Sunday, October 01, 2017

When will I sing for joy?

I've been pretty quiet these last few months for various reasons. One repeating theme, however, is that every time I play and sing "Shout to the Lord," the Lord speaks to me.... challenging me... questioning me.

He asked me what "the promise I have in You" really is.  The Bible is full of promises... but what one promise really is above absolutely everything else that earth or life could offer?  I finally came to the conclusion that it what John mentions in John 1:16:
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
This is the same thing that Paul is praying about for the Ephesian church:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

This promise - that it is possible for Christ Jesus to dwell in us, which enables us to be filled with the fullness of God - is the fullness - the foundation and the channel and the way and the sum total and at the same time the one thing that absolutely nothing else compares to.

.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.

Last week, God challenged me when I sang this line:
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands...

Usually when I sing that line, I think of the stars and galaxies, of clouds and mountains and flowers and snowflakes, of things that God has done in my life and the lives of others.

But this time, He said, "Will you sing for joy over what you are still waiting for Me to do? That difficult situation that you cannot imagine a good resolution to... do you trust Me enough? Do you trust that I am wise enough and capable enough and loving enough to sing for joy now over what I am going to do... even though You don't know what I'm going to do?"


Thursday, September 28, 2017

The power to be free...

This is so very worth sharing. / Kor describes how she and her twin sister, Miriam, were deported from Romania to Auschwitz in May 1944 along with the rest of their family. As they waited at the entrance to the concentration camp, a Nazi walked along shouting “Twins, twins.” He asked Kor’s mother whether her two 10-year-old daughters were twins. “Is that good?” asked her mother. “Yes, it is good,” replied the Nazi. So her mother admitted that they were twins. And that was the last Kor saw of her mother, who was taken away to be exterminated minutes after her father and older siblings had been murdered, all within half an hour of getting off the cattle car they arrived in. “I was used in two types of experiments,” Kor says in the video... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  

Brave And Tragic: A Story Of Being One Of The Mengele Twins In...
the power to live and forgive.
Posted by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

When God is enough...

I'm listening to this podcast:
https://www.acast.com/conversationswithjohnlisabevere/special-valentines-day-episode-marriage-makeover

...and I want to share something that I believe is really important.

Lisa and John share in this one about the turning point that happened in their early marriage when their relationship was a mess.

Lisa said that, for her, as she prayed about the things John was doing that hurt her in this very difficult period of time, God said, "Lisa, tell Me that I'm enough for you." Lisa said, "Does that mean that John will never change, if I say that?" God said:
I just need to hear you say that I am enough for you.
And so she began stating this every time she was struggling to deal with whatever John was doing.


You know... God led me through the same thing 18 years ago.

Let's face it. Because a marriage links two faulty humans in a day-in-and-day-out intimate relationship, your husband or wife has the capability of hurting you more than anyone. And they most likely will. Because nobody is even close to perfect. Things that will not hurt you when a stranger does them to you will hurt you terribly when your spouse does it. Things that are somewhat easy to shrug off when someone who is just a friend does it will crush you when your spouse does it. This is a fact of life.


So for us, year four was the difficult one when we struggled so much with hurt. I was hurt by things that I couldn't understand why he did them, things that I knew he didn't realize hurt me, and more. Anyone who has been married for awhile knows the kinds of things I'm talking about.

So there came a day when God was asking me the same thing:
Am I really enough for you, even if your husband never changes?

Looking back, I can confidently say that almost everything that I have in my relationship with God came from THIS. This choice to believe that God really was enough for me, even if my husband never changed. Even if the one person who was part of myself never learned not to _____.

I believe that this choice was the foundation of almost every life-changing revelation I have ever had. And to be quite honest, I think this decision I made might also have saved our marriage.

This decision to trust... to learn to rely upon what God says about me and about Himself in the face of difficult circumstances allowed Him to be God in my life, rather than me falling into the trap of expecting my husband to provide things that only God can fulfill. It allowed God to teach me forgiveness. God taught me to draw a strength from Him that I don't think I ever would have learned any other way. It also opened the eyes of my heart to see my husband for who he really was... a man who loved me with every fiber of his flawed and faulty being, just as I loved him with every bit of my flawed and faulty being.

I believe that this truth... this conviction... is foundational in the life of every married Christian.

What about you?

Is He enough for you?


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lost in worship...

It's late, and I need to go to bed, but I don't want to. A friend shared this worship video on Facebook... and I'm totally enraptured. Enthralled. "Lost in the art of bringing You praise" to quote a completely different song.

Maybe you've heard this song before. My daughter says it's been on the radio, but I don't listen to the radio much so I haven't heard it.

Last Christmas, I blogged about how Jesus is the hero the world longs and is crying for.  This song.... just a little bit... gives my heart the chance to express a tiny little bit of how amazing and incredible and beautiful and marvelous and wonderful my Savior is.

I love the whole song.... and I LOVE the bridge... and then "What a powerful name it is" is proclaimed by thousands, and they broadcast the huge letters "JESUS" across the screen.... so, soo.... powerful yet still falls so short of declaring the magnificence of the One who is the Ultimate power and glory of all of the creation and the entire universe.

Join me in worship? Sooner or later I'll calm down enough to sleep...




What a Beautiful Name
Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood

Verse 1
You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

Chorus 1
What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Verse 2
You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now

Chorus 2
What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Bridge
Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again
You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

Chorus 3
What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Friday, March 31, 2017

Grace upon grace...

I feel like I blog a lot about grace. I don't think that's a problem, though... God's grace is His power working in our lives. Empowerment. His grace is why it is possible to experience His strength when we are totally and completely weak and powerless. It's what makes it possible to experience His joy and peace even when life is giving us every reason to be miserable. 

Every life-changing revelation or experience that I have had in my life has been the result of MY surrender and HIS grace working through my surrender.

I've been experiencing yet another new facet of His grace these past few months. But first let me back up.

Over the past two years, I'd been experiencing more and more health issues. None of them were serious, and none of them interfered much in my daily life, so I frequently ignored them. My hands developed some sort of eczema. Over the last two-plus years, it gradually spread over more and more of my palms, but it didn't itch like eczema usually does and only occasionally hurt, so I just ignored it and only my immediate family even knew it existed. My blood pressure was gradually climbing into the hypertension range, but I'd found that more sleep and sunshine kept it out of the dangerous range... so again, I ignored it most of the time. My shoulder started hurting, and gradually it got worse... then the other one started hurting and got worse... but it only affected me if I needed to raise my arms over my head or lift something heavy.  My husband knew how bad it was getting and how much range of motion I'd lost when he saw that I could not undress myself sometimes, but most of the time, it didn't affect me... so I ignored it. I've been slowly gaining weight for years like many of us do, but even when I tried just about any healthy method of losing weight known to man, nothing happened.  I didn't like getting frustrated by my inability to lose weight, and I carried those extra pounds so evenly that most people never realized that I weighed 25% more than I should to be healthy. So most of the time... you guessed it... I ignored it. Ditto with a handful of other minor health problems.

Last fall, my job had a season of extra stress, and I thought I handled it pretty well... until the turn of the year.  Then all of a sudden, my body started letting me know in no uncertain terms that something was seriously wrong. I lost the ability to sleep soundly, and I went through several weeks of essentially no real sleep.  It was one thing when the kids were little and woke me up all the time, for at least then, my body knew how to actually rest while keeping an ear open... and when it was okay to sleep soundly, my body did it. This was nothing like that. My body seemed to have forgotten how to shut down and sleep, and it was very quickly affecting my mental function. I'm a senior manager and my job requires a memory for lots of details, and it was rapidly getting harder and harder to get my brain to work properly.

My husband was experiencing his own gradually-worsening health problems as well. His symptoms were nothing like mine, but he, too, had been ignoring most of them for years.  But now they were starting to affect his ability to do his job as well.

