Monday, August 23, 2010

My refuge and strong tower...

It seems like the vast majority of Christians are under attack right now, myself included. Perhaps because of this, I am discovering new depths to the truth that God is my shield, my strength, my fortress, my Deliverer, my shelter and refuge, and my strong tower. For He is all those things, to those who choose to take refuge in Him.

Today, I would simply like my blog to be a place of praise and thanksgiving as I add to the endless gifts that are overtaking me.

421. Psalm 91 and the refuge He offers me. How is it that I have never thought to thank Him for the most marvelous gift that this Psalm is?
4 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

422. Psalm 46 and the fact that He doesn't offer help, he is my help. This is the Psalm that one of my favorite worship songs was taken from.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

423. The truth of Psalm 30:5, for it allows me to rejoice even in the night.
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

424. That Jesus came to bring more than eternal life. He came that we might have life more abundantly.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

435. Much needed rain over the weekend, both for the garden and in my heart.

426. The gift my husband gave me for my birthday, out of his time and patience and love. He is a gift of God to me.

427. The new school year and gifts that sometimes must be searched for

428. Promise that can be seen only with the eyes of the heart, for this is the most exciting of all promises

429. My future
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.

holy experience

Want to join me and the many others in the gift discovery?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When death draws near...

Again, yesterday, I was all set to blog on one topic, when death swooped in and hijacked my day. This time, it was not the death of a was notice of the impending death of something infinitely more precious.

I am not at liberty to share details...yet I know that many of us face days like this. And so I want to share my heart in this as well.

When things like this happen, we naturally begin to search for answers...the whys and hows...the whose-fault-is-it searches. If we're wise, we present these questions before God. (For I believe that, to search for answers to these kinds of questions anywhere else, other than in The Answer Himself, is to open doors for the devil to make that problem infinitely worse.)

Yesterday, God took my questions and gave me another that I had never considered before. Why do I feel the need to know these things? More specifically, what need exists inside of me? What need does my mind think the answers to these questions will meet? I don't know that I'm explaining this very well...but in myself, I recognized this feeling that, if I could only figure out the answer to this question, or that question, it would somehow satisfy something inside of me. That something...that need that wants to be what I felt God pointing to, for He is the only One who can satisfy every need I will ever have.

Quite honestly, I still can't identify that need. Does it have to do with security? Am I trying to rationalize things? Or is it simply an attempt to accept a reality that I do not want to accept? I don't know.

What I do know is that the book of Psalms is written for times like this. Maybe God allowed David so many years of being surrounded by death, just so he could pen psalms that would bring me comfort. If so, I am grateful. No matter what, this is definitely something negative that God took from David's life and turned it into something beautiful in my own life.

God again, fulfilling His promises.

Psalm 86:1-10

1Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
2Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
3Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to You I cry all day long.
4Make glad the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
6Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
10For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.

Psalm 83

1O God, do not remain quiet;
Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
2For behold, Your enemies make an uproar,
And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
3They make shrewd plans against Your people,
And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
15So pursue them with Your tempest
And terrify them with Your storm.
16Fill their faces with dishonor,
That they may seek Your name, O LORD.
17Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever,
And let them be humiliated and perish,
18That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD,
Are the Most High over all the earth.

Psalm 57

1Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
2I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
3He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me Selah
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.
4My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.
5Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
6They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah.
7My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
8Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
10For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
11Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A beautiful heritage...

There is a question that I have asked God many times in my life. It is, quite simply, Why am I so blessed? I look at the world around me and those living in it, and I know that I have been blessed abundantly in ways too numerous to all the ways that the lack of turmoil and agnst that seems to be the norm almost everywhere else. That's not to say that everything is beautiful, for the devil knows how to take something relatively minor and torture you with it until you're every bit as miserable as anyone else.

But...I have still always known I was blessed and wondered why.

I got my answer last Thursday, and it is one that contains hope for everyone. But before I share it, let me back up.

I grew up in a Christian home. When I was somewhere around the age of 7, (I think), my parents became a part of a small church full of sincere followers of Jesus. We were there until I was thirteen or fourteen, and the people there became like the vast majority of my earliest memories involve those dear people. (That's me on the left, with my sister and the two brothers who existed at that time...and this is a picture that someone else we haven't heard from in 20 years put up on Facebook recently!)

Eventually, the church sort-of fell apart. I wasn't old enough to know all the details (and I don't care today)...suffice it to say that though there didn't seem to be many hard feelings, we all began drifting apart. I essentially lost touch with all but two families.

The years started going by. I heard through the grapevine that one of my parents' friends got divorced, then another. I heard that one or two of my friends got married, and assumed the others had, too. One girlfriend lost her mother to cancer, then I lost mine to the same thing.

And then last week, out of the blue, I started finding all these people on Facebook. First I began finding my parents' friends...the adults I looked up to and who loved me at the time. I found one couple and got choked up to see a recent picture of them, standing side-by-side, still smiling at me from the computer screen after more than 20 years. Then I found another...and then another...and then another.

