Sunday, September 29, 2019

Trust's foundation...

Another lesson in trust...

"Is God going to answer my prayer and grant my request? The Bible says not to doubt, and others are saying that they're believing that it'll happen. But how do they know? And do they really know or do they mean that they're just hoping God will move the way they want Him to? After all, sometimes He doesn't move the way we ask.  Am I wrong if I'm honest with myself and admit that I don't know if God is going to do it or not?"

Ever been there?  I have, many times, and the confusion that results can be debilitating and make you question everything. I've at times gotten so lost in a circle of vicious questions that I can hardly find the way out. I've found myself wondering if I had enough faith or not and if my lack of faith might someone result in someone else's lack of healing or breakthrough, etc. I've wondered if faith had anything to do with why my mom died years ago from cancer, and I've wondered many similar things in the years since.

But then the Holy Spirit taught me this pivotal lesson in trust that totally changed my perspective and brought me peace. (If you want to know why I say "Holy Spirit" instead of "God," see this post.)

The Holy Spirit used two stories.

The first is in Daniel chapter three, when the angry king demanded that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego bow before his image and worship it. They refused, and their answer is very powerful and significant. They did not say, "We will worship God only, and we're believing that He is going to save us."

No. They said, "We will worship God only. We know He is able to save us from your fiery furnace. But even if He does not, we still will not serve your gods or worship your image."

According to some, this admitting that they did not know if He would do as they were asking was doubt... doubt that can stop the miracle from coming. But not only does this not happen, the Bible even refers to them as being of great faith!  (Hebrews 11:34 briefly includes them (not by name) in the list of those who were great in faith.)

The Holy Spirit used this story to show me that it is perfectly okay to not know what God will do. It does not display a lack of faith!  Sometimes He shows us what He's going to do and gives us the gift of faith to simply know.  And many times He does not.  We cannot even claim that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's faith is why they were saved from the furnace, for Hebrews 11 goes on to say that others were tortured and killed by faith. In fact, Hebrews 11 shows quite clearly that whether or not someone is saved from death is not dependent upon how much faith they have, for verse 34 says that some escaped the sword and then verse 37 says that others were put to death by the sword... and then 39 says, "And all these, (meaning both those who were put to death and those who escaped) gained approval through their faith..." So then, if some escape by their faith and others do not escape and endure by their faith... then we see that our faith and trust have to be in something other than in the answer that we want God to give.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's faith and focus was not on what God might or might not do. Their focus was on the character of God... who He is... what He is capable of... and who He was to them no matter what He chose to do or not do.

He was their God. 

They knew He was able to save them, but they didn't really care whether He did or not, because they had committed their worship to Him and Him alone... regardless of whether or not He chose to save them. 

We see the same thing in Mark 9:20-25. This chapter has many lessons on many things, but I want to focus on the part that the Holy Spirit used to teach me this lesson.

This father was really struggling with the same thing that I used to. His son was afflicted by a demon that caused him to thrash about and foam at the mouth, and so far, his son had not been healed. The father said to Jesus, "If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

Jesus saw that the man's focus was on the wrong thing.  He was focused on whether or not his son would be healed. Jesus brought his focus around by asking, "If you can? All things are possible to him who believes."

The Holy Spirit pointed out that Jesus was not asking, "Do you or don't you think I'm actually going to do it?"

See the difference? Maybe the difference isn't significant to you, but to me, it was a life-changing difference.  Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, my faith and trust shouldn't be focused on what might or might not happen. Jesus was saying, "Do you or don't you believe that I am able to do this?" Another way of putting it might be to say, "Stop thinking about whether or not I'll do what you want and instead think about who I am!"

My focus needs to be on who He is.

How did the man talking to Jesus respond? “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

The man made no pretensions at all about his faith or lack thereof. I believe his statement, "I do believe" was nothing more or less than an affirmation that Yes, he did believe that Jesus was able to do it. That much, at least, he was convinced of. Even more importantly, he did not pretend to have the ability to increase his faith on his own. He knew that not only was Jesus the One who could deliver his son, but Jesus was also the One who could help his unbelief.

And so I shifted my focus. I realized that I do not need to know what He will do to trust Him.

But I do have to know Him. 

If I was not fully convinced of His power, then I could not trust Him any more than I could trust some unknown man's ability to do anything. If I did not truly believe that He has perfect knowledge of how to use that power, then His power might be something to fear... for what if He used that power in the wrong way? And if His love was not perfect and complete and compassionate and unending, then again, how would I possible trust that His knowledge and power would be used in only the way that was best for me?

And so we see that the foundation of trust is who He is.  What He does is always the result of who He is, and my ability to trust Him is dependent upon my revelation and understanding of His nature.

If you feel like your trust is lacking, simply follow the example of the man who turned His focus to the One who is able. "Lord, show me who You are. I want to know You."