And so we went to a highly-recommended "functional doctor." A normal medical doctor is trained to treat symptoms and diseases, but a functional doctor is trained to restore the body's correct and intended functions.  They're quite different, and there is a place and time for both. We felt the functional doctor was the type that we needed, since medical doctors had not found any disease-related source of these issues. So we went to one and he had us list every single little health issue we had.  Seeing a list of eight health issues that had almost all appeared in the last two years sort of woke me up to how my health was on a subtle but relentless downwards spiral.  I couldn't ignore it anymore.

So where does the grace come in?

Well, it turns out that functional doctors understand how EVERYTHING that surrounds and enters a body affects its functions. So the way that they work to restore your body's functions is by carefully controlling everything that enters your body and everything your body experiences.

This meant an extremely strict diet, learning about hidden toxins that have found their way into most American's diets and personal care products, learning new ways to cook, finding better sources of food and products, learning how stress isn't quite what most of us think and how to combat it, etc.

In other words, it meant a LOT of work and time and self-control... self-control and time that I wasn't sure I had when the doctor laid all this out. Where would I find the time to do so much more cooking (because there is not a single restaurant within an hour's drive that prepares food that fits this diet... and all processed, ready-made foods were out).

I didn't feel like I had much choice, though.  My ability to do my job was definitely on the line, and I also felt like there might be so much more on the line in my future. I'm only a few years younger than my mom was when she developed the cancer that eventually took her life. I could not help feeling that I owed it to my family to stop this nasty spiral before it resulted in cancer or something else horrible... something that could not be ignored.

And so I threw myself upon God's grace yet again.

And once again, I experienced His grace and faithfulness!

He has carried my through these months so securely that it hasn't seemed even 1/10th as hard as it was when I tried to "eat right" on my own.

As lab tests came in, the doctor was able to show us exactly how our hormone levels had gotten so out of whack that it was affecting our bodies' ability to heal from injuries, to sleep and wake, to produce other important hormones, the function of our immune systems, and a host of other things.  He continuously adjusted our diets, the supplements we were taking, instructions for physical therapy exercises, etc... whatever our individual bodies were needing in order to heal and restore proper function. Keep in mind that I know a lot about healthy eating and had done it quite often over the past two years of falling apart. It hadn't worked. I believe it was the precise and tailored nature of what the doctor directed each of us to do that made the difference.

And God's grace has been there for us, enabling us, carrying us through, providing self-control and strength... all that we need.

My eczema disappeared within a week of the diet and supplements he prescribed. The next week, my sleep started improving, and I'm now I'm sleeping better than I have in years. One of my shoulders is completely healed, and the other one is almost healed. We go to the gym now because I lost a lot of strength over the past year that they were injured and I need to regain it.  My blood pressure is lower than it has been in years. My mental function is back. That 25% weight gain?  Over half of it is already gone... just melted away, without counting calories, without worry about it, without extreme workout routines.

My body is healing and being restored.

Isn't that what what God's grace is for? For restoration?

Jesus said He came that we might have life... and not just a meager existence or sickly falling-apart life... life more abundantly!  He stood up in the temple, quoted Isaiah 61's verses about restoration and the freedom of captives and said He had come to fulfill all of that.


What are you facing? 
Does some sort of your life need restoration?

I assure you... God's grace can restore you, too!

But just like we had to surrender our own ways of eating and living and taking care of ourselves and submit to the doctor's wisdom, so too, we have to surrender our own ways and our own wisdom to God if we want His grace to flow.

God led us to this doctor, but we did not know in advance what He would lead us to. None of us do.  That's the whole point in surrender.

But God will always provide the grace - the strength and empowerment - for what He asks a surrendered person to do. He does it all.

And what you surrender to God's will and ways -- what you give up for Him -- will ALWAYS be overwhelmed and outdone and surpassed by what you will receive in return. This is a spiritual law.

Give Him a chance to restore your life. Actually... don't just give him a chance. Give him all your chances. Everything you've got... and what you don't have. Give Him your emptiness as well, and wait until He fills it with more than you can imagine.

