Warm Wednesday Words: Abounding in the Storm and the Calm

 

violent stormPotentially violent storms send a shudder down my spine.  I don’t usually feel like kicking back and playing a board game, reading a book or taking a nap in the eye of a threatening storm, especially when tornado season is upon us.  Though I don’t have a great fear, I also would not describe my behavior as necessarily at ease.  I look forward to the wind dying down, the rain and hail letting up and something more akin to “normal” out my window or back deck view, especially if I have loved ones on the road or without a safe place.

I have a similar attitude about the storms of life.  It takes intentional effort to abound in the storm as well as the calm.   But sometimes the storm must come first so that I will go running to my Refuge and lift my focus to the sweetness and greatness of God’s presence both in the storm and the calm.

In Matt. 8:24-26, Christ was taking a nap during a violent storm.

Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.”

I don’t believe He was napping because He was unaware.  Being God, He had no reason to fear the elements and wanted to teach His disciples (and us) something about trust as well.  As my friend, and author, Holley Gerth, says in her book, “You’re Going to be Okay”, it’s not such a bad thing to only have a little faith as a starting point, since we are also told if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can move mountains.

But since just a little faith and fear can go hand in hand, it is my goal to increase my faith and decrease my fear.   With increased faith I can abound in the storm because I know who holds it all in His hand, and know Him well.  As a friend and mentor said, “He wants us to have faith, but He loves us to say, ‘Master, save us!'”  That is abounding, and is only possible if my eyes are on Him, not the storm!  Isa. 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you.”  And Ps. 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength in whom I will trust.”

God protects in storms

I’m not sure what a “great” calm is in the verses above, but I suspect it had the touch of the divine.  I want the “great calm after the storm moments” and look forward to them.  Sometimes I even wish for an “out”, i.e., the baby without the labor, the character without the trials, the mountain top without the climb, the “well done” without the obedience, work and sacrifice, but I also want to learn to abound in the storms and in whatever circumstances I find myself in.  Then the “calm” moments are indeed great, with a sweetly personal divine touch.

calm after stormHow about you?  Do you struggle to make peace with the storms before the calm?  Do you abound in both storms and calm?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Visions of Rapture

 

blurry vision

Visual distortion can be an issue for me.   Physically, I have post radial keratotomy complications, which I now realize are quite common due to not well researched optometrist claims made back in the 80’s and 90’s.  As frustrating as this condition is increasingly becoming, it is not these visual distortions and fluctuations that can cause me the most grief.  The most critical visual malady I suffer from on occasion is when I focus on the perspective most easily seen by my circumstances, negative or otherwise, rather than God’s perspective.  When I submit to God and refocus to His point of view I am enveloped in a spiritual bubble of truths and promises, often revolutionary, that I couldn’t see before or had temporarily lost sight of.

God's ways higher

Refocusing gets easier with practice.  It comes about by time spent in the Word, in prayer, in worship and seeking out those who give Godly and encouraging words and counsel and who will help identify the negative lies of the enemy to toss out and replace with truths.  I know why Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer, wrote in “Blessed Assurance”, ‘Perfect submission, perfect delight!  Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.’

a bright warrior angel

To our detriment, we often don’t see what God knows and sees.  Elisha’s servant had this problem and was overcome with fear, as anyone might be, when he saw the enemy armies surrounding them.  Elisha, who was seeing a spiritual realm, prayed for God to open his servant’s eyes to see the deliverance at hand.  Ps. 34:7 promises, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”   Have you ever spent time with someone who so bolstered your “faith” perspective that you walked away feeling squished between the Christ beside you, behind you, and ahead of you?  I have and I am thankful God uses brothers and sisters in Christ to provide just the medicinal spiritual boost we need on occasion.

warrior angel help

In Zechariah we are told of unseen angels that patrol the earth and go before the throne to inquire on our behalf. We also know, but may forget, that Christ is there to intercede for us day and night.  Balaam was initially unable to see things quite from God’s perspective, yet God allowed Balaam’s donkey to see the warning angel.  Balaam later repented for not realizing this invisible spiritual realm and the urgency of God’s will in the matter.   Daniel may have thought his prayers were slow in being answered but eventually an angel arrived with the answer and chalked the delay up to a strange but unseen struggle in the spiritual realm.   Joseph’s view of the bad that happened to him was summed up in the spiritual perspective he acquired during his years of trials, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..” (Gen. 50:20).  This is the promise we have when we love God.  This is why we can have a peace even when evil seems abundant in high places.  God is still ultimately in charge and His plan has not changed.

angels surround us

In stressful situations when I have trouble with keeping my perspective on the faith filled focus I know to be true, I pray for help (Mark 9:24).  Then I attempt to press on with Hebrews 12:1-2 in mind, “ Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus….”  Those invisible witnesses are martyrs, loved ones who have gone before us to Heaven and angels watching our spiritual progress with great interest.  Though curiously mysterious, we are being watched by an invisible crowd, we have angels to watch and attend us, and Christ is constantly interceding for us.  We serve a God who not only sacrificed His Son for us, but who stands with us in all of our circumstances and uses every one of them for our good when we believe Him.  I have learned to cope with fluctuating distortions in my vision and may even find a remedy soon, but I do not want to be spiritually nearsighted.  Visions of rapture are too good to miss!  What are your most recent visions of rapture that took a second look to “see”?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Broken Hallelujahs

