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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Same but different

Today I was sharing a prayer request with a friend. She noted that my request sounded all too familiar. "This is the same thing you have been asking for years, Stephanie".

Yep.

Yes, I know. Then she said something sweet for my heart, "Steph, though, the request does sound a little different. It is shared from a different place." The same request from a different place.

Same but different.

While I lived in Turkey, "Mamma Jo" was my teammate. She was a wonderful mother figure to me and a grandmother to my children those 5 years. She was "seasoned" and had been a Christian for most of her life. Years. 50 years. 50+ years as a Christian.

Mamma gave me many gifts through the years of being on team together. One of the greatest gifts she gave me was perspective on my struggles. She would remind me that she, too, struggled with the same old issues in her life.

This reminder wasn't always the encouragement that she meant it to be. Although I know this on one level, in my mind somewhere I believe that I will one day soon be perfect! Okay... maybe not perfect; but, certainly I will move on past these issues, right!? (I fondly call them my 15-year-old-girl struggles. They are still with me!)

Certainly, I won't still be asking to grow in trust, surrender, pride and awareness of His presence, right?! I would ask Mamma this and she would look at me with that "Mamma Jo-look". I would know her answer without words. "Honey", she would say with tenderness... "No, you won't be perfect. You won't be perfect this side of heaven".

Although in part this was discouraging... What?!! Mamma Jo still struggled with the same stuff after all these years!... there was a deep, lasting encouragement in Mamma's words and life.

For though she testified to struggling with the same old issues... I knew that she trusted more, she believed more fervently, and she turned to the Father more tenderly and more quickly than I did. Just one look at her life and I knew that she was further down the road.

The same struggles, maybe,... but different.

She was living a life of victory upon victory.

I know I am living a life of more victory, too. If I look at the map of my life, my walk with the Lord, I know that I trust more, I surrender more and am more aware of His presence than I was in years past. I do see the victories over the years. I do see victories this past week! This encourages my heart and it is good to look back a bit to see from where I have come.

Okay, Mamma Jo, so I won't be perfect. Not yet. And I may share the same prayer requests week after week... But, I am sharing them from a different place on the road. No leaps forward. Just steps forward on the road.

Yes, I am the same... but I am also different.

Father, help me to follow Your son one step at a time. Help me to rely on You, Your strength, You work in my heart and to trust You with my growth... to trust You with my victories. Thank you for grace and mercy when I fail. Lord, thank You for knowing the way forward and showing me the way, the truth and the light of this journey. For You have begun this good work in me and You will bring it to completion. Have Your way with me, Lord!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leave it quietly

The work is His and not mine, therefore I am able to quietly leave it in His hands. - Charles Spurgeon

I don't naturally leave things quietly in His hands. I don't know where or when I began believing that I was so desperately "needed", a savior-of-sorts; but it seems almost innate for me to own and carry the work as if I am responsible for it, as if I own it. This fact makes it extremely difficult for me to release, surrender and truly leave work in His hands. If I do leave it... it doesn't sit quietly there. I don't leave it quietly. I leave it and then dance around it and pick it up from time to time.

I am certain that God not only offers, but desires, to use me and He has good work for me to do. This fact is clear in His word. I am His created workmanship with planned things. He has planned work for me from before creation. But, the balance of doing those things faithfully as His servant and "owning" the completion or success of the work is very difficult for me. It isn't a head thing. It is a heart thing.

One piece of "work" that is most difficult for me to release and surrender is that "work" of relationships. I am an obsessive initiator. Or nicely put, a loyal friend. I hold onto people I love tightly. Those that I care about I carry forever. I still find myself regularly praying for high school friendships, college friends... those I have been praying for now for years and years.

I really am an obsessive initiator. I feel such a heavy burden to keep initiating in all my relationships. I must be the one who calls, who writes, who prays, who thinks of, and who keeps the relationships up and running. My husband asked me the other day, what would happen if you stopped initiating? The question was truly jarring. What would happen if you didn't call so-and-so? What would happen if you didn't visit 'whomever'? My husband has always been a good foil for me. He is a great balance to my obsessions, as I hope I am for him. "What if...?" he was kindly asking.

