Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hold Me Fast

I must confess a fear of mine in all of this.  There are several fears, but this is the one I am choosing to share with you today.   I fear I will fail Him.  How might I fail Him you ask?  I fear that I will squander the opportunity to know Him and to make Him known to others in this time.  Questions heave in my heart like:  What makes you think you will really reach out to others and share Jesus' love with them?  This hasn't been your strong suite in the past, so what would change now?  You are okay at talking with believers and encouraging them to follow Jesus, but really, you think you are going to listen to people's stories and share the Good News of Jesus with them?  You really think you are going to know Him more through this and it's just going to shine everywhere and open up doors for Him to be made known?  Really?

But when the waves of these questions pound on my heart, I am reminded of HIS.   His is the reminder that it is His effort and His work- not mine.  I am reminded that He is the one who does the work, I simply respond to Him.  He is the one who loves me and fills me with love for Him and others.  He is the one who plants seeds, provides water, gives words, and opens doors.  He holds all of this and He holds me.  I can rest as His.

As I have been working with a friend to learn how to tell Ephesians as a story, (only on chapter 2, so not that impressive folks) I frequently rehearse these truths.  In the beginning of chapter 2 Paul reminds the believers of who they once were.  Like everyone else they followed Satan and by their very nature were under God's wrath.  Paul then writes glorious words, BUT God is so rich in mercy and He loved us so much that while we were still dead in our sins He gave us new life when He raised Christ from the dead.  We are saved by His grace.  He raised us to life with Christ and then because we are united with Christ, He seated us in the heavenly realms along with Him.  How incredible is all that?  This is the message I so want to share.  Our bodies are all dying.  Some have clearer evidences of that than others.  But God has already offered us new life.  I want to extend His invitation to receive that new life.  The cool thing in this passage is that God did all this not really because we are so great, but so that He can point throughout eternity to His incredible kindness that is shown so clearly in all that He has done for us.  It's really for HIS glory.  Paul then goes on to remind us that this awesome life is not a result of our work.  It's a gift.  So we can't take credit for it.  We don't get this incredible life because of good things we did.  We can't boast about it.  Instead He reminds us that God did the work- we are His workmanship.  His Masterpiece. We are created to do the good works that He planned for us long ago.

So, that brings me an incredible thought:  God created me for this time and place and bend in the journey.  I am HIS.  Cancer may not really be a problem.  It may not be fun, but it just may be part of the environment needed for me to be used as His to bring Him glory.  And what if I really rest as His and let Him do all the work of the sharing His invitation; just as He has done all the work when it comes to saving me-  even taking care of the parts that I fear I will fail at?

I leave you with this song.  There are so many songs accumulating on my play list these days.  I hope you will be reminded that you are HIS (for the Savior loves you so) and He holds you securely fast.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

God's Presence

In the last few weeks, God's gracious presence has been so certain.  His Words have whispered peace to my heart.  I am thankful, because it could be different.  He could be silent.  It wouldn't change who He is or His power in the situation, but it would make this thing feel so much more difficult.  The other day I wondered if there would be a time during this journey when His presence would not be so obvious.  With that thought came a reminder of a gift God provided earlier this summer.

This past summer before the start of girl's camp, I was reading in Exodus 33 and 34.  The story is that Israel has again sinned and God says He will take them to the Promised Land, but He will not travel with them.  The people mourn and repent and then Moses and God have an interesting exchange in Exodus 33:12 through chapter 34.  Moses says to God, "You have said I am special to you.  You say I know you by name.  You say you look favorably on me.  If this is the case, then let me understand you more fully and enjoy your favor.  Remember that this nation is your very own people."  

God responds, "Moses, I will personally go with you.  I will give you rest.  Everything will be fine for you."  (Those words could be a whole other post!)

But Moses isn't resting in that yet, he says, "If you don't personally go with us, then don't ask us to leave this place.  How will we be your people if you are not with us?"

God says, "I will do what you have asked, Moses.  I will go with you, for I do look favorably on you, and I know you by name."  (Interesting here it is God who knows us by name, and not that we know God by name!)

So Moses boldly asks, "God show me your glorious presence." 

Now I need to break the Biblical story here, to share that when I was reading this the morning during pre-camp, I was hungry to see God's glorious presence.  I made those words my own heart's cry.

