Monday, January 31, 2011

How to Hear God's Voice Above the Noise

I hadn't planned on posting anything today but then I came across this great excerpt from Larry Kreider's book Speak Lord, I'm Listening: How to Hear God's Voice Above the Noise. The excerpt is really long so I'm just going to post the ones that were most meaningful to me, personally. If you're interested in reading more, be sure to check out his book.

The Bible. God may cause a portion of scripture to jump off the page for you while you're reading it. He may make you aware of how it applies to your life right then and use it to lead you in a particular way. The Bible is your final authority - the standard by which you should check everything else you think God may be saying to you. Remember that nothing God says in any other way will ever contradict what He says in the Bible. Get to know the Bible well by reading and studying it often. Be sure to keep the context and original intent of the Scripture passages in mind.

A Journal. Writing down your thoughts in a journal, then reading the record, can help you understand more clearly how God may be speaking to you. Whenever you sense something that may be a message from God, write it down to preserve it. Then pray about what you've written. You can also write out your prayers to God in your journal.

Surrender. Giving up your own efforts to run your life and trusting God fully with it puts you in a position to hear from God as well. Ask God to help you learn to wait, rest, and be content, so you'll be able to surrender.

Asking in Prayer. Don't hesitate to ask God to speak to you. He cares about every detail of your life, so pray about everything, and expect Him to respond. Approach God through prayer with confidence, knowing that He wants to hear from you and will be sure to answer at the right time. Remember that God provides on a day to day basis, so pray each day to keep your relationship with Him fresh and growing.

Peace. Peace is a confirmation that you're hearing from God. God will give you peace if He wants you to move forward in a particular direction. If you lack his peace, don't go ahead anyway. Wait until the right decision becomes clear - and it will be clear when you experience God's peace.

Partial Revelation. Sometimes when God speaks to you, He only reveals part of the full message He intends for you to hear, because you're not ready to hear everything. Just obey what you do know, and trust Him to reveal more at the right time. God will build your faith as you respond to Him day by day.

Dreams. God may speak to you through a dream, with a clear message and a specific purpose. Dreams that confuse you may just be the result of your brain processing thoughs while you're asleep. If a particular dream is from God, He will give you a confirmation in your spirit that He was communicating something to you through it - and the message will line up with Biblical truth.

Surprises. Sometimes God may get your attention by speaking in ways you don't expect. Be open to hearing from God in unpredictable ways, and alert to whenever He may take you by surprise.

Stories and Parables. Be alert to what messages God may be sending you through the meanings of stories and parables. Reflect on them and pray about them.

Testimonies. Your testimony - the story of how you personally came to believe in and trust Jesus - can powerfully impact other people. Tell it whenever God gives you a good opportunity. Let other people's testimonies inspire you and help you learn more about God.

Mentors and Spiritual Parents. God can speak to you through spiritual mentors - people who have more life experience and greater spiritual maturity than you. Their advice is often filled with God's wisdom.

God's Character. God often speaks to you through what He reveals about His character, like unconditional love and righteousness. The more you learn about what God is like, the more you can recognize Him speaking.

God's Silence. When you're doing your best to listen for God but don't hear from Him, let His silence remind you of your deep need for Him and draw you closer to Him. Remember that God is always with you - even when you can't sense His presence - and even His silence has a redemptive purpose in your life.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bright Sunshiny Day

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" Psalm 30:5

This morning I woke up in sort of a funk. I don't know why. I just did. That happens sometimes. Nothing was really wrong. The boys were playing nicely together. Nothing earth shattering is happening at the moment. But I really just didn't feel like crawling out of bed this morning and doing today. I wished I could just lay in bed for a while and lounge around all day with no responsibilities. I didn't feel like playing legos or making breakfast or giving baths.

Maybe that's what part of it was. Sometimes it just feels like I have the responsibilities of the world on my shoulders and I just don't always feel fit to handle it. If my mood was in the weather forecast, I would say this morning I was feeling "partly cloudy."

The thing is, every day is sort of like a weather forecast. Some days it rains. Other days it storms. Some days it's cloudy. And then other days, the rain and the clouds part and we get to enjoy the nice sunshine for a time. I love warm, sunny days. You know the kind... when things are going well and life seems pretty great.

The good thing is that while it's not bright and sunshiny every day, it's not cloudy and stormy every day, either. I'm glad for that. The rain lasts for a while, but eventually the clouds do part and the sun shines through again.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning when my partly cloudy self rolled out of bed and took a look outside. It wasn't cloudy at all. In fact, today was a gorgeous sunshiny day with a high of 70 degrees. I even opened my windows and let the fresh air blow through my house.

It was a bright sunshiny day and it was lovely.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'll Take It From Here

"In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah." 2 Chronicles 16:1

Have you ever known someone who you could refer to as a "jack of all trades?" Someone who just seems to know how to do everything? I have known a few.

It's easy to draw near to God when we don't know what to do and don't know how to do it. God has blessed some people with many gifts to benefit His kingdom. But what happens when we use the gifts that God has given us and begin to become self-sufficient in them? I think there is a fine line there and we have to allow God to draw it. The Lord gives and He also takes away. Anything we have is only because it has been given to us.

