Thursday, August 31, 2006

All is as it should be.

Over the past couple of days one point has been driven home to me and it is this: the ONLY problem I have is the problem of self. Me. I am my biggest problem.

No matter the situation or circumstance, if I am struggling, I am the cause. Am I anxious because my niece is sick? Am I frustrated at work? Are my emotions overwhelming and a bit oppressive? Do I want to comfort myself with food? Am I irritated with my mother? (Insert your things here) The specifics and whys and wherefores and logical explanations do not matter...the real problem is not life and all the things it brings my way, the problem is me and my response to them. In each instance, no matter what it is, my degree of struggle is directly related to how far the circumstances are from what I'd like them to be.

The truth is, if God is sovereign (and I truly believe He is) then whatever place I'm in or set of circumstances or denials I face...all is as it should be. He has ordered and ordained everything that touches my life. All is well...all is as it should be...all will turn out for the good. That is the promise. And He is not slack in fulfilling His promises, indeed, none of His promises have failed, ever. So, truly, my only problem is that things don't look or feel the way *I* think they should in that moment, and I have chosen to respond to THAT as opposed to the truth, which is: God is good and does good always. All is as it should be. The Lord has it all well in hand. I can trust Him. I can trust that He is moving, even (and perhaps, especially) when it looks like He isn't. I can trust that there is a "Yes and Amen" on the otherside of denials, because He is only saying "No" to one thing to say "Yes" to another, better thing.

In her devotion this morning, my friend Elisabeth Elliot said:
Sometimes our prayers are for deliverance from conditions which are morally indispensable--that is, conditions which are absolutely necessary to our redemption. God does not grant us those requests. He will not because He loves us with a pure and implacable purpose: that Christ be formed in us. If Christ is to live in my heart, if his life is to be lived in me, I will not be able to contain Him. The self, small and hard and resisting as a nut, will have to be ruptured. My own purposes and desires and hopes will have to at times be exploded. The rupture of the self is death, but out of death comes life. The acorn must rupture if an oak tree is to grow. It will help us to remember, when we do not receive the answer we hoped for, that it is morally necessary, morally indispensable, that some of our prayers be denied, "that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in these bodies of ours" (2 Cor 4:11 JBP). Then think of this: the agonized prayer of Jesus in the garden went unanswered, too. Why? In order that life--our life--might spring forth from death--his death.

So again, I say my biggest problem (and may I say, YOURS, too) is the problem of self. In almost every instance, our "negative" response to any circumstance is simply our self resisting the reality that things are not as we think they should be. But the Lord would say, "Come to me. Trust me. All is as it should be. When all is revealed, you will have no questions. Come to me and I will give you rest and peace and joy."

This is truth: God's sovereignty and goodness is equally displayed in denials, deliverance, struggle, and the impossible being made possible. He is the same God, and equally good when He says "No" and when He says "Amen". The promise of His faithfulness and kindness and active presence in our lives is equally certain both when we see it and when we don't. In fact, when it appears God isn't moving, He always is.

Father, help us to remember, to see you rightly in every circumstance, and to glorify you today and every day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Men and Women

Several months ago, I met a very kind, godly man. My attraction was instant and my emotions soon followed in a way that was both intense and unlike any other crush or interest I've had before. Since then, we've maintained a friendship and I've come to know more about him. Time, revealed weakness, and unfulfilled expectations has not dampened my longing, neither have I felt led of the Lord to repent of my feelings or give up on the hope that this friend will one day be more. Quite the contrary, actually...which is both scary and exciting.

Very early on, well meaning friends have suggested that I be open and honest about my feelings and lay my cards on the table, so to speak. But before those suggestions were put before me, I knew that was not an option. It is not that I don't want to know - I DO, and it isn't so much that I am afraid of rejection - though that is a prospect I am not excited about; my resolve to remain silent about my affection is because I simply do not believe it to be God's will.

My resolve has been met with many examples of love stories that may have never been had the woman not clued the guy in to her feelings. "Men are just clueless" is the common refrain I hear.

