When You Wonder if the Lord Really Shepherds You

hermann pastoral 3

My heart is heavy this week so I’m retrieving yet another post from a couple of years ago.  Today you can steal a peek into my private journal.  I hope you’re encouraged by how the Lord responded to my heart’s cry…

6/18/13                                                                                                                                                            “Do you, the good shepherd, also protect me?   Do you protect me and care for me too?”

That is all I’ll let you see!  Sorry…no further details!

My journal has become, not merely a recording of my thoughts and the events in my life, but my side of a life-long conversation with God.  I try to record my thoughts and prayers toward Him and how He answers and guides me as well.  It’s where I talk to Him.  This was my question of the day a few days ago…maybe the question of the year.

That was written in a moment this week in which I felt vulnerable and unprotected in a worldly sense.  It was a cry to God to want so badly to truly grasp  and sense His loving care.

I happen to be in the book of John at chapter 10 where Jesus proclaims that He is the Good Shepherd.  The day that I wrote my question in my journal was the day I first began meditating on this chapter this week.

By my last post, you could see that  I was discouraged last week.  I am disheartened all the more this week, though.

I was also encouraged last week, though, and I am heartened all the more this week.

I count it a privilege to be among those who can say that.  Discouraged yet encouraged.  Vulnerable yet protected.  Lost yet being guided.

A follower of Christ can, will and should experience both extremes since we are in a broken world but following Christ.

What is your experience like right now?  I hope you are only encouraged and feeling guided and protected by God.  If you are in a time where you also feel the opposite from the world, take heart!

He knows even the most silent prayers.  The ones spoken in the heart…written on  a piece of paper…typed into a Word Document on the computer.  I believe He is pleased and, perhaps, most glorified when we turn to Him for our needs and desires instead of what the world might give.  That is our faith playing out…it shows true belief and trust.

The day after I wrote down my question for God, I was cleaning behind furniture.  I found a ball, some puzzle pieces, a forgotten craft, and a note from my husband.  Seeing the year 2008 scribbled on the note intrigued me. I couldn’t wait to read his thoughts from five years ago.

It was a note from Mother’s Day that year.  It had been given to me along with my gift that day which was a favorite painting, Hermann Pastoral, by a local artist, Catherine Mahoney (see picture at the top of this post).

Before I finished reading the words, the tears came. I remembered what he wrote…from John chapter 10.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

I’m writing more in my journal today…more about the Good Shepherd.  I’m looking up writings by theologians on it.  I want to understand what this means that Jesus is a Good Shepherd.  That I have not just A good shepherd but THE Good Shepherd.  I love what Dan Doriani, pastor and professor has to say about the Good Shepherd…

“Abraham, David and others functioned as good shepherds when they led Israel faithfully. But when Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd” he says it’s more than his function, it is his very nature, for “I am” is a name of God.

In Exodus 3:6 the Lord says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.” Soon he makes the absolute statement “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:13-14). He adds, “I am the one who blots out your sins” (Isaiah 43:25, 51:12). “I am the one who comforts you” (Isaiah 51:12).

So when Jesus says, “I am,” he speaks as God speaks and claims to be God. He says, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, 18:6). He says, ‘I am” bread, water, light, a door, the way, and “the good shepherd.’

With each “I am” saying, Jesus directs longings and needs to himself.

The law gives light (Psalm 119:105), but Jesus is the Light.

The law shows the way we should walk (Deuteronomy 5:32-33), but Jesus is the Way.

Jesus says it is his nature to satisfy our proper longings – our longing for light, guidance and protection. Therefore, we should train ourselves to turn to Jesus to satisfy our longings. If Jesus doesn’t satisfy a desire –directly or indirectly – we should at least ask if it’s a good desire.

We tend to seek fulfillment from temporal things….But these things can’t satisfy our deep desires. When Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” he teaches us to take our hopes to him.”

Hope for safety, understanding, love, joy, healing, peace, approval, understanding, kindness, gentleness, patience, guidance, care, protection…

Are you training to turn to Jesus to have your longings satisfied? All that He has is yours.