John 10:9-11
I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and [a]have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Courageous Obedience...

Sometimes it seems that we live in an age of fear compared to the world I grew up in.  And yet, when I look at history and across cultures, I see that almost every age around the world has been an age of fear for vast numbers of people.

Today, large numbers of people live in fear of terrorism. Many were afraid of losing their rights and freedoms under the last administration, and an entirely different group is afraid of losing theirs under this new administration. Others are in fear of losing their jobs to immigrants or robots or "progress" or downsizing or corporate decisions. The age-old fears of losing loved ones, losing health, and losing security are haunting many as they always do.

Fear is, I think, one of the devil's most powerful weapons because it cripples us. So many of Jesus's instructions to us involve action that often must be done in defiance of fear.

Sometimes, to obey His directions, we must defy the fear of what others will think. Sometimes God says to offer to pray for a stranger in the grocery store, and instantly dread of what others around us will think fills us. Unfortunately, we are also sometimes afraid of what even those in our own Church will think if we do not go with whatever is considered acceptable in that particular denomination.  Somehow the fear of how your own Christian friends will judge you can be just as crippling... even if it's unjustified fear.

Then there is the fear of being harmed or taken advantage of in some way. This one can easily hold us back from reaching out to the hurting and wounded. It's hard to learn that God actually calls us to be willing to be taken advantage of, for He said,  "If your enemy (ie: the person who will harm you) is hungry, give him food. If he is thirsty, give him drink. If he takes your basement, give him your coast, too." We are even called to lay down our lives, for "He who seeks to save his life will lose it."

Are we to totally disregard safety? Not at all! The Bible has many commands to be wise. Additionally, there are those whose jobs involve maintaining the safety of others, just as a watchman on the wall and the guard standing at the gate were charged with keeping evil out of the city. Woe to those who have been appointed those jobs and do not do them! In addition, those of us who are not charged with that job should not be judging them for doing their job. We also need to be careful not to judge other people's motives for doing something or not doing something.

The point is to judge our own hearts. To allow God to show us if fear is holding us back.

Because fear changes our starting point. 

Even for those who are indeed appointed guards and watchmen.

Fear affects the willingness of our heart.

When fear rules us, then our own personal starting point is, "That's unsafe. That's embarrassing; besides it would do no good. I don't ____ unless God tells me to do it in a specific circumstance. Then I'm willing." I've been there too, and I know how easy it is to say, "Well, I'm not sure God really told me to do that." And so I hang back yet again.

Lord, help my unbelief!

Faith's starting point is, "God has already told me to do it over and over again in His word, so unless He tells me not to do so in a specific circumstance, I will obey. Lord, which method would You have me use? I'm trusting in Your grace and leading and protection, so here I go walking out my faith..."

When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, He responded by telling them to obey Him.

Even Paul once did not preach in Asia because the Holy Spirit stopped him.  But his starting point was one of obedience and trust, regardless of how he was taken advantage of, beaten, abused, talked against, etc. Even his own church thought he was wrong sometimes!  But even when the Holy Spirit told him that imprisonment was awaiting him, he still obediently continued on, since the Holy Spirit was not stopping him in those cases. He knew that he was being asked to testify before Caesar in chains, and that his death would likely follow. And still he obeyed.

The fact of the matter is this:

There will always be a valid reason to be afraid.

But... 

For the one who truly understands
the fortress offered by the Most High God
there will also always be an even more powerful reason
to be courageous in the face of that fear!

I opened my Bible to Psalm 27 this morning, which is one of my favorites. It is an absolutely beautiful Psalm describing describing fearless trust.

There isn't anything in this Psalm about evildoers being banished forever. No... the entire thing is about the safety and security of dwelling in God's presence, even though danger surrounds on every side.

David does not even ask for his enemies to go away, for he knew that God's presence was a place of safety, no matter what surrounded him. He wants to know God's will, and it appears that he feels his foes are affecting his ability to know God's way.

Here it is, with my favorite lines highlighted. In particular, I love verses 4, 5, and 6 because they are a progression. David asks one thing when he is afraid. As a result of that, God responds... and David's end result is joy and praise. 1, 2, 3.

A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.

A Psalm of David.

27 The Lord is my (A)light and my (B)salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the [a](C)defense of my life;
(D)Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to (E)devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they (F)stumbled and fell.
Though a (G)host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I [b]shall be (H)confident.
(I)One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may (J)dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold (K)the [c]beauty of the Lord
And to [d](L)meditate in His temple.
For in the (M)day of trouble He will (N)conceal me in His[e]tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will (O)hide me;
He will (P)lift me up on a rock.
And now (Q)my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent (R)sacrifices [f]with shouts of joy;
I will (S)sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
(T)Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and (U)answer me.
When You said, “(V)Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord(W)I shall seek.”
(X)Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in (Y)anger;
You have been (Z)my help;
(AA)Do not abandon me nor (AB)forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 [g]For my father and (AC)my mother have forsaken me,
But (AD)the Lord will take me up.
11 (AE)Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a (AF)level path
Because of [h]my foes.
12 Do not deliver me over to the [i](AG)desire of my adversaries,
For (AH)false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as (AI)breathe out violence.
13 [j]I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the (AJ)goodness of the Lord
In the (AK)land of the living.
14 (AL)Wait for the Lord;
Be (AM)strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Behind the walls of a fortress...

Psalm 91 is one of the most beloved Psalms. I have it mostly memorized, but I get the order of the sections mixed up sometimes.  So sometimes, if I wake up in the middle of the night and am having a hard time going back to sleep, I start reciting it. And when I realize I've missed a section, I go back trying to figure out where the missing section belonged... and I fall asleep in the process. (Sometimes. Insomnia is an issue I'm dealing with right now.)

Anyway... that's what I was doing very early this morning when I "discovered" two nuggets I've somehow missed all the other hundreds or thousands of times I've read or recited this Psalm. Isn't it amazing how the discoveries NEVER end?

Up toward the beginning of Psalm 91 is this statement:
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

We all know a shield is carried to protect you. The Hebrew word for "bulwark" is used only here in the entire Bible and it's translated different ways, but it's referring to walls like these. Walls strong enough to protect you, your home, your family... anything, actually, that we choose to bring or grow or operate inside those walls. Walls like these:


So what again do these walls symbolize?

His faithfulness.  BlueLetterBible.com says the word means truth. Sureness. Reliability. Stability.

That is what our defensive walls are made of. Not our own efforts or our own goodness or our own faithfulness. Our protection comes from the stability of the Ancient of Days who is the Beginning and the End.

Ephesians says that our shield is "the shield of faith."  To me, the connection between these two verses is quite simple.

If an earthly enemy was attacking and someone offered you the protection of those walls above, would you run inside that fortress?  Of course!

But what if you were blind?  What if you could not see those walls -- you just had to take someone's word for it that they were there.

What if you couldn't even feel them? In the case of Bamburgh's walls as shown above, even feeling them isn't always an option. You'd have to scale a cliff to touch the walls on the seaward side!  You can't even feel them when you're inside them, cause there's just slope of stone.

Would you still go inside the walls?

You would go inside the walls only if you believed what you'd been told about the height and breadth and size of them. Faith.

And so it is with God's faithfulness. It will only protect us if we take refuge behind it and rely on it. If we trust that it's there and true. If our faith in His faithfulness is stronger than our faith in whatever negative outlook is looming.

So who is really invited inside this fortress?  Look to how this glorious Psalm ends:
14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

Did you catch the beginning?

He said, "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver Him."

God didn't say, "Because he repents of all his sin and tries as hard as he can and reads his Bible every day, I will deliver him."

He didn't say, "Because she is a marvelous wife and mother, I will deliver her."

We wouldn't need delivered or need to see His salvation if we had it all together, would we?

No... the whole Psalm is about the strength and power and protection offered by this fortress that is Him, and it ends with Him saying that He will deliver me solely because I love Him.

How wonderful!
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