I was struck with the questions. I had never thought about it really. What if I didn't call... My honest response is one of mild fear and maybe sadness. ... maybe I wouldn't ever be called, maybe I would never get a note, maybe this or that relationship would die out. And, that is frightening and sad. Frightening because I own these, right? These relationships are my responsibility, right? Hmmm...

Or are these relationships and the other work in my life--- "... His and not mine, therefore I am able to quietly leave it in His hands." - Charles Spurgeon

Have your way

I could almost see him. It was as if for a moment I was there. The dusty road. The heat. The man riding in on a donkey. We were singing in my friend's living room and for a moment I was mentally and emotionally transported back in time 2000 years. I could almost see him and I was one of the crowd singing, "Hosanna".

The song we were singing last night is about our hearts and eyes turning to Him.
The words of the song say,
"Hosanna! Hosanna!
You are the God who saves us.
Worthy of all our praises!
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Come have Your way among us.
We welcome You here Lord Jesus.

As I was singing and worshipping through song, I felt as though I was one of the crowd saying these things to this man, this wonderful man, upon the donkey. It was a unique, powerful and special moment. And, then, in worship, I saw His face. He looked sad to me. It was then that I understood in a new way why He had cried while riding that donkey into town. Luke tells us in chapter 19 that directly after this seen of "Hosanna", Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This man, my Savior, wept. Even now as I write this I can hardly keep the emotion back with the thought of my Jesus weeping. Last night I think I was allowed a small peek into his heart. I think I know a bit more why he wept that day.

When they cried out "Hosanna", they didn't follow up that worship-cry with a heart of "Come have your way among us!" Instead, they had their own way and their own plans for Jesus. The worshipped him, yes, but they did it with their own hopes, dreams and agendas for him. They didn't say "Hosanna" with a heart surrendered to His way.

He knew their hearts. He knew what accompanied their worship. He wept for them and for the city. If only you knew... His face said with sadness. If only you would allow me MY way with you... His heart cried out. "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes." (Luke 19:42). And so He wept.

How often are my cries of worship and song accompanied with my own agenda, my own hopes, and my own dreams? How often do I truly, with a surrendered heart, say to my Lord... Come have your way among us! Your way, Jesus.

This morning as I processed last night's sweet worship experience, I stumbled over a common scripture that pierced my heart: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

Oh, Lord Jesus, ... I don't trust you with all my heart. Teach me to trust You more. I so often lean on my own understanding... Forgive me, Lord. Lord, help me to welcome you into my life, my plans, my future, my family. Help me to welcome you into my day, today! Lord I say to you today, "Hosanna! Come have Your way in me, Lord Jesus!". Have your way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rocks beneath the Waves

I am getting quite familiar with our Welsh coast here. Our family loves to walk or drive down and enjoy the beauty of the rocky beach. With layers and layers of rock below your feet, you can walk almost a half a mile out before reaching water. The "foreshore" (as it is known here) is truly immense.

Today I went to the beach to pray and I saw such a sight! It was a different coast. I was at my familiar coast, but it looked like a different place. The tide was so high that the foreshore was completely covered. There was almost no shore at all. The sea had rose so high that it was now 10, 15, maybe 30 feet above the rocks that we normally walk on and explore. The raging waves were totally covering the very places we had walked only days before.

This is a picture of my heart and life lately. The Rock, the truth that I walk in or stand on one day is covered quickly by the tide of emotions, circumstance and stress. If someone was to visit our coast today for the first time, they would never know that there were miles of rock beds to explore. If someone were to look at my life these last few weeks, they may not know that I walk securely on Jesus,my Savior. They wouldn't be able to see that I know I am loved by a kind Father and that I know the beginning and end to the story of life. These "rocks" of truth have been covered by raging waves of life lately.

But, as I sat and looked at our Welsh coast today, I only had to remember last weeks walk. I could picture my son searching for fossils, shells and the perfect stick to take home from the shore. Even though all I looked upon today was deep water and waves, I can know for certain there is a fabulous shore underneath. I have walked that fabulous foreshore!

