Monday, July 31, 2006

Unreservedly, Fearlessly His

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given it to me; to Thee, O Lord, I restore it; all is Thine, dispose of it according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is enough for me....Alone with God, let us give Him ourselves, all we have and are and shall be, to be unreservedly His. WILLIAM R. HUNTINGTON

There is no stay so strong as an unreserved abandonment of self into God's hand. H. L. SIDNEY LEAR

I still remember, very vividly, my first day of Kindergarten. I was the oldest and the first to go to school. I was also the only girl. At that time, I had only 2 of my 4 brothers. My newest brother, Joey, was about a year old, No. 3 (Brad) was 8 months in the oven...and less than a year after that, Timmy, "the caboose" would be born.

My neighbor friend, Chantel, had already gone to Kindergarten and told me all about it. Since I always wanted to do whatever Chantel did, I was none too excited. So off I marched, with Mom and brothers lagging behind, in my new dress, holding my snazzy bookbag which looked like a denim briefcase with pockets and a really cool latch on the front. Daddy had written my name and phone number inside the front flap in what I thought was the fanciest handwriting ever! Inside, I had my special tablet, a couple of big fat pencils, a pack of big fat crayons and a big flat eraser. I was set!

When we got to the corner, there were several other kids there already waiting with their Moms. Soon, the bright yellow bus - the coolest vehicle EVER in my 5 year old opinion - was coming up the street. I remember feeling something like a bubbling coming up from my toes which wanted to come out as a squeal but didn't. I looked behind me to smile at my mom and brothers, as if to say "this is so awesome!" (or whatever the colloquial equivalent was in 1977) But most of the other kids weren't looking back at their Moms that way. Most of them were crying, begging to stay home, looking at the slowly approaching bus - which brought such a smile to my face - as if it were the giant yellow machine of death.

I didn't get it.

Despite the fussing and crying and screams of terror, soon we were all on the bus-slash- monster. Once inside, most kids reluctantly sat, whimpering in the dark green vinyl seats which seemed HUGE...way too big for kids our size. Others continued to cry and plead with the driver to let them off. Still other kids tried to get the windows open to make one last attempt at convincing their Mom of the horror that was sure to befall them so they would, at last, rescue them from this, albeit cleverly disguised, monster. I sat in my seat with my bookbag on my lap, smiling. I didn't even look back to wave goodbye. I was off, on to the Adventure of Kindergarten and I was psyched! (or whatever we would have said then)

I thought about this as I drove to my parents on Sunday. I thought about how fearless I was. I thought about how excited I was. I thought about how I didn't think about what I was leaving behind (my room full of barbies, my brothers-slash-living baby dolls, my easy-bake oven). I didn't worry about what might or might not happen at school. I didn't wonder if I'd make friends or be able to learn to write or if I'd not be allowed to be mommy when we played house. I was where I was supposed to be, going where I was supposed to go, doing what I was supposed to be doing and that was all that mattered. What lay ahead was a complete mystery to me, despite Chantel's efforts to describe it, and I didn't care. I wasn't worried. I wasn't afraid. I was excited...about what I didn't know, but boy was I excited!

Nearly 30 years later, I wonder...when did that change? When did the unknown come to be such a scary thing? When did tomorrow hang over today with a sense of foreboding? When did worry and what ifs creep into my mind? When did I learn to expect the worst? When did I begin to think I had to fiercely hang on to what is to keep it from becoming what was? When did I lose that automatic and untouchable sense of excited anticipation?

I don't know. But I do know none of it is pleasing to God. And, I hate that it still lingers and infects my heart and mind even after I've given my life to Christ.

Jesus says "He who seeks to save His life shall lose it."

And really, that is what all the fear and dread and worry and what ifs and holding on attempt to save my life. My life that was bought. My life that was saved. My life that is owed to Christ.

Today, a plan of mine was disappointed. I'd set a goal or deadline and it is now past. On the way home, I got a little weepy and apprehensive about what that might mean. Then, clear as day I heard "It was your plan, not God's". I needed that perspective. I can make all the plans I want...the mind of man plans His way but the Lord directs His steps. His plans, and His plans alone will prosper. I need not worry about my plans failing...whether they do or not, His plan is the one that matters and His plans never fail. What other logical choice is there but to surrender, to abandon oneself and one's plans to God and trust that no matter matter how many disappointments or big yellow monster buses come our way it will be fine. We are the only ones taken by surprise. God's got it...and He is good and does good always.

Despite their fears and cries and screams and falling on the floor in a quivering puddle, all of the kids that entered the belly of the beast (also known as the school bus) returned home, safe and sound, happy, with snacks in their tummys and a new friend to tell Mom about. Only a few of us didn't have to hear, "See, I said you would have fun and you did, didn't you?"...and feel the shame for behaving so badly.

In truth, nothing, not even the worst tragedy that has ever happened to us in our lives, is ever as bad as we imagine it to be. And in the midst of tragedy, for believer and unbeliever, there are many evidences of His grace to recount. Mercies that were simply undeserved, blessings and encouragements, favor, and proof that He truly does work ALL things together for good.

Lord, Help us. Help look on the next moment, the next hour, the next day or year or decade with the same excited anticipation I had that first day of Kindergarten...with the same surrender that Christ had at Calvary "for the joy set before Him." Make the truth of your goodness and faithfulness so real that the thought of being fearful or dreading what may come grieves us. In moments when we brace for an imagined blow, may we feel your Spirit convicting us and repent for accusing you of something you cannot do or be. Forgive us, our unbelief and help us to be daily more abandoned to You, Your will, and Your ways. Amen!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Delay, revisited.

A few months ago, barely a month into the road I've been walking. (Serious mixed metaphors there, but you get the idea...) I wrote the following. Reading it now, feeling the way I do it has new meaning to me. As I stand today, feeling like I am on the cusp of fulfilled hopes, believing more strongly in God's sovereignty and goodness and desire to give me the desires of my heart, I can read things like this, especially these bits...

The grace of God is given us for real life. He who strengthens and illuminates our today will make strong and radiant our tomorrow.

Therefore, let us stay our imagination on Him and refuse to let it wander off into unknown tomorrows. Trust ye in the Lord forever. Him we know ...
[the future we do not.]

And say, more vehemently than I ever have before...He is good and does good! I can also say, there truly has been no delay. We serve an "on time God". He is never late. He is never slack. He is always right on time.

The Discipline in Delay
(March 2006)

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
Isaiah 26:3-4

The King James Version margin gives “imagination” as the meaning of the word “mind.” The present moment rarely troubles us. It is when we let ourselves imagine what may be lying ahead that we find ourselves, often, shaken or anxious or cowardly…the grace of God is not given to us for dreams, creations of our imagination. The grace of God is given us for real life. He who strengthens and illuminates our today will make strong and radiant our tomorrow. This must be true, for with Him is no variableness, “neither shadow that is cast by turning” as James 1:17 tells us for our comfort. Therefore, let us stay our imagination on Him and refuse to let it wander off into unknown tomorrows. Trust ye in the Lord forever. Him we know – for I know whom I have believe and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him (2 Tim 1:12). To Him I have committed my future, my tomorrow. I may safely trust Him, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.

This was my reading in Whispers of His Power (by Amy Carmichael) this morning. It was yet another “word in due season” and a “balm for my soul” this morning.

I don’t wait very well – though at least one of my friends calls me the “most patient person” she knows. I laugh at that because I know my heart and the things that go on in my mind and how often each are very much like a wild stallion, frustrated and bucking against the gate to get out and run and have his own way.

Oswald Chambers says that the most stressful thing is waiting on God…and I know this to be true. I want to know. I wouldn’t mind waiting half as much, if I knew that the end of it all would be the outcome I desire.

