Warm Wednesday Words: Gap Standers

a word aptly spokenI can remember many special words of encouragement in my life, the people who spoke them, and often even the settings they were spoken in.  Unfortunately, I can also remember words that tore me down. Sometimes the latter were spoken without awareness that I overheard or heard secondhand.  Some left scars and redirected my focus and friendships.  Thankfully the words of encouragement have effected me most.  I am always energized by the knowledge that someone believes in me.  Encouragement is “the wind beneath my wings”.  Encouragers really are heroes, and have a knack at finding the encouragement that belongs with constructive criticism, and they also possess patience, humility, and a desire to listen.

you are the wind beneath my wingsThough I know enough about planes and flying to fill the saddlebags of a flea, I believe that as air currents supply lift to somehow supplement the flight of a plane, so words of encouragement lift us up to do that which God has put in our hearts to do.  Without encouragement, much creativity and revelation sits on the ground waiting for the needed lift, or nosedives shortly after takeoff.  Among  definitions for the word “lift” in the “Free Dictionary” is, “To yield to upward pressure.”  Applying this definition to encouragement, it’s a pleasurable yield and pressure, indeed.

Christopher Crisp, a guest columnist for “The Dispatch” wrote on encouragement in the April 12, 2007 issue.  “I remember sweet people – the people who were non-judgmental.  These ‘sweet people’ have a spirit about them that is infectious to all they come in contact with.  These people put their strength at our disposal.”  They are the “gap standers” in our lives, and demonstrate how we’re to be the same to others.   Since our own burdens are lightened when we bother to encourage others, we miss out when we choose to neglect the ministry of encouragement, or worse, engage in discouragement.  Crisp goes on to say, “There are many ways we can encourage others; a card, hug, handshake, a quiet visit just to listen or just a sincere compliment.”  To a discerning person in need of true encouragement, the detection of fakery, flattery and attention getting scenarios is usually on high alert and they are not taken in by them.

stand in the gap for othersSometimes we just have to find encouragement with our God, whether or not anyone else encourages us.  When disaster struck David and his men by the burning of Ziklag and the heart wrenching scandal of their women having been taken captive, everyone was distraught and blamed David, who was also grief stricken.  “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

fight aloneEncouragement can definitely be found all alone with our God even if it seems everyone around us is against us, or neglectful, though hopefully that doesn’t happen often. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”  (2 Tim. 4:17)

God is fighting for youOur ultimate “Gap Stander” is Christ who is constantly interceding for us, fighting for us, pushing back the darkness, and most amazingly, gave up His life for us so that we could be a joint heir with him and spend eternity with the Father.

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: 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?

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: What is Needed in the Storm

friends pick us up

I’m going through a season of storms, changes and stretches in my life, and so are several of my friends.  Looking back I know that God put many details in place in my life in preparation for this time.  That He did this and impressed several scriptural promises on me beforehand gives me confidence as I walk this path.  Just as I take shelter in a physical storm, I often take shelter in stormy life seasons.  I allow myself the privilege of being hidden in Christ in more meaningful ways then times of “clear skies”.  Making time for deeper and more personal Bible study, reading, journaling, prayer time and worship are all helpful during life storms, even if I have to give up on something I normally make time for.  Just as in a physical storm I might not put myself in the same places as in clear weather for practical and safety reasons, so in a life storm I allow myself to pursue supports that are helpful and loyal, and am cautious about places that may be hurtful.

storms change usOther then my sweet and dependable family members, who I do not take for granted, and especially my husband who prays often while he drives during the day and who is a great listener,  God put other supports in place. They would include prayer warriors, those who encourage, concerned and empathetic listeners, good church leaders and teachers, a generous friend or two offering their skill sets, and a mentor who pours herself into exhorting me and believing in me when I need it the most.  She often asks me to choose her role for the eye of the storm, and if it’s possible she fulfills it.  All of these supports are just the vessels God has used to pour out His love.  They are special, very, very special, but they simply point to a personal God who seems to be saying through them, “It is Me!  I am with you in this storm.

your silent presenceOswald Chambers said (Aug 12 “My Utmost for His Highest”), ‘There are stages in life when…a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely.  If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.”

blessing while going through your own stormWhen Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t suddenly run out of energy when he asked Lazarus’s friends to remove the grave clothes.  He wanted them to be a part of the burden bearing and therefore the bonds that come about from shared burdens and the joy that comes about from answered prayer and miracles.  What is needed in the storm are supports that get us through.  And, interestingly, this is a mutual need and blessing.  What supports has God put in your life to get you through stormy seasons?  Do you see Him in them?  How do you provide support for your friends when they are in a stormy season?

Warm Wednesday Words: Roll Back the Clouds

dark thunder cloudsClouds cover the truth.  Whether they are menacing storm clouds covering the sun and a brilliant blue sky or whether they are clouds of trials and circumstances in our lives that cover our joy; they can block the truth.  They give a false appearance of something large, frightening and lasting, but they are usually short lived, their contents spill out quickly and they dissipate.  Just as the rain is soaked up and converted to use, so the contents of our trials can be useful when we let God convert them  to something good in us.

London to Brighton Veteran Car RunClouds gather moisture content and become puffed up.  They are billowy but without as much substance as would appear.  In Biblical contexts, to be “puffed up” refers to pride. (1 Cor. 5:2, 1 Cor. 8:1)  In the animal world, “puffing up” is an instinctive mechanism used to appear larger and more intimidating then is true.

puffer fishOur trials can seem puffed up, but they will pass and for those of us who turn to God and trust Him in them, they will not be wasted on us.   Clouds can block the light and dampen our moods just as our trials can catch us off guard and bring discouragement and worry.  But when we focus on the truth behind the trial  we can hold on through the dark season of clouds and even find joy there.

puffy clouds and bright skyHoratio Spafford wrote in “It is Well With My Soul”, ‘And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll!’  Rolling back the clouds of our trials reveals truths from God’s Word and is an important habit as we head for that time in eternity when the clouds will be rolled back to reveal heavenly realms.   These realms include God on His throne, angels, a holy city, mansions, streets of gold and an exquisitely set banquet table to name a few.  If you rolled back a few clouds in your life circumstances today, what forgotten truths would you remember?

Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Stretcher Bearers

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There are times I’ve been carried on a stretcher, unable to walk where I needed to go, and there have also been times I have helped carry a “stretcher” with a friend aboard where he or she needed to go.  Though one of the stretcher times for me was a literal stretcher from our wrecked one ton suburban to the ambulance and ER, (I was miraculously ok, albeit sore with a case of whiplash and bruised ribs,  after the full speed blow of a semi broadsided my side of the car giving me a couple full twirls), most of the stretcher times for me weren’t literal.  These have been times when I needed the emotional support of a friend to get through a hard time.  I’m sure you’ve had those times as well.  God is faithful to provide those friends who provide the crutch or stretcher and ample words of encouragement and exhortation.  A stretcher situation requires some coordinated efforts between more than one person, but even if it’s just one friend with a crutch, it’s enough to get me through.

little girls helping

In the Bible, (Luke 5:17-26) there is a story of a man who was carried on a stretcher by his friends to seek healing from Jesus.  In between the lines of this story, it’s easy to see that here were some friends who left enough margin in their lives for helping someone.  And they had enough strength, courage and determination to try the rooftop route when they couldn’t squeeze through the crowd at the door.  They weren’t looking for the first excuse out of this job.  This roof didn’t just have a stretcher sized hole in it.  They had to remove roof tiles, and presumably hung around long enough to fix the roof as well.  I doubt they had the ropes in their back pockets to lower him down.  This endeavor, as most endeavors do, started to grow larger on them.  But they pressed on.  And Jesus healed the man based on “their” faith.    Wow…what a thought that Jesus is willing to heal a man based on his own, possibly weakened, faith combined with his friends.

a friend hears the song I am so thankful for friends and family who lend a crutch or provide a stretcher when I need it.  What I don’t need is tale bearers.  And who does?  Our prayers and faith should have “feet” that spur us on to good deeds of encouragement.   One of my favorite songs is “Carried to the Table” by Leeland.

Christ is my ultimate “stretcher” bearer.  Actually, He doesn’t even need a stretcher to carry me.  He carries me to the table of communion with His strong arms and He’ll carry me (and all who trust in Him as Savior) to the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  A table where I don’t belong, but He says I do.  “Have you had a crutch or stretcher provided for you when you couldn’t do it alone?  Have you lent one?  Do you know the One who will carry you to the ultimate table where you can’t go without His invitation?

