Warm Wednesday Words: The Thawing Out of Hope

Aslan on the move

 

As we head into nearly 2 months of Tony’s unemployment, life’s annoyances never let up.  Appliances break, minor health problems rear their head and spending habits die hard.  We have not only temporarily laid to rest our big plans for a 2016 budget to finally include a retirement plan, but we also look at creative ways to be thrifty as well a closer scrutiny of the new slim line budget.   We have raised the old declutter banner theme  “Less is more in 2004”, (though we could still toss out many dumpster loads) and added on a 2016 theme of “Live Lean in ’16” or something like that.
Ps. 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Aside from the trials that seem to renew themselves daily, we truly have been renewed inwardly day by day and the highlight of our days is our morning Bible readings.  We have started a new habit of praying the scriptures together, which I think is exciting.
Here is the  prayer I emailed to Caleb tonight, “Lord, we praise you because you comfort us in our troubles, so that we’ll know how to comfort others with the same comfort You’ve given us. In fact every trial is laced with the promise of “Aha”. I now know better how to encourage so and so. Not because our circumstances are the same, but the depth of emotion is similar and the yearning for relief also, as well as the realization that most would never or could never understand with such empathy.
We thank you that You are our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd of our family, and that you guide us in paths of righteousness. When we would lose our way, You see and you run to our rescue even if that rescue is in a form we don’t care for at the moment. In retrospect, we can always admit you pulled us out of a mess, sometimes just in time.
we don't lose heart
You do honor us even among our enemies though not always on the timetable we’d like. Your love follows us all our lives and we will dwell with you in complete happiness in Heaven even as we taste Your joy now in this life. Thank you that you renew us inside day by day, even if outwardly we get depressed and at times deal with the slights and scorn of others. You are a refuge for us when we’re oppressed. As we humble ourselves under Your mighty hand, you lift us up in due time. We cast all our anxiety on you and believe that You really do care for us, so much you gave Your Son when we were and are so underserving. We humbly trust and obey you and eagerly await your reliefs, even as we enjoy our inner renewal in the trials, which we know will always come.”
lambs
Ps. 23:1-6 – The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Things are starting to happen and it is  reminiscent of the slow thaw of ice in Narnia after the long winter.  The sounds of melting ice include:  Some recent great family times, several positive job changes and job change possibilities within our large family and including that Tony will have had three interviews recently at three different companies by the end of this week, another family gathering coming up in spring, a reunion with Caleb in July on the outside of the bars, many recent helpful kindnesses shown us by family, my employers at Hutson Funeral Home, our church family at Center Point, and other local church friends, as well as the opportunity to get outside ourselves and help friends at Hannah’s Ranch in Cuba, MO (a Mission Gate Ministry), and as I look forward to an upcoming girls weekend and training in Mom’s in Prayer, International.
Ah….Aslan is on the move.
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Warm Wednesday Words: Despising the Shame

scandalDictionary.com – *Shame – 1. The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.  4. A fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret.

*Shame  launches us into a sort of sacred suffering that gives us tools, otherwise illusive, that can actually save us.  It can originate in our own conscience, or it can be “assigned” to us by others who are more then willing to serve it up and offer seconds.  Constructively, it can provoke remorse and change, or when felt on behalf of others, comfort, grace and prayer.  Yet it also can circle over our heads with landing gear down, powerless to make its mark, if we aren’t willing to humbly inspect our hearts.

Jesus was no stranger to shame.  He didn’t turn from it, but conquered the sting of it for the joy that came from making a way to save us.  Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame…”  Shame can be a stalker and a haunter, especially if we’re prideful, but when we follow Jesus example and despise it, we shrink it to its rightful place and role and amazing things can happen.

When I worked at a local daycare, we often sang action songs including a favorite “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”.  Within the lyrics, there is a great message, “we’re coming to a wide river, and there’s no bridge going over it, no tunnel going under it, it’s just plain old water, and we’re gonna have to swim…I’m not afraid.  Are you?”

We’re often put in circumstances just like that.  There’s no way around, under, or over.  We just gotta go through and get thicker skin while the elements pelt us.  The ultimate example is Christ on the cross.  John Piper wrote an excellent post on what it means to despise the shame.  He concluded Jesus “despising the shame” was like saying, ‘Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me?  Compared to that, you are less then nothing…You think you have power.  Compared to the joy before me, you have none…. You think you can distract me.  I won’t even look at you….You are a fool.  Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.’  There was once a man who over the course of his lifetime had experienced devastating parenting failures with dire consequences, committed adultery, and set up a murder to cover his own mistake.  Yet because he loved God and repented of his sins, he was able to say, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy.  Their faces will never be ashamed.”  (Ps. 34:10)  If you guessed David, you’re right.  I love reading the Psalms, and am thankful he despised the shame and told his story.

