Held SO Tight

30 Mar

I love driving in my car by myself…I play the music I want to play, listen to talk radio without having to drown out the accompanying moans and groans of my family, turn off everything and just think. A blessed time.

The other day, these words from Big Daddy Weave came on the radio: “to be held so tight, I’ve never felt so free”… What an awesome thought! It took me immediately back to the first time I “rock climbed”. I had tagged along with a group to Taylor Falls in MN. They hooked me all up, explained what to do – it all looked easy. I began with confidence – but almost immediately, I became paralyzed with fear. My legs started to shake so badly, I knew I was about to fall to my death. My belayer kept calling out – “just let go, just let go”!! When I finally did – I fell! All of about half a foot. The harness caught; I was safe! When I looked down, I had climbed maybe 5 feet. Wow. My entire experience was based on MY ability, MY strength, MY courage. I didn’t truly believe that either my equipment or the big guy down there with the rope could be trusted to keep me safe. What relief I felt! It made such an impact that I’ve enjoyed climbing at facilities a number of times since then – that experience of falling and being caught took away all my fear.

“To be held so tight, I’ve never felt so free”. We adopted a stray cat from the ASPCA a few years ago. She was so absolutely terrified that she couldn’t quit trembling. I held her for the longest time. So tightly she couldn’t move. Her shaking began to lessen. I held her until she was completely settled.

“To be held so tight, I’ve never felt so free”. Newborn babies are always bundled tightly in little blankets with their arms tucked in. They look kind of like a football with a face. But usually, that face is at peace because they feel secure.

As a believer, we thrive best the closer we cling to God. Knowing that every moment of every day, His arms are around us – protecting us, “watching our back”, holding us so tightly that we can just relax into His love and live! It is not MY ability, MY strength, MY courage…MY intelligence, MY personality, MY cleverness, MY looks, MY perfection, MY whatever that matters. It is that I am His. End of story.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31

How does He love me? Let me count the ways!

18 Mar

As a special assignment for my Bible study (Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby), we were told to take at least 30 minutes and go on a walk with God. The purpose was to focus on Him and how He has pursued a love relationship with us.

So today, I put on my walking shoes and headed out! This was true commitment because I even had to wear my raincoat. I started out with no particular path in mind – but ended up on a golf course which was wonderfully empty due to the rain and wet.

As I walked, I tried to think of how God shows His love for me.This has always been a hard concept for me to grasp because I grew up in a very intellectual, non-expressive family. We didn’t talk about emotions or hug or say I love you. In fact, the first time I remember my dad telling me he loved me was when I was in labor with my first child. That absolutely didn’t mean he didn’t love me – he just showed it in ways that I had to decipher.

Anyway! Back to God! As I was pondering this, I had a lightbulb moment. “I love my own children, right?  Of course, right. So how do I show them my love?” Easy peasy. Now I was getting somewhere. So here’s my list of ways I love my kids:

  1. listening to them
  2. talking with them
  3. providing for their needs
  4. delighting to frequently bless them with their wants
  5. telling them I love them
  6. inconveniencing myself for them
  7. sacrificing for them
  8. correcting them
  9. teaching them
  10. just enjoying them
  11. encouraging them
  12. arranging “play dates” for them so they can have fun with other humans
  13. hugging them
  14. confronting their sin
  15. persevering to find a solution to conflict
  16. picking up their messes
  17. rescuing them from their mistakes
  18. going out of my way to make time for them
  19. rejoicing in their right choices and growth
  20. praising them privately and publicly

This is an unending list – which those of you who are parents know. But for all the ways I love my children in my humanness, God loves me more in His perfection and completeness. I make many mistakes. He does not. The one thing we have on God is we are visible and we have bodies. Our kids can know our love through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. We don’t see Him or hear Him physically. But that’s what living by faith is all about. We learn from His word that He cares for us and loves us enough to die for our salvation. Jesus established very clearly that God is our Father. Because of His Fatherhood over us, we can be confident that all the connections we make between our parenting and His parenting are good and right.

