Monday, December 10, 2012

The Disappointment of Christmas

Christmas is hard for so many people. It has been really hard for me for many years. But only because my expectations have been misplaced. I have bought into the lie of what Christmas is really about.

Christmas was not easy for Mary either. In a short period of time, she went from being a pure, innocent young bride to being spat upon, leered at and judged by almost everyone around her. All as a result of the will of God.

Sometimes I'm jealous of other moms who's kids come home for Christmas. It's such a joyful time of reunion. But not all of us get to experience that. That's one reason Christmas is such a difficult season for many. But, as my devotional today says, Christmas is not about me. It's not even about family. I don't live in a Hallmark movie!

Mary didn't get to experience warm fuzzies on Christmas either. I think we have added that expectation and, for most of us, Christmas falls short of it. Christmas is not about the warm fuzzies of home, family and gifts.

Christmas is about the invasion of light into the darkness of planet earth! It's about an interruption of our normal lives. It's about giving up our shallow, selfish hopes and dreams in exchange for God's bigger, deeper plan.

Am I willing, as Mary was, to give up my reputation, my dreams, my plans for God's bigger plan? Even if it means facing judgement, rejection and grief? Am I? Are you?

If we could see what God is doing, if we really understood and valued what Jesus did by coming to earth, if we could see the movement in the spirit realm... if our expectation for Christmas was properly placed, we would toss our shallow, selfish dreams aside so fast. Christmas would never again disappoint us!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent

We are in the season of Advent. My daughter and I started an advent devotional on YouVersion this week. We are learning that Advent is about waiting... it's about faith... it's about hope (my favorite subject.)

Elizabeth (my daughter's middle name) and Zachariah had longed for a child for so long, all hope was gone. But even well past the years of child bearing, I'm sure Elizabeth's arms ached for a child or even grandchildren of her own. I imagine her pleading with God in her younger years... maybe even into her 50s where I am now. (Makes me even more grateful for my 5-year-old who fills my arms every morning!) But God remained silent and no baby came. For decades she prayed. