"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Friday, June 26, 2009

Increase Your Store

This morning I was feeling weak. I came to the Lord wondering, "Who am I!" and "What in the world am I doing"... Thoughts like, "I don't know how to pray!...Why would you call ME to a ministry of prayer!" "I can't move again, Lord. I can't meet all these new people". I felt weak and maybe a bit worn.

I am so grateful for my morning times with the Lord. Truly they are an anchor. God uses them to wrap His truth around me and belt me in, much like the "belt of truth" that we are called to wear in Ephesians. I remember this being described once as a belt that sailors would use in a storm. They would tie themselves to the mast of the boat. The belt would anchor them to the ship. It would hold them firm as wind and waves crashed in around them. He is my belt of truth in the mornings.

This morning He wrapped this passage around my waist, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness" 2 Corinthians 9:10. My heart was moved instantly! It is His supply. He supplies my seed... my ability, my time, my energy, my desire, my food, my every need. It is all from Him.

The context of this verse is about giving or sowing generously. So, He said to my heart through His word this morning... Stephanie, sow GENEROUSLY. Sow your gifts, your money, sow your time, sow your energy and sow your heart. Give it! I have given it to you. AND... I will not only provide what you need for tomorrow too, I will INCREASE your store of seed and enlarge your harvest of righteousness.

I tend to hold on to my energy... only use this much, Lord. It is my attempt to be ready for what tomorrow might hold. I tend to hold tightly to my heart and my time... only give this much, Lord. It is my attempt to be careful about what I might have to give tomorrow. But, this is not what God has for me. "For he that sows generously will also reap generously" 2 Cor. 9:6

God is not calling me to be careful with my self today. He is calling me to give. I am weak, YES. But, in my weakness He is strong! I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. So, in His strength, through His seed, I can give of myself in all ways today. I don't have to look at tomorrow and worry if I will have enough. He will supply all my needs and even increase my store!

"Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit you enable us to do and be more than we can think or imagine. Come now, dwell within us, and make us strong to do your work and will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen." ~from A Guide to Prayer

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fresh Air

Twice today I was given the privilege to pray with a friend. God has given us to each other. The concept of the Body of Christ is amazing and wonderful. When I sit with a friend and pray, it is like fresh air to my soul. It has refreshed me, reminded me and called me to worship.

I do really enjoy being alone with the Lord. I enjoy times of quiet and just sitting with Him by myself. But, I know He made me to be with others. To grow with others and to learn from others is so key to my make up.

This afternoon I talked with a friend who is enjoying a nine month Sabbatical. It is such fun to hear the ways that God is speaking with her, stretching her and growing her. And then we prayed! What a blessing. So, I guess that means three times today!! What fun. What a sense of renewal and a breath of fresh air.

Why don't we do this together more often?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No Matter What

"No matter what. Wherever you go... What ever you do... Who ever you become... I will always love you." Dave has been whispering this same statement into my children's ears for most of their lives. They can finish the statement. They listen, they smile and then he gets to the last part they often say with him, "I will always love you."

As I sat with the Lord this evening, these words invaded my time with Him like a warm, powerful wind. You see, I am very accustomed to relying on my works, my purity, my right choices and my goodness to get God's favor. Some of the hardest times for me are when I sit before the Lord after a period (short or long) of being "away". I haven't been away for long and I didn't run too far, but my heart has been inclined to wander, to worry and to worship other things this past week. I have sat with Him many times this week and yet,... often only moments after arising from my "quiet time" my heart if far away. Disobedient. Tired. Disinterested. Grumpy and Complaining. Worried. Frustrated.

So, I came to my Father tonight with my head bent low and a "I am sorry" feeling engulfing my soul. Oh, Lord, how do you put up with me, my heart said to Him. It was then that this "Daddy" mantra came to my mind...

No matter what! No matter where you go, what you do or who you become... I will always love you.

I don't questions Dave's love for his children and I don't distrust this truth that he speaks into their hearts each night before bed. I can see him daily following through on this promise. I can easily imagine him following through on his promise through the years. So, why do I question God and what He says?
"I will always be with you", He says. "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11: 13) The Holy Spirit is what He gives to us to seal His promise of forever love!