But are they, really? And, does it really matter?

Most women seem to think so. And, I can tell you that at times it does seem like my friend just has no clue what he means to me. But it could be that "clueless" is just easier to swallow than "disinterest." I just can't escape the possibility that it isn't so much about him not getting it as it is about him just not being that into me...not feeling what I am feeling or seeing what I'm seeing. If he were looking for it, he'd see, is my arguement.

But women, apparently, aren't the only one's who think men need a large, anvil shaped clue sometimes. I recently heard a song by Chris Rice named "When did you Fall?" which talks about the moment he suddenly realized that his friend (who is now his wife) was in love with him. The song chronicles outings and talks and lots of time spent together and just how oblivious he was to her feelings. So, it would appear even men think they need a little help in the love department. BUT, what the song does not include is the woman putting her feelings before the man. The revelation was internal in him; something got flipped on and he could see the difference in her, the look in her eye and he just knew her feelings and then he KNEW his.

Even the creation story seems to indicate man's need for strong guidance and help when it comes to finding a suitable mate. Before Eve was created, Adam was presented with every creature on the planet. He knew that none of them would work, but he had no clue what would. In His mercy, the Lord put him to sleep, created Eve and presented her to Him...and so that there would be no mistake, she was alone, looking at him...and nude. The Lord made it as clear as possible...but there were no words - none from God and none from Eve. She simply stood where she was placed and waited for Adam to know what was plainly evident to everyone else in Eden. Not because Eve explained it to him. Not because Eve first expressed her feelings but because it was clear that the Lord had done this. It was God who prepared and then enlightened Adam.

This is the way I want my story to go, too.

I realize men need help. I realize they aren't always as sensitive to the implied and those subtle nuances that we seem to see in everything. I realize that there is a chance that if I never say a word of my feelings to my friend, he will remain just that...and only that. But I would have to conclude only that it is the Lord's will for it to be so. I can conclude nothing else because God is sovereign and good and none of His good purposes and promises fail...ever.

But there is something else at work here, too. Something that women generally don't talk about when they are detailing the helplessness of men in the ways of love. Our sin nature. It is our way to naturally want to do the opposite of that which we were created to do. We are created to glorify the Lord - yet we constantly strain to glorify ourselves. Men were created to lead and exemplify the Love Christ has for the church - so most tend to struggle with either wanting to be LORD themselves or not wanting to lead at all. Women are meant to be led, to trust those who lead - so most tend to take the lead and distrust and fight against those who won't do things their way. We can again go back to Eden to see a clear picture of this.

I see Eve and the serpent. They are at the tree. The forbidden tree. Both Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the tree, which was at the center of the garden. But it would appear that Eve thought she knew better. I imagine she'd made many visits to the forbidden tree before she met the serpent. She was drawn to that which was being denied her. She longed for what she could not have. She thought she knew better. So she casually walked by the tree. She looked at the fruit. She could smell it's aroma. She could almost taste it. Then the serpent bid her to touch and taste for real...and she did. And gave some to Adam, too.

The fact that the fault of the fall is laid at Adam's feet, I think, really drives home the
point and purpose and perfection of God's order in the male/female relationship. Adam had obviously not protected and led Eve and kept her from hanging out around the forbidden tree. So, in his weakness, Eve took the lead and led them to the the the fall. His failure put them both in jeopardy and led to the fall of man...and we continue to suffer the consequences to this day.

