Warm Wednesday Words: Perspective Rescued and Reframed

IMG_9722EditedBecause I believe in God’s sovereignty,  my perspective is constantly being rescued and reframed.  For years I have been closely effected by a roller coaster ride of heartaches due to the addictions and bad choices of a sweet adult child along with turbulence in some of the relationships he became entwined with.  Mixed in with the fun times we all have shared, there have been times that waves of despair have crashed in on our family.  Through it all I believe that God is rescuing and keeping those I have committed to Him, and in fact, our entire family.  (“…and that is why I have suffered these things.  But I am not ashamed because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”  2 Tim. 1:12) As Carol Kent points out so well in her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down”, the entire family suffers when a family member is arrested; i.e. not just with the shock and heartache, but with a taste of the ill treatment that is often dished out liberally to the incarcerated.  From exorbitant phone call charges, visitation lines, changing rules, searches, lies, rudeness, scapegoats, assumption of guilt, etc., we have learned more then we ever wanted to about our system.   As Joseph said to his brothers after his long set of trials at their hands, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result…”  (Gen. 37-45) Seeing things from God’s perspective caused him to be able to forgive his brothers for the evil scheme they had carried out.  It’s not always an easy thing to keep my eyes focused on God’s perspective, but when I do I see clearly His love and mercy even within difficulties.  Then there are the unexpected moments of God’s grace in the hard places, such as when a friend picks up the corner of our stretcher by encouraging words, cards, prayers, hugs (both virtual and real) or sacrificial actions.  There have been some who have sought us out just to help us stand strong in a hard place; as well as those who have essentially left us alone in it.

IMG_9719That thing that I would most like to erase from my circumstances is often the very thing God will get the most mileage from in His molding makeover plans.  This is something not understood by those who have not put their trust in God.  The lure of success, popularity, and power along with the slippery slope of pride can be too strong to welcome or see the need for a trial to sharpen spiritual perspective and increase trust.   Yet the most humbling things that I would choose to avoid, He uses for His glory and my good.

IMG_9707EditedLast fall I planted bulbs, which, like cocoons and butterflies, wombs and babies, and so many other design marvels, illustrate the amazing skill of a Master Weaver to use the dark and hidden places to yield something no less then splendid.  His transforming powers are not at all affected by my ideas of where they should occur, whether behind prison walls built by men or those constructed within hearts encased in a fine exterior in denial of the slavery within.  Meantime, true heart freedom is being forged in the hard places not the easy ones.

IMG_9706The beauty of flowers and spring is like a visual banner shouting God’s handiwork that was done in the hard and hidden places.  I am thankful for following through with the instinctive nudging to plant more bulbs last fall in addition to other landscape specimens already here. Beginning with helleborus, Magnolia Jane and white forsythia defying winter in the midst of freezing temps, the floral processional has begun.  Moving on from  hyacinths, viburnums and daisies to tulips, flowering almonds, spireas, Japanese Maple, lilacs, azaleas, and the unfurling of peonies, I’m feasting on an array of visionary and olfactory reminders of God’s creativity, faithfulness and love.

IMG_9708If the kaleidoscope of colors doesn’t settle the matter, there is the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths, Korean Spice Viburnum and lilacs to further prove He does exceedingly above all that we ask or think.  In “Eyes Wide Open:  Enjoying God in Everything”, author Steve DeWitt says, ‘…every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him.  That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting – so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake.  If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.’

IMG_9701As one wave of blooms fades and another comes on, there is a rhythmic reminder that, like the blooms that come and go, my life, too is a vapor to be poured out in whatever channel He desires.  My response to the course He chose for me is sweet surrender, and yes, even gratefulness.  Since nothing happens to me outside of His permission, He must have confidence that I will  display His glory even in arid places.  Perhaps He has handpicked you for a hard place as well.

IMG_9718A sweet friend encouraged me after a recent turning point in my family’s heartbreaking saga of the loss of a family member to incarceration, “Now you have the framework for the future.”  Her words were comforting and also reminded me that I’ve always had the framework for the future from the time I turned my life over to Christ at age nine.  Through ups and downs, valleys and “mountaintops”, seasons of drought and seasons of showers, God has always been there and been my Savior and my friend.  The gardens have not failed to rescue and reframe my perspective!