I was reading the story of Asa, king of Judah in I Kings 15 and in 2 Chronicles 15 and 16. It's actually quite an interesting story. The Bible describes the heart of Asa as, "fully committed to the Lord all his life." He did what was right and cast down idols, even those belonging to his own family. Because of that, God gave him rest for many years and no one was against him and he prospered.

When the Cushites came up to war against him with a large army after some time, Asa did what was right. He knew he couldn't do it on his own and he went to God about it saying, "Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!"

The Lord heard and gave them victory over a mighty army. They sought God eagerly and he was found by them. 2 Chronicles 15:19 says that "there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa's reign."

And then the thirty-sixth year came. Asa's nemesis did not come after him with war. He came and blocked the city gates so people couldn't go in or out. It seems as though Asa's years of victory and rest made him a bit overconfident. When Baasha came to block the entrance, it was if Asa said to God, "It's okay God. Thanks for your help before but I'll take it from here. I don't really need your help in such a small matter." Instead of calling on God again, he decided to bribe the king of Aram so that he would side with Asa rather than Baasha. And it worked... sort of. The king of Aram did side with Asa and they took the stones and timber used to block the city and used them for their own building.

Spurgeon comments, "I fancy because it was a small trouble, Asa thought he could manage it very well by himself with an arm of flesh."

Bad move.

The reason Judah was able to defeat the Cushites, was because they relied on the power of God. Now Asa was relying on his own ingenuity and a pound of flesh. Not only that, he refused to accept correction and seek the Lord and he took it out on the messenger and the people.

Bad, bad move. He had become proud and overconfident. And he suffered for it at the end of his life.

I don't want to ever become overconfident in the flesh... whether that is in myself or in other people, even those who I really admire and look up to. Humility is something I long and pray for. In Jeremiah 17, the Lord says, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength... but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him."

It's important to lay our life out before God when we can't do it on our own. But sometimes it's even more important to lay it down when we can.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Get Up and Eat

"Elijah was afraid...All at once an angel touched him and said 'Get up and eat.'" I Kings 19:3,5

Over the weekend I listened to a sermon online by one of my favorite pastors, Alistair Begg. He preached out of I Kings 19 about Elijah and how after he had a mountaintop experience, he immediately found himself in a valley. Charles Swindoll talks about how we are most vulnerable after our mountaintop experiences because there is the tendency to begin to rely on our own strength. Alistair Begg preached that sometimes we need some valley experiences in order to keep us humble after great triumphs. To see that God is really sovereign over us and our comings and goings.

I have been milling this whole idea over in my mind for some time, now. In Beth Moore's study on Esther she talks in one of her video sessions about imagining the worst thing that you can ever imagine happening to you. What would you do if that happened? Well, I would first be in shock, probably. Then I would be angry. I'm sure after that I would bawl and cry my eyes out and hit a few pillows as hard as I possibly could. And then what? Then I would probably spend a little while just laying in my bed wondering, "Why me?" Okay, and then what? Well, after a little while, I would eventually get out of bed and start going outside again, even if I had to drag myself to do it. And then? Well, maybe there would come a day when I only cried about it 10 times instead of 20. And after that? I might be able to get up and actually be able to eat three full meals during the day. And maybe one day down the road, maybe there will even be a day that goes by that I don't even think about it that day. As the time goes on, I will begin to realize that I really am going to be okay. The worst thing that I ever imagine could happen, happened, and I am okay. By the grace of God, I am okay.

I am currently reading a book by Chuck Colson's daughter, Emily Colson called Dancing With Max. It's the story of a single mom who is raising a severely autistic son. I heard her doing an interview on Moody radio several months ago and it really resonated with me, being a single mom with a special needs child. She talks about the difficulty in raising a child with special needs and doing it on your own. She said, "Autism, for all its challenges, wasn't my biggest struggle. It was the fighting that was destroying me, the unending battle to get the right education, to find the right treatments, to seek out specialists, to pay for all this."

Wow, can I relate. Especially after making a phone call this morning to schedule my son's next surgery. Emily said the scripture from I Kings 19:5 kept going through her mind. "Get up and eat." She said, "It's about taking the smallest steps, with the tiniest efforts, to take care of myself. But there is a condition. First, I have to get up."

It's the same concept that the angel gave to Elijah when he found himself in a deep valley. It's the same concept that Charles Swindoll talks about in the book I read last year, Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back. It's the same concept that Beth Moore talks about in her teaching videos on Esther that I watched several months ago. It's the same concept that Alistair Begg talked about in the sermon I listened to this past weekend. The concept I read about just today in Emily Colson's book.

It's okay to take some time to wallow. In fact, I think that's a healthy thing to do. One of my mentors told me one time that when one of her closest friends passed away, she had a hard time with it. When it was time to "get up and eat" again, she said she would still occasionally feel the need to spend some time wallowing and grieving. She said that she would take a kitchen timer and set it for thirty minutes. She would go into her quiet bedroom and shut the door and sit there with photos and memories of her dear friend and just cry and grieve over her loss. When that timer went off, she would put the photos back into the box, stand up, dust off her pants, and continue on with her day.

I don't think God will ever say, "Just get over it already." Things take time. And it takes what it takes. One day, there will come a time when life is "okay" again. Even if the worst thing you can imagine happening, happens. Take heart and get up and eat. It may be the only thing you can do that day, but if it's one step ahead of yesterday, then maybe that's all you need to do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Sun Will Come Out... Tomorrow!