The current state of my lack of love life could very well be due to some weakness in the man my affections are set on, but I do not believe that me taking the lead is the solution. God set this in motion, and before my friend and I were even a created He set forth an order and a plan designed to bring Him glory. To step outside of that, to seek to know what is at this time hidden, to express feelings because I can or somehow think they might get me what I want sooner is to sin against God - to sin like Eve - and would not help my friend lead (if this is his difficulty). It is also to assume that I somehow know what is going on in his heart and head. I don't. But God does. And, if it is His will, and when both of us have been sufficiently prepared, I believe the Lord will awaken my friend like He did Adam and Chris Rice and countless other men and I won't have to explain a thing because we will both know and it was meant to be. And, if it doesn't happen this way, though I grieve I will praise Him for His mercy and kindness in keeping me from pursuing that which was not His will for my life, for He is kind in both His gifts and His denials.
In the meantime, I pray...and that is more powerful than any word or action, not because it compels the Lord to do something He might otherwise not but because it changes me and strengthens me to stand where the Lord has placed me and wait on Him to move. I can do nothing else because - though he be clueless or just not intested - the clearest truth is I just don't know, but I know whom I have believed and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him...and that which He has committed unto me. None of His good plans or promises will fail. He has led and He will lead me to pleasant places and green pastures...where He alone will recieve all the glory and praise.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Because He has gone up before...

The Breaker is come up before them. (Micah 2:13)

Because Jesus has gone up before us, things are much different than they would have been...Your fight [is now] with a vanquished foe. (Spurgeon)

What an amazing word for us this morning! Because the Lord goes before us, things are much different than they would have been! What a thought! How many things have been undone are never were simply because He went before us, chose us, redeemed us, saved us? How many plans meant for evil have been worked for good because He called us His own? How many hardships have we not known because He called us by name out of the pit we were in and into fellowship with Him? How many blessings have come into our lives and our family's lives because of His faithfulness to us and our "house"? How many more await us between now and eternity? No matter...because however many or few, no matter where we are called to stand or how we are called to fight (or how many battles are fought solely in the heavenlies) the foe is already vanquished! No weapons formed against us shall prosper - not because of good we have done but because of the Son and His righteousness.
Thank you, Lord that you came into each of our lives...that you rearranged everything...that you have and will continue to make things much different than they would have been had we never met you. Continue, Lord, to "mess up" our plans, break our habits, and destroy our idols. Continue to show us that you know the way we take...that you go before...and that when we have been tested we will come forth as gold. For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Obedient Unto Death

...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.—Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

"...obedient to the point of death,"

Those words gripped my heart like never before last night. We are to be like Christ...who humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death...while we were still sinners. Though we continue to sin.

"...obedient to the point of death,"

Obedience is a form of death - death to self. And sometimes, obedience can even feel like death. I have had moments when it seemed every fiber in my being was screaming for one thing or another, where every nerve, every impluse, every muscle was demanding the one thing I knew the Lord did not want me to have. In the times I obeyed, I did not die. And, by His mercy, I didn't die through my disobedience either.

But Christ was obedient to the point of death, on purpose, knowing what we are and what we would still be afterwards.

The love of Christ ... surpasses knowledge.

Truly it does.

Lord, I know that it is unlikely that I will ever have to obey you in a way that would mean my death, but please help me to be willing to obey no matter how fiercely my flesh fights against you. Help me to be willing to be obedient unto death - if that is what it takes - or more to the point, to continue in obedience allowing nothing but death stop me from doing that which you call me to and endeavoring to glorify you every moment of every day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

God has a way of getting His way...

Twice over the past week or so, I've been resolute. I had reasoned things all out in my mind and knew what I was NOT going to do. I told the Lord all about, explaining the whys and wherefores...I was right...justified...reasonable. And twice, the Lord caused me to (at last joyfully) do that which I had vowed (ok ranted) I would not do. These weren't major things - one was an e-mail reply and the other was a strain of dinner conversation. What they were was not the issue, it was the principle of the matter. To the Lord, it was my heart that mattered. In both instances, my motivation for the decisions and vows and rants wasn't, necessarily to be wise or obedient, it was pride and self-preservation.