IMG_9693How about you?  What hard place are you in right now and how is God reframing your perspective through it?

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Warm Wednesday Words: The Healer on the Journey

Lately I’m latching on to my healer a little tighter, and He has me securely in His Hand and under His wing on this lap of my journey, as always.  There is an incredible peace that is present in a relationship with a Heavenly Father who knows and loves me.  “He wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”  Job 5:17-18 (NIV)   Whether we suffer physically or emotionally, in our weakness, He is made strong.  When I’m misunderstood or misunderstand someone else, I can still trust Him… “Hallelujah!… for true and righteous are his judgments.” Rev 19:1-2 (NIV)  I “remember there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1), and I’m patient with myself because God is completing the work in me that He began and has a few prayer warriors praying for me prolifically with joy and the affection of Christ Jesus  and who value my particular contribution to the gospel.  Thus I can grow in wisdom and discernment and overflow with the same kinds of prayers for others partnering in the gospel.

encouragementIn Ps. 3:3, David, who experienced a wide gamut of “good” and “bad” from the Lord,  recorded that feeling of being protected by God, “But You, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” (Ps. 3:3)  Zephaniah also spoke, not only of the knowing of a mighty Savior, but of a tender and personal love; i.e. the kind of love that warms a heart and prompts goodwill.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  (Zeph. 3:17)

As long as I remember whose offspring I am, and receive whatever He has in His hand for me with the grace and truth He has lavished on me, then I can live and move and exist freely and fully loved in Him.

Are you under His wing in your journey?  It’s a “safe” place to be.  Have you a few prayer warriors who value you?  Are you that for at least a few others?

Warm Wednesday Words: The Heart of the Matter

the heart of the matter

I am so thankful Jesus gets to the heart of every matter.  When I let His Words be driven deep into my heart, the burden will be personal and, in the end light, as I respond to Him in obedience.   (Matt. 11:30)   When I keep my eyes focused on Him, and my heart tuned to His, then I am eager to carry out His mission, which is tailored for me and also interested to hear the unique mission He has given you.  We then can celebrate His glory in unison, even if He displayed it quite differently in each of us.

don't waste a minute comparingThe Pharisees of Jesus day were forever trying to appear one up on their Jewish counterparts and even on Jesus.  Even the disciples fell into the temptation to one up their performance above others on occasion.  Jesus told them the folks they were concerned about would surely be changed by His own powerful name, which they were proclaiming.  He went around their argument to the heart of the matter.  He made it clear that His divine Words to the heart of each matter were superior to anything they had ever heard before.

come to meTo really allow God to get to my heart is a far different matter then tritely saying He does, and He certainly knows the difference.  To allow His Holy Spirit to soften my heart means allowing His hands, in effect, to take a hardened portion and squeeze it back to mold-ability and usefulness.  It may mean  a layer is pulled back to expose something starkly in need of correction.  It means I will be willing to accept His challenge to do more for Him.  It means I will be thinking on what He is trying to say to me, and praying for further revelation.  It means I will be open to wise counsel that embraces God’s creativity in accomplishing His purposes in myriads of ways, and that I will not feel peer pressure to compare with anyone else, nor impatience to run ahead of Him.  Peer pressure can be a good thing, if it wakes us up to what we’re to be doing and inspires us to get on with it, while giving us support.  Yet, as long as we are truly seeking God’s will and striving to perform it and support others as they do they same in whatever way they are inspired, there really is something to the strange saying, “There’s more then one way to skin a cat.”

responding to God's challengesResponding to God’s heart work means I will be putting into practice His mission in me that “fits” with my unique circumstances that I am in, unless He sees fit to change them.  When God gets to the heart of my matters, it changes me.  I am restless to hear more from Him.  What about you?  How does it change you when He softens an area of your heart?  Do you find it hard to press in to His will that is tailor made for you?  Do you feel the excitement of His personal revelation to you?  Is waiting for further direction hard for you, as it is for me?