What does that look like for you to turn towards Him for your longings?  I would love to hear what this looks like for others in their everyday life.  Please share!

And if you wonder if He really cares, protects and shepherds you?  The answer is YES!

Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs.  I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button  Spiritual Sundays     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"       Grab button for Being Confident of This  Dance With Jesus   

 1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket

On Revisiting the Past

I’m revisiting the past this week…a post from about one year ago…

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The million steps to 35 years ago is literally just a few blocks away.

I live one street over from a house I grew up in. Sometimes I take my children down that dead-end road. We walk down the gravel road where I remember…like yesterday…playing in the puddles with my brother. Running his green Tonka truck through the brown sludge.

It was a dream home for our family. A house in town but in the woods. We could walk to school by taking a trail through the woods. There was also a cave we could hike to.  My dad would always stop at a persimmon tree along the way to see if it’s orange fruit was sweet yet. We built log cabins with some neighborhood kids out of fallen trees. I kissed frogs and believed they really might turn into princes. There was a giant rock shaped like an owl. We would outline it with chalk. I remember one time, my sister stepped on a giant thorn near the rock, so owl rock was always tainted in my mind as being a bit dangerous. It went right through her shoe and I can still see the thorn and the mustard yellow sock drenched with red.

We only lived there for about four years but they were my elementary school years. The beginning of my vivid memories. It turns out that these memories are what I think of when I think of my childhood.

So this walk to the old house that I take with my kids every so often…it’s…magical. I’m flooded with all of these memories and more. I cry too because there is some pain in these memories. After four years of living in that house, we had to sell it and move. It was a loss of a dream for my parents and it was a loss of the magical child-world for me.

So I bring my kids back for a taste of it. What is it that I’m searching for? Innocence? A memory? An adventure lost in the woods at the age of 8? My cat…the one I never saw again after moving?

This past weekend my husband had the idea. We’d talked about it for years but have never done it. “Everybody put long pants on!” He announced where we were going and I ran to the basement to grab a box of sidewalk chalk. I stuffed four pieces in my husband’s pants. Two in each pocket.

We parked at the beginning of the gravel road and walked down. My feet settling into indentations where puddles grow. Thoughts of little brother and the Tonka truck. This time we didn’t just walk down the gravel road and back as I’d done since moving back to my hometown eight years ago. This time we went beyond the gravel road. We walked up to the deserted house. We peeked in the windows. I strained my eyes to see things I may have seen as a child and touch things I may have touched. My kids rolled down the hill…just like I did.

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I touched the wood on the deck…the same wood I touched as a child. A tear came as I saw the remains of the wood that used to hold up my dad’s herb garden. I’m sure he made it himself. I saw the shape of the rooms, but so much had changed. The paint, the wallpaper, the floors. The one that looked the least changed was the workshop where I remember “working” with my dad. Making the wood curls with the wood shaver. All of the rooms were so much smaller than they seemed as a child. The house itself was rotting on the outside. My husband had warned me that it wouldn’t be good. That the ruins of this house would be shocking for my soul. It was. He made a suggestion that we move on so we did.

We set out to accomplish what we had really came there for. To discover, once again for me and once anew for my kids…owl rock. It felt like Christmas morning to me. To discover, once again, this special place I had only seen in pictures since my childhood.

I knew just where to go. Like the million steps to 35 years ago had vanished. I was there. We tromped over junk. Old fences and appliances and even a refrigerator that was there when we moved in. Crazy how my memory got us back to it. It was so easy. But as I got closer to it, I grew greatly disappointed. It was covered by small trees. And it was almost as if the trees were intentionally grown over it. It wasn’t just brush that could be pulled away. Two to three inch in diameter trees were growing…as if they bent over backwards to make it impossible for me to re-connect with my childhood. I began grabbing them and trying to pull them away. But it was useless. The tree with thorns on the trunk and branches was the first I was to grab. As I pulled it away with frantic force to get to my past, a thorn drug through my finger and the trunk stayed put. Blood ran. Just like on my sister’s sock. I felt a bit rejected by my past. I’ve wondered in the past week, what the Lord might be telling me about looking into my past.

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My children couldn’t quite grasp what the excitement of owl rock was all about. They couldn’t quite make out the owl shape. The chalk…stayed inside my husbands pocket. I remained desparate to change the situation, but no change could be made. I took sad pictures of my kids on the tree-covered rock. No longer owl rock.

“I’ll come back up here and clear it out before we come back again,” said my husband. It was a nice thought but, my desire to re-discover owl rock was vanishing quickly.

With less enthusiasm than before, we left the woods and walked into the clearing of my childhood backyard. The kids rolled down the hill while I looked on with a sad heart.

Sometimes…revisiting the past can be thorny. It seems good at the time, but the reality of it can be painful…bloody…soul sickening. Although sad, God is using this wasteland of a once magical place to remind me of some glorious truths about grace. He renews me…even in this place.

The same week that I experienced this disappointment of the owl rock overgrowth, I experienced the reality of an overgrowth of disappointment and pain on my own heart over a matter of the past. Stuff that happened, not 35 years ago, but more recently. A long drawn out battle that keeps waging against me and rearing it’s ugly head.   Some of the most disappointing circumstances in my life have happened within the past year.

What do we do with these past experiences? Ones we either willingly revisit or ones that require us to revisit them? Sometimes it’s both. We are forced to revisit it and, perhaps, we stay too long when the Lord clearly tells us to not dwell on certain aspects of it. Or we willingly visit (innocently or not) thorny places that we didn’t realize how dangerous they were.  Or we sinfully dwell on a conversation or gossip about a situation. We tell our story…bring it up again…to be sure others know what really happened.  The bloody battles…like thorns that pierce us. If I had my choice, I’d choose to run away from this one. I’d choose not to peek into the windows to try to find something to remember because I don’t want to remember.  Yet in the midst of this past trial and the memories of it and the continuing saga…I am tempted.  I  am tempted toward gossip, defending, anger,  bitterness, worry, control, vengeance and even…distrusting God.

Sometimes we innocently revisit the past with joy and find that it isn’t as sweet of a place to revisit as we thought.

Sometimes the past is sinfully revisited and we find that it sours our soul.

Sometimes the past is thrust upon us and we can’t seem to get away from it. It pierces our soul and bleeds us dry.

Sometimes, it’s a surprising mixture of all these things.

And in all these things, we must turn toward the Lord:

If we are sad, turn toward Him.
If we are bitter, turn toward Him. If angered, turn toward Him.  If feeling anxiety, turn toward Him. If distrusting, turn toward Him.
If we are tortured, turn toward Him.

There is no twelve step program.  Can we really manage the sin and pain?  Is there any way to keep these times from coming? 

I don’t think so.  But we can live the surprisingly abundant life that the Lord provides in the midst of it all.

The solution is to turn toward Him.

To simply (not always easily) turn toward Him in prayer and repentance (if needed) is the answer.  To be reminded of who He is and who we are in Him through His Word is the answer.

In all of these situations, I find these verses to be helpful, convicting and comforting…

1 Peter 5:6-11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs.  I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button  Spiritual Sundays     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"       Grab button for Being Confident of This  Dance With Jesus   

 1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket

But I Will Hope

ruthie egg

Her eyes delighted in the blue egg and her little hands cupped it gingerly.  I told her we should leave it where it was and she reluctantly complied.  For two weeks she wondered why the mommy didn’t come after it and how it fell out of its nest.  Every day she ran around to the side of the house to check on its status.

I tried to warn her of the realities of what happens when an egg doesn’t have a mama to care for it.  I told her it would take a miracle which was a mistake. To me, saying those words meant it was pretty much impossible.  To a little girl who hasn’t had many hopes dashed in life, it meant possibility and hope.  When I realized this, I tried to undo it but it was too late. She had already hoped and prayed for a miracle and I was cringing.

Two days ago she ran into the house announcing with great joy that the egg was cracking.  She was sure the baby was emerging.  She lead my mom and I to the side of the house.  We could see that the egg was not hatching.  The egg had been damaged and we could see the yolk.  The moment she too realized this, I could see something disappear in her face.  Joy, confidence and hope vanished and were replaced with what looked like resoluteness.

Was she resolving to never hope again?  Was she already kicking herself inside for not listening to us and instead hoping?  She turned and walked away with her new expression.  I knew that her innocent hope had been broken.  I started to explain to my mom how we had gotten to this point.  That I hadn’t encouraged her to hope this much.  My mother gave me a look that only a woman who has lived on this dream shattering earth for over seventy years could.  “She needs you,” she said.  I left my mom and went to her.

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She let out a cry as I walked in the room as if she had been holding it in for the full three minutes it took for me to get there.  I held her and she wailed.  It was the wail I’d heard come from deep within my own heart before. That wail that comes from loss in life.  The one that comes forth when you want God to come through with ever fiber of your being to explain himself, to DO something…anything, to turn back time, produce a miracle…bring back to life.

This during the week we are studying that Jesus called himself The Resurrection and the Life.  How do I connect this to the egg for my little girl…me?

I am a visionary and tend to think of myself as hopeful.  I try to pray big prayers.  When someone is sick, I pray for complete healing and miracles.  But I have to admit, at times I can be a bit jaded by shattered dreams, lost hopes and, what seems like, unanswered or delayed prayer.  Perhaps that is why I was able to tell my five year old that it would take a miracle for a baby bird to hatch from the egg.  You see, to me that was as good as saying that it would never happen.  For even though I’ve prayed big prayers and hoped big hopes, I haven’t always seen results or answers that I want.

While the Lord has seen fit to shock me with His goodness, provision and care, there have been many times that His provision has felt delayed or given in little crumbs here and there.  I have wondered if I was ignored at times. What if my words about the miracle showed me that my prayers don’t necessarily always show how much I hope in the God who calls himself The Resurrection and the Life?

So I pray big prayers but are they just lip service?

To “pay lip service” is to consent in one’s words while dissenting in one’s heart.

Am I joyfully hoping in an amazing God or am I just going through the motions?  Do I really expect big things anymore from the God who called Lazarus to wake up and who rose from the dead himself?  In my heart, is He distant or close?  Do I pray like He is listening and active or like he is sitting on his throne with arms crossed?  Do I live like I believe that He works in my life with the same power that brought Christ back from the dead?

Resurrection Power in my life…really…do I trust there is a God who wields that kind of power toward us who believe as we face life?

I’ve been reading Ephesians and I just can’t get past the first two chapters.  I want to wrap my mind around this prayer Paul prays for other believers.  I want to pray it for myself and others with thorough understanding and joyful hope that the Lord will grant it.

I do not cease to give thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” -Ephesians 1:16

To have joyful hope in this God like a little child, would that be so foolish?

Perhaps the lost dream was not enough to discourage my daughter from hoping again.  Later that day she said that she was praying for more eggs.  That she was dreaming of having enough eggs to give out to our friends.  Just a few hours later, the Lord answered her big prayer.  She just happened to come across another egg to watch when a friend found one.  She is still hoping and praying.  Against all odds, she trusts that God could do a miracle and that even if He doesn’t, He is still a big and good God. Her attitude reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so,our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”                   -Daniel 3:16-18

Those young men were testifying of God’s ability to deliver them as they faced execution for not worshiping King Nebuchadnezzars false gods.  I always liked that about them and this story.  Something I hadn’t thought of though is what comes across as fresh and child-like hope.  They and Daniel don’t seem jaded to me.  Though they were in exile, humanly powerless before their earthly captors, they also trusted that God was working.  They not only fearlessly prayed, but they also were hoping. I don’t think they were paying lip service to him.  I think they not only thought God was able, but that God would answer their prayers.  And perhaps the key to their ability to hope was a surrender to his sovereignty.

My ESV Gospel Transformation Bible puts it this way:

“But if not…”(v.18) indicates a willingness to bow before God’s sovereign wisdom and will.  They do not demand that God deliver them in the way that they think is best but trust that he will deliver as he knows is best.  God’s deliverance may come in this life or in the life to come, but his grace is always operating to provide what is best for our eternal good.”

My daughter now has some new wisdom about how much eggs really do need mama birds to keep them warm.  She also still joyfully hopes though, that her God is able to bring forth a chick from the motherless egg as sure as He brought forth Lazarus from the tomb.  She believes He will, despite her past disappointment.  By God’s grace she will continue trusting in him even when or if the egg doesn’t hatch.

And me?  I’m praying about how I move toward God in prayer and I’m earnestly seeking the Lord and His provision through it.

I’m also asking myself…

Do I truly believe that he is able to answer all of my prayers?  Do I still hope and take joy in hoping and the great privilege of approaching him in prayer?

Do I believe He will answer my prayers, despite past disappointment and worldly rationalizations?

Will I continue to trust him and proclaim his goodness even if he doesn’t answer my prayer as I see fit?

“But I will hope in you and praise you yet more and more.” -Psalm 71;14

but i will hope

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20

Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs.  I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button  Spiritual Sundays     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"       Grab button for Being Confident of This  Dance With Jesus   

 1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Disrupts and Restores

palm leaf

dis·rupt
disˈrəpt/
verb
   interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem.
   drastically alter or destroy the structure of (something).
 
To say Jesus disrupts might be a bit of an understatement.   But I’ll stick with that because that is was the wordage my husband used this past Sunday when he preached.  He and, as always, the Lord get credit for any thoughts written here this week.
 
Jesus disrupts.
 
So you probably know the story.  Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey.  The people wave palm branches and praise him.  Once again the religious leaders are disrupted and tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples.  “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’ ” (Luke 19:40).
 
Hosanna
He is worthy of our praise and honor.
 
And then He went on to disrupt more…
 
“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,  saying to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers'” (Luke 45-46).
 
Jesus was fiercely protecting the temple for it’s main purpose…prayer and worship.  And that purpose was to be shared with those who didn’t know him, the Gentiles.  But the area to be reserved for the Gentiles was being used for commercial purposes.
 
Is there any way in which the Lord needs to disrupt me as a Christian, the local church body or the worldwide church?
Is there any way I/we are putting up barriers to those who don’t know Him from hearing about Him, learning more about Him or coming to know Him?
Is there an area of my life that Jesus is wanting to disrupt so that I can grow in Him or so that I can love Him or others better?
 
Jesus disrupted the world about 2,000 years ago.  He disrupted my life about 15 years ago.  My world was turned upside down.  And you know what?  He is still turning my world upside down.  Just the other day He reminded me to turn, once again, toward loving my family well. He is calling me to slow down on some personal goals and dreams and remember my first loves…Him and my family.
Because Jesus not only disrupts, He also restores.
Jesus disrupts and restores us to proper functioning as followers of Jesus.
 
So how is Jesus disrupting your life?  Where is He wanting to restore you to proper functioning? Where should you let him?
 
Is He calling you to simply move from a usual schedule this week toward praising and honoring Him?
 
May we do that with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength.
 
Do you long for His disruption?
 
May He disrupt you and restore you this Easter and always…by His grace.
 
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” -Hebrews 13:20-21
 
Blessings to you as you celebrate the Risen Lord this Easter!
 
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Due to Jesus’ disruption, I’m turning away from the busyness of a typical week.  I will not be participating in any link-ups but I’ll be back next week!

Our Entire Blessedness

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Do you ever foolishly stoop to drink from another fountain than Christ?

I do.

I feel Him calling me to turn away from my fleshly responses to life and back toward Graceland.  Trusting in Him fully in each moment.  JESUS is my entire blessedness.  Why do I wallow in the world and flesh?  I have Him…abundance…in each moment. 

But I must choose that.

How many other fountains are there?  Let me count the ways…

The fountain of control.

The fountain of anger.

The fountain of worry.

The fountain of fear.

The fountain of distrust.

The list of the fountains that my flesh offers in place of the fountain of Christ are endless.

Yet if we are bound to Christ, found in Him, our entire blessedness is in Him.

Thank you, readers, for sharing your thoughts with me.  Sometimes, like today, I add more to my posts because of your insights.