So it is true for my life in the midst of changing emotions and moods... the tides. I know Who my Father is! It only takes a minute to rehearse truth and remember the walks, the talks, the times I have had with Him this week. I have walked there! I am certain that there is a very strong Rock under those waves. Covered today... yes, but it doesn't negate the fact that it is still, very much, there!

And, I am also reminded that the tides will change. By definition tides come and go. The tide will change at my beach and the tides will change in my life. The waves of discouragement and frustration do not change the fact that there is a very-present Truth, a Rock that is unmoved below those waves. I can remember and stand on that Rock.


I will once again (many times!) walk amongst and stand on those rock beds on our lovely Welsh coast. I will again (many times!) walk in and stand on the rocks of Truth. I will again have moments with a quiet sea.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh Yeah! Culture Shock

They told me that I would be surprised. They said it would surprise me when I moved to a country where I speak the same language. They told me I would have culture stress. Pridefully, I inwardly laughed at their assumptions. I have lived in three cultures in Asia, for goodness sakes! How can any stress of culture surprise me?! I am a "veteran" overseas worker. Right!? I know what cross cultural work looks like. I have experienced stress of moving overseas many times before. ...so she thinks before hand. So much pride in one little person!

But, they said I would go through culture stress. Culture shock. Defined as "the stress that occurs when you change to a different way of living in a new culture. It is what you experience as you move beyond understanding the culture to making it your own so that you accept the customs, becoming comfortable and at home with them."

After my "moods" blog this morning, I looked at the symptoms of PMS online. Ah, that must be it, I thought! And, then I told my husband "Honey, I think I am having serious PMS" (which I really have never suffered greatly from in the past). I told him I was having PMS. He literally threw his head back and laughed at me. He said through the laughter, "And what do I have?!" Still laughing, he said, "I most certainly don't have PMS and I am feeling and behaving exactly as you are!".

So, I go online again this evening and find the symptoms of culture stress or shock:
--anxious feeling --sadness --moodiness and irritability --insomnia --becoming obsessive about work or school --restlessness --feeling of isolation and loneliness --intense homesickness --lowered self-esteem --concentration problems --poor work performance --preoccupation about going home --continuous fear about the people, the food, the water --increased criticism and even hatred of the local culture

The symptoms are almost identical to PMS! Seriously, though! That is too funny. Or not so funny if your are experiencing either...

Okay, so, I either am PMSing my socks off (and so is my husband)... or I am, indeed, in culture stress.

I am surprised at the level of culture stress I am experiencing. Humble pie.

They told me...

Changing sky...shifting moods

The sky in Wales is always moving. It is really quite remarkable and like nowhere I have ever lived. I look up and never know what I will find at any given moment. ...Blue skies, grey skies, wispy clouds, puffy white clouds on the move through the blue sky... all in one day. The cloudy movements are amazing! It seems lately my moods are much like the Welsh sky.

My moods are always moving and changing. In one day I can have bright moments, grey moments and harried "wispy" moments. I woke up this morning feeling up and ready to start the week. I woke up and spent a significant time in God's word, praying and sitting in His presence. I felt love for my God, my family and energized! And, then the most insignificant thing changed this feeling in an instant. As silly as it sounds, it was the cell phone today. I couldn't figure out how to work my new cell phone--- the buttons, the pull down menus, ugh!--- I almost lost it! My mood shifted so fast. I was instantly annoyed and harried. From peace to frustration in a moment. Like the winds, the clouds and the color of the sky here, so were my moods. Shifting moods.

I really hate this about me. I so want this to be different. It isn't always as "bad" as it has been of late; but, certainly I can say I am always more affected by circumstances than I would like to be. What needs to change? What can I do to make this different? I can't change the sky in Wales. Can I change my shifting moods? Can I do anything?

As I sit here thinking I realize that all I can do is quickly see the shift and then react accordingly. In regards to Welsh weather, when I see the dark clouds on the horizon, I know I need to get outside quickly and get the laundry off the line. When I see the wind blowing and the clouds moving swiftly, I know it would be a good idea to bring a rain coat along on our outing. In fact, I know it is always a good idea to bring a rain coat along when you go out... even if the sky is blue new. Maybe this is what I need to do with my moods.

I did this the other day. I was frustrated with something (does it even matter what!?) and instantly annoyed. Instead of "responding" in angry words, huffs and stress, I actually lifted my hands to the Lord. A physical act of "response", a "rain coat" for the coming rain. I lifted my hands and said out loud, "I surrender Lord. I trust You Lord". Maybe that would have helped this morning. Had I put the phone down even for a few seconds, held up my hands and said, "I need You Lord to be my peace" Just a moment to put my rain coat on, and maybe my reaction would have been different. Maybe I wouldn't be so embarrassed, ashamed and sad at my response to the shifting moods. Hmmm...

Lord, teach me to see the winds of change as they approach (from without and within!) and to respond to them accordingly. I can't change the circumstances of life. I can't change my shifting moods, just as I can't change the Welsh sky. But, I can prepare for it and I can respond to it in a way that glorifies You. Teach me, Lord to carry my emotional and spiritual "rain coat"--- for You have given me armor! Your word says You have given me a helmet, a breastplate, a belt, a shield, shoes and a sword --- much better than any waterproof raincoat here!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Old and New

We live in an old house. A very old house! 100 years or more... And so, as you can imagine, the stairs creak. They creak a lot! Just this morning, I heard one of my new favorite sounds: creaking stairs. That early morning creak means that one of my kids is on their way down for their good-morning snuggle. There is a significant moment of joy the minute I hear the creak.

This morning, though, the joy was coupled with a desire and prayer for this day to be a bit different than yesterday. Last night my son and I struggled. Simply put, he didn't want to do something and I made him do it. He would be surprised to know that this wasn't easy for me. I knew it was good and, with force, I insisted. But, the struggle... the wrestle, was not easy for mom. I didn't physically wrestle with my son last night, but instead I went head-to-head with his (sometimes) stubborn will. The day didn't end badly, but my heart did suffer mildly during and after the struggle. I didn't enjoy the conflict, to be sure.

When I heard the creak this morning, immediately prayers of 'a different day' rose up to my good Father. Father, I want my son to know he is loved. I want him to know that we are okay and that my love for him is fresh, new and unchanged. This was my natural, instant mom-prayer as I heard the creak of our old stairs. Old creaks brought forth prayers for new. New mercy, fresh relationship, new love.

Ah... the thought brought such a sweetness to my time with Jesus this morning. God's word tells me that His mercies are new every morning. I don't come to Him this morning relying on old grace or old mercy. To be sure, I have worn those out completely already! I come to Him and He offers fresh mercy, new mercy... unused compassion and love.

God and I wrestled yesterday, too. Again, the same old patterns I have been writing about came creeping up like destructive friends. Although I didn't run away with these "friends" for long, I did turn from trust, truth and love for a long moment. I walked toward the worries, the control and the frustrations that comes so naturally to me. God, once again, came up against my (sometimes) stubborn will. He fought with me and we struggled together.

I often wonder why He puts up with me! I only have to wonder that, though, for a moment until I think of those creaking stairs. Those morning creaks bring such joy to my heart! This morning I heard that old creak and thought, My son was coming down! We would embrace and I would show him with my snuggles and my words that I loved him. He would know this morning that we are okay and that my love for him hasn't changed.

Am I a better parent than my Almighty, All-loving, Always good Father?!! I don't put up with my son. I love my son. God doesn't put up with me. He loves me.

Each morning as I creak down those old stairs to meet with Him... He is filled with joy and anticipation. He, amazingly!, wants to show me that His love for me is new and fresh. His mercies are new every morning.

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. His mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just Must

Sometimes you just must. Sometimes it is just necessary to speak truth out loud. Sometimes the waves of doubt or frustrations come crashing around. Truth is the one secure, the only, anchor for your tossed soul. Sometimes you just need to say it. Speak truth.

So, I say it.

Lord, You are good. You are faithful and kind. Father You are mighty and powerful. You are the King of all things, the Maker of heaven and earth. It all belongs to You. You are beyond time, Creator of time and controller of time. You know the beginning from the end. You are my Rock. You are my strong tower, my refuge and my hiding place. I can rest in You. I can cast all my cares on You. Your shoulders are strong and can hold all things. You carry my burdens and offer me peace in place of my cares. You are righteous and holy. You are just in all you do. You are always right and Your plans are good. You are forever and Your love, Your mercy and Your compassion endures forever. You are love.