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 
24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
- Mark 9:23-24

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

At His feet...

For anyone who would like to spend some time at His feet... anyone who needs to be ministered to... just hit play, and then listen while you work, or fold laundry, or work on the car, or whatever it is you normally do by yourself in the quiet. There's not much to watch, but there is plenty to listen to... including Him.

What are You saying?
What are You doing here?
I've been clouded in my mind; come and speak Your words of life
You're not in the chaos
Or the storms all around me
Cause You're closer than my next breath
I feel You riding in the wind to call....
And sing this song...

      Don't give up now; just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward.
      You're almost there now, just keep running
      Heaven's cheering you forward.

So what are You saying?
And what are You doing in me?
You're holding out Your hand, I love the way You lead me
You're not in the lessons
That you're trying to teach me
Cause You're closer than my next breath, and I feel You riding on the wind, to call...
Oh You call..

      Don't give up now, just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward..
      You're almost there now, don't stop running!
      Heaven's cheering you forward..
      Don't give up now, just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward...
      You're almost there now, don't stop running!
      Heaven's cheering you forward...

      Keep the faith...

      I'll never stop believing
      I'll never stop speaking
      I'll never stop moving at the sound of your cries...

      I'll never stop dreaming
      I'll never stop singing
      I'll never stop dancing over you My child...

So what are You saying
And what are You doing in me?
Cause you're holding out Your hand; I love the way You lead me.
It's not in the lessons
That You're trying to teach me
Cause even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading
So even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading.
So even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading.

Don't give up now, just keep going
Heaven's cheering you forward..
You're almost there now, don't stop running!
Heaven's cheering you forward..
Don't give up now, just keep going
Heaven's cheering you forward...
You're almost there now, don't stop running!
Heaven's cheering you forward...

Keep the faith...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trusting in the disappointments...

After years of almost silence on this blog, God has finally given me the words to start writing again. If you haven't already, please read "A Habit of Trust."  I shared the culmination of these lessons in trust and the testimony of what God has done.

I have so much to share... so many little lessons... and I wasn't sure where to start! So of course I asked the Holy Spirit to show me, and I trust that He is leading me to start here.

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Life throws disappointments at us sometimes, doesn't it? Maybe "sometimes" is understating it, though. We hope that something's going to happen... and it doesn't. And then, when it happens often enough, we lose hope. We just start to assume the worst.

I'm what some people call an incurable optimist. The glass is not always half full, it's half full of something good... even if it's just plain water!

And yet, I have this phrase that I used to say whenever my hopes were dashed. I'd say, "Well that sucks!"  Or maybe sometimes instead I'd say, "That totally stinks!"

This little lesson started during one of the many job huts that one of my kids were doing. Or maybe all of them. My kids are currently 22, 21, and 18, so we've had a lot of job hunts over the last handful of years. They're at the age where they need to be working, but jobs are hard to get because their application looks so much like everybody else's, and they're young. I'm sure some of you can relate!

I don't actually remember which of them was job hunting when God taught me this little (but pivotal) lesson in trust. I just remember how frustrated we were at how many "Now hiring" signs were out there... how many people claimed that their company would hire anybody who was willing to show up to work... yet my responsible, eager-to-work child could submit application after application after application and never get any calls... even from locations that continued to advertise that they needed people!

So in one particular situation, a call for an interview was received, and our hopes rose... only to be dashed when they gave the job to someone else.

"That sucks!" I said emphatically.

Why? said the Holy Spirit.

"I wanted him to get that job!" I responded.

But you prayed that he would get the job IF it would be a good job for him. 

My thoughts and exclamations ground to a halt.

The Holy Spirit continued, Do you trust that I know better than you do about what jobs are good for your children? My children?

"Well of course You know better," I responded.

And do you believe that I am capable of making sure that their next job is the one that they need?

"Of course you are capable. You're God!"

Then why are you saying that My decision on this job sucks?

I was rather speechless as I began to realize that my simple statement of disappointment was rooted in pride rather than trust. Because even though I said I only wanted my kids to get jobs that were good for them...  even though I knew that God could see into the future and knew if a particular job would actually be good for them or not... when it came right down to it, my feelings and reactions showed me that I actually thought I knew better.

Think about it.

There had been two possibilities. 1) A job offer. 2) No job offer and the job search would continue.

I asked God for option 1 only if the job would be good for my child.

God chose option 2.

I then said that option 2 - God's choice - sucked.

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I didn't learn that lesson the first time. I had been in such a habit of saying that things "sucked" (forgive me if you find that vulgar), that as the job searches continued for different children, the Holy Spirit had to continue to stop me, right when the words were on the tip of my tongue. He's applied the lesson in other areas of my life as well, as other disappointments have arise. He still has to stop me sometimes.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that His simple challenge required me to think more deeply about how powerful I really believe He is. How much I really think He is in control.