"...you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." James 4:14

I remember the summers when my sister and I were finally old enough to stay home alone during the day while our parents were at work. We loved playing school with our dolls and house with our barbies. Sometimes we would take them on field trips to be on The Price is Right... i.e... we would line them all up in the living room in front of the TV as the "audience" while the game show was on and then we would pick which contestent on the show was which of our "kids." Then when they got on stage, our dolls would get to go up to the front as well and win all the fabulous prizes.

Other times we would take them to the "movie theater." Interestingly enough, that set up was strangely similar to the set of The Price is Right. Hmmm... Sometime I'll have to post the story of when we almost burned the house down because, well, you have to have popcorn when you go to the movie theater. And this was the 80's... before microwave popcorn. Gasp!

One of our favorite movies to watch back then was Annie. Even if you've never seen the movie (and I can't even imagine that), you've probably heard the most famous song associated with it:

The sun will come out... tomorrow!
Bet your bottom dollar that... tomorrow!
There'll be sun.

Just thinkin' about... tomorrow!
Clear away the cobwebs and the sorrow!
Till there's none...

...Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya... tomorrow!
You're only a day away.

You're singing the song in your head right now, aren't you? Or maybe out loud with your hands reaching high as you belt out, "Tomorrow!!!" Okay, maybe that's just me...

I wonder how many things I will miss today because I am too focused on tomorrow? I'm not saying that it's a bad thing to plan or think about tomorrow... as long as we have a constant awareness of the sovereignty of God.

The sun might very well come out tomorrow, but what if I need a little bit of rain today to make my yard nice and green? And what if the sun doesn't come out tomorrow and I've spent all of my rainy today planning my trip out to the park or the beach tomorrow rather than taking some time to dance in the rain? I would hate to come to the end of my life only to realize that I was so worried about tomorrow that I forgot to see how God was working in my todays.

Maybe He wants to teach me something really cool, today. Maybe He wants to send some unexpected encouragement my way today. Or maybe He wants me to encourage someone else.

I love ya, tomorrow. I hope and dream about ya, tomorrow. But I don't want to miss out on today so I'll see ya... tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Leave Room for God

This is from the January 25th daily devotional by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest:

"But when it pleased God..." Galatians 1:15

As workers for God we have to learn to make room for God - to give God "elbow room." We calculate and estimate, and say that this and that will happen, and we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never looked for Him to come?

Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him. That is the way to make room for Him. Expect Him to come, but do not expect Him only in a certain way. However much we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that at any minute He may break in. We are apt to overlook this element of surprise, yet God meets the life - "When it was the good pleasure of God..."

Keep your life so constant in its contact with God that His surprising power may break out on the right hand and on the left. Always be in a state of expectancy, and see that you leave room for God to come in as He likes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Settling Down

"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." I Peter 5:10 (NKJV)

I think I have only ever read that verse in the NIV before. For most of my life until I started attending a Baptist church, I have mainly used the NIV version of the Bible. Yes, I know that I just said New International Version version. It's kind of like going to the ATM machine or giving someone your VIN number. Oh well. It sounds weird without it. Sorry, rabbit trail!

Anyway, I love how the New King James Version says He will "settle you." I know that God tells me to be still and wait on Him... and I want to, but sometimes my insides are anything but quiet and still. I busy myself with different activities, anything to take away the unsettled feeling inside.

Sometimes that means sitting for hours at my computer checking facebook, or my email... sometimes it's reading five different books at a time... sometimes it's a little bit of retail therapy... or raiding the fridge even when I'm not really hungry. If I'm busy doing something, I don't have as much time to sit and worry and fret about whatever it is I'm worrying and fretting about that day.

Lately I've just been praying and asking God to settle me in the deepest places of my soul. To make me quiet inside. It's hard to hear someone whisper to you if you're in the middle of a crowded, noisy room. Most times, the voice of God is a still, small voice. Sometimes it feels like God is silent. But I also wonder if sometimes I am just not quiet enough to hear Him.

Lord, I pray that you would quiet me in my innermost parts. Sometimes my mind goes crazy and I have a hard time turning it off. I pray that in times like those, that You, the God of all grace, would give me a quiet spirit. I pray that You would settle me. Thank you that times like these are just for a while. They won't go on forever. You know exactly the length of time it takes. If you know the number of hairs on my head, then surely You know the number of years, months, days, minutes, even seconds that I need to be where I am and You will not let me spend one minute too long there. Praise You that You who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dear God, It's Me, Nathaniel

This is a true story written by Elizabeth M. Thompson. It's from the book Whispering In God's Ear: True Stories Inspiring Childlike Faith.

A note from Elizabeth Thompson: "Dear God, It's Me Nathaniel" was written from the prayers, hopes, and fears of my son in the midst of our family's greatest loss I tried to write the prayers exactly as he prayed them. They demonstrate the innocence of a young boy's prayers as he faced the terminal illness of his beloved grandfather.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Today my daddy told me that Grandpa is sick. He is not feeling too good.
Would You please heal him and help him to feel better again so we can play with our train set?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
My Grandpa is still sick. Daddy said Grandpa has to go see the doctor.
Would You please help my Grandpa to feel better? Please help the doctor to know what to do.
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Daddy told me today that Grandpa has cancer. I don't know what cancer is or why my Grandpa has it. Daddy is sad.
Would You please heal my Grandpa and help him to feel better? And would You help my Daddy to not feel sad?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
I saw Grandpa today. He was very tired. He didn't want to play with my trains. He didn't even want to sing songs. He just wanted to hold my hand.
Would You please heal my Grandpa so we can play together soon?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Today my Grandpa went into the hospital. Why does he have to go to the hospital, God? My daddy says Grandpa may have to stay there awhile. Would You please heal my Grandpa so he can be home?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Today I went to the hospital to see my Grandpa. He looked different. His eyes were the same as always. But he looked smaller. He was quiet. I was scared. I didn't know what to do.
God, would You please heal my Grandpa?
I love him so much.
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Today my daddy told me that Grandpa is dying. My cat died last year, and I still miss her. I don't want Grandpa to die.
Isn't there anything You can do to stop him from dying?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
My Grandpa is going home today. A nice nurse named Sarah is going to take care of him at home. I am glad he is going home. Daddy doesn't look good, though. Today I saw him crying.
God, would you please heal my Grandpa?
We like to play with trains together.
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
My Grandpa is still dying. Daddy told me today. We went to see Grandpa at home. He didn't play with me or talk to me. He opened his eyes, but he still didn't talk.
Would You please heal my Grandpa and help him to feel better?
Amen.

Dear God,
It's me, Nathaniel.
Today my Grandpa died.
Daddy said he is not coming back. Daddy told me that Grandpa is with You now. He told me that Grandpa is with You in heaven. He told me that in heaven, Grandpa is healed.
Grandpa is not sick anymore.
God, would You please tell Grandpa that I love him and miss him very much? Would you please tell him that we all miss him and love him?
Oh, and God, thank You for healing my Grandpa and making him feel better.
Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When God Writes Your Story

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

Remember last week when I mentioned the blog I stumbled upon while I was searching for something on google? I wish I could even begin to describe how encouraged I have been over the past week and a half because of that. Just like waterfalls that form out of dry rock, God brings comfort and encouragement from the most unexpected places.

When I found the blog, the most recent entry had wedding photos of the blog author. The pictures were of her and her new husband... and her two children. "Hmm... interesting, " I thought. Those pictures were actually partly the reason I scrolled to the very first entry that she ever wrote, which dated back to 2006. Because of the children in the picture, I figured this was probably not her first marriage and I was curious about her story.

That was when I realized that she was once broken. Her first marriage had ended suddenly which propelled her into instant single motherhood of her two young children. "Hmm... interesting, " I thought. She never really said what happened as she wrote in her blog, just as I never have in mine. But her writing style and thought process was very strangely similar to my own. I felt as if I was reading my own private journal entries from days past... the hurt, the pain, and also the comfort from my heavenly Father, and the lessons He taught me along the way and continues to teach me.

I decided to send her an email to the address she had listed in her profile to tell her what an encouragement her writing had been to me. I loved how candid she was in her writing. And to see the ways God worked in her life through each and every step she took... very similar ways in which He worked in my own. It just made me feel very... normal!

I didn't know if she would respond or if she would think I was a total loon for emailing a complete stranger because I had stumbled upon her blog through google. She did respond. She also shared some of the more personal details. It turns out, that the roads of brokenness that we have each walked, were not only similar, but were as close to exactly the same as you can get. I literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor (okay, well maybe not really literally) because of the uncanny similarities. And I found her through google! I didn't know God used google.

Anyhow, I just couldn't stop thinking about how God had led me to this woman's blog. There is no other explanation. I was seriously, just in utter amazement. So in two days, I read through four years of her life. Because I knew how the story "ended," I felt sort of like I had a front row seat right next to God in the heavenlies as I read from the beginning. He had already worked things out and knew how the story was going to end. She just didn't know it yet.

I read about her uncertainty one year as the summer was approaching and she wasn't sure what she was going to do with her two children as far as childcare. Now that she was a single mom, she had to work and support her family on her single income. As the story progressed, I got to witness how God worked everything out and His provision was even greater than she ever could have imagined. "Hmm... interesting," I thought. She didn't know how it was going to work, but God did.

I read about the encouraging friends, relatives, and complete strangers God brought into key points of her journey. In an instant, her world came crashing down and she was suddenly alone... but God brought people along side her to be His hands and feet. "Hmm... interesting," I thought. She didn't know how God would stand in the gap at the time, only that He would.

I read about how after a while, she was okay being single again, even though she did have the desire to one day be married again. And then about the days when she wondered if she would ever get married again. I read about her journey through hope and wanting that hope to rest completely on God rather than a husband, a friend, or a paycheck. You know what I thought... "Hmmm... interesting!" And the thing is, God had already worked that out. She just didn't know it yet. God blessed her with an amazing Godly husband who absolutely adores her kids as his own.

The other day I was saying that God doesn't always give us a window into our future and how things are going to work out. But He does tell us that they will work out because God works everything out for the good of those who love Him. They may not work out like I think they will or should, but they always work out.

What I loved about reading this blog was that I did sort of get a window into the future of this other woman who walked such a similar path as my own. He may not work out my future in the same way He has for her (although I have to admit that I hope he does)! Just as when the Twin Towers fell, some people were saved from the rubble, and some perished during the same tribulation. But seeing the work of God in even the tiniest details gives me hope. Not in things temperal, but in things eternal.

My newfound friend sent me this verse this morning: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

Matthew Henry's Consise commentary states, "Thou wilt keep him in peace; in perfect peace, inward peace, outward peace, peace with God, peace of conscience, peace at all times, in all events. Trust in the Lord for that peace, that portion, which will be for ever. Whatever we trust to the world for, it will last only for a moment; but those who trust in God shall not only find in him, but shall receive from him, strength that will carry them to that blessedness which is for ever. Let us then acknowledge him in all our ways, and rely on him in all trials."

When God writes your story, the ending is always peace... perfect peace.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mrs. Job

"Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job 2:9

Most of us know the story of Job. God and Satan had a conversation. Satan basically told God that the only reason Job was faithful to Him was because he was a blessed man. Take all that away and he would turn on God. So God allowed Satan to take it all away. But Job didn't turn. So then Satan said that all of those things were replaceable but if he lost his health, surely he would curse God. You know the story... Job still remained faithful.

I've read the story many times. But I've never really stopped to consider Mrs. Job. We read in the book of Job all of the things he lost. It was a test, even though Job did not realize it at the time. But what about Mrs. Job? If Job lost all of his sons in one day, so did Mrs. Job. If Job lost all of his flock, so did Mrs. Job. They were one flesh. And then after losing not one but ALL of her babies, the children she carried in her womb, she had to watch her husband go through excrutiating physical pain. How do you deal with that? I can't even begin to imagine.

In Warren Wiersbe's book Be Patient, he writes, "Faith...is obeying God in spite of feelings, circumstances, or consequences, knowing that He is working out His perfect plan in His way in His time." This is exactly what Job did, even if his wife's instincts were to run... whatever it takes to get out of this situation.

Quite frankly, sometimes those are my instincts, too. I remember back in 1995, a masked robber walked into the bank where I was working. After dropping to the floor, my first instinct was, "I have to get out of here!!" I remember scheming in my mind how I would get out. Part way through the heist, I even crawled the length of about twenty feet behind the teller counter in a skirt to get closer to the door. The FBI agents had to take pictures of my knees as evidence because they were all scraped up from my attempted escape. You don't always know exactly how you will react until you are faced with a threatening situation.

I'm thankful that Mrs. Job had a godly husband who led her in faith, as a husband should lead his wife. He reminded his wife that we should accept not only good from God. He also led her through his actions of faithfulness. Mrs. Job was probably having a very difficult time seeing God as loving at all in her circumstances. She felt forsaken. But Job knew, in spite of these things, that God was working out His plan.

In the end, Job's life was blessed even more than the beginning of his life. I have to assume that means that Mrs. Job got to also participate in the blessing because of the faithful example of her husband. I think she probably learned her own lesson about God that day. I would imagine that having more children still didn't take away the pain of losing her first children, but God is still faithful. He is faithful in spite of anything we have to endure during our short time on this earth. Maybe witnessing God's faithfulness is what carried her through after losing her babies. I wonder if in the end, in the midst of everything else in her life turning around, if Mrs. Job was thankful for her husband's integrity... the integrity she wanted him to renounce while they were in the midst of tribulation. Hmmm...

Good times... bad times... to God be the glory either way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

All Natural

“And he said unto them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" Luke 2:49

I feel like I'm a pretty good person. I go to church every Sunday. I let people into traffic. I try to live an honest life. Yesterday I even went to a nursing home and made crafts with the residents. That should qualify me for some type of award, right? (Please note sarcasm here)!

Wait... what's that song you're singing? "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me"? How about we change that to the Jim Hays version: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that empowered a dysfunctional, yet fundamentally good person like me."

What comes naturally in the flesh is sin. And if left to ourselves, that's exactly what we will do. We might be "good" people and do good deeds. We might not say hurtful things to others. Maybe we even give to charity. But deep down, the heart is wicked. This is why it says in John 2:24, "But He [Jesus] did not commit himself to them, because He knew all men."

I heard on the radio several months ago about a recently published book that questioned monogamy. The authors were trying to argue that if we were created to be monogamous, then why are people naturally driven to cheat? In essence they are ignoring the reality of sin and were instead saying that we should do what comes naturally. Free love, I guess. Who knows. I haven't read the book. But this is the message of the world.

When Jesus was 12 years old he stayed behind in the temple after his parents left Jerusalem following the Passover celebration. When they were traveling and noticed Jesus was not with them, Mary did what any mother would do when realizing her son was missing... she freaked out! But Jesus, the only One who has ever walked on this earth being fully human, yet fully God did not have our same sin nature. He took on our sin, but it was not His nature. What came naturally to Him was to be about His Father's business.

It would make sense then, that the only way to combat our sinful nature would be to remain in the One Who knew no sin. I could die trying, but it's not something I can do on my own. My nature is fallen. John 15:4 says, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."

Oswald Chambers said, "It is quite true to say 'I can’t live a holy life'; but you can decide to let Jesus make you holy. 'I can’t do away with my past'; but you can decide to let Jesus do away with it. That is the issue to push."

Paul pretty much sums it all up in Romans 7: 21-25:

"21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (NIV)

Hand Picked by God

"I said, 'You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you.'" Isaiah 41:9

Last night I watched the movie, "Letters to God." A more accurate title might have been, "Cry, Sob, Bawl Your Eyes Out" because that's exactly what I did. Some of the acting was a little more on the amateur level but the story was very touching. It's a story of a little boy with cancer named Tyler who starts writing letters to God.

One day Tyler was visiting an older neighbor down the street. This gentleman said something that really spoke to me. He told Tyler that God had hand picked him to be the one to walk through the journey he was on. Later in the movie, in one of his letters to God, Tyler also thanks God for picking his mom to be his mom.

Where are my tissues??!!

I really needed that reminder. God also hand picked me to be Garren and Evan's mom. He knew that I would one day be a single mom and he hand picked me to do the job. He hand picked me for each task He has given me on this earth.

Thank You Lord that You saw me fit for this role, and for equipping me for the job because without You I am nothing, Lord. I have seen me in my humanness - insecure, afraid, inadequate, scared, overwhelmed... It's only through You that I am anything at all, Lord.

I needed that little reminder.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's Not Always Obvious

"The whole Israelite community set out from the desert...but there was no water for the people to drink...The Lord answered Moses, 'strike the rock and water will come out for the people to drink.'" Exodus 17: 1, 5-6

I LOVE waterfalls. Actually, I love most any natural outdoor setting, but I especially love waterfalls. There was one waterfall in particular that I visited once in NC that was really cool because there was a small little cavelike crevice carved out from behind the waterfall so you could actually stand behind the water and watch it cascade down.

Looking at some waterfalls, the source of the water is quite obvious like these ones:
Aren't they beautiful? Makes me want to cancel all my weekend plans and take a road trip!

Then there are other times where there are no bodies of water around to feed the waterfall, it just sprouts right out of dry rock. If you've ever driven through the mountains, you have probably noticed this before. I know there is some scientific explanation for this having to do with erosion or something like that, but it is fascinating nonetheless. Take a look at these ones:


Aren't God's creations glorious?!! I love it!

The Israelites were walking through the desert after having fled slavery in Egypt and were on their way to the promised land. That was God's will for them and they were following it. So if God called them to walk through the desert, then why wasn't there any water to drink? The Enduring Word commentary explains that it is possible to be completely in the will of God yet also in great problems.

Sometimes I tend to think that if I am walking in God's will, then his provision should be obvious, just as bodies of water feed beautiful, cascading waterfalls. But sometimes instead, water sprouts right out of dry rock. Just because I don't see how God could work out the details, doesn't always mean I'm headed in the wrong direction.

Take Job, for example. He had everything, and I mean everything stripped away from him and then was tormented physically on top of that. His best friends and even his own wife told him to curse God and die because he must have committed some awful sin to be going through everything he was going through. But he was exactly within the will of God. In time, God not only restored to him what was lost but it was extraordinarily better than when he had started.

I was talking to a Godly woman in my life recently and I wish I could remember exactly how she said it but it was something along the lines of, "There is sometimes suffering as much for doing what is right as for doing what is wrong."

Don't give up walking through the desert just because you don't see any water. If you are within the will of God, water will come in due time, quite possibly from unexpected places. Instead, continually give your steps up to God to ensure that you are in step with Him. I pray the following verse often, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139: 23-24

Lord, you will bring water at just the right time. In the meantime, I pray that you would continue to direct my steps along the path You lead.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hindsight is 20-20

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

I read something really interesting the other day. I am always reading one thing or another, or sometimes two or three things at once it seems, so for the life of me I cannot remember the source. But it was interesting nonetheless.

It was talking about how if we knew what God's plan for our tomorrows were today, as Christians we would always choose the "right" path to get there. And quite frankly, we would probably choose the easiest, least painful path if we could see where it was going to lead.

I was thinking about that. If I had known that I wouldn't end up in a job having to do with bank security and fraud, etc, I probably would have chosen a different major in college other than criminology. I may have chosen something to do with writing or graphic design or something that I love to do now and could see myself doing in the future.

If I had known in 2000 that I would be moving out of state just a year and a half later, I would have never purchased a home. If I had known in 2002 that I would move back to Florida in 2005 when housing prices had tripled, I would have never sold that house.

After I graduated from high school, if I had known that I would have to go through four traumatic bank robberies and suffer nightmares for years afterwards because of it, I would have never filled out an application to work in a bank.

If I had known that my husband was going to be unfaithful and abandon our family, I would have never gotten married.

If I had known. I would have done a lot of things differently if I had known. They say that hindsight is 20-20.

Life is full of experience. No experience should be wasted because God works in all things. I learn tremendously more out of my mistakes, failures and disappointments than when life is easy and clearly laid out.

As a criminology major, I learned about human behavior. I learned about justice and the lack thereof. I learned that life is not always black and white. I learned that things are not always as they appear.

From owning my own home, I learned perseverence and patience in the homebuying process and the mountain of paperwork that it entails. I learned how to cut grass. I learned about hospitality and how to deal with rowdy neighbors.

From working in the financial industry, I learned how to deal with people. I learned about interest and balancing a checkbook. I learned how to tell the difference between a counterfeit and the real thing... and I'm not just talking about money. I learned that my friend, Megan can fit her whole body inside the night drop safe!

From being married and divorced, I learned the difference between Biblical submission as opposed to enabling and being identified with sin. I have learned that love must be tough sometimes. I have learned that loss has built iron into my otherwise fragile soul. I have gained two beautiful children and learned countless, countless lessons about life and who God created me to be.

There are many days when I wish God would give me a window into my future. What is God's purpose for me in the job he has given me? I love my job, but feel there is a greater purpose in it than just a paycheck. What is that? Will I be an accomplished writer someday? Will my boys grow up to Love and serve Jesus? Without a dad in their lives, how will God fill that gap to bring them confidently into manhood? Will I ever get married again and when is it going to happen? This has been the big one on my mind lately.

As often as I ask God these questions some days and want to see what His plans are for me, I trust that He already knows each and every one of them. I trust that He knows what He is doing.

Lord, help me not to make my own way through the desert but to trust You in every step to lead me to the promised land. Help me to be content in my circumstances every day knowing that You are working out all of my tomorrows for Your glory. Amen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Strength for Today

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3: 22-23.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
Great it Thy faithfulness, Lord unto Thee.

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth;
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today,
and bright hope for tomorrow;
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Some time back when I was remembering God's providence in my life, the Lord reminded me that He will provide for my every need each and every day. His mercies are new every morning. Many days I have to remind myself of that daily providence because many a day I forget and start worrying and fretting about the future or even just the literal tomorrow.

Will I still continue to receive child support to help pay the bills? Will I be single for the rest of my life? Will any man ever accept a divorced woman with two children... and at that, one with special needs? Will my kids ever get to have a house they know as "the house they grew up in" like I had as a child? Am I going to die from Lou Gehrig's disease one day like my uncle and grandma did? Will I die while I am still young? What will happen to the boys if that happened?

Okay, maybe I better stop there and remember why I am writing this post in the first place! Ha!

All or none of those things may happen some day. Only God knows. He holds my life in the palm of His hand. God has not given me a window into my future here on earth. Instead He gives me strength for today. This day. Monday, January 10th, 2011. His compassions fail not.

When I think back on it, He gave me strength for yesterday and I made it through and even came out stronger than when I began. And today? More strength. Why would He not also give me strength for tomorrow? My entire eternity will one day be spent with Him face to face... there is nothing greater than tomorrow when you think about it.

Today I was searching google for something and I stumbled across a blog of a woman who sort of reminds me of myself, circumstances of life and all. From what I could tell she is a great Christian woman and mother of two who also experienced an unexpected divorce and instant single motherhood several years ago. I felt sort of like a stalker or something reading the personal blog of a complete stranger but her candidness was very encouraging to me. I love what she has written at the top of her blog: "I am a sinner saved by grace. I am a child of God completely dependent on Him. I am learning to rely on him soley... not on a husband or friend or a paycheck, but Him alone. Only He can give me strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. To God be the glory!"

...strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. To God be the glory!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Filled

"Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." John 2:7

My boys have the same bedtime routine each night. Every so often, I change it around a little bit as they start to get restless with the same routine, but the main parts of it are always still there. It starts out with cleaning up toys and getting jammies on and then moves to"tooth brushy time."

During tooth brushy time, my oldest always says, "I'm thirsty!!" Whether he is actually thirsty or not doesn't matter. It's just part of his routine. Lately, he has started adding a "thirsty" song that he made up.

"We're thirsty, we're thirsty, we're thirsty. We're thirsty every day," he sings.

He finishes with, "You sing a song, mommy!"

"But I don't have a thirsty song," I reply.

"Make one up!" he says.

So then I proceed to make up a silly song about being thirsty and he smiles. We have this same conversation every night.

When I am broken and feel that I have nothing left to give, God steps in and pours out his love on me. He carries me on through perseverence which ultimately builds a Godly character that leads to hope. It's not that He actually ever left, but sometimes my circumstances can cloud my vision and all I know is that I feel desperately thirsty.

I think it's important to allow ourselves to be weak and cry out to God. Tell him how angry you are... how depressed, how these circumstances royally stinketh. Tell Him that you don't understand. I sometimes pull the "life is so unfair" card more often than I like to admit. But I have to continually remind myself that it's okay to say these things to God. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

God wants us to pour ourselves, every part of ourselves, out to Him. It is this emptying of ourselves that allows Him to come in and fill us. The more empty we become of ourselves, the more room there is to be filled. When Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding of Cana, they weren't just getting low on wine. They were completely out of wine. There was nothing left. It was then that Jesus filled the waterpots, not partially, but to the brim.

In the January 7th devotion from My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers states, "Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional or pitiful. The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control. This is the outcome of allowing Jesus to satisfy every area of life to its depth. The picture resulting from such a life is that of the strong, calm balance that our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him."

Wow, I would love to never feel lonely or lacking for understanding or compassion. I do feel those things sometimes. Life is a process. Allow yourself to be Filled, one circumstance at a time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Poured Out

"And not only that, but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverence, and perseverence, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV)

I don't think she's here for the right reasons.

I feel like we have a connection.

I just want my fairytale ending.

Stay tuned for the most dramatic rose ceremony ever.

Since the show first aired, I have been a pretty die hard Bachelor fan. There have only been a couple of seasons that I have not watched. Usually when I see that the season is about to begin, I go online and view all of the bachelorettes (or bachelors depending on the season) and choose who my top three picks are. I share my selections with my sister and a couple of girlfriends and we watch to see who picked right as the episodes air. And although I have decided not to watch this season (although I reserve the right to change my mind!) I can pretty much guarantee you that each of the phrases above will be uttered at least a dozen times each within the coming weeks.