Lyli shared this verse with me…

“The Fear-of-God is a spring of living water
    so you won’t go off drinking from poisoned wells.” – Proverbs 14:27 MSG

and another version for more insight…

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.” – Proverbs 14:27 ESV

and Beth shared this song with me: All My Fountains by Chris Tomlin

and I awoke this morning sensing the need to add this:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
    they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
    nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
    so do all who trust in them.” -Psalm 135:15-18

The Lord is calling me…and all of those who love Him to turn toward Him.  May we live as ones who trust in the Lord, turning away from the works of the flesh.  Let’s begin to begin again.  We can do it each of our days and at any moment within them.

As my ESV Gospel Transformation Bible says:

“Union with Christ is not a single specific blessing we receive in our salvation.  Rather, it is the best phrase to describe all the blessings of salvation.  We have unconditional election in Christ, adoption in Christ, fulfillment of God’s plan in Christ, redemption and forgiveness in Christ, until the final uniting of all things in Christ.”

Looking forward with you, my friends, toward the final uniting of all things in Christ.  What area of life can you begin to begin again…turning toward Him and living as one who trusts in the Lord?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” -Ephesians 1:3-10, ESV

I love to hear your thoughts…please share them with me and/or subscribe to the right so that we can keep in touch each week!

Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs.  I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button  Spiritual Sundays     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"       Grab button for Being Confident of This  Dance With Jesus   

 1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket

The Kind of Death I Long For

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Not too far from my house there is a patch of woods that runs along a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.  It’s in a place that is quite special to me.  To get there you have to enter a cemetery.  I grew up not far from this cemetery, so going there is like revisiting my childhood.  My siblings and I used to ride our bikes through it as kids.  Once in a while, intrigued by the antiquity of them,  we would stop to look at the graves.

Once inside the cemetery, the entry point to the patch of woods we like to explore is right behind the statue of Jesus held by his mother. I think of her mother fears as I too join her in letting my children go.  We head toward the very edge of the bluff overlooking the train tracks and Missouri river.  Sometimes I fear their safety in moments like this,  but we head on toward beauty and adventure.

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My kids walk past old trees that stood even when I was their age.  Trees that have stood the test of time, peeking through and over each other, watching all those buried and weeping.  Rooted well I guess.

That is how I want to be.  Rooted well.

Still able to stand as I watch death come and go.  Able to stand in Christ and for Christ in the good times as well as the bad.  Able to say no to the world, yes to Christ.  Willing to look like a crazy Jesus freak, when I want to look so normal and acceptable.  I want to be rooted in His love, solidly living out trust in His love and acceptance of me.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  -Colossians 2:6-7

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:14-19

We come upon a cluster of trees still rooted but beaten and bending over the bluff toward the river.  Roots still clinging to the ground for life and trunks still bending toward the living water but oh so weathered and beaten. That’s how I want to be.

There are, of course, other trees that didn’t stay rooted.  We climb those and sit on them.  Amazed at how they can still exist in this world after so many years of being uprooted.  We throw rocks over the bluff, visit our secret garden and come out at a friend’s house.  We marvel at nature with him and then head back toward our car…through the cememtery.

A woman we know is visiting her deceased husband’s grave.  We talk about the hardness of death.  She trembles.  We fumble for words.  We try to struggle with this death talk right smack in the middle of the most beautiful day on earth.  I was somewhat relieved when we left and headed toward the car, released from helping someone carry the burden of death.  But I couldn’t get in the car.  I felt a gentle but firm nudge…a feeling that I just couldn’t get back in the car without going back to pray for that woman.  Why didn’t we do it before?  And was I crazy to feel this urge?

Ugh.

My deepest desire was to do it.  But my flesh…it didn’t want to.  I’d look so funny running back to her down that long driveway through the cemetery.  What would she be thinking as she sees me on that long jaunt back toward her, all the while probably wanting privacy as she grieves. I stood for several minutes contemplating.  My family looking at me strangely, begging me to get in.  But no…I couldn’t.  I couldn’t get in until I did this thing that was most unexpected.  It felt as if my getting back in the car would be the tone I was setting for the rest of my walk with Christ.  Really?