So yeah, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and so can you.  That includes the boldness to be honest and humble for Christ’s sake, no pun intended.  Some would rather avoid the power tools that can be earned in trials and shame, then admit anything shameful touched them or their families.  Ann Voskamp said in a recent post “the worst grief is a grief that cannot speak…..Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.”  The Bible is rife with examples of the type of guarantee that things are going to get tough, and that there’s no way around but through.   There are no guarantees of turbulent free friendships, marriages, parenting, businesses, health, reputations, etc; only of a Savior who will walk beside us triumphantly through the turbulence and “keep” that which we’ve committed to Him, ultimately souls.  He may allow some deep plunges, shame, grief, or heartache in order to refine and use what is of high value to Him.

For us, the hope and promise is that we have a Savior who showed us how to despise the shame and find joy.   Have the filthy hands of shame and despair propelled you toward a destiny?  Are you willing to share what might be useful to encourage someone?

Despise the Shame

*For the purpose of this post I chose not to split hairs over shame vs. guilt.

Warm Wednesday Words: Acres of Hope

IMG_9703As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys.  I  refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them.  But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what.  Every single one.   The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that.  It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year.  And then another year and another and another.  It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter.  For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats.  For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.

If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.

IMG_9723For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry.  Truly sorry.  My heart aches for you.  I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away.  There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t.  Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away.  Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child.  As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.”  She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.

IMG_9735I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you.  If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ.  In other words, you are royalty!    Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings).  “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.

This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently  allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances.   Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”

Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?

Warm Wednesday Words: Margin for the Other Side Journey

BeFunky_IMG_20150315_081054430.jpgThe pendulum has swung wide for me recently on life events, and there have been moments in the stormy times, I’ve lost sight of the other side.  Because stresses and griefs tug at the heart even through the elation of miracles, I’ve had a time of it.  Yet the recent warmth of personal kindnesses and encounters threatens to thaw the icy numbness that settles and resettles in my arms.

I will highlight a few, but not all, of the weekend warmths God sent my way.  On Saturday, a friend and marathon runner committed one of her many miles she runs to praying for our family.  She says she likes to pick a friend and devote a mile to them in prayer.  I’m humbled, honored. and grateful.

Sunday I received a “random” message from an out of state friend who I have not been in touch with for months.   Among many other encouraging words, she said, ‘I am praying that the Lord carry you through the storms and calm the waves. May you always remember that the Lord is in the boat with you and that because He is, you will make it to the other side. When the Lord went into the boat with the disciples, he said to them “let us go to the other side“.  There was no doubt that they would make it to the other side.even in the storm…even though they were afraid when the storm came…because Jesus was with them and He knew they would make it, it was not yet His time. It is hard to Trust in the storms that shake us, but Jesus says “Do not be afraid, Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth….” ‘ 

Again on Sunday (after church and a deeply satisfying nap) I did some catching up in the “Breathe” Bible study (by Priscilla Shirer) that I am in, on making room for the Sabbath, boundaries, etc.  After discussing boundaries and margin, Shirer quotes Brad Lomenick, respected innovator and leader of the Catalyst Movement in America as saying several things about the powerful concept of ‘margin’ in several areas of life, including this quote, “Margin in our friendships creates significance and impact.”

If there’s anything new I’ve concluded about friendships over the past year or so, it’s that in my own strength, I might be able to encourage and pass along the love of Christ to someone on occasion, but any consistency is lost on me without some margin in my  life for such efforts.  To have margin requires that I set boundaries.  To set wise boundaries necessitates time in prayer to be sensitive to what parameters I need in order to keep the proper things in their place, and to be guided to friendship as the Lord would lead.

Hebrews 4 says “for the person who has entered  his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.  Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.”  Entering into a “rest”, or a cessation of normal activity, and especially to focus on God, counters the physical world and is the beginning of true freedom and blessing.

Oswald Chambers says, “are these things crushing us? Are they badgering us out of the presence of God and leaving us no time for worship? Then let us call a halt, and get into such living relationship with God that our relationship to others may be maintained on the line of intercession whereby God works His marvels.”