Standing on the other side of both things now, it is just so clear to me what it means for his will to be done. Often, I can have this general idea about the certainty of God's will, but my experience in life is that things rarely ever go the way I think they will or plan, so I can't really grasp that level of certainty when it comes to the events of life. God can. God does. What He wills, despite opposition and seeming impossibility and even sinful thoughts and actions or inactions...His will is certain. It was his will that I respond to an e-mail I didn't want to respond to and it was His will that I discuss a topic I had no intention of discussing with a virtual stranger. In both instances, I was so decidedly set up that when the moment came to relent, to relinquish my will and obey, it was so clear it wasn't even a fight...and it was funny to me how the Lord got His way despite my best efforts.

It is this truth, the certainty of His sovereign will, that I hold to when I am less inclined to pride and self-preservation. It is this truth that restrains me when those around me are encouraging me to jump into something feet first, to put my hands on the hunk of clay, to attempt to order my own steps in the direction of something I want. It is this truth that helps me to smile at their care and concern and desire for good things and say simply, "I can't. I must trust the Lord with this."

That is not an easy position to be in and is not reflective of my wants or just a veiled attempt at pride and more is what I am called to right now. I am called to Ask, to Trust, and watch the Lord work. I am called to believe not simply that He can accomplish His will...but that He will accomplish His will...that it is in fact already done. Now is simply the unfolding or revealing. I just see a piece, but I can know that the rest is coming and will be made plain soon. I can also know that even in the most stagnant seeming of moments, even when I feel the strongest urge to give in to my friend's advice and go grab that bull by the horns, this praying and watching is the exact opposite of inactivity or passivity. I may not get the instant gratification of a forced result or knowledge, but that doesn't mean things are at a standstill and will remain so if I don't act. God is ever moving and working, and leading and guiding and setting me up...step by step. I have no clue what the next one is, but I do know that there will be one, and when I get there, no matter what I've vowed or determined or what I think I understand, His way will be plain - His will WILL be done - and "the end it will explain."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Repost: Hope Does Not Disappoint

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-6)

Hope does not disappoint?
Can this be true?
Right this moment I can think of many hopes that have been disappointed in my life. When I was 6, I wanted a baby sister. When my mom was set to deliver her 5th child, I crossed my fingers and didn’t uncross them until they brought my 4th brother home from the hospital. I even wrote with my fingers crossed, which was quite the attraction for the kindergarten teachers that week. When I was 13, I “fell in love” with Al Ugalde. I wrote his name on my notebook and made googly eyes at him and told everyone I “loved” him, hoping he’d be touched and return the gestures. He didn't. When I graduated from high school I put my hope in my life plan: go to college, meet a nice man, get married, become June Cleaver (though probably sans apron). Like the hope of a sister and the love of Al, those hopes ended in disappointment, too.

Today, I still have hopes. I hope to win the love of a godly man, to raise a family and see my parents and brothers and nephews and nieces come to know the Lord. Thus far, there isn’t much more than momentary flickers of action that look like possibility on any of these fronts. From this vantage point, it might seem that these hopes, like all the others, have or will end in disappointment.

But God’s word says “hope does not disappoint.” I think we can all agree, with or without my silly examples, that hopes can in fact be disappointed, but I don’t think that is what Paul was talking about. He says “Hope” does not disappoint, that is, choosing to be hopeful will never leave us disappointed…a hopeful heart is not a disappointed heart. There is no room for disappointment when the attitude of one’s heart and the thoughts in one’s head are set on all that is possible and not on what seems impossible. But, I also think, Paul is not speaking about hope of the kind that kept my fingers crossed for a week or made me a shameless flirt or even led to much grief and many tears in college. The hope Paul is speaking of is hope that is set on something certain, constant…that endures and builds character…hope that changes us.

