Thursday, January 31, 2013

wonders in the deep

Another reason to count it all as joy...

"God's great design in all His works is the manifestation of His own glory.   Any aim less than this is unworthy of Himself.  But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are?  Humankind's eye is not single.  We always glance sideways towards our own honor, have too high an estimation of our own powers, and aren't qualified therefore to behold the glory of the LORD.  It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why He frequently brings His people into straits and difficulties, that being conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when He comes forward to work their deliverance.  He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see just a little of the glory of the LORD, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, is only slightly fitted for being filled with the revelation of God.  They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks know a little about the God of tempests; but they who 'do business in great waters,' these see His 'wonders in the deep.'  Among the huge Atlantic waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach we learn the power of Jehovah because we feel the littleness of humankind.  Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you the experience of God's greatness and loving-kindness.  Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as He did His servant Moses, that you might behold His glory as it passed by.  Praise God that you have not been left in the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of His glory in His wonderful dealings with you."

Words from the wise Charles Spurgeon.

Beholding His glory in the wonders of the deep.
Can I get an Amen?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

300 days!!!


today marks 300 days of health and wellness 
for our big guy!
we curtsey into the day with thankful hearts,
and we will bow to its ending just the same...
(with some cherry chip cake kindly greeting us
somewhere along the middle!)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bloom Where You are Planted

What do you do when the game of life throws you a card (or a hand) you wish you hadn't been dealt?  When the cards of disappointment, the unexpected, the unknown, or the unfair have been dealt to you, you must remember that the Hand you are in will always be His. ("I will  hold you always in the palm of My hand." Isaiah 41:13)  I am learning that while being held by Him, even in times of adversity, I am faced with a choice in how I decide to respond and play this hand out.  That choice will carve the path and determine the level of effectiveness and fruitfulness in my life.

1.) I can stand firm, dig my heels into the ground in resistance, and fall into a pit of worry, anger, self-pity or despair. (A lose-lose.)  OR
2.) I can stand firm, fall to my knees in surrender, and bloom where I am planted. (A win-win.)

I've been a slow learner over the course of my life.  Often times slipping into the losing choice of option 1, allowing that to be my default, before pulling myself together and opting for victory in choice 2.  God's teaching me the better of the two, to be a Mary in a Martha world, choosing Him first and foremost with each and every hand in life I've been given.  To let victory become my default.  I'm coming around.  As long as my heart is teachable, there will always be room for Him to do His work.  Previously I've written about finding victory in the sweet surrender of letting go, and by taking control of one's thought life.  Today I write about a third key to walking in victory:

Allowing yourself to bloom where you are planted.  

Let's take a look at how to do so...

A great place to learn of such things is in Genesis chapters 37-47, displayed in the life of Joseph. I recently listened to a message of this familiar Bible story (which spurred me on to look at several other messages, and re-read these scriptures myself). This story resonated with me and inspired me in several ways.  If you want an example of someone who understood the hard-knocks of life, you need not look any further than Joseph.  What's different about this man though, is how he chose to respond to these afflictions and struggles.  Even though hated, despised, rejected, sold into slavery, tempted, betrayed, victimized, falsely accused, imprisoned, forgotten, estranged from his family, his land, and the only life he had known, God caused Him to be effective, significant, successful, and to bear much fruit in the midst of his affliction.  Throughout these chapters of the Bible, you see countless examples of the ways Joseph rose above his circumstances.  I think the following principles will help us to do the same today.
  • Recognize God's Presence always (Acknowledge and look for evidences of God)
  • Recognize my Response to life around me (Choose the ways of God and give Him glory) 
  • Recognize God's Sovereignty in everything (Trust God)
In the recent message I heard, Genesis 41:52 was the highlighted verse in this story.  It brings new meaning to me.  Joseph, after he had endured such hardship and injustice, named his second son Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."  (other Bible translations interchange the word suffering for "afflictions, sorrow, misfortunes, poverty or misery.")

In the midst of our seemingly "misdealt" hand in life, when we find ourselves in waiting or unanswered prayers, or when we've run into even a minor stumbling block that is swaying us off course, we can have this too.  Fruitfulness and effectiveness in the land of our suffering.  And here's how.

RECOGNIZING GOD'S PRESENCE:
In several verses covering these chapters, there is reference to God's presence with Joseph.

"The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered..." Genesis 39:2

"But while Joseph was there in prison, the LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden."  Genesis 39:20-21

"...the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did." Genesis 39:23

Joseph knew that the LORD was with him in his affliction.  He trusted God and as a result, God caused him to prosper and gave him success.  Not only did Joseph recognize God's presence with him,  those Joseph encountered also saw and acknowledged that the LORD was with him.  Others could see the work and evidence of God in his life and he won favor because of it.

"When his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant." Genesis 39:3-4

"So Pharaoh asked them, 'Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?'"  Genesis 41:38

"Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.  You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.  Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."  Genesis 41:39-40 

RECOGNIZING HIS RESPONSE:
If anyone had the right to feel abandoned, unheard, and that God was far away, it was Joseph.  Yet he chose to believe that God was with him; he remained faithful and hardworking. Despite his circumstances and humble positioning, he did not give up or give into despair.  He gave God his best, and kept his eyes on the LORD.

Luke 16:10 says, "Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much."

Proverbs 3:3-4 states, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you.  Bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and men."

And Colossians 3:23 reads, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men."

I believe Joseph did all of these things, and it was rewarded and credited to him as righteousness.  He began this journey as nothing but a slave, but gained favor and success in each position he was placed in until he became second in command over all the land.  Such success would require both God's favor and a humble and faithful perseverance.

As well as trusting in God's presence, Joseph also found ways to turn his attention to God and give Him glory.  While imprisoned, God gave Joseph the ability to interpret dreams.  Joseph could have responded by boasting in his ability without acknowledging God, and use it for his own gain. But he chose not to...He openly credited God and gave Him all the glory.

"Then Joseph said to them, 'Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.'" Genesis 40:8.

And in Genesis 41:25, "God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do..."

And again in Genesis 41:28, "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do."

Even in his suffering He chose the ways of the LORD, believed in the work God was doing in his circumstances, and boldly told others about it.

RECOGNIZING GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY:
Despite the years of suffering and affliction Joseph experienced, He affirmed that God was still sovereign.

In Genesis chapter 45, Joseph says to his brothers, "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you (v5)...But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance"(v7). 

"God...is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters."  1 Timothy 6:15 

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

"One God the Father who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:6

Joseph is a great example to all of us that God can bring us success and cause us to be effective in the midst of our struggle.  We don't have to wait for an answer or complete deliverance beforehand.  Redemption came at the end of this story when Joseph was finally reunited with his family.  Yet, God caused him to be fruitful long before this beautiful restoration took place.  He can do this for us too. Often times, it's in our most painful experiences that we end up producing the most fragrant fruit.  This message has challenged me to seek fruitfulness in the midst of my circumstances.  To keep my eyes open to the evidences and works of God all around me.  To fully trust Him and His purposes even when the hand I'm holding frowns upon me.  And to choose to obediently follow Him and walk in His ways.  Making Him known to others, and giving Him all the glory.  Expecting that in this, I will flourish, bear fruit, walk in victory despite adversity, and bloom where I am planted.

Choose to bloom with me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

letting go: when your bitter collides with His sweet

God has been revealing a lot to me over the past few weeks.   I suppose I am writing in reverse.  A few posts ago I summarized how much in the kingdom of heaven appears upside down and backwards to us here on earth, and how It's Possible That through the brutally bitter act of letting go, you can collide with Him in the succulently sweet.  But I left few details as to my arrival here.

In my previous post I shared how one of the keys to walking in victory may be found by taking control of one's thought life. How by allowing Jesus to be thick in my thoughts, He was making me a conqueror in Him.  While that is a key, it's not the only key to walking in victory.  There's something that must happen first to ensure victory.  Something more profound that begs to take a closer look.

The act of surrender.