In the Biblical narrative God tells Moses He will make His goodness pass before Moses and He will call out His name, Yahweh before Him.  He warns Moses that he can't look directly on His face, but invites him to stand near Him on a rock.  (That invitation gives me goosebumps!)  God tells Moses that His glorious presence will pass by and God will cover Him with his hand while He is passing by, but that He will remove His hand so that Moses can see Him from behind.

Sure enough, God does this after He gave Moses a second, unbroken copy of Ten Commandments.  The Lord comes down in a cloud, stands with Moses and calls out his own name.  He calls out, "Yahweh!  The Lord!  The God of compassion and mercy!  I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.  I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.  But I do not excuse the guilty.  I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;  the entire family is affected- even children in the third and fourth generation."  

And Moses response is to immediately fall on the ground and worship.  He asks God again to go with them, to forgive their sin, and to claim them as his own special possession.

It's a pretty intense passage that speaks so clearly of the awe of God's presence.  I love that God doesn't just show His back to Moses, but that He reveals His name and character when He passes by.  He is YAHWEH.  The LORD.  He is the God of compassion and mercy.  He is slow to anger.  He is filled with love and faithfulness.  He lavishes unfailing love.  He forgives.  He is just.  What a treasure to know God like this!

That day God had a surprise for me though.  See I asked Him to show me His glorious presence.  I wanted a little taste of what Moses experienced.  My quiet time ended and as I headed out for the day's activities I told God I would be looking to see Him.  Those of us at pre-camp later gathered with a local church to share in Sunday Morning Worship.  As the worship time began, the leader started to read a passage to us.  My eyes filled with tears as I heard the very same words I read that morning in Exodus.  I was undone.  It wasn't just a coincidence to me.  It was such a clear time of God speaking to my heart and letting me know that the God of the universe, the God of gods and Lord of Lords was very aware of me and was inviting me to know Him.  His presence was there with me.

So why do I share all of this?  Because maybe there will be a day when I will not be so sure of His presence, and I want to remember what is true.  Whether I feel His presence or not He is who He says He is.  Maybe you will have a day where you will question, "Where is God's presence?"  The truth we both need to remember is God is who He says He is. 
He is:
YAHWEH.  The LORD.  He is the God of compassion and mercy.  He is slow to anger.  He is filled with love and faithfulness.  He lavishes unfailing love.  He forgives.  He is just.  And if I can add this promise made later through His Son to those who believe in Him:

Friday, February 10, 2017


I love metaphors and symbols.  So when I view life, I often try to frame it through these elements.  I've been doing some thinking about anchors and those things that hold me in place when the world seems a bit turbulent.

I have no real knowledge of anchors, so maybe one day someone will teach me much more, but a quick bit of research tells me that anchors dig into the seabed and serve a safety role.  They keep boats out of the surf or off the rocks.  An anchor works because when the anchor digs into the seabed surface or snags on a protrusion, resistance is created because of suction.  The suction occurs because of the material on top of the anchor.  To set an anchor the boat must be put in reverse and strain must be put on the line.  You don't know if the anchor will hold unless you then pull it hard.

There are a lot of ways I could make a connection between the anchor and life.  But two thoughts rise to the surface.  The first is that the anchor is a means of digging into the seabed.  For me God's Word is a way of digging into His truth and the reality of who He is and what His purposes are.  God's Word is the means that I dig into God's heart and view on the world.

The other thing that caught me was how an anchor was set.  It was set when the boat actually reversed direction, and when strain was added to the line.  So when my life goes back and then there is strain, God's Word can grip hold into who He is.  That's good, because an anchor I wish to share with you, is one I have already written about on this blog.  Psalm 103 keeps coming back to me.  When I started thinking about what portions of God's Word would keep me grounded during this bend in the road, I kept returning to this chapter.

I include the text below, with my own wording of it in purple beneath the passage.  It has helped me to think about the message in my own words, to make it truly my prayer.

