Phil Wickham “Divine Romance”
Though I too often let the business of life crowd out the mindset God has laid out for me, the deepest feeling of satisfaction for me comes from time spent in the Word because God never fails to reveal things to me and because His presence is a great comfort and guide in this life full of trials and temptations.
It’s natural for us to try to find comforting things that make us feel happy and I certainly have my favorites: a cup of coffee (even better a latte), a pile of books, family times, a close friend, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and dark chocolate to name a few. But I’ve found that nothing can bring the satisfaction I long for except time spent in the Word and worship. Beth Moore says in her “Living Free” Bible study, “I believe God creates and activates a nagging dissatisfaction in every person for an excellent reason….God purposely created us with a need only He can meet…. Unfortunately, salvation alone does not completely fill the need…Christians can be miserably dissatisfied if they accept Christ’s salvation yet reject the fullness of a daily relationship that satisfies…He wants us to find the only things that will truly satiate our thirsty and hungry hearts.”
Sometimes too much of a good thing is gluttony and runaway expectations are hurtful. Beth goes on to say, “I am not minimizing the difficulty, but I am suggesting the obstacles are removed by volition. Some of the idols in our lives – things or people we have put in God’s place – can take much longer to remove. Some of them have been in those places for years and only the power of God can make them budge. We must begin to remove idols by choosing to recognize their existence and admitting their inability to keep us satisfied.”
The Rolling Stones captured the age old problem of dissatisfaction in their song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction, cause I try and I try and I try and I try.’ As long as our misguided hearts cause us to seek satisfaction in the wrong places permanent satisfaction will continue to elude us. Not only will it elude us, but our efforts to chase it down and have it can become dangerous to ourselves or those around us. To continue to indulge makes that thing an idol and/or a stronghold. Isaiah knew exactly what happens to an individual caught in such a trap, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’ (44:20)” This is where intercession with all sorts of prayers for ourselves and others entrapped can be like a spiritual life raft for the soul. God can and does open the blind eye and set free the captive when we pray with tenacity and faith.
Beth Moore confides in her personal experience of having her eyes opened to a lie she once held tightly in her hand, “I also remember the harrowing moment God opened my eyes to see what a lie I had believed. I cried for days. I originally thought this lie was a good thing…My heart, handicapped in childhood, had deluded me….My only consolation in my idolatry is that I finally allowed God to peel away my fingers…I am very aware that Satan will constantly cast idols before me.”
Chris Tomlin expresses well the delightful satisfaction in choosing what’s true in his song, “Satisfied”.
The most satisfying time of my day is the time in Bible study each morning with my husband. God’s Word never fails to comfort and exhort me. I am grateful for those who have prayed for me, because at times in my life I have blindly fed on ashes and grasped at lies. Have you? Do you know someone was praying for you? I also know some who have or are feeding on ashes and “cannot save themselves”, as Isaiah says, because they don’t recognize the lie. They need and get my prayers! Have you went to war in prayer lately for yourself and others in order to peel a lie from the hand and pull back a friend from a meal of ashes?
Dictionary.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?
Because 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.
That 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.
Last 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.
The 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.
If 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.’
As 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.
A 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!
The 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.
Sitting 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.
When 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.
He picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Most 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.
Here’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.
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.
The 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.
With 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.
Here’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.
In 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.
That 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?
Last fall I was well into a dark and difficult season of my life in which I needed to cling to every scrap of hope just to function. I longed for a time machine to jump in and travel to a few years from now and skip this season. Since that didn’t happen, I did the next best thing and purchased several bags of beautiful bulbs and crammed them in every available flower bed and pot around the house. Other then the times I was buoyed with the lifeline of empathy, encouragement and time out with family and friends (who are cemented in my personal hall of fame), my “recreation” centered on bulb catalogs and wondering what mile marker I would be passed when each variety bloomed. Bulbs symbolize what God, in His Divine Providence, is doing in the hidden realms that we don’t see. Yet for those who love Him, He is faithful to work all the intricate details out and use them for His glory and our good. He is a master weaver of our circumstances, even though we can’t see the finished tapestry yet.
Amaryllis gave me just what I needed during the dead of winter to hold me over until spring and outdoors. It was fun to buy several and share them with some family and a mentor who has stood staunchly on faith and determinedly propped me up a few times, as well. Our faith filled prayers for God’s glory to be evidenced in difficult circumstances are synchronized as we tend to our amaryllis bulbs and watch their beauty unfold.
His creation of the flowering bulb holds striking symbolism of my faith and trust in Him even when I can’t see what He’s doing. Even the bulb, itself, holds symbolism. While it is in the cold, dark, earth, it finds it’s sustenance from within to send forth the new growth. While I am in the dark trial, I must find strength from my inner most core; i.e. the Lord and His Spirit and the comfort, direction, and even sure promises that I can only get from time spent alone with Him
When the city’s in shambles
and unknowns abound
pray hard for the vandals
that truth would confound.
Lies meant to stir hatred
violence, crimes and unrest
destroy what is sacred
and won’t pass the test.
For evidence will disclose
a man’s effort to be true
one who heroically forgoes
his own safety for me and you.
He has respect from the grateful
even if a sorrowful state of mind
and violence from the hateful
who have an axe to grind.
They forgot the mockingbird was innocent
like the very one set up.
He was not defined by insolence
nor fight, thievery and such schmuck.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a sin
because the plot did imbibe
meanness, lies, and scandalous rumors wherein
the fearful and bullies felt emboldened in the tide.
But now who is the mockingbird
and who is the lynch mob?
Where is the hero who will stand strong and be heard?
Must the mockingbird’s heart continue to throb?
Lord make us humble
walk in truth, respect and by a code
Let us not stumble
into hypocritical mode.
I 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?
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
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..
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.