I encourage you to take your own walk with Him and ask Him to show you His love. Please share any other insights with me on His love or ways we love our kids that reflect Him.

Trouble and Worry

22 May

 

 

We celebrated the marriage of one of our daughters a little less than a week ago.  This is our first “rodeo”, so to speak, and what a wild ride it’s been!  Things are finally beginning to settle down – as evidenced by the fact that I went for a long walk this morning, by myself – just me and God and His word.  I always bring along a few of my Bible verse cards to review – this happened to be the first one today. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

God used this verse today to open my eyes to a couple new truths…or at least they were for me:

  1. God has actually designed each day to have some challenges and stress within it.  The fact that we only have 24 hours for that day means if we give our full attention to handling rightly the “trouble” for that particular day, and that day only, we won’t get overwhelmed by concerning ourselves with stuff beyond what is immediately put before us.  We can focus on appropriating God’s grace and strength and wisdom to deal with ONLY that day’s trouble.  What a wonderful way to grow in our relationship with God!  By only dealing with bite-sized amounts of trouble, we learn to trust Him and He promises not to give us more than we can bear as seen in 1 Corinthians 10:13:           

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

(The kinds of temptations this verse brings to mind for me specifically are things like losing my temper, being rude, snapping at someone, gossiping, disrespecting my husband, worrying, etc.)

Furthermore, we not only grow in faith – but by learning to deal with the day’s trouble, we fulfill James 1:2-5: 

            “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

  1. Another thing God revealed to me was that when we let our minds get wrapped up with future concerns and worries, we are not able to effectively handle the trouble of today.  Case in point, the wedding has been on my mind for about 6 months.  Concerns about how it would all turn out, what might go wrong, expenses, logistics, weather, bridesmaid dresses, my dress, the wedding dress itself, flowers, the guest list…and on and on, weighed me down every day – even if there was nothing I needed to do that particular day in regards to that issue!  So, I’m sure this will shock you to know, but by the time we hit “wedding week” – my brain had pretty much checked out!  Only by the grace of God and through the help of many dear friends and family, did we manage to enjoy an incredible time of celebration!  I believe that I had piled too much on my “brain plate” – and I just let myself be overwhelmed with a whole bunch of worry and trouble that was meant to be dealt with on days that God had specifically designed for those issues!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Kind of a new twist on a very familiar verse!  Thank You, Lord!  Your word truly is living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword!  I love finding new nuggets of wonder and truth in my precious Bible!

Silly Little king

29 Jun

Romans 6:12

 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

1 Corinthians 6:19, 20

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Because you have heard Christ’s call, and responded to Him – you were identified with Him as He paid the sentence for your sins on the cross.  But when He arose from the dead, you also were identified with Him in His new resurrected life.

Because of this truth – this joining with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection – for heaven’s sake, don’t let sin establish a kingdom in your body!  Little king Sin ordering you around like a slave to follow every whim and impulse!  Stop listening to that silly little king…Sin, and bow down in respect and honor before the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of the Most High – Jesus.  Present your life – body, soul and spirit to Him as you bow before His throne.  Obey His commands since He bought you out of your hopeless slavery to king Sin.  You have been bought and paid for with very precious currency…the actual blood of God’s Son.  So be sure that your behavior brings honor to your King.

God’s Sweet Surprises

5 May

The other day, the National Day of Prayer to be specific, while praying, I decided to check out the passage surrounding 2 Chronicles 7:14 – which, arguably, is the most famous “go-to” scripture in terms of praying for one’s homeland.  This passage deals with the consecration of Solomon’s temple.

Anyway, I found this just a couple of verses later:

 2 Chronicles 7:16: 

 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

 At first I was a little sad that the passage seemed quite specific to the nation of Israel.  But then I remembered!