Psalm 103New Living Translation (NLT)

A psalm of David.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;                     
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.      
Let all that I am praise the Lord;           
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.         
He forgives all my sins                          
    and heals all my diseases.                                
He redeems me from death                  
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.    
He fills my life with good things.           
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!            
The Lord gives righteousness                 
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.       
He revealed his character to Moses         
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.   
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,    
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,             
    nor remain angry forever.                  
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;   
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.    
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him        
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  
12 He has removed our sins as far from us       
    as the east is from the west.                  
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,     
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  
14 For he knows how weak we are;                 
    he remembers we are only dust.                  
15 Our days on earth are like grass;                 
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.       
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—                
    as though we had never been here.              
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever                 
    with those who fear him.                                          
His salvation extends to the children’s children     
18     of those who are faithful to his covenant,            
    of those who obey his commandments!                
19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;        
    from there he rules over everything.                
20 Praise the Lord, you angels,                               
    you mighty ones who carry out his plans,                   
    listening for each of his commands.               
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels                 
    who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,        
    everything in all his kingdom.                             
Let all that I am praise the Lord.                          

At all times, may I praise Him with everything that is in me.
May all that makes me who I am praise Him.  May I always remember the
good He has done!  He has cared for my soul's death and my sin sickness.
He buys me back from death and makes me royalty by his love and mercy.
He provides all that is good, making me soar in renewed strength.
He gives right standing and fair treatment to those who are treated unfairly.
He showed who He is to Moses and Israel saw him by his work.  His character and work testify that He is full of compassion and mercy.   He is patient and loves faithfully.  He  does not remain angry or hold things  against us.  He does not give us what we deserve for our sin.  Those who fear Him receive towering unfailing love.  Their sins are taken away as far as the east is from the west.  Those fear Him are treated with the tender love a father gives his kidsGod knows our frailty, our history of dust.  We are temporary:  Sprouting, growing, blooming, and dying.   Time passes and it's like we were never here.  For those who fear God,  His love remains forever.  The grandchildren of the faithful  and obedient benefit and are offered salvation.  God has his throne in the heavens.  From there he rules over everything. Mighty angels who do what He says,  Praise the Lord. Armies of angels who serve Him and obey, Praise the Lord. Everything that He has made in all His kingdom, Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord, with all that is me!

I hope by sharing this anchor of mine, something strikes deep in your own heart.  I also hope you will take a little time to think about what anchors your life when the big sea starts to rage.  For in this world, we are pretty much guaranteed at one time or another that a storm will threaten to come our way.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Stones of Remembrance

A tradition in the Old Testament that has often intrigued me is God's people setting up stones to remember what He has done for them.  A favorite story about this is found in Joshua 4, when God parts the waters for the Jordan for His people as they finally by faith enter His Promised Land.  After crossing, a member of each tribe is to go back, take a stone from what was one the bottom of the flooded Jordan, and then use it to make an altar to God on their new side of the river.  The pile of stones is to be used to teach future generations of God's work on His people's behalf.

This story always calls my heart to dig through the bottoms and take up a stone that He has uncovered so that I can remember His hand at work.  He does mighty work.  We see that again and again.  And He has done mighty work in your life.  I encourage you to take some time and either look for your stones or take a moment to examine the pile you have already made.  And then I encourage you to share your pile with someone else so they can know His work.  I have loved considering this with a friend, and I suspect if you both share, you will both spend some time worshipping our mighty God.

All that brings me to want to share some thoughts I had while waiting to find out news about my biopsy.  I woke up in the night and my thoughts turned to our waiting.  And then my mind drifted to this song-  "All the Way My Savior Leads Me."  I knew part of it, but wanted to know the lyrics, so I reached for my phone.  I plugged the title into YouTube and the first video listed was the one I share below.

Now many would have passed this one by for the versions by Chris Tomlin or Rich Mullins (which I also love), but God had a little gift for me.  You see, when I was in Jr High and just starting to know God for myself, my parents introduced me to some cassettes by the Haven of Rest Quartet.  There was something about "I'm Yours, Lord" that called to me.  Every day as I rode the bus to school, I wore headsets and listened to a quartet singing to God.  A little odd, maybe, but God was at work.

That night as I heard those voices singing those lyrics, God invited me to spend some time looking at my stones.  It was a sweet time that reminded me of His goodness and His faithfulness.  See, He drew an ordinary young girl to Himself through her family.  He used a small church family to pour His love and Word into her.  He used many teachers to help unfold her personality and plant seeds of vision of how He might one day use her.  He surrounded her with sweet friends.  He placed mentors in her life who would model for her how to follow Christ day in and day out, to show what that looked like at work and in the home.  He took her step by step through the awkward growing up years and led the way to stepping out with Him on her own.  He gently taught her about disappointment and about allowing Him to change the plan. He gave her people to serve and love and teach.  He gave her a dear husband to teach her what it meant to truly love another and to be loved as Christ loved her.  He taught her that He was in control even when life wasn't turning out to look like her dreams and there was loss.  He gave her additional friends and mentors who cheered her on and challenged her. He gave Her children to show her what it meant to serve selflessly and to be loved with abandon.  He brought her through more circumstances in which He showed that He was not only in control of her life, but He was kind and could be trusted even when it hurt.  He gave her joyful relationships in which she saw Him work in and through her to help others one know Him more.  He showered her time and time again with beauty and blessings.

