If Patience and Slowing Feels Painful

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This carousel at the St. Louis zoo always makes me dizzy.  Not unlike how I feel in life.  Days rushing by like everything around this ride.

Colors and lights blurring past me like the years that have passed since the carousel’s first use in the 1904 World’s Fair.

Sometimes as the days, months and years pass I can catch a glimpse of what my aching heart longs for.

Love.

Jesus.

My loved ones.

The church.

The last months have felt like this.

I tried to take a picture of my children on the zoo train.  The pictures capture them peaceful with the world rushing by them.

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These are pictures I’ve taken over the past month.  How I’ve longed during this time to slow down life to keep it from rushing away.  And how I longed for that yesterday after my trip to the library.

I thought I could quickly run into the library to grab one book and go on with my day.

As I waited, I looked at the obituaries as usual.  The 4 1/4 by 5 1/2 inch slips of white paper printed in black ink sit on counters throughout town.  You can find them in the library, pharmacy and grocery store.  It is a way our small town finds out about each other’s life spans.  Wondering if I’d see a familiar name, I slowed down for a moment to read.

My heart stopped.  There she was.  The name I had just moved that morning on my planner.  Moved to next week because there wasn’t time.  And now there will never be time.

Would patience have made a difference in this one?

With eyes welling up, I took the books and got in my car.  I thought of the quote I had read earlier that day.

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty,

to carry within oneself the unanswered question,

lifting the heart to God about it

whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

~ Elisabeth Elliot

I’ve been thinking about patience lately.  Why is it painful to wait or act with patience.  Because it can be both.  Patience can be doing or it can be waiting.

It can feel painful to wait on God in the moments when I want to handle things my way.  In the frustrating moments of parenting that require yielding and waiting instead of….acting in anger.  In situations where I want to set things right but, to do so, would be sinful.

I also find it painful to love and serve when I’m in a hurry or feeling busy and weighed down with life.  It requires patience to set aside the circumstances pressing in and to slow down  and be intentional in order to truly love people.

I even found myself thinking just this morning that an old hymn was going too painstakingly slow.  I caught myself feeling too anxious about the tempo to give myself over to worship and loving the Lord with all of my heart?

Why not slow down?

And maybe, maybe I wasn’t patient enough to see that slowing down to visit my old neighbor was worthy of my time.

I had to keep moving on from the library.  There were children to take to a balloon race.  We got there when the teams were supposed to be filling the balloons but we waited for an hour or more.  Another chance for patience.  I looked at my dad’s watch and then movement on the field began.  Men and women tugged and pulled with all of their weight to move balloons or to keep them from moving.  I couldn’t tell.  I thought of me and my desire to slow this life down.  That is what it feels like sometimes.  Using all of me to keep this life from flying away.  Or am I actually using all of my strength to keep things moving? I can’t tell.

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And in the midst of trying to slow this all down, there is the desire for patience.

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Waiting or acting in patience, it makes me feel as if something inside me is tearing away.  Perhaps it truly is a dying to myself.  I’ve always wondered why but this week that above quote gave me a glimpse into why.  Waiting on God requires a willlingness to bear.  Bear uncertainty.  Bear a change in my own way, my own plans.  It requires a willingness to carry a burden.  It requires some mental ascent to God that He is in control, not me.  It takes mind work, heart work and, sometimes, physical work.

I was told, “It’s OK…you loved her when you had the chance. She knew you cared.”  I want to be painfully honest with myself, though.

Every week is busy so how and when do I get to the point of laying it all down and doing what this one life is really all about?

Patience, love, self-control…all fruit of the Spirit.  I could just say that the Spirit wasn’t moving. Or…I didn’t love another when I could’ve or should’ve and confess that and be done with it.  But I also want to process this so that I grow from here if needed.

Should we ever stop growing in Christ?

In order for the fruit to be produced, I must yield to the Spirit.  I must cooperate. And perhaps, by being too busy, I close myself off to some of the live-giving fruit.

I’m processing today whether or not what I’m busy with is truly what God wants me to be busy with.

I don’t have a solution yet to the busyness challenge.  I just know some truths.

That the Lord provides the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-24

That I am a new creation with new desires.  The desire to slow down in order to love others well is a good and godly one.

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” -2 Corinthians 5:17

He works in me powerfully as I yield to Him.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” -Philippians 2:12-13

I trust that the Lord will continue to work in my heart to make my priorities His.  I trust in His grace to cover all that I do that I shouldn’t and all that I don’t do that I should.  I trust that when I see sin or lacking on my part, His perfection is all the more beautiful.  And I trust that He can enable me to do all that He calls me to do to fulfill His good purpose.

I write this as a tribute to the one I didn’t make time to visit in the end.  I’m glad I made time in the past.  I was blessed when I yielded to the nudges of the Spirit to stop by with two busy little ones to let them crawl around the pond and feed the fish while we talked.  I’m glad I took time at one time to know her and she me.  I’m thankful for the meals together and the gifts she gave.  I learned that not everyone who has received much sadness and loss in life ends up bitter.  That one can get through life with patience not only in the busy times but also the slow and painful times.  In fact, some end up with a special twinkle in their eyes and a smile for everyone else.  After losing all who she cared most about, she was still able to love others well.

Once, upon returning from a scary trip to the hospital, we discussed death.  I asked her THE question.  The question I had learned to ask in Evangelism Explosion training.   I asked her how she would’ve responded  if she would’ve died and God asked her, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”  I was blessed to hear her say, “I guess it wasn’t because of anything I did.”  Then she gave me a smile with a twinkle in her eye.

And I guess as I remember my friend,  I should remember that the same holds true for me and for all of us in Christ.  Jesus IS perfect.  Perfectly patient and loving.  In the end, it won’t be about how perfect I was, but about how perfect He was and that I trusted in that.

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Linking up with these ladies this week:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace 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"   Imparting Gracesaving4six    Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!    Photobucket

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You’re Thirsty and Longing For More…

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“…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Revelation 21:6

To slow down…just for this one moment of my day and take in a free drink from the spring of the water of life.  What would that do for my soul?

To drink the truth from the fountain that never ceases to exist and provide for the thirst of our souls. Would that bring blessing to the Lord?

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.” -Psalm 36:7-9

To remind myself right now and every day that it’s not about me and my kingdom but about the Kingdom of Christ.  What would that do to the other souls in my life?

We rented a paddle boat at the Boat House in Forest Park.  We left the cares of the busy city of St. Louis and the wait for a table to eat and we paddled out toward the fountains at the bottom of Art Hill.  We had not done it since we were dating.  Now we had two kids with us.

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So many cares, fears and changes we’ve crossed over and through in between these years.

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Like this boat journey, we’d catch a glimpse of the fountain.  It’s beauty and knowing that the spray would cool us beckoned to us to keep going.

We finally arrived and we got as close as we could.  Though we feared getting too wet, we got as close as we could to feel the satisfying cool mist on our hot arms and legs.

Though I sometimes fear what it may bring in my life, the fountain does indeed refresh.

These words came to me in the pew this Sunday and I am repeating them over and over:

“Sin is an act that says “I don’t want your kingdom to reign, I want my kingdom to reign.”

The ridiculousness of this for a Christian is enough to make me long with all my heart to turn to Christ…the fountain of living water which refreshes my every part.

It makes me long for Him, His Word and His kingdom because…

“The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
 the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
 the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.” -Palm 19:7-11

Christ’s kingdom is sweeter than honey…and much sweeter than my kingdom of the flesh.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!” – Psalm 119:103

Are you thirsty, longing to move toward the Living Water of Life? 

Do you hunger for the sweetness of yielding to the Lord and His Word?

I’m re-connecting today with my soul’s true longing through His word.  Join me?

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
 My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

 Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! Selah

 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[b]
 As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
 Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!

 For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
 O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you!” – Psalm 84:1-12

 Linking up this week with these ladies:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace 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"   Imparting Gracesaving4six    Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!    Photobucket

 

 

Love Without Hesitation

 

Each day of Vacation Bible School this summer the children tossed spare change and dollar bills into the wicker basket.  Little hearts and hands moved to do something in response to what they were learning and now know.  That 200 women are forced into slavery a day in India.

And that isn’t even the full story.

When you can’t tell young people the atrocities carried out on other human beings, you know you’re dealing with evil.

We called it slavery, modern day slavery.  But it it so much more than that.  Two hundred women are forced into the commercial sex trade every day in India alone.

This fact also moved Vicki Moore to do something as well about ten years ago.  She began to search for more information and learned that every year, over four million women and children around the globe are trafficked into prostitution and slave labor. She was then led to start a ministry, Rahab’s Rope.  The ministry provides food, shelter, and protection; a place of education and training; a place where the whole person is ministered to spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and financially. It is a place of hope; a place of transformed lives.

I’d like to share about Rahab’s Rope on a regular basis here on my blog in order to bring attention to the horrors of Human Trafficking and to a wonderful ministry that purposes to help and heal those caught in it.  Below is a beautiful post on loving without hesitation posted by “MJ”, a staff member.  I pray that it will encourage you to learn more about Rahab’s Rope.  I also pray that you will be encouraged to rejoice in the love of our father in heaven and his ongoing work of restoration and renewal in our world…even within the sex trade in India.

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In India, there are beggars and street kids everywhere. It’s painful. Small children with visible bugs crawling through their hair approach you, using sign language for “food”. A ten year old girl approaches with an infant in her arms. Women without legs drag themselves across your path. Every shape and size, they follow you to your car and knock on your windows. They approach you on the train. They poke you on your arm… over and over and over. And when you don’t respond, they begin performing: back flips, cartwheels… anything to up the ante. It’s truly heartbreaking. Especially in light of the fact that panhandling is often just another form of trafficking. You can purchase a child for less than the cost of a cow. And there are doctors who will perform amputations on perfectly healthy children because it increases the amount of revenue they can generate.

We were walking one day when she approached us after lunch. Instead of handing her money, our team lead slipped her arm around her shoulders. Momentarily startled, Rose* nestled in beneath her. She talked and entertained and became our tour guide. It should have been more obvious- and I suspect that to our team lead, it was. It was just another performance. No different than the back-flips or the tight rope act. All with the expectation of receiving when she was finished. Our team lead chose to love her anyway… determined, again, to break through the performance.

With the children, it’s easier. Get down eye level. Make a joke. Ask them their name and they are pulled out of “work mode” pretty easily. With Rose*, it was much more sophisticated; more ingrained. What was playing out before us, without us even knowing, was a battle of determination between these two women- each determined to break the other first. It was a heart breaking exchange. With Rose*, she took on what I can only assume is her daily role play: I’ll be whatever you need me to be. You could watch each transformation as it took place: I’ll be your entertainment. I’ll be your friend. I’ll be your project. And our team lead: determined to break through each act until there were no more left, continued to demonstrate love and patience and was nurturing. She clung to the hope of making a connection.

When Rose* finally realized that her efforts were not going to yield the outcome she was hoping for, she became disillusioned and desperate: She pleaded. She waited. And then she got angry. “You’ve wasted my time. Do not come back.” The act was over. You could see our team leads human heart fold into itself. She ached… and she was hurt. I told her I loved how she continues to do it anyway… and then silently wondered if she really does. Does she still do it as often as she did 18 months ago? 6 months ago? 2 months ago? I know firsthand what continued hurt and disappointment and lack of response can do. It hardens you- it makes you jaded- it makes you wonder if all of your efforts are in vain. It makes you want to stop and sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, a part of you does. In a word? It makes you hesitate.

But that is all based on my own first-hand experience… from work or from ministry. This time, I watched it unfold as a bystander. And looking at Rose*- I saw myself. How many times have I performed for the Lord? Fulfilling my “Christian Duties” with the expectation of a return on my investment? How many times have I stood before Him and demanded a response? I’ve gone to Church! I’ve prayed the prayers! I’ve read the Bible! I’ve loved my neighbor. I’ve tithed my 10%! Where ARE you?! Why aren’t you giving me what I’ve asked?How many times have I turned from him and said “Forget it. You’re not worth it.”

It’s never been quite like that, but might it just as well be? I may have never turned from Him completely- but have I ever said “Fine. You’re not answering, I’ll figure it out on my own? I’ll find my own way? My own solution. My own devices. My own comforts.” Isn’t that what I’m doing every time my need for security sets in and I respond to it? And if it broke my heart to watch the hurt that our team lead tried not to show- how much greater is the pain the Lord has felt? Pain that I, myself, have caused? I’m humbled, again, by just how great His love for us is. Constant. Unwavering. Without hesitation. And we are such a hard species to love.

