Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - Part V - Knowing the Word and Doing the Will of God

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

The order of the Christian's assignment is: hear, do, know. If we hear the commandments and obey them, the Father will make Himself known to us. It is no use trying to know Him without doing what He says. ... "If you really love me you will keep the commandments I have given you." ... The only valid test of love is obedience. ... "The man who has received my commands and obeys them--he it is who loves me: and he who loves me will be loved by my Father; and I will love him and disclose myself to him" (Jn 14:21). There is the order: hear, do, know
.(Elisabeth Elliot)

Since my last post, my poor, feeble mind was in a quandry. It seemed I had a group of people in my head, each strenuously arguing their points. One was practical. She laid out the facts...the bare, unvarnished, unanalyzed, uninterpolated data. Another attempted to interpret the data in an extremely positive, encouraging light. A third interpreted the data in a more pessimistic way, preparing me (she justified) for the worst so that the shock of the actual outcome (which would very likely be bad, of course) wouldn't kill me. Then there was the screamer. She spent her time screaming out all of the most horrible things I have ever thought, or thought others thought, about me. She didn't listen to the reason or skepticism or the facts...her mission was to let me know just how horrible and fat and unworthy and snivelling I was and that nothing good would ever happen for me. Her's was the voice that was the loudest and most unrelenting. Then, thankfully, there was a softer, quieter voice, which said "no good thing does He are fearfully and wonderfully made...I know the plans I have for you...the lines are drawn for me in pleasant places...ask and it shall be given to you...he ever lives to make intercession for us...while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

In the end, the fact lady, the pessimist, the screamer and the dreamer wore themselves out and all that remained was this quiet, more persistant voice of truth.

All through the debate, what my heart really wanted to know and understand was the will of God.

I couldn't see it. I laid all the facts, the whys and why nots, and my feelings out on the proverbial table and still I was at a loss. What was the Lord trying to do?

I had no idea.

I was seeing through the dark glass...seeing only part of the picture. The Lord wasn't showing me the rest. So, my only choice was to focus on what He has shown, what He has said, and walk in that until He chose to show more or speak more specifically.

This was God's will for that moment. My choice was either to continue the mental debate and emotional gymnastics or walk in what He had shown WITHOUT knowing where that was going to lead me, circumstantially.

That is the choice each of us have to make each day. Do we walk with the Lord, though we often do so in darkness...and trust that He is leading and guiding? Or, do we insist on a road map before we consent to obey? Are we willing to do what has been revealed and leave what hasn't where it the unknown?

I titled this post "Knowing the Word and Doing the Will of God" because that is what it boils down to...that is what allows us to make the right choice - God's word. As we read, as we mediate, as we walk in His truth, we are changed. The word becomes the signposts which turn us here and there on our way. They affect the thoughts of our minds and the meditations of our hearts and our choices reflect those changes...reflect His truth. We find ourselves doing God's will step by revealed step.

I think all of humanity would like the priviledge of seeing the map of their life. We like to know and prepare...and prevent some things, if possible. We want to be certain things are going to turn out the way we want them to...or at least turn out in a way that will not be disappointing. But that is not faith, and ultimately, faith is what pleases God.

Faith...without a road map. Faith without a preview. Faith without a guarantee that our plans will prevail.

Faith in God's God's God's goodness and His lovingkindness.

This is how we know and do His will. We hear His word, we do it, and we know that He is God. That He is more than able. That He is trustworthy. And that He truly is able to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we can ask or think. This God who spoke the world into existance, who preserved Noah and His family, who parted the Red Sea, who provided a redeemer for a poor, widowed Moabitess and allowed her to be a part of the lineage of the Messiah, and who gave His son to die for us sinners is right now interceding for us, moving and working and preparing a future for us.

May we never quibble or fret over circumstances or what our common sense tells us. Let us hold fast to these truths, fix our eyes on our God, and believe that He will indeed work all things together for our good and His glory.

