Thursday, June 28, 2007

How then should we live?

Every morning for the past 4 years I've read chapter or portion from four sections of the Bible. Usually, it is a chapter in the OT, one in the NT, a Psalm and something in Proverbs. It has been very helpful to me to read this way and see the overarching themes throughout scripture. Over the past couple of months, I've read through Genesis and part of Exodus. This morning, something struck me: The people of Israel "looked" a certain way. They stood out from the other people around them.

Israel was a people, a nation, a culture. They were set apart by dress and practice. What they ate and did not eat, what they wore, what they did each day, when they rested and how they worshipped their God was seen by and set them apart from others.

Their faith wasn't just in the tent or temple, it wasn't just about rites and feasts on certain days, it was what defined them as a people. And they were a decidedly peculiar people.

It doesn't seem to me that it would have been easy for them to "blend in" without seriously compromising their faith.

But Christians today tend to look like everyone else, sound like everyone else, and do what everyone else does. We are at the same schools, restaurants, movies and malls, we drive the same cars, live in the same neighborhoods, wear the same clothes, talk about the same things and observe the same holidays. Unless we are wearing a big, bold Jesus T-shirt, no one can really pick us out in a crowd, or in our office or classroom or family gathering.

Certainly, the balance has shifted due to Christ's influence. The people called the "children of God" is no longer limited to 12 tribes, but now includes people from every tribe and tongue and nation. But is it OK that we can blend in so easily and go virtually unnoticed? Is it OK that our faith isn't always the first thing people know about us?

If you see a devout Muslim on the street, you will know. Sit next to a Hindu at a restaurant, and you will know. The Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and Scientologist will let you know right away who they are and what they believe.

What about us?

We are called to be a peculiar people, but it seems mostly we are just like everyone else. It seems the average Chrisitian lives and moves and seeks after the same things as the world, struggles with the same issues, makes the same choices - the only difference, it seems, is that we have a something to keep us from completely dispairing.

We are gluttons, sexually immoral, entertainment hounds, fearful, angry, selfish, lovers of self, just like everyone else. We use drugs, drink, fornicate, get divorced, mistreat people, lie, buy, and fill our minds with the same things the world does.

How is this peculiar?
How is this right?
How is this so?

These were the questions ringing in my head after my quiet time this morning. And, I think I got an answer to the last question from Carolyn McCulley's recent blog post Daughters of Hope.

In it, she shared a little bit about a book she recently read titled, Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution, and includes this excerpt:

In India we had just listened to a group of Dalit women tell of the harsh persecution they had endured because of their stand for Christ. Before we parted I asked our usual question: "Is there anything you would like to ask us?"

They looked at me curiously, shyly. Before we came, none of them had ever seen a North American woman.

Finally, through the translator, one woman said, "Did you ever go hungry because you're a Christian?"

"No," I said. "I never did."

"Did you ever have your house taken away?" asked another.

"No," I said. "No, I didn't."

"Did you ever lose your job because you're a Christian?" inquired another.

I shifted uneasily in my seat. "No," I said.

"When people find out you are a Christian, do they throw rocks at you?"

"No. No one throws rocks."

"Has anyone ever thrown you in a fire because you are a Christian?" It was the first woman again, and she was leaning forward eagerly awaiting my answer. I did not have to ask the source of the scars on her own dark brown arms.

"No," I said. "You see, in America those things don't happen. In America it's against the law to throw people out of their houses or take away their jobs or stone them or throw them in the fire because they are Christians."

The women stared at us uncomprehendingly. Then one said, "But if it doesn't cost you anything, how do you in America know what it means to be a Christian?"

As I was thinking about how to answer, the first woman asked, "If you in America did have to suffer, would you still be Christians?"

I took a deep breath and answered her honestly: "Some of us would and some of us wouldn't. We need you to pray for us that when we face persecution, we will have the strength to stand up under it as you do."

Here in America, and in most other parts of the world, we don't face persecution. We just don't. Our faith doesn't cost us more than a few awkward moments and sideways glances, most times. The faith which we claim cost God His Son, Christ His life, and the lives of countless others. It should have a weight to it. We should feel that. It should also have a look, an aroma, a differentness which is immediately noticeable...and I don't mean T-shirts and bracelets and big heavy crosses around out necks. I mean that we, as believers should live in a way that leaves a mark, a noticable, palpable mark on us that is evident the moment someone meets us.