I am so incredibly thankful for this ministry of Rahab’s Rope and for the courageous group of young women who reside together in India. Through their example, and the Lord through them, I re-learned discipleship. And I was reminded that we are called to love without hesitation. Life is hard and thank God for His grace because, in it, we’re allowed to grow. At one point or another, we’re all a little bit like Rose*. But love prevails and hearts soften. And so, because of the relentless, consistent, unhesitant love of the Rahab’s Rope team, I also got to stand witness as the Indian women embraced love. And then they began to emulate it. They hugged. They shared. They fed. They washed feet. They reached out. Ministry is a partnership. It’s a beautiful, and sometimes a painful, dance of give & take, teach & learn… all in the freedom of grace.

MJ – Venture India Volunteer (The Mumbai Project)

* for the protection of this individual, a pseudonym has been used.

For more information on Rahab’s Rope, please visit their site by clicking on the logo below:

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Linking up this week with:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace 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"   Imparting Gracesaving4six    Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!Photobucket

 

 

The Truth About Jesus Christ Crucified

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Jesus Christ crucified.

The truth about this statement is…

It’s not a simple teaching to be forgotten as we grow in our faith.

On to deeper things?

It can’t be done.

“Jesus Christ crucified” is the Christian’s focal point.

I was thinking this morning of when I played basketball in high school.  We would do wall squats.  I have not forgotten the pain even after almost 25 years!  I used to fix my eyes on something in the gym.  A focal point.  My eyes did not leave that focal point.  It is how I got through the wall squats and I guess that is how I think of “Jesus Christ crucified”.  If there is a place my mind must fix on to process all of life and all of scripture, this is it.

One of those areas of life to process through the lens of Christ crucified is the area of growing in Christ.

How I long to be able to check things off and be done.  I love getting laundry and dishes done but as soon as the happy feeling of accomplishment comes, the dread of the next load comes.  The work is never finished.

How I sometimes view my spiritual growth can be somewhat like this as well.  You see, I’d love to cross off accomplishments.

-Learned to walk by faith and not by sight…CHECK!

-Learned to understand and grasp my new identity in Christ…CHECK!

-Learned patience with my children and husband…CHECK!

-Learned to yield to the Holy Spirit vs. the flesh…CHECK!

How I long to check these off of my list!

But it hasn’t happened.  Well, maybe I have tried to do it, but I find that I can’t.  I can make great progress but I can’t ultimately mark these things off of my list on this side of glory.

I must continually face opportunities to grow in all of these areas.

And I don’t think our Father in Heaven’s goal is for us to mark these as final accomplishments off of our checklist anyway while we’re in the flesh.

The beauty of the Christian life isn’t our perfection or our finished work. It is Christ’s.It is continually turning to Him in dependence.

Our lives as Christians begin with total dependence on God’s powerful work of salvation. This stage of our Christian walk is not a temporary one.  It is ongoing.

Jesus Christ crucified is the beginning of the Christian life and the source of  ongoing power for going through our Christian walk.

May we be encouraged as we realize consistently our constant need for dependence on Christ.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:8

Linking up this week with:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace 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"   PhotobucketImparting Gracesaving4six    Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving From “Yeah, But…” to “But Now”

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I love this picture.  The dying stalks lifting up frail heads to seemingly worship.  The sun casting its transforming rays through and beautifying them.

Without the sun and with a different perspective, this picture would have turned out so much different.  It was actually taken at a cemetery.  The nearby tombstones were not caught but the light filtering through seeds was.  A reminder to me of hope beyond death and of perspective.

What a difference perspective makes.

What an impact our words have on our perspective.

“Yeah, but…”

These are words that are moving toward extinction in our house.

I’ve found myself in a habit if saying, “Yeah, but…”

It’s a season I’m in of certain challenges.

Couldn’t we all say that?

Ha! Isn’t that all of life for everyone?

I recently found out that my thyroid medication was a bit too much for me.  I have spent a month or so feeling overly stressed about life, overwhelmed and easily frustrated.

My husband and I were chatting on the sofa early in the morning over our coffee.  I was explaining how I was feeling so overwhelmed and easily irritated.  He was encouraging me to trust in God’s promises and truths about the spiritual realities for me as one in Christ.  I had just gotten my lab results but had not received new meds yet.  Up until that point, I had been praying for the Lord’s help in my day.   At that moment though, I gave myself over to feeling sorry for myself for being allowed to have a thyroid problem that impacts so much how I feel mentally and physically.

More than self-pity, I was angry at God over this problem I’ve been dealing with for years which always seems somewhat unresolved.  I was angry that my husband doesn’t know what it’s like and that I’m the one that seems to struggle the most with emotions.

The “Yeah, buts” came out.  “Some of God’s promises just aren’t for me right now…”

Then a truth came:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

I’m sure the words in my heart when this verse was presented to me were, “Well Paul never had a thyroid problem!”

My husband pleaded with me to continue trusting in the Lord.  But these words were mine, “Right now, I’m trusting in my doctor to get me some new meds!”

Now in defense of myself, I had three nights in a row of about 4-5 hours of sleep each night and feeling very stressed.  But they were my words and that was truly how I felt.

He pleaded again with me to move away from the “Yeah, buts” and to move toward what he calls the “But Now’s.”

I ignored His plea in order to wallow in self-pity.

Since that moment, the Lord has done something in my heart.  I spent the next day turning myself over to the sin of self-pity and deciding that there was no enabling for me.  I wanted to believe I was too challenged to receive help from the Holy Spirit.

But the Lord worked in my heart.  In the midst of this challenge, the Lord did enable me to turn from that horrifying attitude.  Without me asking, He stayed with me throughout that day and by the end of it He had thoroughly convicted my heart.  By the next morning He had given me His joy and peace.

Yes, as Christians, we must yield to the Spirit as we live out our lives.   Sometimes though, He pushes through when we’re not yielding.  In His kindness, He spoke HIS “Yeah, buts.”  He shepherded me and lead me to streams of living water…His Word.

So I’ve recently spent some time looking at God’s “Yeah, buts”.  I’m writing today to share them with you.

I pray that if you are experiencing a challenging season, you’ll find comfort in them.

The truth is, Paul did have physical ailments that impacted how he felt.  Maybe it wasn’t a thyroid problem, but it was a challenge.  In fact, he experienced much worse for the sake of the gospel than I have. He still trusted in God’s grace to be sufficient for Him.

The truth is, Jesus never stopped being faithful to the Father even in the face of torture.

The truth is, this life and its challenges are a part of the fall.  And God is rescuing us from all of this.

My husband tried to tell me this week that the “But now’s” in scripture are critical.  They are God’s “Yeah buts” and critical pieces of information for us to know and cling to.  They must replace our “Yeah, buts” to give us a new perspective.  I’m happy to say that I was eventually encouraged by them.  I hope you are too.

May the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul comfort you this week in whatever season of challenges you find yourself in!

The “But Now’s” in the New Testament:

“20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:20-23

“4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” – Romans 7:4-6

“19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being[c] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  –  Romans 3:19-26

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came,in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  – Galations 3:23-26

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  – Ephesians 2:12-13

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 2 Peter 2:9-10

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1 Peter 2:24-25

Linking up this week with these encouraging ladies:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace 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"   PhotobucketImparting Gracesaving4six    Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!

When You Fear What Life May Bring

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I’ve been enjoying some early before-the-kids-wake-up bike rides this summer.  My usual route takes me over a bridge which hovers over the enormous churning Missouri River.

For me, riding over the Missouri River bridge by myself early in the morning is about as daring as life gets!  My morning bike ride, when I take it, might as well be Mt. Everest.

I used to do truly dangerous things without even noticing that they were dangerous.  I did them without much of a second thought.

That was before I had kids and before I knew about real people who have died or come close to death.  I guess now I just know…stuff really does happen.  And not just to “other people out there” but real people close to me.

I don’t know what happened, but a switch has turned on in me.  Let’s just call it The Fear Switch.

The Fear Switch is not all bad.  It can help me make wise decisions and it may be used to keep my family alive.  It could also, if I let it, keep me from truly living an abundant life and damage my relationship with God.

So The Fear Switch would like to process everything I do, even a morning bike ride. Instead, I’m working toward processing it through the filter of God’s Word.

Here are a sampling of thoughts I might have before I get on my bike:

“What if someone I know sees how fat my behind looks while riding a bike?”

How’s that for honesty?

“What if I get hit by a car and I get so injured that I can’t take care of my children anymore?”

“What if I don’t get everything that needs to be done this morning because I added this to my schedule?”

But God is good, and His goodness overthrows fear and leads us to love and worship even in this beautiful but dark and dangerous world.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

His presence comforts me and turns my cowardly thoughts toward brave thoughts.

Isn’t this how it is in Scripture too? As God’s people realized God’s presence, they gained courage.

Joshua was told to be strong and courageous as he entered the promised land not based on his own abilities but this:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:7)

God would uphold His promises.

“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)

GOD would be with Joshua everywhere and would make sure the promised inheritance would be kept.

And God promises this to His people now and it is applied to us through our inheritance in Christ.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;

I will not fear;

what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

He doesn’t just tell us to muster up our own courage, He gives us His truths about Himself and Us in Him that empower us to be courageous and strong.

I stopped on the middle of the bridge and stood at an overlook area to watch nature awaken to the morning. I looked down the outer edge of the bridge and saw that the other overlook areas along the bridge were like ledges jutting out over the water.  They weren’t part of the main structure of the bridge.  The Fear Switch was on, but I practiced meditating on these truths and standing there anyway.  I trusted that my real hope wasn’t in this piece of concrete staying strong but My God always strong and always with me.

This is always a stop on my morning bike ride.  An exercise in trusting in God’s love and protection rather than what my fears will protect me from.

Sometimes we are tempted to abstain from an activity due to fear but sometimes we are tempted to partake in worry about the future due to it.  I’d like to say I bravely walk through each of these opportunities every time like on the bridge, but I don’t.

A dear friend of mine has joined the ranks of those who are enduring or have endured the dreadful disease of cancer. I am tempted toward worry for her and for those I love as I watch this battle play out.  But another dear and wise friend reminded me of a glorious truth for those trusting in the Lord.  She said, “Amy, we aren’t going to die of cancer, we’re going to die because the Lord calls us home.”

This too gives me courage to live a life based less on fear and more on what God is calling me to each moment.

A more recent moment of that was spending time with my family.  We had talked for a long time about going to the St. Louis Gateway Arch.  I had been encouraging my son, Noah, to go to the top with the rest of us but he was committed to never doing it.

As we stood under the arch that day, Noah said, “Wow look how big it is!”

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Our daughter, Ruthie answered, “Yes, but God is bigger!”

A little bribery went a long way and, before I knew it, we were in line for the tram ride to the top.  Suddenly I remembered news reports over the years of Arch tram riders getting trapped for hours.  As the four of us entered the tiny capsule that would be pulled by a cable to the top of 600+ feet, I realized something.  I didn’t want to do it either!

I could tell my son had changed his mind too.  He was covering his eyes and swallowing hard.  I wanted to do the same but cover my ears as the cable and tram creaked and popped.  It was a long 3 minute ride to the top but I still had to make it through our time at the top and all of the way back down again.

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My anxious thoughts almost overtook me, but through stumbling internal prayers and deep breathing I made it!

At the top, my son forgot his fears and went straight for the window.  My brave Ruthie wanted to lay on the window ledge that looked dangerous to me, like the bridge ledge.  I answered her request to set her high on it so that she could get a better look.  Then I joined her.  We leaned over downtown St. Louis with a hope and prayer in one thing.  That God was with us even there.

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On the way down, there was no stumbling over internal prayers.  It was a quicker ride down as my husband stepped up to boldly soothe us all with prayer. I think he was realizing that 600 feet up in the arch was not like it was as a kid too!  He bravely turned us all toward the Lord and prayed bold prayers of faith in a God who is with us on the ground and in the sky.  A God who is way bigger than the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

I saw a great illustration of our need to fully turn toward the Lord when we’re afraid a few weeks ago.  My daughter had a dangling loose tooth.  She sat on the couch turned away from me saying,  “I’m scared, will it hurt?”  I replied, “You have to face me if you want my help.”  She wanted me to help but ultimately refused because she wanted to have full control of how and when her tooth came out.  As I begged her to turn toward me so that I could see and help her, I realized that her disposition before me was not so different than my own before God at times.