What does this really mean?  I've struggled here for some time.  In fact, I remained in denial here for a long time.  Truly convinced that I was doing all I could to follow hard after Him and live my life in full surrender, yet finding myself walking in defeat time after time.  With the tension building.  But over the past few weeks, when I hit a depth of low I hadn't yet reached before, I begged God to reveal to me what needed to be changed.  There seemed no way out of our circumstances.  That we were just drowning in ruin with no where left to turn and no easy or quick way out of it all.  Desperate for change and relief and willing to do whatever He was asking us to do.  Anything.  Anywhere.  We just needed Him to lead us and show the way.  What He revealed humbled and took me by surprise. Sometimes, that's the only way He can grab our attention.

Surrender.
It begins here.
In the sometimes brutally painful act of letting go.
Letting go of dreams.
Letting go of plans.
Letting go of what's near.
And comfortable.
Of what "should be."
And of what seems "right."
Surrender.

God showed me that I had been holding on to a lot more than I had been willing to admit.  For me, it was the dreams and plans I had for our family...how I felt my story should turn out, and what I felt would be the right ending.  Dare I say the "deserved" ending?  I was trying to write the answer to the formula of my life's equation.  I wanted to be the poster couple for, "Obey God and He will bless you!"  or "Take a risk and leap of faith and the LORD will bless you for it!"  I wanted this happy ending.  I wanted others to see this come to fruition in our lives, that when you are Spirit-led and follow and obey God, it works out.  He blesses obedience and perseverance.  This is true.  The problem is, I was putting the terms and conditions on the blessings.  Expecting that if I behaved this way...then God will in turn behave this way (the way I desire and see fit).  I was placing unfair expectations on God and even on my husband...secretly believing for months on end of this long journey that if my husband could get his spiritual act together, then God would bless us in "this" way.  Boy was I wrong.  I won't deny that an ugly sense of entitlement was shamefully revealed.  With every bit of holding on, God began painfully peeling back layers from my heart and exposing things I didn't want to face or take a look at.

With every ounce of my being I believe that our decision that has led us to this circumstance was Spirit-led.  I believe our motives and desires to follow His lead were pure.  The LORD gave green lights and confirmation to us every step of the way.  He led me to scripture that encouraged and moved us along in our journey.  And He repeatedly brought me back to this same scripture revealing new things in time. We knew it was of Him.  And I praise Him today that He made this so evident and known to us that we wouldn't have to stand here years later and doubt.  I haven't doubted the decision.  But, I've doubted His purpose.  I couldn't let go of the idea that God would lead us somewhere that would circumstantially devastate us.  But He did. There's no good reason to try to play the "what if" game.  The bottom line is, He allowed it. I haven't been able to let go of my interpretation of His leading and my expectations in how He would bless us.  I couldn't accept the fact that perhaps He led us here solely for spiritual purposes, that the blessings are found here, even though I was expecting something much different. And the more I hung onto that dream, the more I found the tension building and the days of defeat collecting.

It's very easy to follow His will for your life and somewhere along the lines tangle your own will up into His.  It's too easy to begin focusing on the problem, the lacking, the disappointment and expectation, and lose sight of the things in life that really matter.  Eternal things.  When you are in real need, it's hard to focus on anything besides those real tangible needs being met.  But God kept peeling away until I could.  Until I did.  At times I cried out to Him in utter desperation and fear, telling Him that I didn't think I could possibly bear being stripped any further.  That there was nothing left of me and if He took any more, I feared I would be left in a pit of ruin and faithlessness.  I begged Him not to, telling Him there was nothing left to take.  Nothing left to work with, but a shattered pile of brokenness on the floor.  But He kept stripping and peeling and exposing, till this heart of mine felt nothing but pure and painful rawness.  And it's there that I realized that when you are at the end of yourself, with nothing left, you find there is more than enough of Him.  That when you feel life is broken and shattered, He's underneath you with His everlasting arms, holding every shard, piece by Peace.  When you are pushed to this point of helplessness, you discover the true source of your Hopefulness.

And you give in.

You decide that all you have is His.  And you place it all back into His lap, in complete trust.  Every broken dream and shattered shard of hope becomes His.  You choose to believe that in His Sovereignty He knows what is best for you. You let go of what you think is best, stop asking why, stop placing expectations on Him or others, and trade in your plans for whatever He has in store.  And you accept it with gratitude, for you believe in His Word and His promises even when life has disappointed you, brought on the fearfully unexpected or unknown, and has forced you to move on to Plan B.

