Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Beautiful Vulnerability Found in Hope

For the word of the LORD is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on the those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness...
Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us,
According as we have hoped in You.

Psalm 33:4,5,18,22

I have a hard time hoping. I would rather expect the worst outcome and be pleasantly surprised than hope for the best and be disappointed. But that is not what this scripture calls me too, it calls me to hope in the lovingkindness of my LORD, my life. Hoping is hard. Hoping is scary. Hoping is vulnerable. And yet hoping is sweet. Hoping is beautiful. Hoping is joy. It's all about the attitude behind the hoping...the faith, the trust that builds up the hope. Where is my faith and trust? Is it wholeheartedly surrendered to my Lord? Have I given up my control or is hoping difficult because it brings me face to face with the reality that I have no control? Probably. But when my hopes fail, it hurts, it's hard. And yet where do I turn when my hopes fail? Do I turn to the disappointment of lost control or the trust and faith knowing that my God has a plan, and that nothing has "slipped by Him" and that His plan is good, pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2). I want to hope. I want to hope without fear, without doubt. I want to hope in the lovingkindness of my LORD. And I want to continue in my hoping no matter what the outcome. Because our ways are not His ways and His ways are always better, no matter how long it takes me to see that. I want to trust in the hope, I want to have faith in the hope, I want to give over my need for control and give myself over to the beautiful vulnerability of hope in the One who will never fail me. 

Jesus thank you...
for the hope of Your lovingkindness
for the beauty in vulnerability
for always being right by my side
for the joy that is found in the hoping
that You have a plan and that Your plan is good, pleasing and perfect

Friday, January 27, 2012

What does faith look like?!?

"Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me - to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He as said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I am not going to be going to Blizzard with the youth this weekend. It took me a long time to reach that decision, there were many tears shed, and many questions asked, but I was given peace this morning as the Lord led me to the verses above. For most, the phrases of "Do not fear" and "Be strong and courageous" and "God is with you wherever you go" would lead to movement, but today, for me, Jesus is asking me to stay. To trust Him that He can take care of things without me being at blizzard in person. But He has given me a part of the weekend for my times on the couch and in bed...prayer. Pray for everyone of our kids that are going, pray for open eyes and open hearts, pray for relationships built, and for conviction, forgiveness, love. Pray. That is my charge for the weekend, my way of still being a part, but letting God get the the glory rather than myself, that is what He as asked of me, and that is what I will give.

I really struggled over the decision because I didn't know what direction faith would take. Is faith going on a trip to build relationship, in the freezing cold, and throwing myself into loving the people that I would be going with through my sickness. Or is faith staying home, on the couch, and wondering what people are going to say about why I didn't go? What does faith look like here?!? But faith is God centered, not self centered. Faith is God getting the glory and not me. Faith is trusting God to handle everything. So again I ask, what does faith look like?!? Do I go, trusting that His will will be done, or do I stay, trusting that His will will be done? Through some direction from a friend, and remembering what I have been learning through the study Experiencing God, I was challenged to give over to God all my guilt about possibly leaving the girls on their own, shame and fear about what others might think about my staying home, to really empty myself of me and to fill myself with Him. And that's exactly what I did. I emptied, I poured myself out at the feet of my LORD and just opened myself to Him. I was quiet, I spoke, I sang, I listened. He gave me the verses above, the word pray, and the peace to stay home. Because honestly my faith would be put more to the test by staying than by going...why? Because I am afraid of the judgment and disappointment of others. But I believe that God can and will work in my absence, and that He will use me in my weaknesses to pray for the whole weekend, and that He is bigger and stronger than the judgment and disappointments that may come. It is not about my glory but His. I was created to give Him glory, that His name might become greater, that His name would be displayed. 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." This is my go to verse when I'm struggling with Lyme, it gives me great encouragement, and helps me to get the focus off of myself and back on God. I have always seen Lyme as a gift, maybe not 24/7 but I have definitely seen the Lord use it over and over again to teach me and mold me. In my weakest and hardest times in dealing with Lyme, I have experienced God in real and powerful ways. I learn more about my Savior and my faith during my struggles with Lyme than at any other time in my life. Because Lyme breaks down all my defenses, I am physically weak, and I physically need the Lord to help me stand up and walk to the kitchen. Physically needing Him always puts me in a very humble place because I realize how much I cannot do on my own, though really this is how I should live every day, in absolute total dependence on Christ. The Lord uses Lyme to open my eyes to areas that I have taken back into my control, or areas I've never really given up at all. Lyme humbles me by giving me the opportunity to accept help and compassion from others, which often hurts my pride (obvious area that needs to be given over, again!), but I am learning. I'm learning to give up, and accept the love that people want to offer. I like to be the one helping people, not the other way around, but I am being broken and emptied in order to learn dependence on the Lord, and He often uses His community that He has surrounded me with. He empties me of myself, my expectations, my desires, so that He might fill me with Himself. The emptying isn't always a fun process, really it hardly ever is, but the place I am after He has emptied me to prepare me for His fullness, is wholeness. It is Proverbs 23:1 in the flesh "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." That is where His fullness leads, to peace, to contentment, to joy, to love, to thankfulness, to grace, to I shall not want.

Jesus I thank you for this morning, for the time that we have spent in communion together. I thank you for Your provision. I lift up the kids who are going to Blizzard in just a few hours. I ask that You give them safe travels that they would see You in a new and fresh way. That they would experience You, that they would see You, that they would love You this weekend. I thank you for Your love for every person who will be at that retreat, and I thank you that Your will is good, acceptable, and perfect. Thank you for being with each individual as they experience this weekend, and that You have a purpose for every person that will be on that campus. Rain down Your love Father God, and let their cups overflow! 

Jesus I thank You for revelation.
For time spent in song, in silence, in prayer.
For Your voice that is so loving.
For the love letter that you wrote for everyone on this earth, Your living word.
For opened eyes and filled hearts.
For Your glory displayed and not my own.
For a change of heart focus.
For music that speaks and stills the soul.
For renewal.
For peace.
For I shall not want.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How do I pray?

Flushed face, queasy stomach, shaky hands...with our trip with the youth heading out in a little over 24 hours. How do I pray? How do I choose God-centered prayer over self-centered prayer when all I want is to be better, full of energy and ready to go hang out this weekend?!? Isn't that what God would want? For me to spend time with these people I have grown to love, laugh with, and grow with? But His ways are not always my ways, but His ways are always perfect. So here I am Jesus, at Your feet, asking Your will not mine be done. I give up my selfish desires, though they seem like good desires, You may have something else in store for us all. Thank You for having a perfect plan, and thank You for seeing the whole picture while I only get little tidbits here and there. I trust You Father, to heal me in Your timing and in Your own way, to bring glory to You alone. Thank You for today, and for the opportunity to trust in You and You alone.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Soft Snowflakes Falling

Sun behind clouds reflecting off of freshly fallen snow, a soft and gleaming light. 

Books, Bible, journal, devotional all spread out on couch waiting to be touched, to give warmth and light to my cold and weary soul.

From the gospels I read Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." From the Psalms I read Psalm 23 "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I am being challenged to believe, to trust, to hope, to know, to experience the scriptures. As I read the Bible do I actually believe what I am reading? To I believe that His burden is easy and light or would I rather try life out my own way? Why do I think and seem to believe that I know best? Why? I am dust from the ground, I am a breath, here one day and in the next I am no longer. And yet God, He is forever, He has no beginning and no end, wouldn't He know best? Wouldn't He be trustworthy? He created me, He loves me, He has a plan for me, and not just any old generic plan but a special plan that has my name on it! He restores my soul...for His name's sake, not mine, His. But how can He restore my soul while I walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Didn't He lead Jesus into the desert to be tested by the devil for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11)? Didn't He hide Moses in the mountain, in the dark while He passed by and showed him His back (Exodus 33:18-23)? Am I willing to be lead into the desert? I am willing to hidden in the darkness of a cave to see God? Do I cry out "Send me!" "Pick me!"? Or am I too busy with my own plans that try to keep me in the "light" away from the muck and grime of this life? But is light seen in light? Not really. Am I willing to see, to experience the darkness, the muck, the grime if that is where I see the Lord moving, working, calling me too? Am I willing to let Him shine His light through me no matter where it takes me and what it may lead me through?