I admit, I was a little hesitant to start clicking on profiles. In today's world, reconnecting with long lost friends quite often results in hearing sad news of divorces and the grief of knowing that an old friend has turned away from the Lord. And so my jaw began dropping and tears began streaming down my face as one couple after another after another smiled at me from joint pictures...announced 30 (and more) years of marriage...posted something showing how much they love the same spouse they loved back then and thanked God for him or her. It wasn't that I really expected any of them to get divorced or turn away from the Lord. It's just that I know what the norm is today...even among Christians.

Then I began looking up the girls who were my friends, and my smile got bigger and bigger. For each one of them has a walk with the Lord like I have...each one's Facebook profile is full of praise to God...the profile of someone who isn't just a Christian, but who also has a living, breathing walk with God. How they are blessing me now! Just by living the lives that they are!

But what really got me is how all five of the girls I was closest to there, and two in similar families that I knew outside of church...all seven of them have somewhere posted something familiar. God has blessed me so much. Several of them even phrased it as a question...wondering why.

And so I started asking God about this again, but this time I had a very specific reason for wanting to know. You see, I am now the age my parents were then. My children are creating those memories...and I want them to find the same thing when they look back, 20 years from now.

Is it even possible?

As I asked the Lord this years-old question, I finally began getting an answer. A verse came to mind, "This is the heritage of the Lord."

Heritage, I thought. Yes, that is an accurate word for what I feel I have found, in discovering the lasting depth of what those people had and still have...for those people all helped shape the woman I am today.

I looked up that verse and discovered, not only that I wasn't remembering it exactly right, but that it's at the end of a remarkable chapter of Isaiah.

Here are the parts of Isaiah 54 that spoke to me:

1 "Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman," says the LORD.
Those seven girls and I have 27 children between us...and we were only 8 out of dozens of children.
2 "Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
3 "For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.
We--the descendants of those people--are all scattered now, sharing His light and love to those around us.
4 "Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
I honestly don't know the Before Christ stories of all my parents' friends. But I know my parents' walk with God began shortly before I was born. It wouldn't surprise me if many of their friends also were saved from very messy lives.
5 "For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.
6 "For the LORD has called you,
Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,"
Says your God.
7 "For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you.
8 "In an outburst of anger
I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,"
Says the LORD your Redeemer.
I believe that God's anger was all poured out before Jesus. We are now in days of grace, where God's anger is being held back and His grace extended to all those who will accept it.
9 "For this is like the days of Noah to Me,
When I swore that the waters of Noah
Would not flood the earth again;
So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
Nor will I rebuke you.
This is where we are now.
10 "For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,"
Says the LORD who has compassion on you.
I am looking at the aftermath of 20 years...and I see this truth...that God's lovingkindness was not removed, and that a covenant of peace is most definitely there.
11 "O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,

Storms still come.
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
12 "Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
But what He gives is greater.
13 "All your sons will be taught of the LORD;
And the well-being of your sons will be great.
It brings me such joy to know there are at least 27 other children out there being raised as my children are! And this is such a small percentage of how many there really are, for I did not count any farther than my closest friends.
14 "In righteousness you will be established;
"Established" is such a remarkable word...especially when looking at this particular foundation from today's perspective.
You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;
And from terror, for it will not come near you.
15 "If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me.
Notice...those things that come against us are not from God now! Therefore, they are destined to fail!
Whoever assails you will fall because of you.
16 "Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
And brings out a weapon for its work;
And I have created the destroyer to ruin.
17 "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;

This is a famous verse that almost everyone knows. I've often tried to rest in it. And different is my perspective of it now! I am looking at a reality. For yes, weapons were formed against us many times over the years. And yet...those weapons obviously were not prosperous. Oh how glorious is it to see the fulfillment of this promise!
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their vindication is from Me," declares the LORD.

I am in awe, for this is why I have been so blessed. I am one of those descendants, and God is merely showing Himself faithful to promises He made to my parents.

This is my heritage. And it is beautiful to me.

Perhaps you did not receive a heritage from your parents like I did. I know most did not, and it saddens me. But this is why I think God is telling me to share this testimony here.

You may be in the position my parents were in...not having grown up in a home like mine. Perhaps, instead of wondering why you were so blessed, you have wondered why others are so blessed.

Take a look at what that second-to-last line really says. It does not say what I remembered... that "this is the heritage of the Lord." It says, "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord." It is not the heritage for anyone who claims His name. Nor it is the heritage of those who do great miracles in His name...who memorize the entire Bible...who lead thousands to Christ. Yes, you can do those things...but you don't have to, to receive the heritage. It is as simple and as complete and difficult as making the choice to be His servant.

This heritage is available to you now. You can have what my parents and their friends found, and you can begin what they began...a heritage that can be passed on to your children, and your children's children. Proverbs 13:22 says, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." Trust me...the inheritance that my parents left for me is so much more precious than what Donald Trump will leave his children. For mine comes with a covenant of peace.