As I sit here and think on this very concept I am moved to worship. What a Father we have! What a loving, good and kind Father! I praise you tonight Lord for You are the Faithful One. You, my Father, are Love and I adore you. Thank you for loving me no matter what!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Extravagant Love

The other day we were invited to have dinner out. It isn't that we can't afford a restaurant exactly... But, wanting to be careful in the choices we make with our finances... Ugh. A "check" in my Spirit, you might call it. I didn't feel the freedom to go out for dinner. Just hours before we had been talking about the fact that all our money is God's money. It is all His! It is a good thing to remember when the many things to buy, to do and to eat are calling out for consumption in this land o' plenty! I had also struggled with a bought of worry this week after a peek at our finances. So, I felt the heaviness of a decision of eating out that night.

Discussing the "dinner plan" decision in the car was no help at all. I mean, come on Mom!, the decision was ...Leftovers at home. Or dinner out with friends...? Anyone can guess what the kids' vote was! But, this isn't a democracy, right?!

And, so I found myself in a conversation with God. He is the owner... why not ask Him what He thought about us using His money to eat out. Lord, would you have us go to dinner tonight? What would you like us to do with your money tonight? No answer. Stillness and peace, but no answer. (minus the "voting" going on in the back seat of the car).

I walked in the front door and on the ground in front of me was an envelope. An envelope had come in the mail from some friends and can you guess what was inside? Cash.
No joke. In it was money and a note telling us that we were loved. The note told us to use the money for a night out, ...maybe an ice cream! The note insisted we use it for something 'extra' and unnecessary. I knew instantly that God was answering me. He was saying "yes" this time. He had answered my question. Why does this still surprise me?

Extravagant love. It was extravagant love from my friends who thought to send it. It was extravagant love from my Father who delivered it through the mail slot just at the perfect time in response to my question... knowing all along that I would ask Him. It was a relatively "small" gift that felt exceedingly extravagant and communicated love to my heart. Thank you Lord! You do own it all!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just plain angry

"I never want to move again!", screaming with tears our daughter expressed verbally what we all were feeling. We were packing. Hard decisions needed to be made. What do we take? What do we store? What do we give away? But, always when we do this packing and moving thing, the most difficult thing to "store... or give away" is the people. Leaving the relationships are the hard decision that we have to make.

"I am just so mad!", she yelled. "I just want to live in the same place with all the people I love and for no one ever to move again. I want all my family, all my friend and everyone I love to live in the same place forever!". She wept. She was angry.

How do you respond to a sweet tempered ten year old when they are screaming out with such sadness and anger? My husband wisely just invited her on to his lap and held her as she cried. She cried. And she cried. This isn't the first time she has expressed outwardly the difficulties of this aspect of our career. So Dave held her. Then he simply said, "I know. I feel the same way!". The words were like the "Be still" that Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves! Looking up at him, in his arms, she said, "Really!". Instant calm.

Sometimes it is just good to know you are not alone. It is good to know that what you are feeling is normal. ...Or, at least, understood. This was enough to calm her emotions. She could sink deeper into his lap. They could talk again about God being her home. She could articulate her hope of heaven... the place where all those we love never have to move from! They could talk about her deep longings being from God. Right. Good. Pure longings. This frustration with separation was, in fact, "eternity written in her heart".

Lord, may we know you as our Rock. May we know you as our home. Be with our children and guide, protect and bless their hearts.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Disposition to Infidelity

I have been convicted recently of running to my "escape routes" again instead of running to God first. Why is this so natural? Each and every time I am sorry I didn't sit at Jesus' feet for a while... instead of that movie I watched... or instead of the Internet surfing.

And, yet, time and time again, I go to other things first. I am not talking law here. I know full well that neither the movie, nor the Internet are sin. But, I also know my heart. I know the whisper of God's call, "Come. Sit" that went unheeded as I chose to continue to read or play or eat or watch. I know my heart. Well, I actually I should say, I have been getting better acquainted with my heart.