Friday, June 23, 2006 - Part IV - Being Satisfied

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night... (Psalm 63:4-6)

God's word is called the Bread of Life. The experience of fellowship with and reconciliation through Christ is likened to streams of Living Water.

Bread and Water...the basics of sustenance and survival, both in the natural and the spiritual. Without these - The Word of God and Fellowship through Reconciliation - we will wilt and wither and perish.

There is no disputing that our spiritual self needs as much nourishment as our physical self. If we go too long without food, our bodies begin to cry out and demand a feeding. Do we hear our Spirits cry that same way? Or do we drown it out by feeding on and seeking satisfaction in other things that do not sustain and revive like the Bread of Life and Living Water...things that dull our spiritual senses? Do we, too often, look to other things (sometimes very good things) to satisfy a hunger that can only be satisfied in Christ?

I know I am as guilty of this as anyone. My heart yearns for and strives after so many things. The Lord is kind and does bless and often plunks good and perfect gifts in my lap. My response? "Wooo! Ok. Do it again!" No matter how good and perfect...I am left wanting more. I am not satisfied.

I never will be. I will never say "Enough" when it comes to emotional highs, blessings of providence, wonderful gifts of fortune, friendship, love, or favor. Each new thing will only leave me looking for the next one. I believe that is God's design. We were not created to be satisfied in what we see or hear or feel or accumulate or even what we eat and drink. We are created to find satisfaction only in the One who is altogether lovely and all-satisfying.

Over the past few weeks, the Lord has graciously answered many, very specific, prayer requests. Each one has been beyond wonderful...exciting...exhilarating, even. But after the initial pleasure wore off...I was looking for a repeat performance! I felt so ungrateful and greedy and went to the Lord...went to His Word and met Him in prayer and He was faithful to meet with me and speak to me. And, do you know what was Enough. I was satisfied. My heart was at rest, no longer the wild stallion bucking and straining against the fence to run to its heart's content. It was content, grateful for the grass to graze on, the nearby stream, the warm breeze...and for the protection of the fence.

Jesus said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) Those who hunger and thirst for anything else never will.

Lord, let us be satisfied in you today. Teach us to strive only after righteousness and trust you with everything else. Teach us to abide in you. To graze on your Word and drink of your fellowship (which includes the fellowship of your suffering) each day and be sustained by and satisfied in only you. Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2006 - Part III - Where to Begin

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Any life that is to be pleasing to God...any effort that is to be guided by wisdom...any plan that is to prosper...any intention of the heart that is to be kept pure must be grounded in the Word of God. It is our bread of life. It is the only truth. It is the way to know the mind of God and discover His will. It is always the place to begin. No matter what the issue, plan or circumstance the first question should be "What does God's word say?" Truth ends confusion and silences debate...especially those we carry on in our own hearts and minds.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is called "The Word". He is also called a firm foundation and the chief cornerstone. It is for this reason that we can do nothing, prepare nothing, begin nothing and expect it to prosper and be God-honoring unless it is grounded and built upon the foundation of the Word of God. It is for this reason that I believe that the cultivation of a Quiet Time must begin with His word.

Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful, scripturally rich devotional materials out there, but if we are not familiar with what God's word says in and of itself, we will not be able to determine if what individual men and women say it says is right and true. I have benefitted greatly from the devotional works of Spurgeon, Chambers, Elliot and Carmichael, to name a few...but had I not first been grounded in the word I don't think they would have the effect on me they do.

First, reading God's word imparts knowledge and a familiarity with the ways and character of God which aids in discernment. But, reading His word also cultivates a love for His Word. We can not value and appreciate other's adoration of the word if we do not have some of that on our own. The best way to do that is to dig in, read up, and see the outworking of His truth in our own lives.

So, when seeking to cultivate or grow your quiet time with the Lord...go back to basics. Restrict your diet to bread and water...the Bread of Life and the Living Water of the Word of God. He will grow and expand it according to His purposes. But, be willing to be basic and simple as you begin. Do not let pride tell you that your morning routine has to look like someone else's. Don't drag out all of the devotions collecting dust on your bookself or reference books and try to go from where you are to 3 hours of intense and rich time each day. It isn't going to happen. We aren't built that way. Start with the Word and give the time you can give now. The Lord blesses faithfulness and He will not despise a heart that is bent on knowing and meeting with Him...even if that is just for 15 minutes in Psalms on the potty.