I bless You Lord and ask You to fill my heart and my mind with You, with Truth. I say thank you Lord for all You are. I say thank you Lord for all You have done. I say thank you Lord for all You will do. I turn my face toward You and bow my head to You. I belong to You. I trust You. Good, kind, gentle, powerful Father I choose to still and quiet myself in You and sit without care under Your Mighty shadow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lessons Learned

"You know this." "Honey, we've learned this." Think about it a minute... you know what an adjective is... You know what a preposition is... As a home school mom, these words come out of my mouth often. "Sweetheart, you know what 8x4 is... think about it". "You know where the comma goes..." You know this, love. We've learned this. Remember?

Usually the light dawns on their little faces... "Oh yeah!", they might say. I say to them... "a noun is a person, a pla..." and they finish the sentence with a sudden remembering look, "...a place and a thing!" They usually remember.

How often do I have this same interaction with my Father? How often does the Lord say this to me? Stephanie, you know this. Honey, we've learned this before. Think about it a minute... you know what freedom is. You know what I think of you. You know what you need to do to be loved. You know these things. We've learned this. He says, "Remember my Word says Do not wor..." and I say, "Oh yeah! Do not worry...!" finishing His sentence.

Last night, while bemoaning the fact that my plate was too full, that the "shoulds" were too much to juggle and while asking my husband why we can't just move to a cabin in Montana... the Lord began his kind whispers of "Stephanie, you know this one. I have taught you. Think about it a minute".

I am a recovering "should" girl. From birth, so it seems, I have felt the "shoulds" of tasks and relationships as easily and naturally as breathing. But, that part of me must die. That nasty, unhealthy should-part needs a swift death. I just needs to stop. And, I know this. I have learned this lesson. Eight years ago (this month) the Lord brought miraculous healing to my body. 9 years ago I fell very ill, at least in part, with the "shoulds" that weighed me down. But, God's hand does miracles and one day I had chronic fatigue syndrome ... and the next day I was healed. It was miraculous and it was profound. Although my body was healed overnight, though, my heart and mind had begun a journey of healing that has been lesson upon lesson of releasing (and killing!) this "should" girl. Lesson upon lesson of freedom.

I don't want to go back. I don't want to flunk this level! I want to remember the lessons and walk forward learning more.

So, today I responded to His whispers and I sat with Him. I remembered. Today I am choosing to remember. Yes, Lord, I cry out! I remember! You have taught me this. You Word is so clear on this... I have learned. I have heard. Do not worry. Do not be anxious for anything. Do only that which the Father is about. Just "be" for my glory... do what I created you to do, in MY strength. Ask Me what I want you to do and do that with joy and freedom.

Lessons learned. I do know what freedom is. I know what it is to rest in Your grace. I know You want me to listen for Your voice alone. I know you want me to look for Your pleasure alone. I do know that there is nothing I need to do to earn Your love, Lord. I know that I only must do that which You have given me to do and that my "being" in You, walking in You, worshipping You is the One needful thing. I choose to remember today and I will choose to kill that should girl.

Lord, for your Glory and in Your strength. I remember.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Balance: Worm Princess

We sang the words "meekness and majesty" this morning and my heart was full of worship. This God we serve! my heart sang. This friend Jesus, my dear friend. He was both meekness and majesty. He had perfect balance. "In perfect harmony", the hymn reminds us.

Me, myself and I are not so easily 'in harmony'. I find myself on one end of the spectrum... beating myself up, discouraged and disappointed with myself on the one side. I am prideful, judgemental, arrogant and/or self sufficient on the other side. I am meekness OR majesty. But I don't know both. Jesus did.

I think Father wants me to learn them both. He wants me to know that I am dearly loved, chosen before the foundation of the earth. He wants me to know that I have been given His mind and gifts from His Spirit.

And, He wants me to know that I am nothing without Him. He wants me to know that I can do nothing without Him. I am but dust. He wants me to remember surrender, humility, grace and mercy. He wants me to remember where I came from and what I would be without Him. And at the same time He wants me to know who I am now and what I am with Him. The balance of meekness AND majesty.

What is man, Lord, that you are mindful of him... like the grass, here to day and gone tomorrow; and yet, You loves us with a passionate, lavished love and chose us to be Your own.

Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (Is. 41: 14).

Do not be afraid, O worm Stephanie, O little girl, for I myself will help you. A worm helped by an Almighty, loving Father!

We are children of the King. Princes and Princess. Like the classic frog prince, I am worm princess. One kiss from the Prince of Peace and I am changed. Majestic... but remembering what I once was... a worm.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus knew the balance. May I learn from Him.

Meekness and Majesty
Words and Music: Graham Kendrick
Meekness and majesty, manhood and Deity,
In perfect harmony, the Man who is God.
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity;
Kneels in humility and washes our feet.
O what a mystery, meekness and majesty;
Bow down and worship, for this is your God.
For this is your God

Friday, September 11, 2009

What if I really stopped...

Photo Source
I can't imagine my life without worry. What if I really stopped worrying, planning, scheduling and calculating? What would life be like if I truly lived as one anxious for nothing? What if I casted all cares immediately on a heavenly Father that cares deeply for me?

It is interesting... because if I am honest, I think I would feel empty. Empty and without definition, maybe. Does worry and fear fill a need, almost like a harmful friendship or addiction? Maybe. Why does it feel a bit like dying to give up!? It has been "me" for so long that I can't imagine me without it.

What if I really stopped worrying and handed all my cares, all day long, over to a trustworthy Father? I can't imagine it. I believe it is possible. I believe that I can grow and that God can do this work in me. But, it takes surrender on my part. It does take a dying of self. It takes handing over to Him this comfy way of life that I have always lived--- one of planning, striving, manipulating and worrying. Can I really be that different? And what would Stephanie look like without fear, worry or concern? I can't imagine.

Struck only moments ago by this offer from my Lord... Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

No need for trouble. No need for worry. No need for fear, Stephanie. I give you peace, He says. This is what I have for you, He whispers. Why don't you take my gift, He says with kindness in His voice. It is offered in love and with grace.

What if I really stopped?

I remember asking myself a similar question years ago... What if I really began to believe that God loves me? I mean, what if I REALLY believed it? What if I walked around and knew in my gut that God loved ME? At that time in my life I couldn't have imagined it. I was truly afraid of the thought, ...although that may sound crazy. I remember being unable to grasp a picture of Stephanie loved. And, now I know. Well, at least I am beginning to know it more and more. I do really believe that God loves me. I am loved, lovable and deeply adored by a good, kind Father. This is special. This is unique and new.

So, now for the new question... can I trust this Lover? Can I truly offer all things to Him and entrust it all, without thought, into His good hands? Can I cast it off me and onto Him in an instant. Can I not worry and give it away to this loving One?

What if I really stopped? ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Borrowing Worry

I had never heard the saying before. 
  
 You are borrowing worry, my husband said to my son. 
  
 My sweet boy was worried about next weeks Boys Brigade meeting. 
  
 He asked his Daddy to explain the phrase... I didn't need the explanation. I understood it instantly. 
  
It struck me like a load of bricks and has been rolling around in my head these past few days. I am always borrowing worry.
  
Just last week I found myself all worked up over an upcoming event. Unintentionally, almost without consciousness, I had imagined all the possible bad outcomes. I had invented all the ways the event might go poorly. I had wondered, worried, planned even how I was to handle myself during this possibly-stressful event. I had borrowed worry. 
  
 Interestingly enough, the event came and went with little or no stress, no conflict and no worries. All the worrying I had done was utterly and completly useless. In vain. It did me nothing but harm to wonder, to plan, to worry. All in vain.
  
Borrowing just leaves you in debt. We are cautioned about being in debt... does God just mean money? Do not worry about tomorrow, God says. Don't borrow tomorrow's worry. Today has enough for you to think about... why reach into tomorrow's pocket and borrow from it? What will that do for you, God says? Oh, that I would learn. I have before me the opportunity to be anxious for nothing. I have before me the opportunity for the peace of Christ to rule, reign and guard my heart and mind.
  