I can’t know that and really, deep down (often way deep down under a lot of other things) I don’t just want what I want. I want what the Lord has. I want to walk along the lines He has said have been drawn for me in pleasant places. Yet, my mind…my imagination…draws my own lines, envisions my own pleasant places…and I yearn for them…because I can in some way see them, I guess. But with the Lord, I see only where I stand and not a step beyond. His lamp only shows me where me feet need to be right then…His grace is only sufficient for that...I can not see where my second footfall will land, only the one I am taking now…and I can not know that those steps will lead to the pleasant places I’ve imagined in my mind. What I can know is “whom I have believed” and that “he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Namely, my life…my future…my hope.

And herein lies the battle…to whom am I most committed? To myself or my Lord? To my will or His? To my way or His? To my timetable or His? I find, more and more lately, that I daily have to choose to surrender – EVERYTHING – and submit everything to Him. It is when I try to hold on to even just a piece, a fringe, a glimpse (when I look back at my treasure like Lot’s wife) that fear, anxiety, uncertainty and sinful thoughts reign. But, in those moments when I stop, pray, and surrender…there is peace, rest, calm, and hope. Not hope in getting my way…but in knowing that He is at work and that His promises are true, regardless of present circumstances or disappointments or failures.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
Isaiah 26:3-4

How I long to know perfect, uninterrupted peace! But I am thankful for this struggle…for the opportunity to remove more and more of me from my hopes and dreams and make them more and more about seeing the Lord’s will done…to see Him glorified through me. And, I am thankful, that all the while…in the midst of my struggle and stumbling and emotion…the Lord is building my faith and making me stronger for the journey. As Piper says, “God does not waste the gift of pain (or struggle).” Even though I KNOW my struggle is because of my sinful and demanding heart!How kind! How merciful! How gracious is our God! He does not spare the rod and spoil His child, but also follows correction with tender words and soothing balm, which brings healing and comfort.

And I am humbled.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

All still means ALL

...God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good deed. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Father, thank you that when you say "all" you mean all. Thank you for this verse that drives this truth home. All grace...all sufficiency...all things...all times. No matter what our circumstance or weakness or temptation, we have everything we need to do abound in good, even. Our "uniqueness" or "extenuating circumstances" do not in anyway override or hinder who You are and what you promise us. When you say ALL you mean A L mean EVERY mean EVERY time. Thank you for this promise. Make it real to us today, Lord...For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Potter and the Fire

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

When I was a young girl, my mom sent me to Summer Ceramics classes at a local community center. Each year, I'd come home with rather average looking nicknacks which my mom would allow me to decorate the house and my room with. My first piece was a small persian cat. I took the white, chalky form and scraped and smoothed the edges left from the mold, then I painted it, adding whiskers and eyelashes and a delicate pink for the mouth. After that was done, I put a clear glaze over it. I was quite proud of the result and thought, after the paint dried, I could take my cat home. Our teacher told me I couldn't take it home until after it had been fired. She walked the class over to the kiln and showed us a before piece. Like my cat, the paint was matte-looking, nice enough but drab. She also said that a little too much water or rough handling and the piece would break into a chalky mess. Then she showed us the piece after it went through the fire. The colors were vibrant, the heat-activated glaze (which had no effect on the piece before) now shone like the noon-day. My cat went from ok to a shiny, glimmery treasure I couldn't wait to show everyone!

The work of Our Potter on us is much the same. The real beauty can not be seen until we have been passed through the fire.

The fire is what fixes the work and makes it shine before men.

I think, so often, when we read the verse quoted above, we think it stops there. We think we simply have to be pliant and moldable and submissive to the work of His hands. But that is not all. What he forms in us must be passed through the fire for it to be "tested" and in order for it to become a fixed part of who we are. Only after trials or testing is this work then finished and suitable for use in ministry. If we try to use it before it's been tried, we will just have a mess. But if we submit to the fire and do not try to escape its heat, we will "come forth as gold," (Job 23:10) and, all will see the radiance of His glory in us and praise our Father in Heaven.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Unseen

When Christ was on the cross, those who loved Him could only see the senseless pain and suffering of an innocent man. He had tried to tell them, tried to prepare them, tried to encourage them that the loss would be gain, but they could only stand in stunned grief. In the unseen, though, there was joy. Christ breathed His last and then the temple veil was torn in two, the Holy Spirit came and dwelt among men and we could finally be justified and one with God.