Like the tree planted by the rivers of water, what starts as a seed will sprout and grow and bear fruit. Trust the Lord to do that and know that you can't force it or make it happen faster than He would have it. Discipline takes time. Our flesh must be subdued and conditioned...and it is stubborn. Be willing to start small and go slow and trust Him with the rest. He will meet you. He will grow you. Your offering, no matter how small in your own eyes, will be acceptable to Him and your life will change bit by bit, precept by precept, morning by morning.

Thursday, June 15, 2006 - Part II - Cultivating a Quiet Time

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-3).

Isn't that what we all want? To know that we are planted securely in God's purposes and see fruit and prosperity in our lives? Yet, I think, equally as much, we want it to just happen...poof...all in an instant without much effort or sacrifice. It's human nature. We want ease. We want our feelings to be in line or support what it is we are called to do. But, very often, that is not what happens. Very often things aren't easy, don't come naturally, and our feelings are doing nothing but pulling us away from the very thing we need to or should do.

For years, this is how it was for me in regards to pretty much anything that fell into the category of "obedience to God." It didn't matter what it was...quiet time, personal prayer, bible study, accountability, pursuit of holiness, taming my name it. There were very few things I FELT like doing for God. Those I was naturally inclined to do, I did with relish, the rest just fell by the wayside. Needless to say, in those years I didn't see much fruit or prosperity. In truth, I was barely hanging on to my faith and did not know the peace and assurance God promises us. I wanted it to just happen. I wanted to want it. I wanted to just wake up one day holy and spiritually powerful.

But, as John Stott says, "Holiness is not a condition into which we drift" it is one we must purposefully walk, and at times, fight, our way into.

For me, the walk began modestly and innocuously enough. I had been praying for a couple of months regarding my constant struggle with sin. Again, I wanted the Lord to just make it go away...and once again, I wanted my effort to be minimal. What the Lord led me to do was put a Bible in my bathroom. So, at that point, I began to read for 10 or 15 minutes on the potty. I was groggy, still half asleep and barely remembered anything I read...but by His grace, I was faithful. Every so often, something would jump up off the page and touch my heart. I'd respond emotionally, underline it and move on.

But things didn't stay that way. The Lord blessed the faithfulness He had given me and soon, I was really reading. I looked forward to that time...still on the potty...each morning. It then got to the point where I was reading a bit more and my legs would fall asleep from sitting in a place that was not built for extended stays or comfort, so I moved to my bed.

That was about 3 years ago. And He has done much in and through my life since.

As time has gone by, the Lord has expanded and added more and more elements to this morning time with Him...but we will get into those in upcoming posts. But, my point in sharing all of this is because after my last post, I really felt led of the Lord to share a bit about my very humble devotional beginnings and encourage those out there who continue to struggle with this discipline to try again.

Before I began this last time, I had many failed attempts...many mornings when I woke up and thought "well, I'll start tomorrow" and tomorrow never came. What the Lord has shown me is that there is no power in wishing or good intentions...there is power in action. And, there is power in small actions. He will grow them into big ones.

The tree planted by the rivers of water started out as a tiny seed. It had to sprout and work its way up through the soil out into the open air. Then it had to continue to grow, all reedy and doubt braving winds and rain, trusting that its tiny root system would hold...until, finally, it had more substance, thickness, bark and deeper roots that would withstand anything the river, the sky or animals could inflict.

Such is the case with any spiritual discipline. We start with what we have and God grows it and creates something strong and beautiful...something that will then help, serve, comfort and strengthen others. So, no matter what your quiet time looks like. No matter what your friends or spouses or relatives quiet times look like. No matter what amount of time you think you have available it. Start now. Do not wait. Like the lame man at the gate, when you take a step in faith, the Lord will make your previously weak feet and ankles strong and you will soon run and leap with joy!