In the sermon today, the preacher talked about our tendency toward "Entertainment rather than fulfillment". He asked, "How often to we seek entertainment instead of doing that which we know will truly fulfill us?"

Yes!, my heart said. This is what I do. I run to entertainment or recreation... rather than run to that which will truly satisfy, (or more accurately He who will truly satisfy) I forget that it is He who will truly re-create my mind. Real recreation.

I was reading this evening and again this theme was before my eyes... do ya think God is trying to tell me something!?
Thomas Merton says,
"When we return to a frank and undisguised self-awareness, we confront ourselves as naked, insufficient, disgruntled and malicious beings. We see our stubborn attachment to ourselves and our disposition to infidelity. Even without acts of sin, we have in ourselves an inclination to sin and rebellion, an inclination to falsity and to evasion." I have felt this inclination to sin so strongly as of late. I have experienced the insufficiency in my own "will", "ability" and "intentions".
I have an inclination to falsity and to evasion.

Now the beauty of all this is that the story does not have to end there! On one end there is nakedness, insufficiency and disgruntled-ness... on the other end is an opportunity to walk as one clothed in Christ (Gal. 3:27). We have the option of resting in the All-Sufficient One and the privilege to be content in Him alone.

As Merton ends this very chapter he writes,
"We find ourselves lost and liberated in the infinite fullness of God's love. We escape from [sin] into the infinite space and freedom of grace and mercy."
From a disposition to infidelity to being lost and liberated in Love. From nakedness and insufficiency to the freedom of grace and spacious mercy! Amazing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bags, bags and more bags

What size should we buy? How many do we need? We have done this so many times, you would think that we have it down to a science, right? Nope. We still discuss. Disagree. Agree. Buy. And take back.

Walmart runs. Internet research. Target runs. Oh, and now we are moving up to Kohl's.

The backpacks for the kiddos broke on our trip back to the States and we are down to only a few duffels because they got beat up in New York. New York can be so mean! ...And so we buy. How big? How many? Will this one, when full, weigh more than the required 50 lbs? Oh! That reminds me that I need to borrow Grandma's scale so we can weight the bags.

And the the list goes on and on.

Packing is never a fun or easy part of this fabulous life God has called our family. Not fun. Not easy, but very necessary. So, we list make, we plan, we pack, we unpack and then re-pack. We weigh. We get angry and then we repack to weigh again! We laugh. We cry. We pray. We discuss. And we keep packing!

As I write this post, I have a song playing in the background. Amy Nobels is singing, "Ask and I will give you the Nations... Oh Lord, that is the cry of my heart. Distant shores and the islands will see You Light as it rises on us. You said, Ask and I will give the Nations to you. Oh, Lord, that is the cry of my heart!" What a good reminder to my soul, my heart and my mind... This is why we are doing what we are doing! All this packing and all these harried "lists" are in some crazy way for Your Glory, Lord.

May we do these things as unto You alone! May we pack, repack, buy bags and weigh our luggage all to Your glory. Fill my heart with a knowledge of Your Presence, Your Honor and Your glory. It is all for you, Lord. You and Your promises to the Nations.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Listening vs Hearing

"I always love to listen to you speak. Not that I can hear all you say... I can't! But, I love to listen to you speak."

This was said to my husband on Wednesday after we had the privilege of speaking at a prayer meeting. The sweet older woman must have been in her 90's and was clearly very hard of hearing.

With genuine kindness, though, she wanted Dave to know how much she loved it when we came. She anticipated it. She listened and loved it. But, she couldn't hear it all. She wished she could. But, she loved it none-the-less.

My heart felt so tender as he told me the story. Simple sweetness. I laughed out loud at her comment. What a perplexing paradox... I love to listen to you, but I can't hear you!

It struck me almost instantly that this is my heart toward God.

I love to hear Him speak. I do. I love to listen and I want to hear more. If God were to come to my church, I would make it a priority to show up!