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

WE are the temple now!  The Holy Spirit, the true presence of God abides in US – not in a building!

 What a blessing to know that God’s eyes and His heart will always be with me!  Watching and loving, protecting and caring – He has made me His temple – a dwelling place for His Spirit.

 A little later in 1 Corinthians, the same point is made – adding a bit as to our responsibility now that WE are God’s temple.

 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 Father, thank You for washing us clean in the blood of Jesus Christ.  You have been pleased to make US Your temple, placing Your Holy Spirit within us – so that we are never alone and never without You in our lives.  You promise that Your eyes and heart are always with us.  Let us always be mindful of the fact that our bodies are meant to bring You glory – not detract from Your Name.  Praise You, Father.  Thank You for Your Word and for the way You speak truth into our hearts when we least expect it!

In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

The Time of the End?

30 Apr

Daniel 12:9,10

He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

 So.  The thing about the book of Daniel is, it’s full of prophecy.  Quite confusing prophecy.  Therefore, the angel told Daniel to just record the words of the prophecy and then put them on hold until “the time of the end” – presumably when the prophecies would make more sense and people would be ready to hear what they are saying. 

Guess what??!

 “The wise” are understanding!  Everywhere I turn – my church, my women’s Bible study, more than a couple of my favorite radio preachers, all are teaching out of the book of Daniel. 

 Here’s another exhortation from the angel:

 Daniel 12:4

 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

 Just sayin’, but does anybody else think we’ve hit the stage in the history of mankind when “many go here and there to increase knowledge”?  There’s so much going here and there, that we are becoming a VERY small world indeed.

 One final thought from the book of Daniel. 

Daniel 12:1-3

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

 My prayer for you is that your name will be found in that book.  If you don’t know how to get your name written in God’s book, check out this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpU3ognUH8k

 Father, help us to be wise.  Give us the wisdom we need to understand what Your Word is telling us.  But even more than that, I pray that You would help us to humble ourselves before You and accept the gift of Your salvation.   Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying for my sins.  I open the door of my heart and invite You in.  Please come in and forgive my sins and give me eternal life.  You alone are God.  Thank You for loving me.  Make me the person You created me to be.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Naturally patient? That’s too bad!

18 Mar

Has anyone ever called you “a patient person”?  How about kind…gentle…disciplined?  That might be a great thing to be – but it won’t bring you closer to God.  In fact, it’s very likely that the naturally IMpatient person might be more spiritually mature in the area of patience than you are! 

Often times we kind of kick into autopilot in the areas where we have the most natural ability.  It’s only when we reach the end of ourselves that we realize we were functioning in our own strength rather than God’s all along. 

Galatians 5:16

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

When someone compliments you on a character quality, do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has brought you to your knees in that area? Take me, for instance.  I struggle with pride.  I go along just fine, me and God, obeying Him and doing my best.  Then something really cool happens.  It makes me happy.  I start thinking about it.  And before I know it, I have taken a little bit of the credit for myself.  And deep down, sometimes even without me being fully aware, I’m hoping someone is impressed.  That’s where all my sirens go off and my red flags start waving.  Danger, danger, Will Robinson!!  (pretend you understand that if you’re under 40…) 

I start praying like crazy that God will humble me.  Because the flip side of that good feeling is a horrible, piercing shame for taking something good and holy and wrecking it with the wrong motives.  Last week God allowed me to be a part of some really wonderful experiences during a mission trip to Guatemala.  But there were a few times I really had to yank myself up short and ask, “What’s going on here?  Can you do this thing in the right spirit – one of humility and service – or not?”  God graciously allowed me to deal with Him in each area before I blew it…to the extent that I have no regrets, no painful memories, only thankfulness and joy that God let me be a part of what He is doing in Guatemala. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 

Thank You, Father, for saving me from myself!

The Gospel According to Jillian…Michaels??!!