And if you are someone who is already a servant of the Lord, and you're looking at your current circumstances, and doubt is hammering away at your heart, know that your heritage is still there. Weapons will still be formed against us. Storms still come. Two of us lost our mothers. Several lost babies. I'm sure the others had some huge marriage struggles, just like I did. And your heritage might not look exactly like mine.

But that does not invalidate the covenant that God has made with you
. If all eight of us can stand where we are today, in awe of blessings that far outweigh what has come against us, then so will my children, and so will you and your children. For we serve a God who will never break His covenant.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus the glory forever. Amen! (Romans 16:25-27)

holy experience

My gifts--both received and discovered last week for today's Multitude Monday, are:

389-395. Those seven friends and finding them...

396. And that they were all just as happy to find me.

391. Seeing so many of my parents old friends still married

392. Whatever reason God is bringing us all together again

393. This revelation of my heritage

394. This increase in my testimony of God’s greatness and goodness

395. The trust this births in me for my own children’s inheritance

396. Proverbs 16:6

397. Isaiah 54:17

398. And the privilege of offering this hope to everyone.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Learning what geese know...

Before three-weeks-ago's post got hijacked, I was planning on sharing something the Lord has been stirring in me recently.

I think everyone in our country is familiar with the sight of Canadian geese flying in formation. We know what it's like in the fall to look up and see huge Vs moving south. We welcome the sight of those Vs moving north again in the spring because know it means spring is arriving.

Most of us also know the reason for the V shape formation...the lead goose breaks the wind, and the rest of them ride the draft. And many, if not all of them, take turns leading, because no one goose could do it for long. But together, the geese gain the ability to reach the destinations that they could not reach alone. In fact, I just read of studies showing that this formation allows the geese's strength to take them 71% further than they'd be able to go on their own.

And some think God isn't a master physicist!

But the thing that God is specifically impressing upon me is how geese demonstrate His idea of leadership.

First...leadership is necessary. I'm often tempted to think I don't need someone over me...someone leading me and teaching me. Yet these geese demonstrate how much farther I'll go if I am willing to fall into the place that God has for me and receive the guidance they are giving. Is it possible that, without that leadership, I'll never arrive? Perhaps my life isn't long enough to learn everything God has for me by myself...and the only way I'll discover it all is to ride the drafts of others.

But more eye-opening to me than that is the concept of what the relationship is supposed to be like between leader and led.

Humans have always been power-hungry. I suppose it's natural that a position of leadership has frequently become considered a position of power. Employees often begrudge their boss the power he has to decide that things be done his way, and bosses too often think of secretaries as little more than servants. Political leaders all-too-often think their position is a means to force their ways on the greater population. Kings and dictators seek to expand whatever control they already have. Many aim for positions of leadership simply so they'll be on the giving end, rather than the receiving end of orders.

Yet, if you look at geese, the leader is bearing an extremely difficult burden on behalf of the entire flock. What burden is the rest of the flock bearing? They have given up the freedom to choose their own direction, and in return, they're having the majority of their own burden carried by those ahead of them.

If you continue to watch those geese, you'll notice how easily and un-grudgingly they switch leaders. When the time comes for the current leader to step down, it does so without fighting to keep its place...without searching for ways to make a lasting impression on the flock...without feeling that it has failed those behind it because it cannot continue on. I've yet to see a fight break out between geese over who gets to lead next.

Perhaps geese understand Jesus's words more than humans do, when He said, "Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."

Perhaps this understanding is why geese don't fight over leadership...they understand what it really is. Those behind have taken their turn at the front, so rather than begrudge the one who gets to choose the way, they are grateful for the load that one is bearing. And that one is grateful for the chance to go back to being led.

Furthermore, these formations of geese are living, breathing entities. They merge and split and reshape themselves as the winds change and as their directions need to be adjusted.

And they do so without fighting, without hard feelings, and without judging each other.

Imagine if the body of Christ functioned in this way!

How much more effective would we all be if we truly realized that leading is serving, and serving is something we are all called to do? What if we all truly understood that those in authority over us are God's ministers to us? And what if those in authority recognized that as well?

What would it actually look like if we all responded to the direction and move of the Spirit without judging those whom the Spirit is suddenly moving in another direction?

I feel blessed to be in a church that more closely resembles this than any other I've ever been in...and yet God is challenging me with this in my personal life as a mother. He asked me this once, last year: Do you realize that, because you are in authority over your children, you are their servant? I'll confess, it took me awhile to wrap my mind around that concept. I'm still learning what it looks like, but it helped to think of myself as a tutor, hired to teach three children of the King. Such a tutor does, indeed, have authority over those three children. Yet I am also serving them by teaching them what they need to remembering that they have only been given to me for a season...and by teaching as though there is One over both of us whom I'll have to answer to if I begin to treat them as my servants.

Lord, teach me to lead as You did. Prepare me and give me strength to bear the burden of whatever leadership You have in my future. And when the time comes, teach me to step into position according to Your timing and graciously release my authority when You lead me to step down. And remind me to always be grateful for those You have placed ahead of me in the flock.
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion