucado.  It's one that's been around awhile, but not an author I often frequent.  Yet, God used that book to give me some perspective on my own fiery trial.  

My attention was directed toward Mordecai, the supporting character in Esther's drama, who refused to grovel at the feet of a selfish, glory hound man named Haman.  It was the unpopular choice and was met with grave consequences.   And though it produced upheaval for an entire people group, (What a weight of responsibility that must have been!),  Mordecai's pursuit of righteousness was a good thing, and in the long run, the cross he bore ended in glory. 

"Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name," the prayer starts.  (Matt. 6:9)  God has allowed a fire in my life, but I'm beginning to see the good of it, for it is burning away the chaff.  And I am a changed person, a crushed person, one who sees her need of God and who knows God as her defense.  And my soul cries out, "Do whatever it takes, Jesus, to be holy in my life.  Hallowed be Your name." 

At every turn, I see the hand of God, and although I do not always understand, I am confident that God is directing my steps.  He continues to affirm His presence and work in my life and I am blown away with wonder.  He has not left me alone.    

However, our snowed in delay to reach the other side of the mountains held even greater purpose.  For when at last we made it to the grandparent's house, we were able to attend a church service, which I believe, was meant for me to hear.  Not since the death of my sister-in-law, has Easter become so vivid, so personal, and so direct in my life.  I'm hoping to share that in my next post, but in the meantime, there is this:

"Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.  
Speak tenderly...
clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD!  
Make a straight highway through the wasteland..."  (Isa. 40:1-3) 

Friday, March 20, 2015


I think this gushing wound has stopped bleeding, but it still hurts.  I wish I could do something, anything, to fix the problem.  I know I cannot go back, but I'm not sure I can go forward either, because I feel stuck in this perpetual shame.

My life has been in slow motion while everyone else runs zipping by.  Here it is spring break, the kids off school for two whole weeks, and I've not given it much thought.  When gardens should be planted, mine lies bare and unattended, the ground unprepared for any seed.  When home projects and family vacations should be well underway, my enthusiasm has waned.  Why?  Because I've been consumed with regret, sorrow over loss of strength and dignity. 

Yet, I see a light through this valley of the shadows.  It is the love of God which wraps around me like a cloak, a protection against the enemy.  I don't feel like God should love me, but by faith I believe He does because He says so. 

My husband has taken to reading the Scriptures to us at breakfast.  I cling to them, because somehow in this season it "makes [me] holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word".  (Eph. 6:26)  Each morning, groggy as I am, I sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what God might be saying to me.

The blind beggar cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  And after persisting, Jesus said, "Go in peace.  Your faith has healed you."  (Mark10:47, 52)  Over the last week I too have been crying out for God's mercy.  It has not been a casual prayer, but a desperate, on my face sort of plea.  Each time God has brought me back to faith.  And so when I heard, "Your faith has healed you," I did a double take.  Say what?  Was that God just speaking to me again?  I think so.

I've been longing for restoration, but the door to that place has been closed.  I cannot reach the one I have offended.  How can I be healed when forgiveness, though sought, is not granted?  When innocent children are left believing a lie.  When false accusations are the rumor some believe.  When disobedience is rewarded and a pliable child will undoubtedly turn into a nightmarish teenager.  When the enemy accuses my thoughts day and night.  Where is the healing in all that mess?

Like a beacon the answer came from that verse.  Faith.  My faith is what will heal me.  And the way I have faith is to "Go in peace."  I will move forward from here because I am accepted in the Beloved.  He has forgiven me.  He pleads my cause.  He rights my wrongs.  He is still in control.  He works all things for the good of those who love Him.  I have been "rooted and established in love." (Eph. 3:17)  Not in fear, but in love

And so this whole Christian theme of walking by faith has just taken on a new meaning for me.  It is extremely practical, something I must do on purpose, yet, at the same time, something I do not do at all.  Only wait, for my expectation is from Him.

How ironic that the lesson I taught at our recent youth retreat was on "Overcoming Shame".  I had no idea it would apply to me so directly.  And that song, How Can It Be? by Lauren Daigle, it grips me every time.  I will go work the soil of my supposed garden, I will take that family vacation, I will move forward, and I will know joy in the midst of it, because I will walk by faith. 

Surely, it is God who "clothes me with strength and dignity," and I can "laugh at the days to come." (Prov. 31:25)  For it is He who calls me a virtuous woman.  I will live in that truth. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Sacrifice of Praise

I just heard this song on the radio, "because He lives, I can face tomorrow," and "all fear is gone".  (Matt Maher) Usually we think of that phrase in a figurative, vague sort of way regarding our future.  But this time, it is my literal tomorrow. 

Earlier this week, in the midst of a tumultuous storm, I poured out my heart before the Lord.  After days of wrestling, He finally gave me an overwhelming peace.  All was right between me and Him, and that made all the difference.  Furthermore, I realized I was worrying over what could be rather than what actually was.  I was allowing fear to control me.  Letting loose of those fears did not come easy, and yet it did at last come, and I was engulfed in His joy.  I know someone must have been praying for me.  Thank you.  

But still, at times doubt would roll over me, and yet, each time, God gave me songs to lift my spirit.  Songs like, if our God is for us, then what could stand against us.  Our God is greater, our God is higher than anything... I am not alone...I'm overwhelmed by one who waits on the Lord will ever be put to help comes from You, You're right here pulling me through...I don't have to see to believe...You plead my cause, You right my wrongs...and more.  These songs became my shield of faith to resist the fiery darts of the evil one. 

I'm reminded that Jesus set his purpose like flint, determined to go to Jerusalem, even though it meant false accusations, mockery, flogging, and a horrible death.  I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I have set my heart to face whatever may come, whether it be more accusations, or whether it be grace.  I'm hoping for the latter.

With Easter bearing down, my senses have been tuned to its weight in a new way.  For this reason I am glad for these trials, even though every part of me wants to fight against them.  Never have I felt so alone or so personally attacked, but at the same time, never have I felt so desperate for the blood of Jesus to cover me, or been so utterly dependent on Him. 

Throughout this week, this has been my cry,  "If there's a road I should walk, help me find it, and if I need to be still, give me peace in the moment, whatever Your will, whatever Your way, would You help me find it."  (Sidewalk Prophets)  God has answered my prayer, showing that I need simply be still, to wait and trust.   But I'm not feeling very strong. 

Without knowing what the week held, I was appointed to play the flute for our worship service.  And though deep down I was broken, God met me in those songs as well, the offering of praise a display of His grace. Somehow, through all of this, I know He is calling me by name, calling me to take up my cross daily and follow Him. 

I've always wondered why, when Jesus climbed the hill of Golgotha, that one man named Simon was chosen to carry the cross.  Now I know.  We bear the cross with Jesus in our identification with Him.  He calls us to die as well.  Die to our own pride, selfishness, and discontent. 

Yet, I can face tomorrow, because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.  And no matter what happens, I know that I will rise also to live as I was meant to live, with joy in His presence and at peace with others. 

Would you pray for me today?  

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Eph. 6:12

Friday, March 13, 2015

When Evening Comes

It amazes me how one moment can change the entire course of a day.  Sometimes it is a welcome shift but other times it threatens to derail our lives completely.  Yesterday, I encountered the latter.

There is a reason the Scriptures tell us, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts," because it only takes one day, twenty four hours, to stray from God's commands.   This is why we "encourage each other daily, so that none may be hardened by sins deceitfulness."  Not a day goes by but that we need encouragement to keep tuned towards God.  (Heb. 3:7-8, 13) 

God's love remains, I know this to be true. (Heb. 13:5b)  But sometimes it takes every ounce of faith for me to stay in that love.  Shame pushes me away, and right now I'm simply groping to pull together the fragmented pieces.  If only I could go back and redo.  If only....if only.  But what's done is done and I have to move on because if I dwell on regrets it will destroy me.  

Mornings are easy.  It is my most productive time and my most disciplined.  But come four o'clock and all that starts to wane.  By evening I often do battle to keep my will in check with God's best for me.  It is easy for murmuring and complaining to set in, which leads to discouragement.  This is why I've posted on my fridge, "Let me be singing when the evening comes!"  Not only does it motivate me toward right food choices, but it also spurs me on towards 'love and good deeds'.  It reminds me to praise rather than grumble, and believe rather than doubt. 

When I arrive at the end of the day, I want to say, "It was a good day."  However, I have a part in making it good.  The choices throughout my day do matter.  They can lead me to the point of peace and joy or self-accusations and defeat.  Do I believe the Lord directs my steps?  Do I believe He is in control?  Do I believe He is big enough to fix what is broken?  This is a new kind of faith of which I'm not so familiar.  Not that I don't make mistakes, but that I usually take the road of shame. 

God has been good to me and I don't want to forget all His benefits.  I will sing about His love in the morning and His faithfulness at night.  He is the Rock I hold onto when my feelings take me elsewhere.  Even though I travel through deep waters, even there His hand will guide me.  Even there He is with me.  He knows.  He sees.  He cares.  This too, will pass for He will bring me to the other side. 

Sing like never before, the song says.  Indeed, in the midst of these troubles I sing in a way I've never sung before, with a whole new aching realization of my need for God, my need of His mercy.  I rise from that place of praise with an overwhelming sense of gratefulness, for the blood of Jesus gives me a clean slate.  He "remembers my sins no more."  (Heb. 8:12)

The sun comes up its a new day dawning,
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul, worship His holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name. 
(by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Not So Big

My 7th grade daughter recently came home with a massive school assignment:  memorize all of Asia in three nights.  And I thought to myself, "Really?  These were the kinds of assignments given to my older kids in their high school advanced placement classes."  However, keeping with the mantra that we must do what the teacher requires, we grabbed the Atlas, put on our positive surrendered attitude, and sat down to tackle this task.

Yet, despite feeling bristled, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process.  From Turkey down to Sri Lanka, across all the 'stans, through Mongolia and to Japan, and then all the way south to the islands I learned of places I didn't know existed.  I found myself wondering, who lives in Dili, East Timor or Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar?  Or, here's a mouthful.  How would you like to be from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei! 

But one thing was certain.  When we arrived at Jerusalem, Israel, it was soothing to our brains.  Finally, something familiar! 

In my personal study of Hebrews, I've been fascinated with this country and specifically, the roots of this city.  From what I can tell, its first mention is when Melchizekek met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings.  (Gen. 14:18) This mystery man, Melchizedek was "king of Salem...", which became known as Jerusalem.  Later the passage goes on to tell us that  "king of Salem means king of peace." (Heb. 7:1-2)

Peace?  I know we are instructed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but surely, it is anything but peaceful right now.  Yet, my thoughts were drawn to the end of the age when all nations will covet the land of Israel.  These massive countries of Russia, China, India, Japan, and all the 'stans, let alone those not so prominent, will one day gather together to fight against this tiny piece of land pushed up against the Mediterranean Sea. 

However, with one swift swipe, God Himself will step down and defend Israel.  Against all the nations of the world, against all odds, they will be the victors because God remains true to His Word.  He loves His people and will not let them go!   Wow!  I'm overwhelmed with the thought!

Studying the map of Asia has made me realize that my problems today are not so big.  Surely, God knows what He is doing, not only with the nations, but also with that which concerns me. 

Over a month ago, my sister sent me a card with a picture of a bird on the front.  But I've kept this card sitting on my desk because it reminds me that God is aware of even the sparrow that falls to the ground. 

This same God who numbers the stars and calls them each by name, knows my name.  And when life falls apart, He's got this!  He can handle it.  Why do I sometimes find it so hard to trust?  More often than not, its because I am leaning on my own understanding. 

Not surprisingly, my daughter aced her test.  I just hope I can ace mine. 

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."  Prov. 3:5-6