Hmm, but life is not really a fairy tale, is it? At least I don't remember the last time a gorgeous guy flew in on a helicoper and took me to my own private dinner on a mountain plateau whereafter we were serenaded by a famous musician as we slow danced in the moonlight. Ahh, one can only hope.

Except, where does that sort of hope lead? Hope in the created leads to disappointment and heartache. Hope in the Creator means we can glory in tribulation. Romans tells us that in order to have genuine hope, it starts with tribulation. If we pray for a life without tribulation, we are asking for a life without hope.

Because tribulation produces perseverance. Webster defines perseverance as "steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc. especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement." Steady persistence. That makes it sound like it doesn't just happen overnight. There are many days during my own tribulations that I wish I could go to sleep and then wake up in the morning and everything will be okay again.

Like life on the Bachelor, I find myself to be somewhat of an idealist at times. I remember one time I felt like God told me that my son, who has severe speech delays, was going to talk. That next morning I went into his bedroom and asked him a question just to see if he was going to be able to answer me clearly. Three years later, his speech has improved some but he is still very difficult to understand. I still believe that he will talk normally one day, but it is not something that has happened overnight. It has taken perseverence, even to this day.

Perseverance produces character. The Enduring Word commentary states, "Most every Christian wants to develop character and have more hope. These qualities spring out of perseverance, which comes through tribulation. We may wish to have better character and more hope without starting with tribulation, but that isn’t God’s pattern and plan."

So what happens when we get to the end? We have true hope. Not a hope in things that disappoint. That is a promise because God loves us. "God’s love isn’t given to us in a trickle, it is poured out in our hearts. Some Christians live as if it was only a trickle but God wants us to know the outpouring of His love." (Enduring Word)

When we are broken... God's love is poured out. Go through it with confidence, even if you have to drag yourself along the way.


Broken

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want from me

So take my heart and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, transform it
To Your, to Yours, O Lord

This post has been in my mind since September of 2009. God had been laying it on my heart but when I wanted to write about it, He simply said "not yet." So I got out my journal and penned the words to the beginning of my thoughts so that I would not forget.

Last night I was reading through my journal from the past two years, seeing where I have been and where I have come. I came across this thought of brokenness again. The interesting thing is that just recently I was remembering those thoughts from over a year ago again and wondered when I would know the ending of what I was supposed to write about. I have it now. So here is the finished thought:

Brokenness. I've sung the words to that song so many times. But when does a song become just a worship chorus that we sing flippantly in church? I used to sing that song and it sounded like a nice song to sing at the time. This is even one of those really "emotional" songs where the music and energy build toward the chorus and you look around and see hands raised all across the room. Yet, where are the uplifted hands in the reality of the words of the song we sing?

As I was writing in my journal the other day (back in 2009) I realized how utterly painful the feeling of brokenness is. It's like when you pray for patience and then God brings ten circumstances into your life that require the act of patience. As I glance back over the writings in my journal when I experienced this, these are the things I see...

I'm sad...

I'm alone...

I can't handle...

I'm so tired of feeling broken...

That's when I realized it. When I wrote those last words. That is the way broken feels. Nothing about feeling that way makes me want to lift my hands in praise. Instead, it brings me to my knees. In order to be filled by God, I must first be emptied.

Oswald Chambers says, "All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit. 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost' - the idea is that of invasion. There is only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 3, 2011

...and Know That I Am God

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Last week I started this thought... the one about being still. I didn't realize there would be more to the story. In the days since that post, God has led me to the book of John.

Actually, God led me to study the life of John several months ago when we were studying the book of Revelation in Sunday School. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet, I guess. However, usually when that happens, the timing of when I do "get around to it," is perfect. This time is no different.

Psalm 46:10 does talk about being still. But that's not the end of it. Be still... AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. [emphasis mine].

In Oswald Chamber's devotional yesterday he asked, "Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you who He is."

The introduction to the book of John in my Bible describes the gospel this way:

Just as a coin has two sides, both valid, so Jesus Christ has two natures, both valid. Luke presents Christ in His humanity as the Son of Man; John portrays Him in His deity as the Son of God. John's purpose is crystal clear: to set forth Christ in His deity in order to spark believing faith in his readers. John's gospel... revolves around seven miracles and seven "I am" statements of Christ.

In the book of Esther when Mordecai is encouraging Esther to go before the king and plead for her people he issues to her a bold statement. "...and who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this."

In her Bible study on Esther, Beth Moore talks about that phrase, "who knows." The answer to the question is written all through scripture.

Exodus 6:7 says, "...then you will know that I am the Lord your God..."

I Kings 20:28 states, "...I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord."

Isaiah 60:16 says, "Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Then you will know.

Then you will know.

Then you will know.

"One step at a time. The "who" is you." Beth Moore.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews 11:8

Today's post comes from the January 2nd devotion from the classic edition of My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews xi.8

Have you been "out" in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question - "What do you expect to do?" You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing."

Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder - you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is going to be a "going out," building in confidence on God. "Take no thought for your life, ... nor yet for your body" - take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you "went out."

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?

Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him - what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual "going out" in dependence on God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God.