Was the lack of job offer His decision? Or was it merely because a hiring manager was unable to see my child's potential? Or was it because my child had said something wrong in the interview? Or was there merely someone else better qualified?

How much do we really control our own destiny? How much do my kids control their own destinies? That's part of the question too, isn't it?

Most if not all of us believe that we do have the freedom to make personal choices. We can choose not to prepare for an interview and then mess it up more than we would have if we had prepared. That hiring manager can choose which person to give the job to.  She could even choose to give the job to her friend's daughter instead of the most qualified applicant. Right?

But if we look in the Bible, we see that God has a way of orchestrating circumstances so that His will is accomplished. Look at Joseph's story. God determined early on in his life that he would be over his brothers, and for whatever reason, God chose to tell him this through a dream. Joseph then screwed up and his pride angered his brothers. His brothers then screwed up and sold him into slavery. Joseph wound up the servant of an unscrupulous woman who manipulated circumstances so he was thrown into prison.

And yet, what God had decided was eventually still accomplished. Not only was it accomplished, but Joseph was prepared for the task God had for him along the way.

Might it have been accomplished more smoothly and less painfully for Joseph if he hadn't bragged to his brothers? Yes... but that's an alternate timeline we'll never know. Would it have been a "better" timeline? That is a question that tests our trust as well, for how could we possibly see into the future to know what is better in the long run and what is not? Very often, life's struggles and disappointments and trials are what make us better, stronger, more innovated, more wise, etc.

How about David's story? God had Samuel anoint him as king of Israel. Somewhere along the line, Saul found out, according to 1 Samuel 23:17. Saul didn't like it, and he did everything in his power to kill David.  But what God had decided would happen could not be stopped.

Isaiah 55:10-11 is where God states emphatically that this is so:
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth and make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
It's like the Mississippi river. This map shows the many twists and turns that it has taken over the centuries as various things affected it and tried to stop it here or there. And yet, it still carries water from my little town in Central Ohio, all the way down hundreds and hundreds of miles until that water reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

So when I'm thinking about these disappointments in the job hunt, the questions I must ask myself are these.

Do I believe that God is capable of giving my kids favor when they interview for the job that He knows they need, so that the hiring manager overlooks any mistakes they make in the interview and sees that they are hardworking and quick learners?

Yes, I do. I believe He is powerful enough to do that.

Am I willing to trust that God really does know what is best for them? Even if it means an extended job hunt? Even if it means a job with challenges that tempt my kids to say that their job sucks?

Yes, I am, for I know that a young person getting an easy, good-paying job can actually be quite bad for them in the long run. I have no way of knowing how every single possible job out there, with its working environment, current and future bosses, commute, coworkers, job duties, and every other factor will affect my kids. I don't want them to get a good-paying job that sounds good but that turns out to be with a boss who will tear them down emotionally. Nor do I want them to get a job with a boss who overlooks so much and would go so easy on them that they'd lose their good work ethic. Nor do I want... well, you see that the list of potential reasons that could make a job "good" or "bad" is far too long and involved for anyone to really know the sum total in advance.

But God knows it all. He not only knows every day of the future in any potential job, He also knows exactly how my child would respond to each challenge that would arise in that job. He knows how they would grow and change in that job position. He knows what skills they would learn and the future those skills would prepare them for.

And He loves them even more than I do. And I gave them back to Him before they were born.

And so I chose to trust Him and change my response. I encouraged my kids to ask God to lead them, and when each new job application was turned down, I chose to respond with, "That must not be the right job for you. Thank You, Father, that You are in control and that You love my kids and know what is best." And when the only job my daughter could get paid less than minimum wage, I responded with, "Well, there must be something else about this job that will make it good for you, other than the money."

And as my response changed, my peace increased.

Months have passed, and I can see God's hand in the jobs that each of them have... and that is another lesson that I will soon share.

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Are you struggling to deal with disappointments in your life? Are you struggling with frustration and turmoil in your soul over it?  I encourage you to trust the One who knows what is truly good and what isn't anywhere near as good as it looks. I encourage you to trust that He knows how the challenge you are facing will shape you and strengthen you and teach You to trust Him and receive strength from Him. The lesson holds true even for big disappointments and painful things, for learning to trust Him with the most painful struggles in my life has taught me beautiful and powerful things that are well worth the pain I went through.

He does know what we need, and His sufficiency is always there. And the more we trust, the more we position ourselves to receive His sufficiency.

For I know the thoughts and plans 
I have for you declares the Lord. 
Plans for welfare and not for calamity, 
to give you a future and a hope. 
- Jer 29:11

Monday, September 09, 2019

A habit of trust...