This little thing…sensing a heavy burden to pray.  That may just be my own thought….or maybe not.  This…this is really going to make or break my walk?

I don’t believe if I would’ve walked away the Lord would’ve been angry with me or abandoned me.  But I do believe there comes a time when we need to follow what we feel God is calling us to. For the sake of the Lord and all He’s done for us.  For our own sakes too.  To live a life congruent with what we say we believe.  To put Him above our worldly concerns.  And the thought of getting in the car just didn’t seem possible.  As much as I couldn’t imagine really walking back there to pray for that woman, I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

That there, my friends, is the pattern I normally see when I think the Lord wants me to do something.  As much as I can’t imagine doing what I believe He wants, I can’t imagine not doing it.  It is when the flesh and the spirit collide and I feel the spiritual world and the physical world at odds.  That is usually when I know.

So I said, “I’ll be right back…I have to go back and do something.”

Without taking time to explain, I left my family and walked back…briskly.  As awkward as it was, I told her that I felt a burden that, perhaps, the Lord wanted me to come back to pray.  She was thankful and accepted the invitation toward awkwardness with a smile and tears.

I must admit, I move in my heart away from death.  I want nothing to do with it.  As a Christian, I’m not afraid of what will happen after death.  But I don’t want to leave my family.  I want to keep living out my days here.  But this…this rare experience reminded me of the death I do want.

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Paul, Galations 6:13

My ESV study bible says this:

“Paul is saying that the entire world system in all its glory, but in opposition to God, is dead or destroyed in its power to attract him; it has no influence or power over Paul, no appeal to him.  Paul is similarly dead to the desires and attractions of the world, for he serves Christ as his new master.”

May this world hold no sway over me.  When it doesn’t have sway over me, Holy Spirit stuff happens.  This is the kind of death I long for.  Death to the world and any caring about what others think that would hinder me from following Christ or from anything He calls me to as I follow Him.

As His Spirit holds more and more sway over us, may we, then, hold more sway in the world. 

Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs.  I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button  Spiritual Sundays     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"       Grab button for Being Confident of This  Dance With Jesus1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket

If You Have a Dream

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Do you have a dream?  I hope you do.  God has made you and molded you in your life circumstances for certain gifts, longings, desires and passions. Often times, these stir in our hearts and minds for years and months before we take real steps toward living them out.

I’ve had a longing to write and create pictures since I was a little girl.  I remember at about age four or five I would trace the pictures from Lois Lenski’s Strawberry Girl and pretend to write in those blank spaces around the pictures.  As I grew, I made more of my own pictures and writings.  In college, I was encouraged in my writing, but I ignored it in order to be more practical.  I’m just now, in my forties, nourishing the writer and artist in me.

The world will tell you that you can do anything…but I’m here to tell you  that isn’t always true.  I know after my first two paragraphs that may sound really discouraging, but I promise, the goal is to ultimately encourage.

You see, sometimes you can put all of your money, energy or hopes into a goal or passion and it may, from the world’s viewpoint, look like a miserable failure.  Sometimes things really don’t turn out the way you thought.  I believe we’ve all had that happen to our dreams.  Sometimes families don’t turn out the way you envisioned when walked down the isle or when you brought that baby home.  Sometimes careers are dashed by things that seem out of your control.    Death or illness comes knocking and your dream to live alongside another or live well is taken away.  Sometimes, it’s just the smaller dreams that get dashed. Your simple to-do list is deemed inappropriate by 7 am by a sick child.

Yeah, the world tells us we can do anything.  But the truth is, sometimes we just can’t.  But I’m here to say, that if your hope is in Christ, we’re OK even when that happens.

Over the past week, my husband transformed a corner in our bedroom from being a place that I piled the kids’ outgrown clothes to being my writing nook.  The first morning I sat down in this space I nearly cried.  For about a decade now I’ve been using a little bookshelf, the end of the couch and an end table as my personal space.  All of that time, this space was waiting.  I had a new view of my world.  I could see people walking in the neighborhood and all of the many squirrels bustling through a system of trees from my yard to the surrounding yards.  I could watch how the birds were working and the writer in me felt fed by my space for the first time in what seems like a lifetime ago.

