Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Next Thing

Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, pouring out His heart to the Father, wrestling with the calling that was too heavy to bear, pleading with God that it be removed. Couldn't there be another way? He knew His friends couldn't do it for Him, but He needed their support--just a little prayer support. He wasn't asking them to carry His cross--just to pray him through this period of agony... And they missed it.

Jesus had to wrestle through alone. There was no one to hold His hand. There was no one to lay a strong, supportive hand on His shoulder. He was left to grapple totally and completely alone.

So what did He do? Did He storm off and leave his lackadaisical friends to sleep? No, he simply told them to, "Rise up, let us go!" No whining, no guilt trip, let's just move on. Yes, they had blown it big time. They had missed an incredible opportunity. The only thing left to do was to move on.

How many opportunities like that have I slept through? How many have I missed because I'm more concerned about my image than anything else? How often have I failed so miserably because I was asleep at the wheel? More than I want to think about.

So, do I give up? Do I just say, "Forget it, I can't do it all, so I'll do nothing but slumber my way through life?" God forbid!

Do you feel you've failed miserably at something that is now irreparable? Something so heavy that you can't bear it? Something so crushing that you cannot rise up out of it on your own? I have.

My children, who I nursed at my breast, who I coddled and loved, who giggled and played and brought me so much joy are both now out of my reach. My son is now a man. He is a man who has followed a path that is much more tragic than my worst nightmare for him. My daughter died. I didn't protect her. I didn't keep her safe. I didn't keep either of my kids safe.

Sometimes the sense of my failure as a mother is more crushing than I can bear. I cannot rise up out of it on my own. But Oswald Chambers says that Jesus is telling me, "Sleep on now, that opportunity is lost forever, you cannot alter it, but rise and go to the next thing. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him."

So what is the next thing? I have three: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 MSG) Those are the words I want to live by for the rest of my life. Those are the words that can get me to rise up when I can't do it on my own. It's the hope--the unswerving hope--that gets me out of bed every single morning. I can't get through a single day without it.

That's the reason for this blog. Sometimes I have to read it myself to renew the hope that Christ has put in my heart. Without hope, life is meaningless. Won't you join my on this quest for hope? We can't go on without it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Very Precious Message

"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light." Matthew 10:27

I know I have breezed right through that verse in Matthew many times without really reading it. Yesterday's devotional in My Utmost for His Highest highlighted it and spoke volumes to me about the past year of my life.

Oswald Chambers says, "Songbirds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God's hand until we learn to hear Him." He goes on to say that when God puts us through a dark time, we need to keep our mouths shut and listen for Him. He says, "If you open your mouth in the dark, you will talk in the wrong mood." Oh, how often I've done that! I've said very selfish, small minded things that were not true. I've said hurtful things to and about others who love God and are doing their best to walk the path He has given them. I've said things that could cause someone new in the faith to stumble. I do not want to be responsible for those kinds of things!

Chambers says we should not talk to others about our darkness (while we are in it) or read books to find the reason for it. If we're so busy doing all that, we'll miss what God is whispering through the darkness. "When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light."

Even though I struggle with listening--I talk way too much. And even though I have not handled my times of darkness appropriately, somehow at least part of that very precious message has gotten through. (Thank God for His grace!) And that message is a message of hope. Hope that even during times of darkness--especially during times of darkness--God is at work. Hope that one day the weather will clear and the sun will shine brightly. We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 MSG) And that is my unswerving hope!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hope Inexpressibly Bright

In my quest for unswerving hope, I get excited every time I read anything about hope. I just love the word. It does something for my soul. Maybe it's because there have been times in my life when I have lost hope and those were very dark times. Life without hope is not worth living. If you have ever lost hope, you know what I mean.

Today's devotional in My Utmost for His Highest gives us a remedy for lost hope. According to Oswald Chambers, the remedy is your imagination! What?! Imagination is for children, right? Imaginary friends, pretending to be a princess, playing house or school. But imagination for seasoned, battle fatigued Christian warriors?

"The starvation of the imagination is one of the most fruitful sources of exhaustion and sapping in a worker's life," says Chambers. Have you ever felt exhausted? Sapped? I sure have. Can something as simple as imagination really be the answer? "Imagination is the greatest gift God has given to us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him." Chambers continues to talk about taking thoughts captive, making them obedient to Christ and picturing ourselves in God's presence. These exercises take our focus off our idols and our enemies and put it where it belongs--on God. That's using the imagination, but it's much more than pretending. It's actually spiritual warfare. And it's not really that simple, it takes an incredible amount of effort and focus. Everything will be desperately screaming for your attention. To mentally put up the "stop sign" (like we do with our kids when they interrupt our phone conversations) is very difficult. And to keep it up is hard work. But it is necessary and so worth it!

So, if you're struggling with lost hope, try this, "Remember Whose you are and Whom you serve. Provoke yourself by recollection, and your affection for God will increase tenfold; your imagination will not be starved any longer, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright." Couldn't we all use a little hope that's inexpressibly bright!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Answer to Prayer is Knowing God

Oh Oswald, you are no more merciful today than last week! Today I read, "Dejection springs from one of two sources--I have either satisfied a lust or I have not. Lust means I must have it at once. Spiritual lust makes me demand and answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer."