You surrender.

Acceptance doesn't mean you give up on your circumstances.  It doesn't mean you stop having dreams and desires.  In full surrender you make a decision to look beyond your circumstances and trust that His purposes are good and right.  And you let go of all the things that are holding you back from doing so.
You'll be surprised at the beauty you find in this.  Your bitter collides with His sweet and transformation takes place.  For me, it was almost immediately.  As if a veil had been lifted.  Perspective becomes anew. In sorrowful repentance, you realize the depths of your own nothingness and what you really deserve in this life.   And then you can't help but wake up each day with a heart bursting over with utter gratitude.  Surrender becomes sweet and covered in His joy and unsurpassable peace.

As I've been mulling over these things this past week, God kept leading me back to this verse:

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35

Matthew 10:39 says it this way, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

And again in Luke 9:24, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."

Did you know that this truth is quoted 5 times in the gospels? (Also in Matthew 16:25 and Luke 17:33). Obviously, Jesus was trying to tell us something here and really wanted us to listen.  I know these verses have a lot to do with serving and pouring our lives out for others and for Him.  But as I began to study these verses further, they spoke directly into my circumstances and to my personal act of letting go.

I'm not a Bible scholar, so bear with me here...The Greek word for "lose" in these verses is "apollumi," which means "to destroy fully." It comes from the word "apo," (which when used as a prefix usually denotes "separation" or "away from something near"), and from the base word "olethros," which means "ruin or destruction." Before studying this verse and digging deeper into the meaning, I wrote of "devastation" and "ruin" in my previous posts.  This resonated with me for I understood what it means to feel "destroyed fully, ruined, and separated." It's no wonder God led me to this verse at this time. (or shall I say, it was in His Wonder-ing that He led me here).  Much of the tension I was experiencing in life was a result of me holding onto God with one hand and whiteknuckling my own dreams with the other.  Personal hopes and dreams that were near to me and treasured, that I was unwilling to give up and be separated from.  To lose one's life, to let go and surrender, there must be a destruction, ruin, and separation of will and self from that which is of God.  This is the bitter.

But don't stop here, we haven't yet gotten to the sweet.  In researching the word "find" in these verses, I discovered the obvious.  The Greek word for "find" is "heureo," which means "find, get, obtain..." But, it also means "perceive or see." Again, I'm beginning to fully understand the truth behind these teachings.  When we lose our life for Him, we find life.  That "finding" is often found in the "perceiving."  In surrender, God transforms our hearts which changes the way we perceive Him and the life around us.  My husband and I haven't had a change of circumstance, yet our perception to things around us has changed and given us a new outlook.  One that beholds Hope, Peace, Joy, and Perspective. This is His sweet.

And one last note about this verse...when looking up the Greek word for "life," ultimately it means "heart, life, mind and soul."  But the Greek word corresponded to several words in Hebrew including, "breath, spirit" and "alive or raw."  It made me ponder the thought that perhaps it's in the breathlessness of our letting go, in the rawness of our bare hearts and brokenness, that He is finally able to breathe into us new life and make us come alive in Him.

The Message translates Mark 8:34-37 as this:
"Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.  You're not in the driver's seat, I am.  Don't run from suffering; embrace it.  Follow Me and I'll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrfice is the way, My way, to saving yourself, your true self.  What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?  What could you trade your soul for?"

Letting go.
Sweet surrender.
This is the Grace we catch in the fall.
The end of ourselves that denotes the very beginning.
The colliding of our bitter with His sweet.

And this, my friends, is something worth holding onto.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

thick in my thoughts

"Our lives with Christ were meant to be nothing less than the great adventure!"  I wish I could remember what teacher of the Word first spoke this.  I have it penned in quotes on the front page of my Bible.  And year after year I begin to more fully understand its truth.