What does that mean exactly? How will that look? How then should we live?

I don't know. But I believe the Lord does and pray He reveals that to His church soon!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Some thoughts on sin and holiness...

In the final analysis our greatest problem with holiness is not that ourconcepts of holiness are feeble, but that our hearts are rebellious. We areselfish, that's our problem. And the fact that we often won't admit ourselfishness shows how deep the pride goes. -- Floyd McClung

"If the spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct our course" (Gal 5:25 NEB).
It is only reasonable that He who gives and sustains our life (the Source) should be the One we would want to follow (whose Course we would choose). But we are not very reasonable creatures, I'm afraid.

Which side am I on--the self or the Spirit? I don't always know. But I can check myself out by studying the list of the kind of behavior that belongs to the lower nature (fornication, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery, quarrels, contentious temper, envy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, party intrigues, jealousies, drinking bouts, orgies) and comparing it to the list of the "harvest of the Spirit" (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, self-control). If I pinpoint from those two lists what characterizes my behavior today, it's easy enough to identify the source. -- Elisabeth Elliot

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Yielded, Believing Vessel

But the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32)

...Have you not read how I could not do mighty works in their midst because of unbelief? It is no less true today...I can accomplish great things through even one yielded, believing vessel...Move on and never entertain the thought of retreat...Keep your eyes on me. (Frances J. Roberts from "Come Away My Beloved")

One yielded, believing vessel. Whew! There's a lot in that one phrase. I don't think yielding is possible without belief. When I am driving and have to yield to oncoming traffic, I have to believe a few things about my situation. First, I have to believe that oncoming traffic will not or cannot stop. If I didn't, I would just keep going in the direction I was headed. I have to also believe that insisting on my way and not yielding will likely have grave consequences...and I don't just mean a ticket. If I stubbornly refuse to yield I could cause a wreck which could injure or kill myself and others, if not just tie up traffic and delay other drivers. I also have to believe that these are good reasons to yield. If I don't care about my life, my property or the safety of others I will not yield.

The same is true with yielding to the Lord. If we do not believe that His way truly is the best way and that refusal to yield will bring us or those around us trouble, harm, or unnecessary inconvenience, we will not yield. If we do not believe that God is truly always working out His best for us, that he cares for us, and will never leave us, we will not yield. If we do not believe that He truly knows what is best, we will not yield.

But the truth is that this is all true...and yield we must! We must serve His Truth, not our thoughts, feelings, or past experience.

However, our yielding is not meant to be a forced thing. It is meant to be a joyful thing. In his devotional, "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers encourages us to Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief...

Sometimes "launching out" is yielding, if not it is almost certainly preceeded by it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Met Someone...

I met someone last night.
Well, that's not exactly right. I actually "met" him back in 1994...and had known of him all of my life. But last night, I saw him with different eyes. He's always been a faithful friend, ready to listen or talk, at times (many times) he's patiently waited for me to break long silences and reconnect. But what I saw last night was humble, yet determined pursuit. All these years, I've yearned and longed for other men to pursue me and still he pursued. He's been available to me in the middle of the night when fear gripped me and in the wee hours of the morning when I just needed to hear a kind voice. He's also been faithful to speak words of truth and correction to me...and his words of reproof have broken me more than the harshest words from anyone else, though not as much as his words of love and encouragement despite my fickleness and ingratitude. In everything, He has been with me, supporting me, encouraging me, giving direction and guidance, and knowing he was there made even the most difficult ordeal not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. When there have been no comforters to be found and my tears have been my food, he was there to comfort me and speak peace to my soul...even when I ached for the comfort of another. In my pride and self-worship, I have accused him, doubted him, and resented him, yet as he looked upon me, his countenance never changed. There is always love in his eyes.

Last night, as I met with I went to him hurting and missing another...I saw this. I saw his faithfulness in light of my unfaithfulness. I saw my Maker as friend, lover and husband in the purest sense of each word and rather than being crushed by my adultery and lack, I was lifted, as by the hand of my Beloved and brought into His familiar, yet strangely new embrace...and I was at rest.

"Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. Isaiah 54:4-6

Monday, June 18, 2007

Shut in

The Lord shut him in. Genesis 7:16
Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety. Noah was so shut in that he could not even desire to come out, and those who are in Christ Jesus are in him forever. --Spurgeon

Oh to be shut in like Noah. To be so hemmed in by the Word and Truth of God, the knowledge of His character and goodness, the testimony of His faithfulness in times past, that no storm, no wind, no frightening or hurtful thing can shake our confidence in the Lord. Wind and storms and floods and frightening and hurtful circumstances are real...very real...but the One who commands them is even more so, and even more powerful. Is not the Master more powerful, and ultimately in control of, the servant? These climactic, devastating, and difficult things are but servants of His will and will only shake or destroy that which stands in the way of His glory...that which needs to be cut off and cast in the proverbial fire.

Oh to be shut in like Noah. To be resolved like Job that even death would not stem the tide of his praise, to be content like Paul to suffer for the sake of knowing Christ and Him crucified, to be like Him who died, who endured far more than we ever will for the joy set before Him.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Houston update

Well, I made it home!

The plane ride was very bumpy there for a I just sang. :) The whole "fearing for my life" thing was a good distraction from the thoughts which wanted to take full command of my brain, heart and tear ducts. I didn't need to let I was grateful for the bumps in the sky.

The night before, I took the e-mail issue before the Lord, not so much looking for a peek behind the veil of my friend's motives or intentions, but seeking help, seeking a shelter from the storm of emotions threatening to overwhelm me.

I found that...and a reminder that I walk by faith, not by sight. I walk by the Truth of His Word, not circumstances or what I believe to be facts. He is my stronghold, my maker, my husband and all I truly need. Pleasing Him...not my flesh or another person...should be my main priority. On the plane, He showed me, it should also be my joy.

I confess it has not been. It was not a joy to end my friendship with this man. It was not a joy to conclude that if I responded to this e-mail - which was neither personal nor an indication that anything has changed for him - I would be denying what I'd previously said was the Lord's leading and word on this situation...and that I couldn't do that. The time between these two events has not been a joy, either. It's been hard. It has been painful...mercifully, not every day, and not overwhelmingly so...but enough to make me not like it.

This should not be. I should count it all joy when I am called to do or give up or suffer anything for Christ. It should be a joy to please Him, to do the righteous thing and bring Him glory, to say "no" to what He says "no" to, that He might say "yes" to righteousness and holiness in me.

Many tears were shed the night after the e-mail and on the plane ride home...but few of them were over the continued denial of a relationship with this man. Some were, to be sure...but mostly, I was shown the true state of my heart, and it grieved me. More often than not, I want what I want when I want it and though my tendency is to submit to His word and His ways, my submission to Him is not joyful.

This is a sad thing indeed. But today, the tears are mostly done. I am reminded that His mercies are new every morning, that I've not been consumed by grief or sin because He is faithfully my shield and stronghold, and that "the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us.” I don't know what is going on with my friend, or what tomorrow will hold, or what God's will is for either of us, or how soon I will see the end of my battle against gluttony and self-indulgence, or anything like that...but I do know what Has been revealed and that is that I have been rescued, bought with a high price, and am now a slave to righteousness...and that it should be my joy to be so.

I also know that He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper and not to harm me, to bring me a hope and a future.

Lord, sear this into me and make it my only reality!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In Houston...please pray

I am in Houston today and will return home tomorrow evening. It's a quick trip for work...I am training some folks in our office there. The reason I'm even bothering to write a post about this is because I need prayer. Regular readers will remember that a few months ago, I had to end a friendship. It was a friendship with a godly man. I fell in love, he didn't and I was struggling with my emotions. The Lord directed me to cut off the friendship because my response to it was an offending thing, and that is what we are to do with offending things...cut them off and cast them into the fire. I cut it off, knowing that God could purify it and return it to me...or burn it all up. I believed it would burn and I would never have contact with this man again.

Today I got an e-mail from him. It was a group e-mail and nothing personal, but given the fact that our last conversation involved a very clear explanation of why we could no longer correspond, I can't write it off as nothing either.

My heart is still a bit in my throat and I don't know what I want to do...or what I should do. I plan to have a nice chunk of time with the Lord this evening but don't want this small issue to consume the whole time. If you read this, please pray for wisdom, direction and a calm and quiet (non-obsessing) heart.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007


May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:1-14

But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psa 130:4

As the phone rang, tears began streaming down my face. I'd contemplated the call, and what I'd say to get the specific response I wanted, but as I picked up the phone everything changed. I was calling my nephew and nieces to ask forgiveness for my harshness with them that afternoon...hoping to use that as a teaching moment for them and provoke a similar apology from them.