Remember, "holiness is not a condition into which we drift" we must walk purposefully towards it...daily...and trust the Lord with the rest. He will meet you. He will give you grace and more grace. He will bless and multiply your offering. He will change your heart and order your life according to His purposes. Bit by bit. Precept upon precept. Morning by morning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Abide in Me . . . (John 15:4)

To remain in a place...To continue to be sure or firm; endure...To dwell or sojourn...To conform to; comply with...To wait patiently for...

Our Lord commands us to abide in Him. He goes so far as to say that unless we abide in Him, we cannot bear fruit and are not truly His disciples. Looking at the definitions of the word abide, I believe when our Lord commands us to abide He does not merely mean to not turn away from the faith...thought it does mean that (to remain in place, continue to be sure), but it also means more than that. It means to dwell, to conform, to comply...and to wait patiently for.

Oswald Chambers says that abiding requires us to "build [our] thinking patiently to bring it into perfect harmony with [our] Lord." And to do this, we must bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (
2 Corinthians 10:5 ) intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. Our lives are not made up of only one neatly confined area."

We cannot abide in one area and not another, that is not abiding...that is cordoning off areas we want to allow God control over and keeping other for ourselves. That is not bringing our thinking into perfect harmony with our is not to dwell, conform or comply. We must all come to a place where we decide that He truly is Lord of ALL...not just some things...but ALL things. And go about the work of taking thoughts captive as our will rises up, and rebuilding our thoughts in accordance with His word.

We also cannot wait to abide when our circumstances change or we feel we have sufficient time or even wait for our hearts to want to abide. Our hearts always want what we want first...we must choose to conform and comply with Christ, despite our hearts. We must choose and act on that choice not the leanings of our hearts. Life, our thoughts, our emotions will always get in the way if we let them. But again, there is the point of decision: is Christ Lord of ALL? If we say yes, there can be no "but" following. Our circumstances, our desires, our longings, our plans, our schedules, our emotions or opinions simply don't matter. They are not authoritative. They are not Lord...Christ is Lord and His will is what needs to prevail if we are to bear fruit and be called His disciples.

Chambers goes on to say: "Think of the things that take you out of the position of abiding in Christ. You say, "Yes, Lord, just a minute— I still have this to do. Yes, I will abide as soon as this is finished, or as soon as this week is over. It will be all right, Lord. I will abide then." Get moving— begin to abide now. In the initial stages it will be a continual effort to abide, but as you continue, it will become so much a part of your life that you will abide in Him without any conscious effort. Make the determination to abide in Jesus wherever you are now or wherever you may be placed in the future."

That last part is very important, I think. If we can determine to abide, regardless of what life looks like or what our mind says or heart feels...we can abide no matter how things change in the future. Often, my married friends say to me "yeah, you can read the way you do, and blog and journal and so on because you are single and have no children. Just wait until you do..." I have no doubt that things will look different when the Lord blesses me with a husband and family. I have no doubt that I will have to fight harder than I do now for that time...but I believe (as Chambers asserts) that the effort I have made to abide now will see me through. It has become, for me, an essential part of life. The Lord has developed consistency and my heart has been changed to the point that I yearn for and require my time with Him each day. Though my circumstances may change, I believe the heart change He has affected will allow me to continue with Him. The format and content and even time of day may change, but He who has been my dwelling place will not change...and I pray my desire for Him only increases even if my available time decreases.

For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His gracious will and also brings about the accomplishment of the desire.
(Phil 2:13 WEY)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Be still and know...

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Be still and know that I am God...The Lord of hosts is with us...

As a single woman, I get a lot of advice on how to change that. The people around me have a lot of opinions as to why I am still single...and what I need to do to go about gettin' me a man. They are all well-meaning and prompted by a love and care for me, and I appreciate it. And though, in the natural, some of their observations and counsel might be good and right...there is another - greater - force at work than my refusal to club-hop or put myself out there via the internet or actual pursuit of a man...greater, also, than the passivity of the men around me or my size or my refusal to consider anything other than a godly man. And that something is a good and purposeful and sovereign God.