Today, I was blessed with a friend who I haven’t seen for weeks coming by my place of work just for a quick hug.  And then blessed again with a good ole chat with my mom, who I will never stop needing.  I’m touched in those moments and more recently by many around me who get off the merry go round of their normal activities and in effect, say, ‘Let’s go to the other side.  I’m with you.  And, oh, yes, there IS another side and we’re headed there together!’   I’m so thankful to God because He sends those who would speak His Words, and actively care the way He does.  That is what points to Him and reminds me what I momentarily forgot about the other side.

Warm Wednesday Words: Inside Out

insideout.jpgSitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out.  Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch.  That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church.  The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye.  While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out.  I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.

His strength in our weaknessWhen life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.

possible with HimHe picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over.  Nothing is impossible with Him.

do not be anxiousMost everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances.  It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace.  But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies.  Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them.  For that I can give thanks with His help.

more blessed to give then receiveHere’s another inside out principle….storing up and  coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul.  God warns not to live in selfish  luxury and indulgence.  Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good.  In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.

rejoice in insults I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has.  It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country.  But the inside out perspective is this.  There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.

treasures in clay jarsThe cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win.  He’s already lost.  Even when I’m down.  God rushes to  rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all.  When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.

those who exalt themselvesWith God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is.  Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him.  Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.

we look at what can't be seenHere’s a great inside out truth.  I look at what can’t be seen.  But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises.   Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm.  I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.

we fight on our kneesIn my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man.  They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds.  They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on!  There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust.  It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love.  No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me.  I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.

faithful to death - crown of lifeThat seems to be the ultimate inside out deal.  Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life.  Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call.  So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out.  What have you worn inside out or turned around?   Please tell me it’s not just at our house.  What “lucky” application fits?

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Christmas Letter: Still Alive…Still Trusting

christmas letter templateUnless you count this as one, we won’t be writing a Christmas letter this year.  Come to think of it, it’s been a number of years since I sent a Christmas letter.  But if we did you might be hanging onto your seat.   Then again, in the off paragraphs you might be snoring.  But ultimately what I would want you to know is this:  Even in the hard years, God is good and does exceedingly above all that we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20)  He is to be praised.

Imagine getting a Christmas letter saying that in a fit of jealous rage one of two sons had killed the other, and in another family letter came the news that the husband had risked his wife’s sexual exploitation for his own hide; then a few years later the same wife had gotten so jealous of a relationship that she, herself, had put into place, that she had sent the destitute progeny away forever.  What if your friends wrote you that one child had tricked the near blind, dying father into changing his will.  Now here’s some Christmas letter news: the dad had suffered some devastating consequences in his life for a rooftop peeping tom escapade, and later there were some problems in the blending of the half siblings.  One had raped his half sister and in revenge another had murdered the rapist.  And then later the disowned teen murderer  used his charisma and become popular and powerful enough to try to destroy his father.

Likely responses to such tabloid-like stories from God-fearing families might be shock, gossip and judgement.  The latter springs from our insatiable desire to measure someone’s tragedy against our own life and surmise how that could never happen to us. Thoughts, if not words, might be…”if the parents had just had them in church every Sunday” to “if they had not chosen that school” to “if they had not been so strict”, or “if they had not been so lenient”, or “if they had just went to marriage counseling” and on and on.  We believe in grace, but it often shadows our prideful logic.  The disciples tried to lay blame as well, but received this response…”Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) The works of God in a life are really so much more refreshing to focus on!  If we could just quickly shift our thoughts to how God may use circumstances, as well as start praying we’d become a part of the miracle of grace, redemption and restoration.

In the above scenarios, God dealt with sin, but saw the heart, (yes, especially the parts that bore His likeness) which is why He could call the fearful husband the father of many nations, the jealous wife a woman to be emulated by all women in regard to respect for her husband, the #1 loser dad a man after God’s own heart in regard to his worshipful and compassionate heart, etc.