Bloop, bloop, bloop, went the keys on my phone and my heart was broken by my own pride. Then, all I was concerned with was that I had sinned and I needed to be forgiven. I spoke to each of them, and each seemed unphased by my previous behavior or my current emotional state, and readily forgave me. Not one asked for forgiveness, as I'd planned and hoped...and not once did that bother me. I was doing what I believed would glorify God the most in that moment and that was all that mattered. I was compelled...for His sake, not mine.

Despite my bad beginning, and my sin, God was very gracious to me in that phone call. I was overcome with grief over my sin, how that reflected on my God, and how I'd hurt these precious ones, but all of them were very happy to hear from me. As I was speaking to my nephew, I could hear my oldest niece in the background, saying "Let me talk!" When my youngest niece got on the phone, she immediately said "Hi TiTi!! I love you!"

I made a somewhat unintelligable reply as I began to cry even harder.

I had sinned, and that grieved me...but I was also forgiven, by those I'd wronged and by my Father, and that knowledge was a bit overwhelming.

I knew I didn't deserve to be forgiven. My first steps into the phone call were filled with pride and a strong sense of entitlement. In seeking to be forgiven, I wanted to be asked for forgiveness and was (mercifully) broken en route. In seeking to teach about forgiveness, I was taught. And I am grateful.

But not all at once.

My default setting is condemnation. Often, too often if I'm honest, my sin is bigger than God's grace. I am guilty of much and tend to carry the weight of my guilt around, somehow thinking that I can make things right or make up for my mess ups myself. This is nonsense, of course, but it's the truth of it. It is equally true that condemnation is stupid...but how often do we walk in it?

In one of his messages at New Attitude, John Piper touched on condemnation, and the responses we often have to it. First, we are joyless...burdened by our sin, which has already been borne and atoned for. Second, we attempt to atone for it ourselves somehow, perhaps by punishing ourselves, denying ourselves something, or suffering in silence. Third, we try to pay back the grace we know has covered it by doing good works...trying to do better. None of these responses require us to do the one thing our Lord tells us to do.

In his devotional book, "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers says:
"Our Lord's words are not "Do this or don't do that," but "Come to me."

Come? Sin-filled, dirty, vile, corrupt, rebellious...behaving as an enemy; a debtor who cannot repay one percent of what is owed, an unworthy servant?

Yes. This is what the Lord says. Come to me...just as you are...and I will give you rest.
Rest is what we all want, right? Rest, peace, contentment, quietness of spirit and mind. It's what we really need in this life, isn't it...not ease of circumstance or a bunch of "perfect" things/people/situations. But we won't find it flaggelating ourselves or in self-inflicted solitary confinement or in adhering to a checklist of do's and dont's. We will only find it with the Lord.

So if condemnation is a trap we frequently find ourselves in, and we know the Word tells us to come to Jesus no matter what state we think our hearts are in (because truth be told, the true condition of our hearts is often far worse than our own estimation), how do we get out of the trap or avoid it, circumventing the process and going directly to our Lord?

I think it may be different for each of us, which is one reason it is so wonderful that we have a personal God. But two things the Lord has given me, which have been a great help are:

"His mercies are new every morning."


"Life is fleeting, it blooms and withers like a flower in the field. Sin my last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. His anger is but for a moment but His love is from everlasting to everlasting."

Each morning dawns with fresh mercy and fresh grace. God gives us this guarantee in His Word. If we believe that to be true, we have to also believe that, though for us hours of guilt and grief and suffering can feel like a lifetime, the truth is that our lifetimes are a moment to the Lord. His anger is but for a moment in our life time. But His love for us is eternal. It was birthed before time and will continue beyond the end of time. So, our sin, in this matrix of time is like a sliver of a moment. More than that, it is paid for and forgiven. God still hates it. His anger is real and right. We should feel its sting, because He is holy and our sin led Him to the Cross. But, we shouldn't let the sting linger longer than God's anger. Conviction is not meant to be the vehicle for condemnation; it is meant to be the vehicle that leads us to our Lord, who says to us: "Come unto will find forgiveness and rest."

Oh how I pray I will heed that call more readily! for, "where sin and sorrow stops and the song of the saint starts." (Chambers), and I SO want to sing more!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Even This

From one of my Amy Carmichael devotionals...

Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him? -- Luke 8:25

Is there something you are facing - whetehr in your outer circumstances or in your inner character - that seems impossible to command? Something that has baffled you and outwitted you a a thougsand times, and appears that it will win over yo iu in the end? Soemthing as deaf to your commmand as the wind or wild waters?

Don't despair. Don't shrug and give up.

Our Lord - your Lord and mine - can command even the most difficult, unruly thing that seems as if it iwill never be comanded.

Let His word "even" be a comfort to you. He who commands even the winds and water (and they must obey Him) - He can say to that "even" of yours, "Peace, be still." And there will come for you "a great calm" (Mark 4:39)

Remember that there is nothing you are asked to do in your own strength. Not the least thing, nor the greatest...All the tremendous forces of nature - weather and politics and human nature too - are at the beck and call of our God. Each has only a faint shadow of the spiritual power that is His, and that He is ready to send forth for us.

Isn't that amazing?

How utterly foolish it is to plead weakness when we - even you and I - may move into the stream of that power. If only we will...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


"Behold, I am vile."—Job 40:4.
One cheering word, poor lost sinner, for thee! You think you must not come to God because YOU are vile. Now, there is not a saint living on earth but has been made to feel that he is vile. If Job, and Isaiah, and Paul were all obliged to say "I am vile," oh, poor sinner, wilt thou be ashamed to join in the same confession? If divine grace does not eradicate all sin from the believer, how dost thou hope to do it thyself? and if God loves His people while they are yet vile, dost thou think thy vileness will prevent His loving thee? Believe on Jesus, thou outcast ... Jesus calls thee, and such as thou art.

"Not the righteous, not the righteous;Sinners, Jesus came to call."Even now say, "Thou hast died for sinners; I am a sinner, Lord Jesus, sprinkle Thy blood on me"; if thou wilt confess thy sin thou shalt find pardon. If, now, with all thy heart, thou wilt say, "I am vile, wash me," thou shalt be washed now. If the Holy Spirit shall enable thee from thy heart to cry "Just as I am, without one plea But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidd'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come!"thou shalt rise from reading this morning's portion with all thy sins pardoned; and though thou didst wake this morning with every sin that man hath ever committed on thy head, thou shalt rest to-night accepted in the Beloved; -- Spurgeon

It is always amazing to me when the Lord "finds" me and speaks to my heart...speaks specifically to things lurking in there that I hadn't even expressed to Him or friends or even to myself. This morning was one of those times. Over the last couple of months, I've been battling disappointment and discontentment...and I've been carrying the guilt of it on my own. The mere emotional state, I knew, was sin...but so were the thoughts my feelings led me to think, the actions they led me to take, and worst of all, the distance it put between me and the Lord. Though I never verbalized it, my acute awareness of my vileness kept me from going to the very one who could cleanse and heal and speak peace to my soul.

The scriptures encourage us to be at peace with God. This involves, I believe, not merely assurance of our salvation, but a daily choice to be at peace with Him through walking in His truth and loving Him through acts of matter how vile we believe ourselves to be. It is a running in the way of His commandments...which call us to hide in the shadow of His wing, to come to Him with our burdens, to rest in the knowledge of His love.

I chose to cower in the ash heap, wallowing in the filth of my sinful ways, instead of glorying in the magnitude of His grace and mercy.

Praise His name, He was not content to leave me there.

Yesterday, I woke, burdened still with my weakness and selfishness and sinfulness and then a word came to me, a shot of truth through the darkness..."His mercy is new every morning." Spontaneous prayer followed, where I recalled His truth, His promises, His goodness and the weight I'd been carrying was lifted. Then, there was strength where there had been great weakness...clarity where thoughts had been muddled...peace where there had been condemnation. And what I saw was this: where there is peace there is power. Power to obey no matter the temptation, no matter how weak we are, no matter what attack comes our way. Peace with God is the ultimate weapon against the enemy of our souls...and the enemy within ourselves.

Thank you Lord for the power of peace.

Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Job 22:21

Friday, June 1, 2007

New Attitude 2007

This weekend I was in Louisville, Kentucky for the New Attitude Conference. I went to see John Piper...and got so much more. After we returned from Na, our Pastor sent out an e-mail asking for testimonies. I wasn't going to send one in, but was convinced to do so anyway.