I have a dream to use my writing and creativity to help produce some income for my family.  My husband is working several part time jobs while he establishes a ministry.  Watching him work so hard, makes me want to help out as much as possible.  My main job is homeschooling, but I believe I can put some part time hours in doing something I love.

My business idea may  not work.  The hubby may have to keep working four jobs.  We may even lose more money. So why are my husband and I pursuing what we believe to be our callings?

It’s not because we trust in ourselves…that we can do anything and be successful.  It is because we are putting our hope in God until He shows us it is time to do something else.

There have been times and there will be times when I don’t feel blessed.  When counting material blessings is hard and doesn’t seem to impact me much.  Times when it is hard not to look only at my immediate circumstances. A grateful heart only takes you so far if you’re only thankful for material blessings.  As Christians, we must look at our true lasting blessings.

Whether or not our dreams come true, we are blessed.

Why is He whose help is the God of Jacob, the Lord, so blessed?

  1. He is the maker of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.  He is powerful and creative and all knowing if He created me and my surroundings.  He must know how to help me!  He is beyond capable!
  2. He remains faithful forever. How can I trust in anyone’s help who is not faithful?
  3. He is merciful and compassionate showing mercy on and helping those who are in need (the widow, fatherless, oppressed, hungry, prisoners, blind, bowed down, righteous, alien).
  4. He reigns forever. I am on the victor’s side!

Whether or not I receive material blessings and all of my dreams come true. I have the above.  The faithful, powerful, merciful, compassionate, reigning, maker of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.

Whether or not my dreams come true in this life, God is good.  I believe He is able.  I trust that He will bless what I believe to be God-given desires. But even if He doesn’t allow them to be fruitful (according to my definition of fruitful)…He is good!

I think of the those good old boys, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego…

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” -Daniel 3:16-18

Their situation was way different, but I often think of them when I put myself “out there” in life…

As we, with wisdom, throw ourselves into the furnace of pursuing what we feel God is calling us to, we can say with Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, “He is able, but even if He doesn’t bless in the way we are hoping, we will still serve, worship and trust Him.  He is still good.”

He takes care of the birds in the trees that I watch out my window. And He takes care of you and me.

I have a bird’s eye view of my neighborhood up here in my nook.  We need a bird’s eye view of our life.  And wow…as I wrote that a huge beautiful pileated woodpecker flew across my view and into my pecan tree!  I felt the Lord was really showing me something and then….boom!  My son walked in the room playing a loud Lego video that he wanted to share with me.  I showed him the woodpecker and thought about what I was writing while I watched the video.  Yes. The Lord’s work and listening to him can be interrupted by seemingly unimportant things.  What will we do in those times?

Now I see across the alley, on the next street over,  a mother walking down the street with her son.

Will we continue to love?   Will we pull away in anger?

A bird’s eye view, a heavenly view of life, will enable us to hover high over our circumstances. Perhaps it would allow for us to accept that there are higher purposes going on.  God’s plan.  His definition of fruitful may not be the world’s definition, or even ours.

Are you taking a God-view of your circumstances today?

Whatever it is…could you offer up a praise to Him who is able, active and powerful?

Could you trust that He is good, whether or not He allows for your hopes and plans to come to fruition?

“Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess His name.” -Hebrews 13:5

And if your losses are too unbearable to praise God through…then cry out to Him.  He is merciful and compassionate.

He takes care of the birds in the trees that I watch out my window. And He takes care of you and me too.

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“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” -1 Peter 5:7

Linking up with the ladies at the following inspiring blogs this week:

purposefulfaith.com     Photobucket Holly Barrett    linkup  SDG Gathering A Field of Wildflowers sunday-stillness-button     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45  The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"     Dance With Jesus  Grab button for Being Confident of This  1114updatedbutton  mom blogs party  Imparting Gracesaving4six     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge _     7 Days Time      WHHWButton200X200I Choose Joy!    Photobucket