Warm Wednesday Words: Consciously Dependent

Hope from God alone

Today I contemplate Who I am dependent on, not what I’m dependent on Him to make me or do for me.  He can change that as often as the wind shifts direction if He chooses.  And it’s not my business to hole up at any given “stop” and sing the praises of how used of Him I may be in that stage.  Nothing’s more boring and uncomfortable then hearing someone sing the arrogant praises of their usefulness to God, which can be a lengthy delusion.

arroganceTo truly take stock of His leading and “nudging”, especially in retrospect, can bring me to stark realizations of my failure to follow.  I become keenly aware of His gentle tugs and my reasoning to the contrary.  Of course, if I haven’t spent much time in prayer, meditation and Bible study, then I’m not as likely to have experienced His personal comfort, exhortations, nudging, and yes, even discipline.

Lean not on your own understanding

But once the soul searching has commenced, I fasten my eyes on Him and take a deep breath before “marching on”.  It doesn’t matter what others judgement of my walk is (within the guidelines of the Word).  “Theirs” is to take stock of His leading, which may be very different then mine.  “Mine” is to take His personal instructions and proceed, keeping my eyes on Him, without heed for the judgment, which some are sure to issue, and without indulging in judging or bitterness myself.  “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold…” Ps. 62:2 HCSB.

the Lord is good for those who Wait for HImThe only definite thing we believers have in common, other than Christ and Him crucified, is whether we are striving to obey His individual calling in our lives; not whether our individual instructions look similar.

shift from logical reasonings

Oswald Chambers set the bar high in his November 15 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated.  A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.’

humilty vs pride

 

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?

Warm Wednesday Words: God Won’t Waste Our Affairs – He Cares

God is with me

When hope lingers slow and the mountain stays the same
words mean little minus public acclaim
When hypocrisies loom bold
and love waxes cold

When you live too many days
under friendly fire haze
And what was real
is denied by hearts of steel.

When friends join the throng
of the popular traitor’s song
it may hurt
but you learn – don’t dessert.

When vision is blurred
And your cries obscurred
Steps grow weak
and hands work meek

Fears grow strong
and doubts come along
God is there, rising up
to fill your cup.

When the promise is broke
and love wears a cloak.
Hate wins a round yet
angels rush to surround.

When the swords come clanging
Radicals at the door banging
shouting “Deny!”
or to your children say goodbye!

But you’ve taught them well
They won’t choose hell.
They close their eyes
and wait to meet you in the skies.

Storms may gather
but God would rather
we look to Him, not the storm..
He’ll transform.

Jesus is worth every trial
there’s no room for denial
His love grows more dear
with every year.

Regardless our circumstances
and the uninformed glances
He won’t waste our affairs.
He sees, He hears, He cares.

LaDonna English

faith makes things possible

Warm Wednesday Words: Peace

I was a child of the 60’s and blossomed in the  70’s, “the Peace Movement decade”, which was anything but peaceful.  The lingering Vietnam war, campus riots, the Jim Jones mass suicide/murder case and many other social injustices brewed anger.  Peace signs were everywhere from wall graffiti to embroidered on our bell bottoms, purses, and book covers.

embroidered peace patchThe Beatles came on the scene and turned pop rock culture on its head, not only because of their pleasing abandonment to energetic musical expression, but also because they used their platform for political and social expression in a period when everyone wanted new and public venues of expression.

second pic of the BeatlesThe church embraced the peace movement in so far as connecting with the culture and we sang songs such as the one below.  Youth groups became the poster child of the traditional church, meeting in coffee houses and other such non traditional settings.

Often the most vociferous protestors for peace seemed to emanate the least amount of it.  But in spite of a decade or more of clamoring for political and public peace, it remained illusive on many levels.  That’s not really surprising because true peace is not about our circumstances or world affairs that effect us.  Circumstances may rock our world, but they can’t steal our inner peace once we have time to reflect on God’s perspective.

peace protestorsOswald Chambers said in his August 26 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘Are you painfully disturbed just now, distracted by the waves and billows of God’s providential permission…is all barren?  Then look up and receive the undisturbedness of the Lord Jesus.  Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him.  If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself….Lay it all out before Him, and in the face of difficulty, bereavement and sorrow, hear Him…’  John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”

Warm Wednesday Words: Fresh Starts and a Grateful Heart

photo.phpFresh morning starts for me involve breakfast and coffee with Tony, cool morning air (preferably sitting on the “chicken yard bench”,  a scripture promise to focus on throughout the day, some worship time with music and a grateful heart.