Soft snowflakes fall at leisure to the ground. It is peace. They are falling from the white sky to the dark ground, and I can't seem to see the white flakes until they come in contact with the dark, cold ground. Because they are in contrast with it. They are fluffy and white. The ground is dark and hard. The contrast. What am I in contrast with?

Jesus thank you for the soft snowfall outside. Thank you for the warmth of tea from my red kettle and fuzzy socks on my feet. Thank you for big windows to see Your glory through. Thank you for the restoration of my soul. Father mold me, make me, keep me in Your hands. And as Mary said to the angel "Behold, the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." Your will be done Father God, not my own.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh to Overflow

" May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow."
Romans 15:13 What a description of Life. What a beautiful life this would be. This is what Jesus calls me to, this life, one full of joy & thanksgiving, hope & peace, trust, which will lead to overflowing. I want to overflow. 

Yesterday was a day of revelation. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Yesterday I discovered a choice that must be made every day. I must choose my focus, what emotions will I choose to live out. Will I choose anger or will I choose joy? Will I choose fear or will I choose trust? Will I choose thanksgiving or will I choose worry? This was an eyeopening revelation for me. That when I am faced with a circumstance, I may choose how I will deal with it, and that it must be a conscious choice. In a way I think I've always known this, this choosing, but I've never lived it out until yesterday, I've never seen it so clearly, and been set free by choice. Rather than worrying about what's to come I want to trust. I want to trust in my Creator, who is Jehovah, who is Redeemer, who is Provider, who is Love, who is Healer, who is God. I want to trust. Rather than fear I want to choose thanksgiving. 

Jesus thank you for...
the click of cowboy boots against pavement
the raindrops hanging from tree limbs
the warmth of hot tea and fuzzy blankets
the smell of candles and their light shining bright
I want to give thanks.
What joy is found in the act of trusting, in the act of giving thanks, what joy! I choose joy, I choose thanksgiving, I choose trust.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Asking for Directions

I have been convicted lately about how I choose to obey when the Lord asks something of me. I always thought that asking questions, making sure (two times, three times, four times, etc.) that I had everything just so, that it was all planned out and that I had my directions right was a good thing. That it showed that I wanted to be prepared, and not be irresponsible. Well what if God pulled another "Abraham"? What if He just said "Go, leave everything that you know is good and plentiful, leave this place and after you leave I will show you where I want you to go." Um I don't think so! But what did Abraham do? He went, he left. He obeyed. Without question. I don't really think I do that, though I would love to say that I do, I think I end up asking too many questions and often miss out on the gifts the Lord has for me because of my need for directions. And when I think, long and hard about what this means, the thing that keeps coming to mind is that I don't trust God. I believe that He died on the cross, I believe that He has taken all my sins and washed me pure as snow, I believe that He rose on the third day and in so doing He defeated death forever. I believe Him, but I have trouble trusting Him implicitly. It's just so hard! How am I to "Go" when I don't know where I'm supposed to end up? What do I do when all I am told is to move but I don't know where the end result will take me? I freeze, I panic, and I ask for directions. I want to obey like Abraham, like Joseph. I want to trust my Father and move as soon as He reveals that is His desire. But I am afraid. I am afraid of getting lost, of what I might encounter along the way, of where the journey may take me. And yet the Lord says, "Do not fear." He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So why am I afraid? Because walking in faith, trusting that the Lord will guide me and direct me even when I have no idea what's going on is the essence of Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". He has not showed me and therefore I have not seen the destination and yet He still says "Go!" Will I trust Him? Will I go? Will I move?