What that God is saying to me is: You are being kept. Wait only on me. (And as you wait) Your maker is your husband. Be still and know that I am God...and I am drawing lines for you in pleasant places. Pursue me...delight in me...and I will give you the desires of your heart.

For me to step outside of this counsel and accept that of my well-meaning friends and family (who I sometimes think want to see me married with children more than I do)...would not only be disobedience but it would actually hinder the process, not help it, for conviction and correction and repentance takes time.

So I wait. But this waiting is not inactivity or lanquishing. It is purposeful, prayerful, frought with activity in the unseen, and sanctifying.

Is it easy? Um...NO. It's not. But its a good kind of hard...and I know the fruit of this (at times) arduous waiting will be wonderful and well worth the wait.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

In the Waiting

Yet again, I have to feature my guest blogger (and dear friend...though she doesn't know it), Elisabeth Elliot. This is also from "Faith that does not Falter."

The Discipline of Waiting

Is there a harder discipline than that of waiting, especially when one's desires seem as wild and uncontrollable as a prairie fire?

Without real trust in who God is – trust in His never-failing love and wisdom - we set ourselves up for disappointment. Is He a good God? Will He give what is best? If the answer is yes to both questions, it follows that He will withhold many things that look attractive to us. It is His mercy to withhold them. Shall we accuse him of failure to get "His act" together or shall we echo the psamist's word, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Ps 27:13-14)

If we imagine that happiness is to be found by furious pursuit, we will end up in a rage at the unsatisfying results. If, on the other hand, we set ourselves to pursue the wise and loving and holy will of our Heavenly Father, we will find that happiness comes – quietly, in unexpected ways, and surprisingly often, as the by-product of sacrifice.

Waiting is a form of suffering – the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, flesh and heart failing, soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness.

Nevertheless, God is in the darkness.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him (Ps 62:5). In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and reistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms will find strength and peace.

God is in the waiting.

Reading this made me thing of a song called "In the Waiting" by Vicki Yo'he. You can listen to it here while reading what the Lord impressed upon my heart after reading what my friend Elisabeth wrote.

I have seen God in my waiting, that is, I have seen the truth of His word. When I am tempted to be discouraged or discontented with my circumstances...He has shown me the sufficiency of His grace. When I feel spent, weary, wanting to give up...He has met me with comfort and strength. When my will has risen up and threatened to demand its own way...He speaks words of wisdom and truth. And when my longings reach fever-pitch and seem almost too much to bear...He shows me that His nearness truly is my good. So I wait...and wait...and wait still longer, setting my expectation and hope on Him, knowing that He is working and bringing about His good and perfect purposes for my life. Praying all the while that as He takes me through my paces in this curriculum of patience, that I will not dishonor Him in my response to His tests and pop quizzes. I may fail some and may have to repeat a course or twelve, but knowing that He is in this, designing it, willing and doing it all gives me great comfort and helps me to endure...and wait...however long He wills.

"My soul, wait thou only upon god; for my expectation is from him (Ps 62:5).

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Matters of the Heart

Today, I am pleased to present a "guest blogger" friend, Elisabeth Elliot.

No, Ms. Elliot did not write this specifically at my request, but as I read it last night, I knew in that moment it was meant for me and felt led to post this section from her book, Faith that does not Falter" in its entirety:

Hearts do break. The same hearts are breakable over and over again.

Is there anywhere to turn but to Him who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3)? Broken hearts are not new to Him, and His power is limitless, for He is the One who numbers the stars and calls them all by name (v. 4). Have you noticed these two verses that juxtapose God's concern for the wounded and His numbering and naming the stars? His compassion and His power are mentioned together that we might understand that the Lord of the Universe is not so preoccupied with the galaxies that He cannot stoop to minister to our sufferings.