This is always the promise. No matter how bleak, how painful, how dark and dangerous today may seem, in the unseen there is joy. In the unseen, there is a God who is working all things...all things...together for good. Always. He is good and does good...always. He is plotting for our joy and His glory...always. He is going to do that which seems good to Him and is best for us (and everyone in anyway involved and connected)...always.

Think about that for a moment. When we have to make choices, we often explore the options and also often have to weigh the effects this decision will have on others. Often we have to make a choice that will cause disappointment or hurt to someone else. But God...God looks at connections and effects we can't possibly even fathom because while our frame of reference is today and even our past...His is eternity. He knows the effects our choices will have on people we haven't met yet, on circumstances that don't even have a foreshadowing yet.

Father, cause us to pause when things don't look so great and wait...knowing that Your good plan will soon be made plain. You are true to your word and this is your promise. Help us to wait rather than worry...knowing that what is unseen now will soon be seen and it WILL be good! Always! Amen.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Promise of the Presence

Before Christ, God (primarily) met His people by coming down and choosing to dwell in places. On Mount Sinai, in the burning bush, the pillar's of cloud and fire, the Holy of Holies. His presence was asked for. Before great events or battles, the men of God had to beseech Him to go with them. To worship God involved going to the altar, the tent of meeting, the mountain top. But then God sent His Son. The temple veil was torn in two and then, as Christ promised, God sent His Spirit to dwell in all who would believe. His presence was now, not confined to the Holy of Holies or other external manifestations He chose, but within us. He made good on His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. Wherever we go, He is there...and so is His strength and goodness and mercy and direction and wisdom and power. We need not ask for His help in times of weakness or is there, we need only take it. In times of confusion and uncertainty...we have the promise of His direction. He goes before, he hems us in behind and walks with us along the way. All the while, He is saying "This is the way, walk in it." We do not need to look for Him. He is always there. We do not need to call Him down to us. He is always there. We do not need to ask for the favor of His presence. He is always there. We simply need to walk in that truth and trust in it. For just as surely as He lives, His presence is with us and His promises are certain. We need never fear or feel we are powerless against our sin and weakness. He is always there. He will always help. He will always answer us when we call on Him. And when we do call out, we will always find that He is very near and was truly there all along.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sanctuary vs. Reality

If only I could live in my car!

Each morning I drive to work, praying and worshipping and talking things over with the Lord. I have more clarity, more soundness of thought, more determination to walk in a manner worthy during these 20 minutes than I do at any other time of the day. The stretch of highway looking out over my steering wheel seems full of endless possibilities, hopes, and the promise of strength for the journey. The destination, I am sure, will be good, wonderful, best. The thought of straying, seeking my own way, carving out another path...ridiculous to the 'enth degree.

Then I step out of the car, and "real life" intrudes and things get fuzzy...hopes dwindle...the road gets bumpy and I start looking for options.

As a child of God, however, there are no options. The course has been set, the lines drawn, my steps ordered. The promise is that the path will lead to green pastures and pleasant places, I will one day recieve my "beautiful inheritance". Though that day of receiving is not today, though there are potholes or rivers or mountains or deserts along the way doesn't make the promise any less true and it doesn't exempt me from staying the course.

In my car, I am determined. Disobedience isn't an option. It would be stupid to choose another way when the One who knows all and knows what is best and, in fact, has planned what is best, has planned and constructed and is leading me down this particular road. But, truth be told, when obstacles or difficulties rise up, more often than not my knee-jerk reaction isn't "Woo Hoo! I'm going to obey anyway! This is great!" It isn't even always "Ok, it will be ok. God is good. He sent this, He will see me through." Usually, my first thought is "How do I get out of/avoid this or ensure that I will wind up with what I want." Outside of the cocoon of my sanctuary/car, the world looks very different and my heart tells me that this means all of those resolutions and determinations and affirmations made while inside may not really apply.