An adventure? Most certainly.  A wild ride I wouldn't trade for the smooth and easy.  Recently though, I had found myself feeling exhausted from the ups and downs this life brings.  The majority of my days were coasting upward in belief, with a couple of interrupted days that abruptly cut into my climb, and plunged me downward in doubt.  This roller coaster faith journey is filled with valley and mountaintop moments.  It's to be expected.  However, I was beginning to find that those low-riding days were coming more frequently.  And when the low hit, it brought me down to a depth I hadn't felt before.  A threatening depth.  How could this be?

Daily I found myself writing in my prayer journal, "God, what do You want us to do?  We don't know what to do?  We'll go where You say go.  We'll stay where You say stay.  Just give us a sign; let us hear Your voice, and tell us what to do?!"  It was a desperate plea birthed out of the lows that came sneaking into my days.  I felt like a teeter-totter...going up and down in belief and doubt.  Waiting and straining to hear His voice.  This grows to be exhausting.  I wanted to coast upward in a perpetual state of belief, walking in victory daily.  And I beat myself up for not being able to do so.  It seemed that circumstance and emotion would ride in on the wave of the day and throw me off course.  As I began to explore the reasons behind this,  God slowly began to whisper a few things into my Spirit.  See, much of this world is out of our control.  We can't control the state of our circumstances,  but we can control the state of our hearts and our minds.  Perhaps we should start there.

During one of my recent mornings with God, when I found myself asking Him once again, "What do we do? Tell us what to do?" He did just that.  I felt Him quietly whisper something so simple, yet so profound.  For some time, I had been searching for a solution.  The doubt and the feelings of hopelessness all derived from a place inside of me that couldn't see a way out.  Some seasons in life are nothing short of arduous.  Such has been ours.  That morning,  I felt the Lord say to me, "Leave the solution to Me.  The answers are already written for you, they remain in My hands.  The resolution is mine.  I am your answer. For you, start simple.  Work on your thought life."

Take control of my thought life?

I can do this.  It seems my thoughts are what take me down those dangerous slippery paths.  The doubt and the decline begins here.  Almost a month ago I started re-reading Rick Warren's, "The Purpose Driven Life."  I'm using it as a 40 day devotional.  I last read it 9 years ago.  So much in my life and my faith journey has changed since then.  Yet, ironically, some of our circumstances didn't look all that different.  It made me ponder the idea that to some degree, we have little circumstantial control over our lives. We can find ourselves going in circles even when chasing hard after Him.  But we do have a choice in how we are going to respond to these circumstances.  And our choice begins with our thought life.  And why wouldn't it start here?

The enemy is unable to grab our attention when we are preoccupied with something else.  Change always begins first in our minds.  The Bible repeatedly tells us to refocus our thoughts and take on the mind of Christ:

"Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts." (Proverbs 4:23, TEV)

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

"Fix your thoughts on Jesus..."
(Hebrews 3:1)

"Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
(Romans 12:2)

"There must be spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes."
(Ephesians 4:23)

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."
(Colossians 3:2)

Rick Warren describes the mind as our most vulnerable spiritual organ.  As Christians, we are sealed in Christ.  The enemy can't get inside our heads and read our minds, but he can influence our thoughts.  He has been around for thousands of years and has many tricks up his sleeve.  His ultimate goal is to pull us away from God and sabotage our relationship with Him by sprinkling in doubt and lies, and by taking away our hope.  The enemy is the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and he yearns to make us question ourselves and God.  As sinful men living in a fallen world, our natural default is to fall back into a distorted way of thinking.  We allow our circumstances and emotions to paint a portrait of "truth" in which we view the world.  But rarely does our truth come into alignment with God's.  His thoughts and His ways are higher  than our own (Isaiah 55:9).  They are holy and perfect and must always trump whatever lies the enemy begins to plant in our lives.  Lies that claim we are inadequate, incapable, lacking, useless, purposeless, unvalued, unimportant, unloved, alone, abandoned, and hopeless.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour."  He is plotting for our downfall and begins his crusade by worming his way into our thought life.  But, we have a weapon we can use against him.  In Ephesians 6, we are told to "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground..."