We Christians in America are so guilty of that. Somehow we think we are entitled. We think we are so special. We think that God should be at our beck and call--that He should meet all our needs when we need them (or when we demand them.) Chambers says that when he doesn't get what he wants immediately, "I imagine I am justified in being dejected and in blaming God." (That's where I was about a year ago.) Chambers continues, "Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track," and don't miss this, "The meaning of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not the answer."

I am seeking some miraculous answers to prayer. I have some really big "needs." I'm not talking about a new car or a big screen TV. I'm talking about life or death issues with my child. And yet, if I put seeking those answers before seeking the God Who gives the answer, I am out of line. The bottom line is, my goal to know God must take precedence over getting answers to my prayers, no matter how important they are. Anything less than that is spiritual lust, and leads to dejection and depression.

My unswerving hope lies not in what God can do for me, but in Who He is and the fact that He wants to reveal Himself to me. That is nothing short of a miraculous answer to prayer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Precious Gift from God

As I tucked my little girl in for nap time today, we read a story called, "You're My Little Love Bug." The story tells how much the author (or reader) loves her little love bug, and ends with the something like, all this is true and more because one thing's for sure, "You're my precious gift from God."

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember having a conversation with God about whether the baby would be a boy or girl. I told God that I was fine either way, but since I already had a boy, and since my mom passed away when I was only 19 years old, I would sure be blessed if this baby was a girl. I knew a daughter would never replace my mother, but something in me desired another close female relationship. When the Doctor proclaimed, "It's a girl!" that early Sunday morning she was born, all I could say was, "What a precious gift from God!"

When my daughter died just 15 years later, I got really angry with God. "What would be so wrong with my having an adult relationship with a mother or a daughter?! Is that too much to ask? These two relationships have been taken away from me and I don't understand!"

As I tucked in my granddaughter this afternoon and read those words at the end of story, it hit me. Who is so blessed to receive not one but two unspeakably precious gifts from God? My granddaughter will never replace my daughter, just as my daughter could never replace my mother. But God hasn't taken anything away from me. He hasn't replaced any of the people in my life who I've lost, but he gave me 19 years with my mom and 15 years with my daughter. No matter how much time I have with my granddaughter, it will be a blessing. On top of that, God has blessed me with many amazing relationships. And when I think about it that way, I have lots of precious gifts from God in my life!

God doesn't cruelly take things away, and he doesn't replace our lost loved ones with exact replicas. And in reality, He is the only relationship we really need. But out of His unending generosity, He blesses us with special people. They are not perfect, and they were not created to meet our needs, but God allows us to be blessed by them. What an amazing Unswerving Hope!

Willing to be Hopelessly Insignificant?

Oswald Chambers is merciless. He gives me no room for entitlement or even complaining! He says, "Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful--to pour out your life blood as a drink offering... or do you say... "I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, 'Well done.'" (Oh, ouch!)

He goes on to say, "Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in the bucket--to be so hopelessly insignificant that your are never thought of again?... Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity."

I have been on a quest for significance my whole life! Now Chambers is telling me I need to be willing to be, not just insignificant, but hopelessly insignificant! And the strange part of it is, something is resounding within me at that thought. I'm not sure what it is exactly, or what God is speaking to me, but in the past, I would have instantly put the book down (if not thrown it across the room!)

Chambers ended today's devotional with this statement that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is true: "Tell God you are ready to be poured out and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be."

My hope is not that God will meet all my needs and wants, not that he will give me a nice comfortable life on earth, but that through all the fear, pain and grief, He will prove Himself to be all I ever dreamed He would be... and more. And that is my Unswerving Hope.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Broken Bread and Poured-Out Wine

"Our Lord never lays down the conditions of discipleship as the conditions of salvation." --Oswald Chambers. There are conditions to discipleship, but not salvation. All it takes to be saved is to come to Jesus. Then discipleship is optional. But if we are a "servant of Jesus Christ... our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us broken bread and poured-out wine to please himself."

"You can be saved by the skin of your teeth if you like; you can refuse to let God count you as one separated to the Gospel. Or you may say, 'I don't care if I am treated as the scum of the earth as long as the Gospel is proclaimed.'" God did not separate me to "show what a wonderful [wo]man He could make... but to reveal His Son in me."

Why would I want to follow a God like this? Am I willing to serve a God who would ask this of me? Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him?

Seems to me that I'm going to be broken and poured out anyway, so why not put a purpose to it? Why not allow some good to come out of my brokenness?

Yes, it would be nice to live a cushy little life with no struggles or trials--and I will... later--that's what heaven is. Life on planet earth is never going to be cushy and nice no matter how hard I try or how much I want it to be.

So, I choose to allow myself to be broken bread and poured-out wine, but I will not allow it to be for no good reason! I will... I must see something good come from my brokenness. I cannot bear it otherwise.