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In the midst of fears and dangers of this world, stumbling through prayer and deep breathing exercises might help. It’s certainly better than nothing. But I don’t want to just get through the moment.  I want to fully experience God’s grace and grow in a less fear-filled life.  In order to do that:

1. I must not trust so much in myself performing an exercise like deep breathing or prayer.

2. I must let go of  the desire to control the situation. 

3. I must fully and humbly turn in my heart toward a God who I truly know and prayerfully proclaim the truths that I trust in about Him.  

                                                               This is an act of worship.

May all of our fears about what this life may bring be a gateway to turn our hearts and minds toward worship.

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Linking up this next week with these sweet ladies:

Photobucket   Chronicles of Grace sunday-stillness-button     Grab button for Faith Along the Way Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday Missional WomenFF Z Font Fellowship Fridays #45 Womanhood With Purpose The Watered Soul  “countingmyblessings"   PhotobucketImparting Gracesaving4six thrive @ home blue   Creative K Kids      7 Days Time   whimsical-wednesdays_edited-1   WHHWButton200X200Family Home and LifeI Choose Joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You’re Weary of Doing Good

 

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It happened about a little over a year ago.  A night when I was getting the kids ready for bed and I just couldn’t imagine doing the next day.  I couldn’t imagine doing the bare minimum let alone the things I felt I was called to be doing in ministry at the time.  Just getting the kids jammied and brushed was heavy to my heart.

I didn’t want to go to bed, because I knew that I’d wake up and it would be morning and I’d have to face another day.  I never once thought of ending life, I just couldn’t really imagine doing it the next day.  I remember it clearly because it may have been one of my lowest points. Ever.

In the past year, I’ve had to take steps back from some aspects of ministry from time to time due to this past weariness.

There were many reasons for my being weary but I will spare you those details.  You will most likely be able to relate to my weary episode because of your own circumstances.  Most of us will go through times or a time of feeling weary in life and of life.  Some are more severe than others.

Rest is good when we need it.  In the midst of stepping away at times,  I have been reminded of the reason to pick it back up and continue on.

In times of weariness, I would not be able to take a break and come back if I were doing it out of my own human-centered motivations.  I am always spurred on to return to the work God has for me out of a grateful response to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

The knowledge of my identity in Christ, drives what I do with my life.

Suffering and weariness can draw me to rest, but I am compelled to not remain there.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

Perhaps there have been times that you have suffered in a way that has made you want to retreat from ministry entirely.  Not just due to weariness, but due to suffering a personal hurt.  Maybe it felt more like a personal death.

Even then, we can entrust our souls to a faithful Creator…while doing good.

This is a short encouragement today to those who have been taking steps back from ministry to return.

If your heart and soul is right with God and if you have received some rest and refreshment, consider prayerfully taking a baby step toward ministry?

Serving the Father is congruent with who we truly are in Christ and this feeds the soul too.

But what if a time comes when you or I don’t see much or any tangible fruit from the ministry we believe God has called us to? Do we quit?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galations 6:9)

Perhaps a lack of fruit in ministry means we should be seeking answers in prayer about how we are doing ministry. Maybe He is calling us to a different ministry.  Or perhaps, we are to just keep pushing on in the ministry just as we’ve been.  God will guide us down the right path as we turn to Him and seek Him in the midst of challenges.

Seeking God’s guidance and direction and then waiting on Him can take time.  The wait can be hard, but we can know this for sure right now:

We are called to continue to do good out of our true identity in Christ and we can continue doing this good knowing that in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I am so grateful for the ministry of my church.  The people doing good there to the household of faith have ministered to me well and have been a huge part of me being able to take steps toward rest and steps toward ministry.  They have continued to do good, and I am a grateful recipient of it.  Me being blessed is a fruit of their labor.  They are God’s way of tangibly affirming these truths to me.

Blessings as you continue to serve the Lord and His beautiful household of faith!

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Linking up with these sweet ladies this week. Please consider checking out their blogs, I love them all!