This is exactly what I have been straining to do...stand my ground.  Part of our "full armor" includes the  "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:17).   The Word of God is our weapon.  And by looking at the life of Jesus, we've been given a perfect example of how to use this weapon to stand our ground and walk in victory.  The enemy is most successful coming after us when we are vulnerable, weak, lacking, and tired. When we are struggling to have our basic needs met or are desiring to have a void filled (even good desires such as feeling loved or valued), he is most likely to win ground in our lives.  He attempted to do this with Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4).  But every time Jesus was tempted by the devil, He used scripture as His weapon.  He did this until the devil left Him.  He didn't try to argue and debate with Satan.  He didn't stew and marinate on the temptation, worry, or His state of lacking.  He shut the enemy up by immediately speaking the Word of God over His circumstance.

Truth makes the devil tremble.  Defeating bad thoughts, doubts and worry means we refocus our thoughts and replace them with something better, good, and true.  The very Word of God.  Memorizing scripture is essential in gaining ground on the battlefield of your mind.  Warren explains that without doing this, we are "going into battle with no bullets in our gun."  We must equip ourselves.

We fall into temptation by entertaining the lies the enemy is trying to plant every time we replay worry/doubt in our minds and lose our focus.  Inattentiveness on the battlefield always leads to defeat.  Yet, we succumb to this.   When we repeatedly chant to ourselves, "I'm not going to worry about this, I refuse to worry about this..." or when we roll around a worry/fear in our heads and play the "what if" game, we are allowing this banter to continue, and we are falling into temptation.  Our focus remains on the "worry," on the "trying not to worry,"on the "void" or on the "lacking"...instead of on the Filling and on the Answer we've already been given through Christ.  Warren provides a good analogy to all of this.  He says, "When temptation calls you on the phone, don't argue with it.  Just hang up!"  This is precisely what Jesus did in the wilderness.  And we can do it too.

When life seems out of your control, when circumstances are lined up against you or taking you down the road of unexpected or unknown, when you feel yourself teetering between the ups and the downs and you're clamoring to remain on steady ground, when you feel you are trying to do everything right but everything around you seems all wrong, when you can't hear His voice and you are wondering what next to do to remain part of His great adventure without falling off the deep end...perhaps you should start simple and take up your Sword.  Don't just read scripture, get active in it, and use it to defend your heart and guard your mind.  Speak it over your circumstance and your life.

I recently ran to the dollar store and bought a spiral bound packet of notecards and began writing down scripture that spoke to my struggle.  I filled the whole thing up.  Through this simple act, I can't begin to tell you the peace and joy that He has flooded into my heart.  A river of blessing, though circumstance has not changed or shifted.

Winning a battle requires intention and preparation.  Is there an area of your life that you are struggling in?  An area you are lacking answers, clarity or direction?  Is there a void you have waiting to be filled? Instead of searching for solution, begin by taking a look at your thought life in regards to this area.  Does it match up to God's Word?  Is it in alignment with His Truth?  Start here by developing the mind of Christ.  In your waiting or worry, saturate, soak, and weight your mind in the Word.  Be heavy in Him.  I'm committed to go through this life as a warrior armored up.  Will you please join me?


Father God, my key to victory begins and ends with You.  Help me to diligently seek You and engrave Your word upon my heart so that it becomes my default to use against the schemes of the enemy.  I praise You for making me a conqueror in Christ.  In times of leanness or lacking, whether in faith or circumstance, LORD Jesus, be thick in my thoughts.  You are my great adventure!




To get you started, here are a few bullets you can place in your spiritual gun:

Inadequate? Incapable? Lacking? 
-2 Peter 1:3 says "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness."
-Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
-Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ."

Useless? Purposeless?
-Ephesians 2:10"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
-Colossians 1:15: "For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible...everything got started in Him an finds its purpose in Him." (The MSG)

Unvalued? Unimportant?  Unloved?
-John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
-Psalm 139: you are "fearfully and wonderfully made...how precious to me are Your thoughts, O God, how vast is the sum of them.  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand."
-1 John 3:1: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Alone? Lonely? Feeling Abandoned?
-Romans 8:39: "...nothing can separate us from the love of God."
-Hebrews 13:5: "Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you."