There is only one thing we can set our hope on that is constant and has the ability to change us and that is God Himself. Everything else, no matter how good it seems, is prone to change and tends only to build selfishness and self-centeredness, not character, and as such, will generally lead to disappointment of some form or another.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

Hope in God?
What does that mean, though?
Does is mean I turn off my “hopes” for other things? No, I don’t believe so. We are told we have not because we ask not. Who asks for something he does not want…or does not hope to have? No one. God knows we want things. But there is a difference between wanting and demanding. A heart which has set its hope on God wants and asks yet knows that the answer may be "no". Its hope is not set on getting the desired result, but on God’s will being done. It can say, “though you deny me this, still I will praise you!” It isn’t always easy. Right now, even, I want something (a specific something) very badly. I can see it, and have feelings about it, and can only foresee good things if the current desires of my heart and the Lord’s agreed. I have hope (little “h”) that the Lord will have favor on me and grant this request. But my Hope (big “H”) is set on God, the Shepherd of my Soul, who chose me before the foundation of the world, who is right now interceding for me, who is my Advocate with the Father.

My Advocate with the Father!
I can’t think of a single person on this planet right now that is my Advocate. Not a single person who talks me up, goes to those who have power to effect or change my life and says: “You know, I love Tina and want these good things for her. Bless her lavishly. Give your best to her. Fill her with joy and peace.” But Jesus does…and is…right now. How can I then, demand anything when He is planning and plotting and pleading for my best…AND He knows everything, to boot? I certainly don’t know everything and my track record has proven that what I would choose is just as likely to be the worst thing for me than anything else. Though everything in my natural self fights against this, it would actually be stupid to Hope in anything but His plans and purposes for my life.

Hope does not disappoint…
We have His assurance and His promise: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart…(Jeremiah 29:11-13)

A future and a hope…that is His promise.

Oh may we, may I, trust Him and Hope only in Him!

Friday, August 4, 2006


A link in my stats led me to this post. As I read, I knew it was the Lord. Since I don't believe He gives us anything He doesn't intend us to share, I will repost it here...
I woke at 3:15 this morning, to the sound of something driving up a gravel road. Only, there is no gravel road near my window. After a few seconds, I realized it was only the rain, then looked at the clock to check the time. Rather than roll over and try to go back to sleep, I decided to "go with God" on this one, and rise earlier than necessary and spend time with Him.
This isn't the first time He has woken me at this fact, it has become quiet a routine thing over the past few weeks. This was the first morning I didn't try to go back to sleep or wake and occupy myself with other things like baking or surfing the web.As I got out of bed, I thought again of the strange sound of the rain...the sound of something approaching. Then I thought, something is approaching. A new mercy...fresh grace.
This morning, I desire that new mercy and fresh grace so much. I so want it to humble and break me, that I might be truly contrite before the Lord. I need's been far too long. Yet, as I type that, I am reminded that even the desire to come is a gift from the Spirit of God, and that what pleases God most is not emotion or outward shows of worship, but a heart that is turned toward Him.
Oh, what I wouldn't give to know that my heart was truly turned toward Him right now. I feel that it is so full of other things, so distracted, so prone to wander, so set on seeking all but Him.
This weekend, before our prayer time, we sang "Give Us Clean Hands."
We bow our hearts
We bend our knees
Oh, Spirit come make us humble.
We turn our eyes
From evil things,
Oh, Lord we cast down our idols
I thought about my idols, and how much they had been in the forefront lately. Then, as a kind and gentle Father, I was shown why.I was created to know and be known by God. I was created to seek after Him...His glory...His kingdom. I can't honestly say that this has been the driving force of my life of late. What truly is? I can't really say that either. I've sort of just been going with the flow...not really seeking one thing...not really being ultra purposeful in much of anything.
Perhaps that is it? I've been seeking ease - minimum effort, maximum comfort.
Whatever it is, the point is that I know I haven't been seeking after the Lord as I should. Sure, I read most days, I throw up quick and needful prayers throughout the day, but that is not seeking. That is wanting the benefits of God without being truly subject to Him...without taking the time to stop and be still and know if what I am asking is what I should be know why I am being led to read what I am receive correction and application. No...not to receive, because that tends to come, regardless (thank you Lord) but to SEEK it more than I desire what I want, what I am praying about.
The Psalmist says, "One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)
I think the lesson of these last few weeks is, that when I am not seeking after this, I will seek after other things. I was made to seek. It is in my, put there by God. I was made to seek Him, but also made to have a choice. In effect, created with the ability to choose to NOT seek Him. If it were not so, the choice to seek Him wouldn't be a choice at all.
In her book, "Discipline, the Glad Surrender", Elisabeth Elliot speaks on this topic. She writes: "The freedom to obey (or choose or seek) would be nothing at all without the corresponding freedom to disobey (or choose wrongly or seek other things).
What an awesome thought! The creator of the universe...and of me...who knows that I am simply because He is and continues to give me breath, who has revealed Himself clearly through His creation, His word and His Son, has given me a choice to seek after Him or seek after other things. This same God, knowing what I would choose, and how sincerely, and how often, has called me and keeps me and continues to send new mercy and fresh grace each day.
If one is not humbled and broken by that thought...perhaps one needs to read it and think on it again.
Which is exactly what I did.
I read that passage and thunk on those things last night, underlined them and wrote them in my journal and everything...and nothing. Then I was awakened by the sound of something approaching on a gravel new mercy and fresh grace...and time to re-read and re-think.
Thank you Lord."One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." Lord, let this be true of me today! Holy Spirit, continue to stir up this desire to seek. Help me make right choices...choices that show that it is the Lord that I seek and desire most!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