He has a glorious purpose in permitting the heartbreak. We find many clues for this in Scripture. For example:

...that we may be shaped to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29)

...that we may learn to trust (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

...that we may learn to obey (Psalm 119:67, 71)

...that we may bear fruit (John 15:2)

...that we may reach spiritual maturity (James 1:4)

Our sufferings are not for nothing.


However small they may be, we may see them as God's mercy in giving us the chance to unite them with His own sufferings. Christ suffered for our sins and we suffer because of the sins of others (and they suffer because of ours). There is a mystery here, far deeper than our understanding, but we may take it on faith, on the authority of the Word, and believe it will not go for nothing.

A broken heart is an acceptable offering to God. He will never despise it. We do not know what unimagined good He can bring about through our simple offering. Christ was swilling to be broken bread for the life of the world. He was poured out like wine. This means He accepted being ground like wheat and crushed likthe grape. It was the hands of the others who did the grinding and crushing. Our small hurts, so infinitely smaller than His, may yet be trustfully surrendered to His transforming work. The trial of faith is a thing worth more than gold.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

"You give and you take away..."

From yesterday's newspaper..."A 4-year-old girl drowned Saturday afternoon in a swimming pool near Covington, LA. The child died in a backyard swimming pool during a supervised party with many adults around…"

When I hear stories of tragic and unexpected death, particularly those involving children, my heart is gripped. This particular story tears at my heart even more than usual because this child was the granddaughter of my late Pastor. He passed in December 2001 after a very painful battle with cancer. The battle was painful not merely for him physically, but for our church as well. His family, who were obviously members of the church, were often caught in the middle of the struggle to care for him and see to the needs of the church. To say his death was difficult would be an understatement. His wife and youngest daughter (the mother of this little girl) seemed to feel it more severely than anyone…and from what I can tell, continue to suffer his loss today.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this latest loss must be like for them. I can scarcely think about it without getting choked up. Their pain must be nearly unbearable.

Over the course of the past week or so, the Lord has been impressing on me the smallness of my problems in light of both eternity and what other people are suffering. In truth, the majority of my “affliction” is self-imposed…it is simply a matter of not liking denial or delay. God saying “No” or “Not Yet” is not affliction…to suffer over it is akin to a toddler’s tantrum throwing. Oh, sure, I make it all spiritual and use terms like “the battle between the flesh and the spirit” and “dying to self” and “being conformed to His image” but really, what it boils down to is I want what I want when I want it, and that is usually 5 minutes ago. I don’t like to be made to wait. I like denials even less. And so I “suffer”. The amazing thing is that the Lord does not treat me like the brat that I am. He is ever near, faithful to speak words of truth and comfort, and even to answer my (at times) silly prayers.

I have no doubt this mother prayed for health and happiness and protection for her daughter. I am sure she just assumed that she’d see her go to big girl school, and to her first dance, and get married and be there when she gave birth to her first child.

But God, in His sovereign and good plan ordered things differently. His plan is good. Of that there is no doubt. It doesn’t make sense to me. I am sure it makes even less sense to this child’s mother. But He promises to work all things together for our good. And all means ALL.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

It is difficult to see something like this as good. I think of some harm coming to my nieces and can only see pain and grief …not good. But this is His promise. He gives…and takes away…and both are good.

When I apply this personally, say if I think about some harm coming to my nieces, I can’t see any good in that. But I am not God. What I do know from my own paltry excuse for suffering, is that I need it. It is often in those moments when I feel my world is upside down, when nothing is going as it should, when it seems all is about to fall to pieces or already has that God is the most real to me…when my heart is the most prone to seek Him…and I learn the most about His character. Martin Luther is quoted as saying that the way to truly know God is through Bible Study, Prayer and Suffering. He called suffering a gift. He is not alone. Job also regarded his period of intense suffering as a gift which helped Him to see God more clearly and love Him more deeply. Though, in the midst of the pain, I am sure there were times when his suffering felt like anything but a gift.

I am sure this young mother feels the same way.

But God’s promise is God’s promise. He gives and takes away and calls both good.

Tragedy like this also puts things in perspective for those of us not quite so closely connected to the loss. In this life, there are no guarantees. Nothing is certain. Our next breath is not promised. The only thing that is promised and guaranteed is His goodness and faithfulness and comfort...that's it. Everything else will change...everything else will pass away or be taken away...people will leave and turn their backs on us, even...but Not God! And that is enough.

Lord let it be enough for this suffering mother…let it be enough for us…let it be enough for me.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Down came the rain...and then...

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8)
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5)

Sowing in tears...that was my Friday. I didn't have to purpose to think or dwell or analyze anything. It was just there. The emotion and the tears were right there beneath the surface and anytime it got quiet or I was alone, tears were flowing. And God's bottle was filling up.

I didn't understand it. I didn't like it. No prayer, no amount of truth speaking could stop it. I'd pray and speak God's word and take a deep, shuddering breath and tears would flow all the more. Looking back, I know it was something that had to happen...something that had to die...and since grief is a part of death I just hung on until it was done. And thanked Him that I could still praise Him through the unexplainable storm of emotion knowing that He would never leave me and was working all things...even these tears...together for my good and His glory.

By that evening, I was tired...really tired.

By God's grace, I did not stop life. I did not go home and have a pity party. I did not dwell on my possibly dashed hopes. I did not question God. I did not let go of His truth. I did not run from the Lord...I ran to Him. I also went about the things I was called to do that day, and prayed and worshipped and cried all at the same time. I got up early and had my time with the Lord and went to work and met my deadlines and picked up my nieces and nephew and visited with family and friends.

As I was finally heading home late that evening, I prayed a quick prayer "Please don't let me have a tearful ride home," and closed the door and an unexplainable peace came over my heart. The CD player came on and I began to worship...and that peace has remained.

I still don't fully understand all the tears...disappointment just doesn't quite cover it. But I know that my tears have been stored and the very next day I was reaping shouts of joy. Nothing changed but me. Nothing...including my insight and understanding into the whole ordeal. The answers we seek are not always promised...but we are promised, whatever the ultimate answer or outcome, peace that goes beyond all our reason or understanding or preferences.

Not that He doth explain
The mystery that baffleth, but a sense
Husheth the Quiet heart, that far far hence
Lieth a field set thick with golden grain,
Wetted in seedling days by many a rain;
The End - it will explain.
(Amy Carmichael, The End, in Toward Jerusalem)

Again, I say...the End it will explain, and the end, it will be wonderful!

Friday, June 2, 2006

...the thing that pleaseth thee...

Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee. Psalm 143:10

I do not think anything worth having in the spiritual world is easily attained. There is no short-cut to holiness. But there can be a true, humble, loving choice of the soul and that choice, become a habit, will lead into peace. (Amy Carmichael)

The thing that pleases the Lord.

Often, if we are honest, this is exactly the opposite of what we really want to do. Our tendency is to look at the circumstances of our life in an isolated way. Something happens and we feel the need to respond. We do not often have the sort of divine aerial perspective. We put the happenings and circumstances of our lives under the microscope…make them bigger than they really are…and feel compelled to take action. But the reality is that our life is not comprised of one isolated incident after another. Each moment of each day is ordered and purposed and designed and goes with the ones that have gone before. And everything that touches us must first pass through God’s hand.


No matter how grim or dire things may seem to us in the moment, nothing falls outside of the jurisdiction of God. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Everything is planned and purposed and accounted for. No event will, even for a moment, derail His plan.


Then why should we not let our hearts rest in peace about everything that happens? For nothing can happen that can break a single one of [His] precious and exeeding great, supreme and wondrous promises...(Amy Carmichael). Promises to give us a hope and a future…to prosper us…to provide for us…to work all things together for the good…and to be our refuge and shield and comfort and guide and to fight for us all along the way. There is no promise of an easy passage, but there are countless promises for every day of the voyage, and for welcome when He brings us to our desired haven (Ps 107:30) (Amy Carmichael). Why then should we chose to worry when we have such great promises from such a faithful God?