ytyGod really is greater then all my concerns and as a friend texted me this week…”Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—”(Eph. 3:20).  There is so much in that one verse!  Yes, He is able.  He can do so much above and beyond what I even ask or think!  Last is the catch, if there is one.  It works according to the power that works in us, which hinges on our belief and trust in Him.  This morning I am again thankful for fresh starts to to humble myself before Him and let His power be at work in me. 

forgiven much loves much

As our pastor said in another great message Sunday, we have to make a choice who we will be like, the prideful Pharisee who was consumed with a judgmental, critical spirit, or the humble woman known as a sinner, who could not stop her tears of gratefulness for her Savior.  (Luke 7:36-50) Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance.”  Ps. 138:6 HCSB

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24

Warm Wednesday Words: BUT TAKE HEART

Tonight I am torn between two worlds.  The one my feet are in is full of burdens and heartaches.  There are sweet moments with family and friends but oh how I long for the world I really live in in my heart and soul.  The one my soul is in is full of celebration and good cheer.  My God doesn’t waste difficult circumstances.  He makes hearts soften, turns them radically toward Him, proves His Word and glorifies His Name.  When I focus on this, how can I not rejoice no matter what circumstances I find myself in?

Recently I was thinking about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel chapter 3).  I had always remembered their story as one of God dramatically rescuing them from their trauma although they had boldly alleged their trust in God no matter what He chose to do for them!  But God didn’t rescue them immediately.  They first fell headlong into an intense fire that consumed the guards standing at the top.  And we don’t really know if they had immediate assurance that they would be brought out of this fiery furnace quickly and restored to their “normal” life.  We DO know that there was divine protection while they were IN the fire, and that they were aware of the presence of the very Son of God with them!

And that’s the promise we have.  We will always have God’s divine presence in fiery trials when we have made Him our Lord.  Whether or not we have deliverance before we end up in the midst of a trial is not the important thing for those of us who love God and devote ourselves to Him.  His presence is precious and personal and gives us strength and that is the important thing.  The joy of knowing His deeply intimate love in fiery trials is truly worth the suffering and heartache.

9ac24c0816603ad346de59b79bb522d9As Oswald Chamber says, “God does not give us overcoming life:  He gives us life as we overcome.  The strain is the strength.  If there is not strain, there is no strength.  Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy?  He cannot, unless you will accept the strain.  Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength…If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted, but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength.”

if there is no strain, there is no strength

 

Warm Wednesday Words: The Secret Things

friendship of the LordThere are times I am in circumstances that require me to seek God for the sake of God, not because I have an agenda.  This is not because I don’t have an agenda or keep a prayer “wish” list.  It’s just because I have no control over my list anyway, so I might as well find warmth, comfort and love from God because He is God, loves me and offers an eternal perspective full of hope.  And isn’t that what trust is about anyway?  Turning my control (or lack of) over to the only One who really has control and is All Knowing.  When I spend time worshiping in this realm, it’s not long before my list becomes secondary to His will and He reveals Himself to me in some intimate, personal and often delightful way.

These expressions of His love to me are very real, though their significance is not always  easy to explain to others.   Nor is it always easy for others to explain such personal and holy “secrets” or blessings from God.  It’s not because they’re not genuine, but because God chooses to extol His extravagant love in an often deeply personal way.

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Truthfully, no one can love the way God can.  Who else knows the number of hairs on my head?  Or exactly how I was formed in the womb, including any “defects” he allows as thorns in the flesh for a greater purpose or assets and gifts He places inside for eventual discovery and selfless use.  As Oswald Chambers said in “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘then we find that God wants to get us into relationship with Himself, to get us in touch with His purposes.  Are we so wedded to Jesus Christ’s idea of prayer – “They will be done” – that we catch the secrets of God?  The things that make God dear to us are not so much His great big blessings as the tiny things, because they show His amazing intimacy with us.  He knows every detail of our individual lives.’
Have you laid aside your prayer “wish” list lately and simply pressed into listening for His intimate expressions of love, joy and communication toward you?  He has secrets ready to share with His intimate friends.

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