This is a lie, of course. Those moments of clarity were given for those exact moments...for the times when "reality" threatens to shake my faith and cause me to stray. They are not mutually exclusive, they do not cancel one another out...they go together. "Reality" requires sanctuary moments. Santuary moments require "reality". Without both, we will never be tried and tested and never see and experience the goodness of God in action. Our faith would never grow. We would remain infants and continue to stumble and crawl around our playpens.

Thank God for the sanctuary and the reality. Thank God that sometimes things are hard. Thank God that He is not content with ideological/intellectual allegience. He is never satisfied with anything less than our all...and promises to give the same back to us in return!

How great is our God!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Unhewn stones

If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. —Exodus 20:25.

GOD'S altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange [things] into [something] more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving, carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes [something else], and not the truth of God at all...The Lord alone must be exalted in the work... Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; ...and rest in Him alone. (Spurgeon a la Tina)

It is nearly inconcievable to man that anything can happen without his help...or outside of his ability to comprehend how it came into being. This difficulty rises in proportion to the degree in which is moves closer to our personal lives and reaches levels of utter insanity when it involves our hearts.

Several months ago, I met a very nice, godly man. The Lord has allowed us to develop a bit of a friendship and it has been a source of encouragement and growth...and frustration, for me. I am fully aware that the frustration is only the result of my impatient hopes and expectations. I submit to this and submit it to the Lord. For his part, this man has been all I could ask for in a friend of the opposite sex. He has been godly and careful with my heart - never flirting or leading me on. Despite this, and my efforts to guard my heart and take thoughts captive, my interest has increased with every bit of contact. This, along with the subject matter of our conversations, has been a source of stretching and sanctification. It has been difficult, gut-wrenching at times...but I am thankful.

My frustration is nearly equaled, if not rivaled, by that of some of my friends. Often I am confused as to who they are more frustrated or my friend. Many have asked for contact info and threatened to say what I won't and find out once and for all what the deal is. Others have become upset with me because I won't just tell him how I feel. Still other ones, who are very sweet and naive, tell me I am the most patient person they know because I refuse to "spill the beans" and am very careful not to even drop a hint.

The truth is, I am anything but patient. I simply have no other alternative.

In today's world, if you want something you go get it. If you want something done right, you do it yourself. Girls do the asking and men hang back and wait to be pursued. It's everywhere. I saw a movie the other day...awful movie...but I was struck by the female lead. She was very sweet, unassuming and kind. And it didn't occur to me until the very end that she had been in pursuit the whole movie. It was done so gently, so quiety, so "innocently" that it didn't even hit me until the end that SHE WAS THE MAN.

She approached him at a party, she followed up with him after, innocently bringing him a housewarming gift. No real problem in and of it's self. A friend invited her to another function and she flirted with him there. Now things really get going. She then approached him to ask for advice about a business matter and encouraged him to ask her to coffee. In the end, she propositioned him. The guy was clueless throughout the whole thing, seemingly uninterested in making any effort to pursue this woman at all, despite his attraction. He seemed to be taken by surprise each time she showed up, smiling sweetly, whispering suggestions in his ear, coyly inviting herself into his bedroom.

It was insane.
It is not reflective of how the Lord designed it to be.
It was the exact opposite of what I want.

What do I want? I want a man to be a man. I want him to be cautious and prayerful and intentional. I want him to exemplify from beginning to end that HE is meant to be the leader. I want to know that he is decisive and discerning and can be trusted with my heart and my walk. I want a man that knows he was also created to need a helper, but also knows that regardless of his particular weakness or sin, he is called to be the initiator, the pursuer, the leader. More importantly, I don't just want a man that is available or interested or attainable...I want the man God has kept me for, and kept for me. Since I am neither God nor a prophet, I have to submit that hope to Him and trust Him to carry it out.

The only way to ensure that I get that is to suffer this altar to be built with unhewn stones...untouched by my skill at getting my own way. Then and only then can I see it complete and worship knowing God alone brought it to pass and it was truly His will for my life.

That does not mean that I am not allowed to have any part in the process. Stones must be quarried and carried and placed. But even that requires direction. There is a plan that was laid out long ago...a plan I have yet to see in its entirety. I must trust that the One giving me the direction is sure of the plan He designed and quarry and carry and place...or directed and ONLY as directed.

The result will, I pray, be something that will give glory to God alone. Something that will display His sovereignty and goodness. Something that will allow me to walk with the Lord in a way that I cannot now. And, as I wait, He makes me I long, He draws me to His arms...fits me for what will come...and satisfies me today.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Fight of Faith

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Who likes the unknown? I mean, really? Anyone?

Does anyone like that feeling of absolute uncertainty, blindness, powerlessness? The future is coming. Things have been set in motion that are beyond your control. You worry you won't like it. You fear what may be around the corner. You think over all the things you could have done differently, and simultaneously, the various favorable outcomes they might have produced. You stare into tomorrow, straining to see a glimpse of it from today...a hint...a whiff...anything...and all you see is nothing. No clue...but still...dread.

Then it comes to the climax. Your mind is full, your heart is racing, your chest is tight,
tears sting your eyes and then you see listen back over the tape in
your head and can almost hear the glib, smuggness of the voice whispering all of these "facts" and "harsh realities" in your ear, see the gifted hand painting its vivid pictures in your mind.

You've been duped...played...taken for a fearsome, yet totally imaginary ride.

And you don't remember buying a ticket.

I had one of those moments today. I questioned everything, doubted everything, prepared to be shown a fool to my friends, to chalk all the Lord has done over the past 6 months up to fantasy and move on with life. I took my burden to the ladies room with me, reasoning all the way, why it was wise to just give forget it just stop walking in what I once believed was the Lord's direction. Then, as I washed my hands, the light came through.

There is a scene in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the guests are all on this cute little boat. It sets off, Willie contentedly singing as the passengers look at the candy-filled scenery, then...WHAM...darkness, horrific images whizzing by their heads. All but two are in total fear for their lives, jumping at each scene as it changes on the walls of the tunnel as if it were real. But it isn't. Then, just as suddenly, the panic-filled passengers are brought into the light and realize all is was not real...they will be ok.

It was kind of like that...just sudden and startling. I'd been lied to...and I fell for it,
again! I was in a fight and I didn't realize until that moment that I'd just been standing there, allowing myself to be beat on. I had to make a choice...continue to listen to the lies or begin speaking the truth...begin fighting back.

I began to fight.

I started recalling verses the Lord has given to me over the past few months...

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

I am with you to save you...I will contend with those who contend with you. . . . Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer...

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

My times are in your hand.

Blessed is she who believed...

And therein lies the fight of faith...what, or whom will you believe? As a child of God, we can only believe what God's word says. Even when our circumstances seem to support the lie...if it goes against God's word...if believing it assumes God isn't always good and kind and merciful, abounding in steadfast love, working all things together for our good, able to make a way out of no way, and has plans to prosper us, giving us a hope and a future...then it is a lie. If it causes you to fear, to doubt, to question God, to wonder if you've made a mistake or a wrong turn. It is a lie. Our steps are ordered, our paths are made straight. If it makes you think you're sin has guaranteed a poor outcome when there could have been a favorable one, it is a lie. Our lot is secure. The lines have been drawn for us in pleasant places. If it makes you think you didn't really hear God. It is a lie. He says "my sheep hear my voice." If it makes you think YOU can do anything to hinder or change God's purposes for your life, it is a lie. It is the oldest lie in the book...that WE are or can be more powerful than God...that we can be Lord of our own lives. It is simply not true. He is God, we are not. When things are uncertain, He is just as much in control as when they are clear. When walls rise up, He is laying the bricks and will design a way of escape. When the storm kicks up, His voice is the thunder and His winds will blow those storm clouds away. When all within you is a churning, burning, hurting, fearful mess...only His voice can speak peace and comfort and truth and silence the lies.