I haven't shared too much in the last two years compared to years ago. It's been a long season of learning to trust, deeper and deeper and deeper, as God has walked my family through all sorts of things. He's been working in me, but so much of it has been either intensely personal or so gradual that I haven't had words to share.

Until now!

Back in 2002, I wrote a part of my story which is shared on this blog, called "My Ultimate Makeover." It was the culmination of years of revelation and years of growth that God had walked me through.

I'm now looking back over the years since, and I feel like another round of seasons has culminated. A curtain has been drawn back, and I can see what He's been doing... not only over the last two years, but over the last decade and longer.

I'm going to start 6 months ago though, and this will be only the first of many posts.

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Back in March of this year, my husband and I both came down with a cold. It was an odd cold with atypical symptoms but not a particularly bad one. It made us sneeze a lot though... and one day that my husband clearly remembers, he sneezed really hard... and felt a stabbing and excruciating pain in his side. He doubled over and sneezed again, and he waited for the pain to subside. It did, and he pushed through the day.

In the days that followed, he recovered from the cold but started to feel worse in other ways that were hard for him to describe.

In the months that followed, his health continued a gradual decline with a few occasional ups... which typically coincided with doctor visits as so often the doctors couldn't find much. Blood tests showed nothing wrong. An x-ray showed nothing. A CT scan showed infection in his bladder lining in May so they treated that, but there was still nothing to explain his growing weakness and the continuous, overall abdominal pain and sickness.

He and I, however, eventually came to the realization that something was seriously wrong, and we privately started to face the fact that the doctors might not find it in time to save him. We even began thinking about how the kids and I would make it if we lost him. No, he wasn't at death's door, but there are plenty of stories of people with conditions that the doctors didn't find it until it was too late to do early and successful intervention. And yes, he was prayed for many times, and I believe those prayers were carrying him, as you'll see.

In the first week of August, his abdominal pain got so extreme and intense that he went to the ER. He could barely stand up from the pain and weakness... and still they couldn't find anything. They sent him home with only a laxative, which we knew was not the problem.

The next day, the pain got even worse, so back we went. A doctor said it was appendicitis and scheduled him for surgery the next morning. We spent the night wondering if it was possible that appendicitis had been the problem all this time. We even asked the doctor about it, but the doctor was doubtful. He said the current pain was appendicitis, but it couldn't cause the other problems. His appendix was only slightly enlarged.

But the next morning, in surgery, is where the surgeon finally found the cause of his months of sickness.

His appendix had been ruptured... for months.  The doctors were actually hesitant to say how long it had been ruptured, for there have been very, very few cases of someone living for extended periods of time with a ruptured appendix. But his body had walled it off, doing its best to spare the rest of his abdomen from the poison and toxins and infection that were trying to kill him. We are confident that it had ruptured in March... he knows what he felt when he sneezed those two times, and I saw how his health started declining from that point on.  No wonder he felt so awful all the time!  No wonder he felt that he was dying! He was living with a condition that usually kills people without emergency treatment!

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So what about me? (Since what God's done in him is his story. And yes, he is now feeling better than he has all year!)

As those months were going by, and I was powerless to help my husband, I trusted the One who knew. The trust He had worked in me carried me so securely by then that it almost seems like a dream... and not even a bad one!  Just something that happened.  Relying on God and receiving the peace that He supplies had become so natural to me that I was singing in the hospital... simply because the song He'd placed in my heart kept overflowing.

This is the song I sang in the ER, and as I sat beside my husband while he slept in the days that followed. There's just something about those words, "When I'm broken and undone, Your mercy's just begun" that overwhelm me!

And when he finally came home and a week later was finally regaining enough strength to go back to work, I looked back over this year and the last few years and the last decade. The Katie that went through this year is not the Katie that existed 10 years ago.

How had I never once worried about his health? How had I faced the possibility of losing him with no fear? And that's when I realized.

Trust has become a habit.

It has become something that permeates every part of my life. Ten years ago I thought I trusted Him... but the One who knows the End from the Beginning saw just how many areas of my life I was self-sufficient and actually relying on myself or others. And so He kept working, and working and working, bit by bit, teaching me so many small but vital lessons in trust!

It was because trusting Him has become a habit that I was able to face the possibility of losing my husband without fear.  It was because of those years of lessons that He enabled me to watch my husband's life dwindling without losing my peace. His peace.

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These are the lessons that I want to start sharing.

If you want to follow along, just follow my Hope Is Calling Facebook page, or you can subscribe via email. (Make sure you confirm when they send you the email verification.)   As I add them, they'll be added to the posts tagged "Lessons in Trust."

To the One who is Faithful and True 
and able to do above and beyond all we can ask or think 
be all the praise and glory forever and ever 
and in my life...
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