What is crazy is that I know He shows up at church. I know He is everywhere and always present. He is always speaking. I love to listen to Him. But, I don't hear all He has to say. I just can't. My ears don't work very well when it comes to His voice and His truth. I know I miss so, so much of what He is saying... and still, I love to listen to Him speak.

Lord, open my ears. May I learn the tone of Your voice. May I listen for You more frequently Lord, as I listen for You to speak... may I hear You, may I hear all You have to say and not miss a thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One Thing

So many things to ask. My mind was racing this morning with a list of things to talk with God about. So many things to ask.

And then I read, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord and see His beauty". I was reminded, again, of the "one needful thing" that Martha was reminded of as Mary sat at Jesus' feet. She just sat there adoring Him. She sat at His feet listening. She wanted to know Him, listen to His voice, hear what He was thinking.

This was the one needful thing that Martha missed that day
. I miss it often, too. My "Martha-ness" and "Mary-ness" always a bit at war. Not that I can't ask my many questions or even tell Him about my "list". His word tells me to share all my cares and to ask anything of Him. But, I was reminded to ask first for the one thing I really need. So I did.

I sat and tried to just listen. He is real, right? He is present always, right? I know this in my head. I know this from His word and His promises. I even have experienced it personally. So, why do I miss it so often. Why is it so hard to sit and enjoy Him.

It had to be a choice this morning. A choice that my heart wanted. A choice motivated mostly by true desire, but a choice none-the-less. So, I sat in the quiet. I disciplined my mind to worship.
With much difficulty and easily distracted, I sat. It started slowly as I, almost mechanically, began to articulate His attributes, His goodness. I started to tell Him why I love Him. And, then in an instant I was really adoring. Something had changed from the mechanical to the real. I was really enjoying Him and my heart was, for a moments time, undisturbed and focused in worship.

In that moment I was able to ask for One Thing from Him. All I wanted from Him in that moment was Himself. I wanted His glory, His beauty and His presence. My heart and therefore my mind was set heavenward.

And then we talked about my list...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blessed be the Name

photo source
Imagine living on the steps of Western China. You live almost entirely isolated. You and your family and your sheep. One early morning as the sun rises, you hear the approach of a horse and rider. As he approaches you can see the slight smile on his face. As he swiftly dismounts he calls out words declaring he has good news! Good news! ...Your best friend has had her child... The enemy located on the other side of the valley has left... The village elder is well and the sickness has not taken him. In old Kazakh culture you were required to give a large gift to any bearer of good news. Of course, you would instinctively run in your yurt and find a gift for this dear deliverer of good news.

Well, we would be out a few hundred dollars this week if we practiced this wonderful custom! Good news has been flooding into our home...

Two pieces of VERY good news has brought much rejoicing in the last 24 hours! We have actually had more than one "victory dance" displayed in our living room! (Can you just picture Dave doing a victory dance?!) Thank you, Lord, our hearts rejoice. Ah, Thank you, Jesus, I whisper with relief and gratefulness. Tears of joy. Smiling from ear to ear. Good news!

On the heels of hearing good news, I was worshiping this morning. So distinctly, the song "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" came to my mind. God used the words of this song to powerfully remind me of an important truth in the midst of our good news. Today, "the sun is shining down on me and the world is all that it should be". For me right now, "The streams of abundance flow!" and I want to turn back and praise, saying "Blessed be the Name of the Lord".

Blessed be the Name of One who knows all All, who is All powerful, who is love. Blessed be the Name of the One who is Present, the One who is good and the One who hears, who sees. Blessed be the Name of the One who answers prayers!

After worship, I had the chance to talk to my sweet cousin whose baby is in the hospital with severe seizures and no answer. My heart was torn with such deep sadness as we talked. I can't even put myself in her situation and relate to what it might be to sit and watch your son in this situation.

As we talked and she shared about God's sustaining grace, my heart welled up with the truth that the Lord had so pointedly reminded me of earlier... "When the darkness closes in... When I am found in the desert place and when I walk through the wilderness"... still I will say!! my heart will choose to say!! ..."Blessed be your Name" She is saying this. She is sitting in a hospital with her dear one hooked up to monitors and wondering about his future. And still she chooses to say!...
Blessed be the Name of One who knows all All, who is All powerful, who is love. Blessed be the Name of the One who is Present, the One who is good and the One who hears, who sees. Blessed be the Name of the One who answers prayers!