Ultimately, whatever it is we are longing for or fearing or hoping for or trying to avoid, if our heart is not set on believing and being satisfied in God alone...the most favorable and pleasing outcome will not be enough. It will just be a short respite on your journey towards the next Wonka-style freakout. The Lord says: "My people shall be satisfied with my goodness..." Our fear and anxiety tells us when we aren't. Let it have its desired effect and point us back to the only one who can satisfy. When the fears and thoughts and lies start flying like fists to your heart, may we not just roll with the punches but fight back with the truth. I think you will be amazed at how quickly the jabs stop coming! I know I was!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another Reminder about Hope

I felt led of the Lord to repost this...

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)

What do you hope for? If you are you hope for a family? If you are you hope to be made well? If you are suffering a wayward child or strained you hope for the pain and struggle to cease? Is there a specific sin area that has yet to be conquered and you hope for the day when the Lord will just take it away? Are you just tired of things being hard or up in the air and hope for some type of resolution or ease? Or, are you like me and hope for the day when the Lord will bring another to come along side you and end your singleness?

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)

One thing I believe the Lord has been saying to me, consistently, and indeed says to all who find themselves in anyway dissatisfied or troubled by their current circumstances is this: set your hope in the right place...Hope in God.

For years I set my hope on waking up a size 8 or finally finding someone to love and marry me. I thought, all the ick inside, the churning in my heart, the pain and fear and dread would just "poof" vanish if I suddenly became thin and got married and became a momma. (All you married people and momma's...stop laughing!) I truly believed that. The weight and the unfulfilled dream was the problem...solving that was the solution and the key to happiness and peace.

But that thinking is the Word of Man...not the Word of God. His word says:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)

Whatever the issue is...weight, singleness, wayard children, illness, habitual sin, strained relationships, financial difficulties, a dead-end job, a passive husband, name it...those are not really the problem. Those issues only serve to show us where we are truly placing our hope...and then should point us back to God.

Last night at our small group meeting, we were talking about walking our faith out practically. One woman in our group is facing a move and, though things went very smoothly at first, they are starting to hiccup now. She began to cry and spoke of her need to walk in if she hadn't been. I felt the Lord give me a word for her and leaned over and whispered in her ear, "You have been walking in faith. But things have to get hard in order for you to go deeper."

I took those words to my own heart and sensed that the Lord would also remind me of His truth...of where my Hope truly needs to be set...and that "things have to get hard in order for me to go deeper", too.

Specifically, he reminded me that I am not single because I haven't finished losing all of my weight yet. I am not single because there is something fundamentally wrong with my personality or that I am inherently un-loveable. I am not single because the men around me are too passive, proud or preoccupied. I am not single because I am too picky or don't go to the right places to meet single men. I am single because God has a plan...and marriage isn't part of it right now. In truth, it may never be.

Regardless of that, He has kept me and perserved me and protected me for a purpose...a very specific purpose. And it is not just an OK purpose or a good is a splendid purpose. Has God used my sin to keep me...absolutely, but my sin is not the reason. In God's economy, He has worked it for my good and to further His purposes and will for my life.

The same is true for whatever your circumstances are. Sin is almost guaranteed to be a part of the mix...but God has a plan and if we hope in Him and not in change or improvement or resolution or relief...He will meet us there and give us His Peace, which is far more valuable and constant than even the best of circumstances.

However disappointing or disturbing today is, we have His promise that He works ALL things together for our good and that He has a plan so wonderful, so beyond our ability to even imagine...that it would be foolish to be distracted by any of the more difficult steps that get us where we are going. It would also be foolish to hope in the things He orders and purposes for our good and His glory as opposed to setting our hope on Him and Him alone.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Abiding now...Part VII - Fearing God alone.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your Word. Teach me good judgement and knowledge for I believe in your commandments. Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I keep your Word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:65-68)

What are those statutes, exactly? I think the first part of the last verse above sums it up: You are good and do good. Therefore, we must trust Him; we must "suffer" to be led by Him; we must obey; we must alighn our loyalties soley to Him; we must set our hope in Him alone (for none other is good); and we must not fear.