Fearful? Anxious? Worrisome?
-Philippians 1:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
-2 Timothy 1:7: "For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."
-1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love,  but perfect love casts out all fear."
-Psalm 56:3: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You."
-Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
-Matthew Chapter 6

Without Hope?
-Romans 15:13:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's possible that...

It's possible that...

there's reckoning in the wrecking.
that He uses calamity to place the calm in me.
and that He ruins us to make new of us.

that in the fall, we catch His grace.
and in our wandering we find ourselves wrapped in His Wonder-ing.

It's possible that...

He uses circumstantial devastation to spare us from
spiritual devastation.
and when everything around you seems shattered and broken,
you find you are Wholly Held.
piece by Peace.

It's possible that...

when there's nothing left of yourself,
You realize there's more than enough of Him.
and being Conformed is more important than being comforted.

that in your helplessness you find the Source of your Hopefulness.

It's possible that...

in your "patiently waiting for Him," He's actually been
"patiently waiting for you."
that somewhere along a well-intended line you can blur and tangle your will into His.
and in the white-knuckling of your own dreams, you've stalled His intended dream.

that in your awful you find His Awe-full.

It's possible that...

it's only in your bad that you realize His very Good.
that in your affliction you discover His Affection.

and that giving in is much different than giving up.
that in full surrender you find
there is much to gain.

It's possible that...

in the "letting go" you are able to grasp what had been lost in the "holding on."
that in your darkness He best sheds His Light.
and that in your lacking you find the luxury of His Love.
and it lavishes.

It's possible that...

the noise of your heart can silence the sound of the song He is singing over you.
and in the quest for your Promised Land you learn instead how to occupy His Promises.

that putting "expectant" in your faith is better than putting "expectations" on your God.
and that to find yourself
is to be lost in Him.

It's possible that...

taking captive every thought to Christ binds you to walk in victory.
where Truth trumps and triumphs.

it's in your emptiness that you find His Fullness.

and that the end of yourself
may really just be
the beginning.

It's possible.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

to work hard is to chase hard is to crash hard.
it's in the crash and surrender
that peace is found.

"God is doing new things in your life.  
He is making a road in your wilderness
and rivers in your desert."
Isaiah 43:19

finding our way,

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You Shall See Wonders

I can't believe how much is jam-packed into one year.
How different the spread of 365 days can change the life of a family.
And a heart.
I reflect over this past year and...goodness!
A bittersweet blend of hardship and spiritual richness.
I've been looking forward to polishing off 2012 (really, really looking forward to this) and starting 2013 with a fresh canvas full of possibility.
Hope.
Wonder.

Last year around this time, I committed myself to learning to be content regardless of my circumstances.  To make do.  
To love well and to live well.
In some ways I accomplished this and in other ways I failed.
Better yet, God stretched and grew me in my weakness and deficiency in these areas.
And, as in the Philippians 1:6 theme of this blog, 
He is continuing to do so.

One of the spiritual lessons I've learned over the past year is that there is a thin line between learning to be content / accepting one's lot in life...and living in defeat.  Remaining in a state of contentment, acceptance and belief takes constant abiding and a re-veering of perspective.  Our imperfect and sinful nature, our emotions and experiences, all cause us to look through life from a very different lens than the LORD's.  And when we naturally do this, 
our truth becomes much different and darker than His Truth.  
It takes the supernatural to bring us back on course.  
A petitioning for more faith and knowledge and revelation.  
Of it, a holy and hefty increase.  
He does deliver.

I'm learning daily what it means to genuinely believe Him...to have faith beyond the saving and general kind, but to have a "wonder-working faith."  The kind of faith you need to move the obstructions and obstacles in your way.  In the book, "Prayers that Move Mountains," John Eckhardt talks about this supernatural faith as the faith you often find take over when we've come to the end of our own faith.  "It is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit whereby a believer is empowered with special faith, or wonder-working faith, and it is beyond simple saving faith."  A faith that is based out of the miracle-working faith that Jesus had during His ministry on the earth.  He said that we would walk in even greater power and perform greater things than He did (John 14:12).  Wonder-working faith taps into this power that is available within all of us, making the impossible possible.