Father God thank You so much for Your patience with me and for revealing areas in my life that You feel need to be molded and stretched. Thank You for loving me enough to put the effort into making me into the woman you long for me to be. Thank You for Your word that is living and breathing, that will convict and correct, that will encourage and sharpen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You are Mine

But now, thus says the LORD, your
Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have called you by name; you are

Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions
like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and
the one who formed you from the womb,
"I, the LORD, am the maker of all things,
Stretching out the heavens by Myself
And spreading out the earth all alone...
Confirming the word of His servant
And performing the purpose of His messengers.
It is I who says of Jerusalem, 'She shall be inhabited!'
And of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be built.'
And I will raise up her ruins again."

Isaiah 43:1 & Isaiah 44:21-22,24,26

I studied these verses this morning after finding a bookmark that one of my roommates at Capernwray gave to me and it said,

"Be not afraid, I am with you always. I have called you by name, you are Mine." 

This is one of those verses that makes me feel warm, safe, and protected. I am His? But then I looked at the surrounding verses because I don't like to take things out of context, and in those verses I found more promises, and I found raw power, and I found forgiveness. I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist...and then after stating the work that He goes through to obliterate my sins the LORD says Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Redeemed, bought with a price, He has bought me back, and will continue to redeem me every time I fall and he has to blot out my sins yet again, like Hosea did for his wife Gomer. It amazes me that He would go through so much work for me. That He would choose me, pick me, He is truly a gracious, forgiving, loving and very patient God. He is perfect, and yet He takes me just as I am in the midst of all my imperfections, He sees every one of them, He chooses to blot them out, as far as the east is from the west, and He redeems me. He also acts on my behalf. He is power. He is Elohim, all powerful God. And rather than use that power to destroy my sinful self, He uses it to build me up again and I will raise up her ruins again. Again...this is not the first time, and it will not be the last, but I don't want to miss the measures my Savior takes to form me, shape me, mold me, into the woman He wants me to be. I don't want to take His forgiveness, His power, His shaping and reshaping, His redeeming for granted. I want to grasp it, I want to understand it, I want to be grateful for it, I want to be in awe and amazed at the unconditional, always there, forever love, forgiveness, patience, teaching, waiting. I want to be in awe of my Jesus. The fact that He wants me, He pursues me, He wants relationship with me. He wants me, I belong with Him, He is who I was designed for. 

And here comes the trap, the trap're not worth need to be perfect...He'll only love you and want you when you do more things for Him...and the list could go on. But that is Satan talking, that is Satan trying to get in my head because He's scared. Ha that's a pretty funny thought, Satan scared, of me? But if I choose to ignore Satan's jabs and focus on the Redemption given by my Savior, and I choose to let Him mold me, shape me and form me, than I guess Satan should be scared. Because my God is awesome. My God is great. My God bigger, and He is stronger. He is God, Elohim, LORD, Jehovah, Lord, Adonai. He is God, and if our God is for us than what can stand against?

Water You turned into wine
Open the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like You
None like You
Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like You
None like You

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

Into the darkness you shining

Out of the ashes we Rise
There’s no One like You
None like You.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
What can stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us

And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?
Then what can stand against?
Then what can stand against?

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God… 

Our God by Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quiet Moments...

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough."

Enough...what is enough? Websters defines it as: occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations. Do I feel that I have enough? What if I wasn't focused on the things, the end tables I want, the wicker baskets I want, the picture frames I want, and more on the gratefulness and contentment for what I already have. I have a wonderful couch and recliner, I have wonderful books that I can read, and fluffy blankets to keep me warm while I read all my books, I have a red tea kettle that whistles nicely when ready, and then an insulated tea pot to keep my tea hot once out of the kettle. I have so much to be thankful for. When I begin to focus on what I have, and what has been given to me, the things I want begin to fade into the distance ever so slightly. And the more I focus and am grateful for what is, I think less and less of the things that are not. I am grateful for clean floors, I am grateful for mulling spices that make my house smell warm and welcoming, I am grateful for clocks hung on walls and ticking, and for pictures displayed in already bought picture frames. 

Thank You Jesus for Your gentle reminders to stop and be thankful. To stop and focus on the joys in life, the moments that fill up each day, to cherish. Thank You for quiet moments of reflection, to read Your Word, pray, be still and to know that You are God.