I will be sharing the testimony below at church this Sunday:

When Matt (the Pastor that went to the conference with us) first sent out his request for testimonies, I said (out loud and everything) "I can't do that." My coworker, then immediately began to sing (very loudly) "Hide it under a bushel...NO!" Which was her "subtle" way of encouraging me to share what the Lord showed me, and I believe began, at this year's New Attitude. It's not that I mind talking about my sin...typically, I don't. It's just that these specific issues tend to be ones that I share at Ladies meetings, not in mixed company. Talking about them, openly, in front of everyone makes me feel a bit vulnerable and uncomfortable. I'm not sure why, because they are things that are obvious, and known by anyone who meets me. It will come as no shock to anyone for me to say, "I'm overweight and unmarried and neither is my choice or preference." Duh, right?

What might not be as easily known is how these non-preferential issues effect my walk, or manifest as sin. Historically they feed off of each other, and in my mind, perpetuate each other.

But what does all of this have to do with New Attitude?

Well, to explain that, I'll have to work backwards a bit. In his message to us on Tuesday morning, CJ spoke on applying what we'd heard when we were back in "real life". In that talk, he mentioned recurring areas of struggle and sin, which he likened to "trick candles". Gluttony and discontentment (specifically in regards to singleness) are my "trick candle" issues. I feel conviction, repent, by God's grace walk in obedience and then, there they are, surprisingly burning brightly again. My desire to be married becomes a sinful craving...and sooner or later, I satisfy that craving with food, or other things that are not God.

It was that way for me when I went to my first Na back in 2004...and sadly, the weeks prior to this Na were also peppered with disappointment, discouragment and sin. So when Bob Kauflin began singing a spontaneous song on Sunday night about waiting and unbelief, I was undone. My grief over my discontentment was more than I could bear and I began to sob...and sob...and sob. "How did I get here again?" I asked. In the midst of emotionally berating myself, the Lord spoke very graciously to me and reminded me of all the way He'd led me since Na 04. I was discouraged, yes. I had sinned. But I was not at square one again. I was not blinded to my sin as I was then. The practice of repentance and obedience in the years that followed had softened my hard, hard heart to a point that the depths of despair and disobedience I knew then were not possible now. I had lost nearly 100lbs. I was now friends with a woman I then envied and resented...who was at that moment hugging me and praying for me. I was not the His grace.

But I still needed to change. I needed to blow the candles out again and press on. And in that moment, more than I wanted to be thin, more than I wanted a husband and babies, I wanted those candles to stay out.

But how?

The first night of Na, Josh Harris spoke on discernment and encouraged us to do what we already know. That really resonated with me. I'm a planner and very goal oriented. I'm always thinking and living 12 steps ahead of where I actually am, working towards the goal, trying to envision the desired outcome. The only problem is, that my plans are not those guaranteed to be fulfilled or to work together for my good and His glory. My new schemes are more than likely doomed to failure...but His Word stands forever. He has promised that we can do all things through Christ who is our strength. He has promised that the good work He begins, He will also finish, and that in His Word, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. Mine is not to try to determine how today will effect much weight I will lose this this choice will put me nearer to marriage and babies (or further away). Mine is to do what I know...more to the point, to do what I know will please God right this moment and trust Him with the next one, if it comes.

Practically, what I think the Lord would have me do from here is to combine that to one of CJs suggestions, and apply one bit of scripture to one bit of life. Then do what I know, one grace-empowered step at a time, as John Piper said at Na.

At one point in CJ's talk on application, he asked us to pray about the bit of life the Lord would address and the corresponding scripture. The Lord gave me Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

"Not to harm you" response to my circumstances these past few months has not declared that as truth and that grieves me, more than I can say. John Piper reminded us that we are debtors. I am a debtor. I owe. I am not owed anything. My next breath is a gift I don't deserve...yet the Lord gives it...and so much more. Chief among the things I don't deserve is His faithful and patient love and care. He could have rightfully squashed me like a bug, but He didn't. He was kind and loving and He has always been. And since He did not squash me, or leave me where I was, I am believing that, armed with the truth and the practical suggestions of some very godly men, I can walk one grace-empowered step at a time, applying one bit of scripture at a time, to do what pleases God the most one moment at a time, for His glory.

The Lord did an amazing work at for me after Na 04. I am trusting that He will do something equally amazing in the weeks and months following Na 07.