Do you have stones of remembrance in your life?  When was the last time you looked at them?  I guarantee if you take the time, you will end up worshipping God as you gaze at your pile, because the line in the hymn is true, "For I know that what're befall me, Jesus doeth all things well!"

Friday, February 3, 2017

Opening the blinds

It has been a while since I last visited this corner of the Internet.   I gave myself the freedom a few years ago, to close up this space for a time.  Life was full.  Writing here, although enjoyable, seemed to take away from the day instead of adding to it.  So I threw the sheets over the furniture, closed the blinds, and shut the door for a season.

Today I have returned to open the blinds.  Some of you are meeting me in this space today.  And I thank you.  I am here, because I again have need to write, to sort and order my thoughts and allow God to speak truth to me.  I am here because I need to process and record the path- to testify to what God has done and is doing.

I do not know how often I will come here, but I have a need to have a place to put down words in the hopes that something may be used by Him.  Maybe that is one of the ways that we are made in His image.  God spoke and our world was formed.  As Jesus, He became the Word in the flesh, so that He might communicate and reveal to us His heart.  And His Word endures forever, working and accomplishing what He wills.  So, maybe my desire is like my Father's:  to create peace in my world with His Words, to reveal His heart to me as I process and form thoughts, and to work in a way that has an enduring impact.

What are the words stirring in your heart today?  Has He spoken and breathed life to you?  Is there a word that is putting muscle and skin onto God's heart?  Is there a word that is accomplishing His work?

For several years friends and I have talked about words to frame our new years.  Maybe you chose a word for your year, also.  At the end of 2016 I began to think about what my word might be. I didn't rush to have one and I didn't have to reveal my word until a few weeks into 2017 when I was meeting with some friends.  As I pondered, the word that seemed to fit was His.  There had been a lot of striving in my heart in 2016.  I was anxious about my role in a situation. I felt He was reminding me that the situation was His.  I was worried a bit about some decisions we made in 2016 and how it would impact the future.  He seemed to be reminding me that the future was His.  As I began to work with my Sunday School class on a study of fearing God and read about our awe of God, I was challenged to view life as truly His, with Him being the central character and it all pointing to Him.  Then just before meeting with my friends, I felt a lump where I hadn't noticed anything before.  My mind jumped to a place I didn't really like and the idea of His overshadowed it.  If it was something, it was under His authority, His control, and His power.  My husband agreed that something was up, and a mammogram was scheduled.  I met with friends and chose His as my word, now adding the outcome of the doctor appointment as something that was His to handle and care for.

The mammogram was then followed with an appointment to have a biopsy done.  Another biopsy soon followed.  And then a third.  At each point, His seemed to become bolder in my thoughts.  I am His.  My family is His.  My future is His.  The path He leads me on is His.  The purposes and methods He works in are His.

The news came in a phone call.  His plan for me included breast cancer.  I was a little taken aback but seemed to hear in the phone call that this wasn't a terrible diagnosis and that it was treatable.  Hopeful    me latched on to this and considered what the future might be.  It wouldn't be the direction I preferred, but surely God would shine His light to others in dark places as we walked through this.

During the third biopsy more information snapped into place.  The words chemotherapy and mastectomy registered in my brain.  The blinds seemed to sweep back a bit and I had a picture of what might be ahead in His plan.  I must confess I did not like what I saw and the view was blinded by tears.

But then the words came, which are the bedrock of my life. "God is good.  God can be trusted.  God is always working to bring Himself glory and for our best good.  God is in control.  God loves me.  God is good.  God can be trusted with my family.  God is always at work in their lives to bring Himself glory and for their best good.  God is in control.  God loves them."

So as the words of the diagnosis and doctors settle in my brain, His words settle in my soul.  May this space be a place where God opens the blinds and allows us to catch a glimpse of who He is and how much He desires us to be His.