Father, make me more keenly aware of this harmful habit, this sin.. worry. Father, teach me to trust You more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

From Nothing

We started school yesterday. For weeks now, I have been a bit apprehensive about the load and feeling overwhelmed by the task of schooling my children. It was a sluggish start for me and the kids. Almost instantly, my mood began to shift when we read the first few pages of our science book. My heart was lifted with hope. We are studying the 7 days of creation. We will look very closely at each day, spending weeks studying the science of each created thing. The book began by explaining that God created our earth from nothing. Void. Formless. There was nothing and then He spoke... and there was.

Something from nothing. This is the phrase that jumped off the page at me. I remembered it again this morning as I sat with the Lord. God is the only One who can create something from nothing and He does it all the time! I certainly can't do it. Seriously, though! Often when I try to create something from something, I fail! But, God can take nothing and make something. In fact, He not only makes something... He can make something extraordinary, complex and beautiful. This gave my heart hope.

This amazing, creative Father can be trusted with my moods, my tasks, my relationships, my schedule. He can create from nothing... and make something. And all the somethings He makes are good! It reminds me of lessons learned last year from Beth Moore's fruit of the Spirit series, ..."With God, I can feel what I don't feel. I can do what I can't do. I can be what I can't be."

Where there is NO strength He can create strength. Where there is NO faith, He can create faith. Where there is no purity, He can create a clean heart. Where there is no hope, He can create hope. He is constantly creating, renewing, restoring, redeeming and making all things beatiful in His time.

Today, I am excited to school my kids this morning! Where there was no excitement, He has created excitement. Thank you, Lord!

You are my only hope, O God! And, what an awesome God you are!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Anger's Lasting Result

My son went to his first Boy Brigade meeting last night. He went with confidence and came home happy. It is fun to see him grow up and begin to do his own things. When he came home, he did mention one teacher at the meeting that "lost her temper a lot". We didn't talk about it too much; but, focused on the fun activities and the other boys at the meeting.

The winds of mood shifted at some point in the night. Sweet boy was upset this morning. When I asked why, he whispered between sobs that he didn't want to go to Boys Brigade. When I probed a bit more it was as I suspected... the mean lady. Some time between last night and this morning, he and his sister had already named her, "The 'now' lady". (Apparently when she is telling the boys to do something, she puts "now!" at the end of each command). Oh, sweet boy! I want to hold him and never allow him to be exposed to mean people. So that is exactly what I did. I swept him up in my arms (I am not sure how long I will be able to do that--- he is getting quite heavy!). I swept him up in my arms and we snuggled together on Mommy's chair.

We talked about the specifics of her words, her actions and how it affected him. We talked about the other boys and what they might have been feeling. As we talked and snuggled, an interesting thing was going on in the other room. My daughter, the sweet defender of all things weak, was getting progressively more angry. I could hear her in the other room praying out-loud as her voice and her prayers rose in anger to the Lord. I called her in and asked her to share with us how she was feeling. She was mad! She told me that if I decided to go and talk with the lady (which I told them I would do if necessary), that I should not take her along... because well, ...well she would just let her have it! Can you picture this little 10 year old warrior with fire in her eyes defending her brother. She would do it too! I have seen her do it before, in fact.

I told her that her anger was right. I told her that God gets angry when he sees evil and wrong being done. I told her that she was feeling righteous anger. But, I also told her that Jesus wisely told us to pray for our enemies. Why?! I don't want to, of course, was her response. Yes! And that is why we must!

I was immediately struck with the fact that this mean "now" lady was a picture of anger gone unchecked. She was a good example of anger's lasting results. Maybe this loud, tempered woman was once angry for a good reason. Maybe, we don't know, but just maybe someone did something to her (or around her) that made her rightly angry. I explained that even though we don't know her story we can see her life. Her life shows us that her anger has turned to bitterness. Quick tempered, harsh, rude, and unkind are all results of anger gone bad. Imagine this woman walking in the forgiveness and peace that is offered to her in Christ.