Every blessing you pour out, I will turn back to Praise. And, when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

We bless your Name, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freedom of Worship

As I sat with the Lord this morning, I poured out my requests to Him. I ask for this person's salvation, the rescue of that marriage, the health of this one, and the finances of another... the more I asked the more overwhelmed I began to feel. Lord, the requests are never ending... the needs, the pain, the difficulty acute. I felt heavy laden and burdened. It is not my load this morning that weighs my heart, but the loads, the Mac-truck load of others.

And then I read... "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1). And, I decided to praise. I chose to just worship. Any small amount of compassion that I feel this morning is from Him. He owns it! He is the "Father of compassion and comfort". I confessed to Him that He was Lord, He was big, His plans are higher than mine and His ways are most certainly greater. Ah, the release of worship and surrender!

And... then I kept reading... "God, who raises the dead!...On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us". He can raise the dead. No! It says "he raises" the dead. He is now raising the dead! He is always, faithfully, consistently, steadily raising the dead. A spiritually dead heart, Lord? YES! A dying body, Lord? YES! A dying or dead marriage, Lord? YES! All of this is in His hand and within His capacity to do. And it just got better... as I kept reading... "No matter how many promises God has made they are "yes" in Christ. Now, it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ". My heart knew freedom as I realized anew that I don't have to carry these burdens. I can hand them to a God who is compassionate and who can raise the dead! I can hand them to a Father who says "yes" to all His promises through the life and sacrifice of Christ. I can cast these cares onto the One who cares. Ah!... the freedom of worship!

And finally I read... "We live by faith, not by sight" (1 Cor. 5). I so naturally live by sight. I see the people. I see the problems, the hurdles, the struggles, the circumstances and the pain. I see with my eyes. But, God wants me to look with my soul and my heart. He wants me to trust Him and to look on each one with eyes of faith. For my faith is in the Faithful One, my kind Father... the Father of compassion. Stop looking with your eyes, Stephanie and look with your spirit, your soul, with your heart. ...with a heart surrendered to me. ...with a heart that trusts me.

So, I choose to worship this morning. I choose to hand over the dear ones in my life. I choose to hand over the unsaved loved one, the sick one whom I love, the weak one who doesn't know how to fight the enemy of their soul, the one who has been a wounded and hurt, and the one who wonders where their next meal will come from... to my Father, who I trust, I give them! I hand them to You, Father. And I ask you to raise the dead today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Peace Offered

Today I feel at peace. I shouldn’t feel peaceful. Things in my life are a just a bit higgly-piggly with this, that and the other… I should be worried and harried. But, somewhere deep within I feel at peace. This morning I realized the peace. I realized my heart was full and I was overwhelmed with worship. Ah, Lord, this is your sustaining peace! Just a gift! Thank you for the peace that surpasses understanding.

This week has been a difficult one for me. Throughout the week, I have had to specifically and consistently give my cares and concerns to the Lord. I have had to hand over the details. I have had to physically hold out my hands and entrust my life, my family and my circumstances to the Lord many times these past few days. He has given me peace which has been “fought” for throughout the week. I have been grateful for that. He offers peace when we hand our anxieties to Him. Peace offered. And, sometimes He just gives it as a gift. It is just a grace given that is hard to explain, beyond understanding.

We have been offered such an amazing gift in peace. Both that peace which is fought for and peace which is a gift. Christ tells His disciples that His peace is not anything like what the world has to offer. I can testify to this. The "world’s" peace (i.e. my escape routes, for example) gives me short-lived peace. The world's peace is not one that sits in your gut and fills you up to full. His peace is so much more. His peace is miraculous and beyond our understanding.

Thank you Lord that you offer us a sustaining peace. Thank you Lord for your peace. I testify to the fact that you are the giver of sustaining, filling and complete peace.
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