Truly, I think the last one is of first importance. We cannot or will not trust, follow, obey, be loyal to, or hope in God if we are fearful, rather, if we do not fear God alone. Fear of anything else will keep us from learning His statutes and really seeing that He alone is "good and [does] good."

What is it that you fear? It is for that very thing that the Lord said "Fear not." His statutes and promises were not meant only for times when it seemed natural and right to believe and obey. They were spoken and written on paper and then on our hearts for just those moments when we don't want to or can't regard them as true. It is in the scariest, most emotional and heart-wrenching, painful times...those when we are also, consequently, the most bent on disobedience (i.e., self-preservation/pleasing) that His statutes are their most true, where they can shine forth at their brightest. And He prepares us for them through the relative ease of daily obedience and even subjective ascent to His truth to keep our foothold when the winds blow. It is in those times when all else is a whirlwind of confusion and emotion and uncertainty that we MUST, we can only, plant our feet in what we KNOW for certain is true.

What is this?

He is good and does good...therefore we must choose Him over self or over another; over our heart, over our mind, over what we think we know or understand. He is good and does good and only His path, His way will lead us to "green pastures" and "still waters" and "paths of righteousness". Nothing else, no one else can make that promise AND fulfill it.

No one.


No how.

No way.

Not ever.

The Lord alone is "good and [does] good... (Psalm 119:68)

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Abiding now...Part VI - Forsaking all but Christ.

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)

When Jesus walked along the seashore and spoke to His first disciples, He said, "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And they immediately dropped their nets and went with Him. Like the Israelites in the desert, they did not know where they were going or what they were being led into, but they followed the Leader, knowing so long as He went before them, all would be well. The disciples left their boats and nets and, presumably, their catch for that well as their families, and followed without question. The Israelites left Egypt and one safe camp after another, knowing that they were in a desert and that habitable and fruitful land was already inhabited by those who would likely defend it to the death. Yet, each day, they rose and followed the impenetrable cloud by day and the blinding pillar of fire by night and chose to trust God.

Are we so willing to forsake all we know and understand...all that would logically provide for our care and sustenance and happiness...all we are used to and those we love for the sake of Christ? I am sure each of us would like to think so...but then "extenuating circumstances" have a way of showing us just where our loyalties lie.

An acquaintance of mine recently lost her 4 year old daughter in a swimming accident. Will she follow the cloud and pillar of fire? Will she trust that, even in this, God is there, caring for her...and that in His infinite and unfathomable sovereignty, this tragedy is a mercy and a kindness?

That doesn't compute clearly to much less to a heart that is grieving beyond all measure. But, according to the Word of God, this is truth. In moments such as these, when those things we can't bear to lose or give up are taken or shaken we have three choices: 1) Do all we can to preserve what is ours; 2) Resent the Lord for shaking or taking; or 3) Say with Job, "Though you slay me, still I will trust you!"

When I was in Baton Rouge for my Katrina exile, a situation arose with my nieces that shook me to my core. I feared for their safety and was fully aware of my powerlessness to protect them from the circumstances of life. For 3 days, I was panic-stricken and could not even pray because every time I tried, I just cried. There have been many other moments like that since them...times when I have to realize that He didn't give them to me and that I can't say I trust Him with my life and not trust Him with theirs. Most recently, the thought came to me that the Lord might have me move away from New Orleans at some point. Immediately, my heart was in my throat. "I can't leave the girls!" I cried. Then, quietly A Voice said, "Would you forsake your God?"

"No, Lord."

In that moment, I knew there truly was no other choice. But the hard reality is that allegiance to Christ means forsaking all others. Just like a marriage. We choose one to whom our loyalty must always defer, "forsaking all others...till death us do part." And so it is when we become the Bride of Christ. We must side with Him, choose Him, obey Him, follow Him...go withersoever He long as we live.
Yet, the blessed reality is, unlike choosing to trust or align ourselves with others, we can know that loyalty to Christ - no matter how difficult the choice is - the outcome will always be the best of all possible outcomes. Better than we can think or imagine or understand.