Unfortunately, God’s grace and redemption are sometimes not as convincing in humans, and on occasion even purposely omitted, leaving many of us trudging uphill through the storms of life with social apathy (not to be confused with spiritual apathy) as our trail guide.  A friend of ours and midwife for two of our childbirths years ago, blogged recently on  Christmas letters.  “The fact of the matter is, any time any of us have a bad year, we aren’t as likely to send out Christmas cards or a Christmas letter.  If we’ve experienced a death in the family, struggled financially, had medical issues, serious kid problems, emotional trauma, a divorce, church drama, or just a year where everything seemed to go wrong, we don’t really feel like sharing.  Those things don’t go as well in the end of year brag letter as do educational accomplishments, travel, promotions and awards.”  You’ll likely be blessed and entertained if you take time to read her entire post @ the above link.  You might even change the way you write next year’s Christmas card or letter.

But meantime, if you didn’t hear much from us, neither did most.  Like Roxanne and many of you, we’re still here, still alive, still trusting, hoping, and finding healing in the time out.

 

 

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Intensive School is in Session

 

from dark cloudsI am in a Master’s Degree School Program as I trudge through some one way valleys.  After over 25 years of homeschooling seven children I have become accustomed to curriculum, whether bought as a package or whether I put it together hodge podge style.  I spent many an August watching kids and sometimes grandkids swim at the city pool while I poured through the following year’s school plans and calender.  Implementation of each year took off with grandiose thoughts of how organized I would be, how much they would learn and what balance of study versus hands on and field trips would be used.  In addition to hours of planning, there were many, many more hours of reading out loud, drilling of tables and verses, etc.  Admittedly, I did fall asleep a few times while reading out loud in the evenings, and my kids won’t let me live down the way I mastered “reading” in my sleep.  There were a few such times when I sent them to bed, but still under the spell of sleepy delirium, told them to do such interesting things as “Brush your teeth and get in the toilet.”  But none of those years of homeschooling required my focus as much as the intensive classroom of praying and keeping faith while an adult child wades through serious troubles.

As I focus on standing on many scripture promises, I can’t allow myself to indulge in logic and reasoning.  Oh no.  I serve a big God who is able to do exceedingly above all that I ask or think.  (Eph. 3:20).  Nothing is impossible for Him.  (Luke 1:37)  He can reach where I can’t.  (Isa. 59:1)  He will rescue my children, even when they’re not innocent if I keep my hands “pure” because of Christ.  His rescue is first and foremost the soul, but sometimes he rescues circumstances also, if He chooses to bring glory to Himself from them a different way.  (Job 22:30)  His Word that we helped them store away, won’t return void.  (Isa. 55:11) He is able to bring our children back to the Way; i.e. their own spiritual “land”.  (Jer. 31:17)  And best of all He is able to accomplish all this in spite of me, and all of my teaching efforts, because He will actually be their teacher and give them peace.  Not only does He not judge me, He makes up for my lack.  (Isa. 54:13)  That is my teaching retirement verse.  The very spring of my last year of supervising our home school, God caused that one to stand out in “neon” letters, both as a wake up call and a comfort, so that I can get on my knees before Him each day and give the teaching results to Him.  Then I’m able to start a new day with renewed faith knowing He made this day for my faith to land on and soar in, no matter what circumstances I’m in.  He causes me to repeat such promises as “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.”  (Ps. 56:3) and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6)  And most of all, He brings me around to a sacrifice of praise to Him even when I’m down.  My praises may come out in a sob but they switch my focus to Him and bring His presence into my circumstances or that of someone I’m praying for, sometimes with a surprising turn of events.

Giving the results to God as I bow my head in the “faith” school takes focus, but is rewarding.  I have set backs, where I just don’t really want to display His glory.  I’d rather stay under a pile of blankets (at least mentally) and indulge in some grief over some latest turn of events.  He is patient with me as I need a little “down time” before forging ahead in this Master program He has me in.  During those times I feel all the brokenness and all the pain and know that it is real.  There is healing in this acknowledgement and in tears, which God collects and keeps.  He hears my cries and yours!

But back in the faith classroom, He carries me to the table where I don’t see my brokenness anymore.  I see things from His perspective and it’s so much better then my own.  I’m whole and I know He is fulfilling His promises as He sees fit in my life and that of my family.  This degree program doesn’t commence until eternity, but the dividends can’t be equaled in any other program out there.  There is faith and peace for character enrichment and future crowns to lay at His feet.   This is a program that some of the most intelligent folks don’t acquire; since it requires a surrendered heart.

Who am I to question His ways or His timing.  It is enough that He carries me to a table I don’t deserve.  Do you struggle with trials and His timing?  What ways help you not see your brokenness, or that of a loved one, anymore, but rather the One who carries you?