Lord, let us do that which pleaseth Thee…and praise you for everything that comes to us by your hand…to “sing the mingled song of mourning and delight”, as Charles Spurgeon says…and to trust you with everything, for everything, through everything.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Strange Answers

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. (Psalm 38:15)

Often times, I find God’s answers are not exactly what I thought they would be. In the end, it is always easy to see that His answer was the best answer…but sometimes right when the answer is given, it doesn’t quite look like an answer or feel very good. I think that is because, in most instances His answer involves us dying a bit more. Often we need to be humbled first, sometimes our question or issue is not the real question or issue. Whatever the case, however it looks or feels, His answer is always sure and always the right one.

For years I sought the Lord about my weight. I asked Him to change me, to take my desire for food away, to give me will-power, to help me stick to a diet, to make me want to exercise, I even asked to just be “healed” and wake up a normal size. Needless to say…His mode and method and timetable in answering these requests wasn’t what I envisioned when I got up from prayer. I was focused on my size because that was the biggest thing in my mind. It was the most detrimental and obvious and painful and it caused a lot of problems for me and my life plan. But God…but God looks on the heart and He chose to deal with that before He dealt with what goes into my mouth. To paraphrase Matthew 15:11…it is not what goes in that defiles a person, it is what comes out.

Before I was given a plan of action for dealing with my weight, the Lord dealt with the idol I’d made of marriage and the sin of lust in my heart and life. Neither of these were Number 1 on my list. At times, the lust issue grieved me. When I would think on what it meant to God, I would often feel repulsed and unworthy and withdraw from Him. But, still, the weight was my main focus. In my mind, it was the solution to all of my problems. In truth, the solution to all my problems was obedience to the Living God.

After these other two areas of sin had been effectively dealt with, the Lord gave me one glorious year of near effortless weight loss. My intimacy with Him was unprecedented. The quietness of my heart almost audible, if that makes sense. And then Hurricane Katrina hit and threw everything in the air. Some things remained steady others have been off-kilter ever since.

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. (Psalm 38:15)

Lately, I’ve found myself praying that the Lord would help me to be equally grieved by all of my sin…that even the “smallest” offence would seem as reprehensible as the worst thing I could think of doing. My intention in praying that prayer was that this state of mind would prevent me from sinning. God’s answer…I had to fall into one of my “lesser” sins to be grieved appropriately over it. The depth and magnitude of grief did come, only it didn’t come before the sin…it came after.

I’ve also been praying about a certain situation involving a man I met a few months ago. I’ve been praying that the Lord would help me to know and trust that His plan is His plan, regardless of what things look like or what my emotions may be doing at the moment. I asked that I would be thankful for whatever does or does not happen…knowing that I can trust God in this man and trust the Lord to do better for each of us than I can think or imagine. God’s answer…a phone call from a friend telling me she thinks he may be going on a date with another woman.

Strange answers, indeed.

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. (Psalm 38:15)

Were I waiting for an instantly sin-free life…if my joy depended on ease…if I were insisting that my life’s happiness depended on this one man I might be pretty depressed right now. Though I desperately desire holiness and would like things to be less of a struggle than they currently are, and though my feelings for this particular man are stronger than a passing interest…I am not waiting on or living for those things. I wait for the Lord who is faithful and always near and has been my comfort and my shield. His nearness has been my good and on Him I do wait all the day long. He will sustain me and His way will prosper…no matter how often I fail or how many disappointing phone calls come my way. He is my God. He hears me. He answers me. And none of His good promises and purposes for my life will fail…not one! Our Lord says, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! (Luke 1:45)” Though I am not certain what He has said regarding His plans for my life…I know He has said that they will be good…perfect…splendid. I am believing that…that this big black unknown called “my future” is good…perfect…splendid, and that God is not slack in fulfilling His promises. He will not tarry long. He has not forgotten me. Nothing portioned out for me has been given to anyone else. It is being kept, as I am being kept. Thank you Lord, as tears begin to sting my eyes…thank you!