So, we decided we wouldn't let anger have a hold on us that way. Together we chose to forgive this "now" lady. We decided to pray for her. We decided when we feel angry at her, we will pray for her. My sweet daughter said that she felt so angry at her, she may have to pray for her many, many times today! Sweet girl.

So, maybe Boys Brigade isn't the place for our boy. Or maybe it is. We will try it a few more times... all the while choosing to love, to offer peace and prayer for this teacher. The lesson is a good one for all of us, though.

Lord, may we be angry at the things that anger you! Teach us to use this anger to pray, to bless and to walk in Your peace. Your mercy, grace and forgiveness are beyond imagination. Teach us a bit of this, Lord.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Heavy Laden

This last week I heard some hard news. Someone I care deeply about is ill, in pain and in need of major surgery. Last night the burden of this sad news felt too much to bear. I found myself almost physically pushed down with sadness for this person. I was heavy laden.

During my morning shower, as I soaked the sadness off and tried to shake the darkness from the previous day... the Lord brought to mind a simple verse. "Cast your cares on me, for I care for you." What a sweet thought! What light to my heart and mind! I can lift off the sadness, the pain and the burden and hand it... no!... I can cast it on the Father. Off of me and on to Him. He cares for me. He cares for me.

So, just as the kind friends brought their sick friend to Jesus on the stretcher in that wonderful gospel story, I can hand... no!... cast, throw, toss my dear one into the arms of my loving, strong and able Father. These friends brought their sick one to Jesus. Jesus noticed and He touched. He forgave and He healed. All His business. Not mine.

My job is to bear another's burden, yes, but only just a short distance, a short walk to Jesus. His shoulders are much stronger than mine and He cares for me... and her.
Lord, thank you for the kindness of Your care. You tell us that when we are heavy laden we can come to you and find rest. I have found rest in You, Father.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Prayer Pains

It is amazing how God has wired our bodies. When we are tired we have a myriad of physical signs that tell us to sleep. When we are thirsty we have a distinct need for water. We know we are thirsty. In fact, our heads will ache, our urine will smell and our energy level drops as an indication that it is time to hydrate. When we are hungry... again, God has given us many signs of hunger. Most distinctly we have the pains of hunger in our stomache. We have been created with very specific growls and pains as our body clearly indicates "eat"!

I decided to begin a weekly fast again. I have done this in the past for a variety of spiritual reasons. Today I wanted to ask God to make me hungry for Him. I have been so aware lately of my natural ability to "manage" my life and do thing in my own strength. It is almost like a chronic illness! (smile) Yesterday, after a long and productive day... a good day... I found that I had spent nearly the whole day without an ounce of prayer. Although this extreme prayerlessness is not necessarily normal for me, certainly the pattern of reliance on self and forgetfulness of God is an issue for me. So, in an attempt to "buffet my body" and use hunger as a reminder to pray... I decided to fast. Just to be clear, today's fast is in no way a punishment. I don't feel I must. I am not doing it for reasons of religion. In fact, on the contrary, it is an act of worship. I am using it... or attempting to use it to more easily direct or lead my heart, mind and body toward my loving Father.

I want to praise Him more. I want to be hungry for Him... to see my need for Him. I want to trust Him so much that when any perplexing things come in my day, my natural instinct is to hand it to Him. I want to cast all my cares on my Father, who not only cares for me (huge, amazing thought in and of itself!) but a Father who is Almighty, All-powerful and All-knowing. Why I try to fix, to mold, to make, to plan and to schedule all my perplexities on my own is beyond me?! But, none-the-less, I do it! And, so today I have chosen the discipline of fasting.

In the same way that God has given my body signs of exhaustion, thirst and hunger, so today I am asking Him to give me prayer pains. I want my soul, my heart, my mind to "growl" more regularly with my need for prayer and relationship with Father. Just as when I am fasting, any smell or thought of food makes my stomach go crazy... so, I want any question, any circumstance, any person, any problem to create in me a crazed longing for the Father, for His presence, His perspective and His truth.

Lord give me prayer pains. Create in me a natural inclination to pray as you have created in me a natural inclination to sleep, drink and eat.
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