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Warm Wednesday Words: Wilderness Manna

gentle terrain

As a believer in Christ for many years, I have covered a wide range of life’s “terrains”, including lush pastures, gentle streams, raging waters, wilderness and desert.  During some seasons I walked a fairly easy trail, other than typical ups and downs.  God lets the young see His splendor, even more than the seasoned ones.  As newlyweds, my husband and I saw it often, especially in the young marrieds class we were heavily involved in at church.  So many stories of “God in Action” with exciting outcomes for both our friends and for us as a couple, as we birthed six beautiful, healthy babies over the years and added an adopted child, too.  A house full of kids and a little farm with extended family nearby had to be somewhat like heaven on earth.  There were also a few times I may have subconsciously stolen a little of God’s glory, too.  It’s so easy to do that when everything is fairly simple, going well and seemingly in my control.  As Oswald says in the May 7 devotional, “Is God going to detect in His searching fire that we have built on the foundation of Jesus some enterprise of our own?”

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kids and the floodcandace's wedding

I wasn’t alone in the   young Christian trap of taking notice of the scriptures that seemed to fit into the “God is about me or what I can do for Him” paradigm.  In her book “Extravagant Grace”, Barbara Duguid says “the baby Christian gravitates toward those Scriptures that tell him what to do, and there are many…the baby Christian is experienced primarily in the realm of feelings…his faith is weak, but his heart is warm.  He tends to mistake the nature of these gifts from God and think they are his…that he will always have them.  He believes he is right and strong because he has them, and he is prone to feeling superior to believers that don’t…He thinks that there is nothing left now but to walk through life with the victorious hand of God on his side, and then to enter heaven forever.  He doesn’t yet know that, like Israel, there is a huge desert to cross before entering the Promised Land.  The desert he has yet to see and grapple with properly is the wilderness of his own sinful heart.”  At the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent praise dance, the Israelites could not have seen the 40 year trek in the desert just ahead, where many of them died off before entering the Promised Land.

desert

Maturity in Christ, for me, has meant some desert or wilderness times, in which I am stretched beyond what I ever dreamed.  In order to get a drink of the Living Water in these seasons, it is critical that I deepen my roots even more into Christ, my Savior, sometimes for even the next thought and breath.  “My” thinking and “good works” is something to despise more than to purport.  Difficult “terrain” requires much time in the Word, in worship, in prayer, in meditation and in seeking good Christian counsel, which God is faithful to supply.  It is also an important season to be consistent in a journal in order to remember His answers, see the desert or wilderness experience from His perspective and to record this and any particularly encouraging words offered by friends and acquaintances along with scripture promises to stand on in faith.  God’s perspective on my experiences often doesn’t look anything like how others may see it; nor how I see theirs.  That’s because, unless we are interceding and seeking God’s perspective for others,  it’s not our business.

wilderness

The unbeliever may or may not experience overwhelming hardships in life.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  (Matt. 5:45) As believers, however, we can count on them, but by our loving God and for glorious purposes.

If I can only hang onto the “invisible” perspective of God during stretching experiences, then I can walk above heartbreaks and disappointments while in the wilderness, and so can you.  In Him I live and move and have my being.  My clay feet sometimes step down into the waves of the storm, or get tired in the wilderness and my vision can get obscured there; however this is usually not an issue of backsliding, but a need for encouragement.  We question Peter’s faith (as Christ, rightfully did) when he struggled, but Peter was the only one who even tried to walk on the waves!

Peter on water

Duguid again offers that, “the greatest heroes of Scripture are deeply flawed throughout their lives.”  And speaking of her women’s Bible study ministry she says, “It is a common occurrence to have someone confess their struggle and weakness in a certain area, only to be rebuked and censured by a younger sister in Christ, who eagerly shares the three easy ways they can overcome the problem….Simplistic answers to complex problems can be discouraging to weary strugglers….We should, therefore, practice great caution in evaluating the spiritual maturity of people around us.”  questions by google

I’ve been guilty of judging (at least silently) with my idea of God’s standards, rather then just watching for fruit, praying, encouraging and leaving the rest to God no matter how different the progress may be in someone else.  Anyone honest would have to admit this also, at some time or another.   After all, it’s too easy to default and compare to each other, but it’s a tendency to kick out, not adopt.   God will carry His work to completion in each of us in His time and through whatever means He chooses, and in the end, there will be fruit in those who are His.  I hope to be an encourager to those along the path near me, especially those who are going through a trial of some sort, and I am blessed more than I can say by those He uses to give me manna in my wilderness journeys.

say what is helpfulWhat kind of terrain are you on right now in your life?  It will likely not be the same in a few years.  Have you found encouragement if your path is rough?  Have you purposed to encourage someone else?  If you’re in “lush pastures” right now, write down all that God has favored you with and remember it for dryer seasons.  No matter the terrain, the “God actions” are there, even if the wilderness obscures your view of them.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

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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