face down broken hallelujahEveryone has times when their “hallelujahs” are broken; i.e. they grieve, yet still worship.  For some, their worship may look and sound the same while their heart is broken.  For others, the words, music and energy won’t come for a spell.  They are worshiping in silence as they process their grief.  They may be soaking in the worship they are hearing.  A lump in the throat may prevent the escape of words even if they tried.  A groan might be the only sound for them.  For still others, the worship of grief may start slow and crescendo.  There are many biblical characters who grieved and worshiped.  Job lost all of his children in one day, he stood up, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground and worshiped, saying in effect, ‘I came into this world with nothing, it’s not mine to hold onto.  The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’  I’m betting those words were poured out in heaving sobs as he lay on the ground.  Jacob mourned for Joseph many days and refused to be comforted.  Hannah accompanied her husband to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice, but because she was barren her “worship” came out in a torrent of silent bitter brokenhearted prayers, which God heard and answered.  David mourned as he prayed for his child Bathsheba bore him, but worshiped after he knew the child had died and, therefore, his mourning would not induce God to relent.  This probably was not the jubilant and expressive worship that had characterized David on the day the arc was returned, not that we all, at least consistently, have such expressive personalities in worship.  But we are told he worshiped.  David also mourned when Saul and Jonathon died in battle, and several other occasions.  The instance of David seeming the most broken was when Absalom was killed, in which he sobbed for him and publicly grieved.  In fact Joab had to sternly counsel David to snap out of it and encourage his men.   Rachel  had great difficulty giving birth to Benjamin and mourned for her children in a lament (which is a song and likely a sort of mournful worship). She died in childbirth.  In this prophesy given by Jeremiah, God heard and promised that her reward would come.  She represents all the mothers in Bethlehem who lost their baby boys because of jealous and wicked Herod’s edict, and every mother who has ever suffered for her children.  Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched in grief and terror as the crucifixion of her son unfolded before her eyes.  John (19:25) tells us that there were three other women there with her united in grief.  (Yay, for sisterhood!)  Mary had pondered the things God had told her in her heart.  She had significant  insight into what was unfolding.  But this was her son.  There were no words or songs recorded from her position of grief, loss and agony that day.  Yet, she knew.  She worshiped in silence as she grieved.

stronger in the broken places

God expects us to grieve.  Jesus grieved for Lazarus.  But we are to grieve with hope, because He wants us to see things from His perspective.  (1 Thes. 4:13)    Ps. 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”  When your hallelujah is broken, do you find a way to worship anyway?   Your grief is not the final say.
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Warm Wednesday Words: God Leads His Dear Children

 

fear notThe only guarantee you have in life as a Christian is that God will lead you through whatever is ahead and, if you let Him, He will use it for good.  If you’re one of those people who feel you have life squarely under control, enjoy that feeling while it lasts, because it is a fleeting illusion.  Whether it’s the dandelions in your yard or something of a far more serious nature, life holds variables.  We like to know what’s ahead.  We think this makes us feel secure.  Having a plan insofar as our insight takes us, is a good thing.  However, we need to keep our eyes on Christ in this sojourn, because life circumstances may veer out of our “controlled” course.  But they will never, ever veer outside of God’s control.  It is not what we know about the future.  It is Who we know, because He will lead us.  It may be hard, at times, to keep our eyes on Him and pray in faith, instead of taking in the enemy’s lies, but God will gently lead us along, lifting our focus back to Him, come what may.


He not only will lead us, He sometimes will carry us.  Most of us have read the poem about the footprints in the sand and we may even have these sure enough words framed on our wall.   Our Savior really will pick us up and let us take refuge from the storm, while He carries us.  As my pastor reminded me recently, “He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”  (Ps. 18:30b) He is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  (Ps. 9:9)  When we get “down under it all”, He often sends someone to “pick us up” with prayers, encouraging words, and other tokens of love and friendship.  His arm is not too short to reach down to us and pull us up to refuge one way or another.

In the place of refuge and surrender we find rest, grace, faith, trust, promises, renewal, nurturing, comfort and liberating eternal perspectives.  This place of refuge is a hidden place of shelter and not for the double minded.  Our baggage of pride, control, plans, ideas, fears, worries and expectations gets checked at the “door”.  In their place we get so much more.  Circumstances may or may not be going on the course we prefer, but there, in our Refuge, we regain our footing of trust in the One who will navigate us through the storms and variables and not waste a thing along the way.   The saying is much more true than trite, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.”

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Warm Wednesday Words: Drink from the Living Water

 

living waterA dear friend and mentor just recently said to me, “Drink lots of water…from the living supply”.  Water consumption nowadays has become extremely specialized.  We use purifiers, filters, flavors, sweeteners of all sorts and carbonation.  We package with bottles, cans, and jugs of all sizes and designed for a variety of specific purposes and ventures.  We have streamlined our tastes because, after all what and when we drink is important and we know it.

How much more so what we “drink” into our thoughts and soak into our “hearts” and how often.  Hence the advice to drink much from the living supply.  Jesus said in John 4:14, “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life“, and in John 7:38: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  There is absolutely nothing like soaking in the scriptures and taking refuge in the shadow of His wings.    There is no other source that can quench every soul malady no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.

God warned his people through his prophet Jeremiah (2:13), that they had sinned in two ways:  first by abandoning Him, the fountain of living water; and second, by digging cisterns for themselves that were cracked.  If they could hold water at all, it was stagnant.  Stagnant water holds disease, decay, toxins, harbors mosquitoes and is foul.  Leaking cisterns presents the idea of falsehood.  They gave the appearance of holding water but didn’t.  Our “leaky cisterns” can be pride, materialism, teachings and traditions of men, false sense of spiritual security, false religions, excessive entertainment, and depravity.  I want to drink deeply from the Well that never runs dry and satisfies my thirsts.  I want the living water that flows out in service and doesn’t stay pooled up in a leaky, misleading cistern.  What is your source of soul “water”?  Is it deeply satisfying and flowing?

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