And that's where my 2013 New Year's goal comes in...
to live this year fully committed to seeing His Wonders big and small,
to be pregnant with expectant hope.
Uttering faith declarations over my family and our circumstances, lifting up prayers that move mountains,
letting go of dreams and placing them into the lap of the ultimate Dream Giver.
Eyes wide open to Him 
and to a wonder-working faith.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 40:5
And He is the same God today as He was then.
Yes, you shall see wonders.


***"You Shall See Wonders" print found on Etsy.
Artist: Katie Daisy 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

let the waters rise



although with far superior eloquence and melodic flow, this song echoes the past couple months of my scribbled prayer journal and heart cry.  love this song.



"Let the Waters Rise"

Don't know where to begin, it's like my world's cavin' in
And I try but I can't control my fear, where do I go from here?
Sometimes it's so hard to pray when You feel so far away
But I am willin' to go where You want me to and God I trust You
There's a ragin' sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You

I will swim in the deep 'cause You'll bein' next to me
You're in the eye of the storm and the calm of the sea
You're never out of reach
God, You know where I've been and You were there with me then
You were faithful before, You'll be faithful again, I'm holdin' Your hand
There's a ragin' sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You

God Your love is enough, You will pull me through, I'm holdin' onto You
God Your love is enough, I will follow You, I will follow You

There's a ragin' sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A few days before Christmas Darcy received this note from Brooke.  He had been working 6 days a week and 4 late nights a week for a few weeks straight.  One evening when he was home she wasn't particularly being that kind to him.  Before she went to bed, he asked that I talk to her about the way she was treating him.  So I did, explaining that it hurts daddy's feelings when he is gone so much and that she doesn't consider his time home a blessing. Before we turned in for the night, Darcy found this note from her:



We laughed when we read it.  How funny that in the midst of her apology she injects her Christmas list.  For a few days I thought about this.  How in reality, we aren't all that different at times.  We pray to God, our Father, admitting our wrongdoings, the ways we've fallen short, and ask for forgiveness.  Then we give a long laundry list of all the things we want Him to do for us.  We bookend our prayers with what's important, but spend the bulk of our time focusing on all our needs and desires in between.  Life can be that way too.  We can spend too much time focusing on our lacking, on the voids of our hearts, homes, and lives.  And too little time focusing on all we've been given and blessed with.  

This morning Brooke was gung-ho on doing chores so that she could earn an allowance.  She was independent, pleasant, and obedient as she brushed her teeth, made her bed, put dishes away, and showered.  As I was showering she came into my bathroom and said, "If this was the week before Christmas I would definitely be on the 'Nice List'."  I explained to her that there's an even more important list to be on with God...how that with every little choice we make during the course of our day, we can choose to please Him or please ourselves.  When we do things solely to please ourselves, we make our own list.  That list is shallow, fleeting, and ultimately unrewarding.  We talked about the way it made her feel when she was doing her chores with a cheerful attitude.  How this is the blessing and reward we get from God too, when we choose to obey, follow, and please Him.  Somehow, in the midst of this, He blesses us with a peace and joy we can't attain from anywhere or anything else.  It's amazing the blessings that "flow" when we focus on the blessings.  When our eyes are open to them.

I'm almost finished reading C.S. Lewis', "Mere Christianity."  It astounds me that although the world has changed so much in the past 70 years (since these thoughts and truths were first shared by Lewis via talk radio), God and His truth have not.  It's just as relevant and fresh today.  C.S. Lewis writes about how "good and evil increase at compound interest."  How if you are kind to people, the more you'll find yourself liking people, and the kinder you'll become in return.  Similarly, the more cruel you are, the more you will hate, and the more cruel you will become.  A blessed or vicious cycle.  It's much the same with our perspective.  Focusing on the overflow versus the lacking.  The blessings and gifts versus the brokenness and worry.

We were made in His image, created by Him and for Him.  A life lived without this purpose will always come up empty.  It's a new year.
A fresh start.
A time to look ahead with expectant hope.  
To give moment by moment, a heart of gratitude
(without smooshing in our "wish list" between the lines).
Keep your eyes wide open.