4 Mar

“We’ve got to put some stress on ourselves.  If we want change, we have to have stress…and our bodies will adjust.” – Jillian Michaels

She’s right!  Living in ease and pleasantness does not grow us into the image of Christ.  Although “physical training is of some value”, I’m proposing that Jillian’s words are applicable beyond the physical – straight into every other aspect of our lives.

Here are some of the words God uses to describe this “stress”:

PRUNING

DYING

CRUSHED

POURED OUT

PASS THROUGH THE FIRE

SUFFER

FIGHT

Without allowing the challenge, how will we ever get stronger?  If you find yourself withdrawing further and further from the “action”, all you’re doing is increasing your weakness, growing your fear, feeding your worry.

When I was young, our basement creeped me out.  We always had to turn out all the lights before we came upstairs.  Coming up those steps with the darkness behind me, it was all I could do not to break into a full-out sprint to the top.  But I knew that once I gave into that panic, immediately the “hounds of hell” – or whatever other evilnesses were lurking behind me would suddenly seem to reach out and grab for my ankles.  However if I could maintain my composure, I would reach the landing safely and with one deep breath, my fears would drop away. 

Rick Warren has said, “If you’re not experiencing difficulty, you either just came through one or are about to go into one”.  Strangely, hearing that put my heart at peace.  I suddenly realized that life’s goal is not to reach some sort of “Nirvana” or happy place where I could just camp out – but life is much more like a hike in the wilderness – often beautiful scenery, but full of hidden turns, brambles, hills, rocks, uneven terrain, and even a few flat boring stretches where you wonder if you’re even still on the path.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2,3

So, take it from Jillian, Rick, and me – either intentionally allow some stress in your life or embrace it when it comes. 

You will adjust.

Once

27 Feb

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Sometimes we get so comfortable being our Christian selves, that we forget how things used to be.  To the outside world it might seem like we are just a different “level” of person, and they surely can’t be what we are.  Even to myself, what I just said sounds arrogant – but I’m speaking to the concept of a person feeling like they have to “clean things up” before they come to God.  That is so not the case.  He wants us in our brokenness, our need, our “monster of depravity” mode – He just truly wants us.

While listening to Luis Palau on Focus on the Family this morning, he spoke a bit about remembering where we came from.  He said, “Once I was lost, now I am found.  Once I was empty, now I am filled with the Holy Spirit….”  He went on with his remarks, but his comments stopped me in my tracks.  Who did I used to be?  Have I changed?  Yes.  And maybe you have too.  Make your own list.  If you don’t have a “now I”, take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpU3ognUH8k

Once I was hopeless, now I have a future,

Once I was sad, now I have joy,

Once I was despised, now I am loved,

Once I felt worthless, now I am cherished,

Once I was a liar, now my mouth speaks truth,

Once I was afraid, now I wear the armor of God,

Once I was depressed, now I am here for a reason,

Once it was about me, now it is about Him,

Once I was confused, now I have peace,

Once I was lonely, now I have a True Friend.

Foundation of Hope

14 Jan

Psalm 11:3, 4

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”                                                    

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.

The thing I love about God’s Word is that you can read something multiple times with no particular impact.  Then suddenly, God grabs your face with both hands, points your nose at the verse and says, LOOK at this!!”  Thus with the above passage.  Read the whole psalm…in fact, I’ll put it at the end of this blog.  Lately I’ve been discouraged by the changes in our country – specifically our values, allies, respect for the constitution, economy, freedoms, policies & laws, virtues (i.e. expectation of honesty in our leaders), and on and on.  It feels like the world I know – in which America is a strong, respected nation – is changing so fast I can’t keep up.  This Psalm smacked me in the face and said, “Hey!  It doesn’t matter what the wicked do!  God is still God.  He is still in charge.  He is completely aware of what his enemies are doing – nothing is getting past Him.  He will punish and He will reward.  And that gives me great hope.

Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

1 In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
5 The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.