First Be Quiet

This devotion by Elisabeth Elliot really struck me...and I feel led to both comply with her advice AND pass it on...
First Be Quiet
Our hectic lives involve many changes, and changes require decisions, and decisions must often be made in the midst of a multitude of confusions. We run here and there asking advice. Often we make decisions without sufficient deliberation because we simply haven't time--or so we tell ourselves.

There is a marvelously helpful practice that we usually overlook. It is quietness. Notice how often in the gospels we find Jesus going away alone, even when people needed Him. He deliberately chose solitude. The more hectic our lives become, the more necessary is this quietness. When it is impossible to break away physically to a place of solitude for a day or so in order to think and pray over a hard decision, there is one thing which I think helps--do not speak about the decision to anyone but God for forty-eight hours at least. Just hold it before Him alone. Keep your mouth shut for two days. Pray. Listen. Seek his counsel.

Try this, too--sit before Him for fifteen consecutive minutes in silence, focusing your mind on the words of Psalm 86:11 (NEB), "Guide me, O Lord, that I may be true to thee and follow thy path."

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!

Folks, these are my parents. This picture is generally pretty reflective of who they are as a couple. Oh they bicker ... a lot ... but to them, that is almost as good as sweet nothings. And, today marks 36 years of such smiles and bicker-tinged sweet nothings.

Though they grew up less than a quarter of a mile apart in the same neighborhood, they didn't meet until high school. After meeting, they discovered many mutual friends and a somewhat shared family tree. Yes, that's right...they are related...on 3 of the 4 branches of their now legally shared family tree. They aren't close enough to be illegal or especially icky, but suffice it to say that their grandparents sometimes when to the same family reunions. My grandmothers and maternal grandfather grew up in the same town - one of those towns where everyone is related.

Despite the fact that my parents don't have what one would characterize as a godly marriage, I am thankful for their example. Thirty-six years is nothing to thumb one's nose at, no matter the circumstances...and the fact that they did it through the bickering and fighting and with 5 kids and an always exhausted budget is a testimony, I believe, to what God intended marriage to be. It is meant to be a covenant, a commitment, one that is not nullified by difficulties or differences.

My parents are about as different as two people can be. Dad is frugal to a fault, Mom shops as much as she breathes. Mom doesn't like to talk about things, Dad needs to talk everything through. Dad can get bogged down in details, Mom is a big picture person. Mom wants to "live today for tomorrow we may die", Dad is always thinking about how today will impact tomorrow. But it works. They have helped each other to balance out and mellow out over the years and sometimes it is truly beautiful to see just how much they still love each much they need each much their lives are intertwined with the other's.

I thank the Lord for the example of their commitment and for His faithfulness to our family by giving them to us.

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad. I love y'all!