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?

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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: 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: 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.

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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: Grace Inspires

amazing grace how sweet the sound

When I think about the grace that has been given me at the cross, I am humbled and deeply inspired to respond in devotion.  I know that I share with human kind the desperately wicked heart malady that birthed sin back in the Garden of Eden, and I am forever grateful for a Savior who chose excruciating affliction in my place.  He vacated His throne to be humbly born and live among us, suffered every kind of trial known to man, was tortured leading up to the cross, carried the tribulation to completion, paying every debt while hanging for all to see on a cross.  There, pride was nailed in place by the King of Kings, who knew its insidious evil.  He refused to indulge in it.

He is Risen

I am amazed that during those hours of extreme pain, He spurned relief because of His great love for the likes of you and me.   He could’ve called ten thousand angels.  But He didn’t.  He had us on His mind.  And that’s a claim no one can make undergoing that kind of suffering.  Not one of us would languish in agony until death for our enemies, when we had a choice to end it with one word.   Amazing grace.

love not nails held Him

I wholeheartedly concur with Carl Boberg,  “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

my God how great thou art

That grace that saved me inspires a response.  It calls me to devotion, obedience and action.  If I were to go on about my life like nothing ever happened and change is not vital, I  would need to take another look at whether I had ever truly repented.  At the very “least” (really not so “least” at all), pride would be replaced with humility and gratefulness.  If I continuously and knowingly take advantage of the grace I received as a result of Christ’s suffering and victory over sin, something is very wrong.   In regard to this very subject God uses Paul to say in Romans 6, “By no means!

kneeling at cross

To quote another hymn writer, George Bennard,  “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.”  Do you cherish the salvation that is offered you because of the cross?  How does it inspire you to respond?

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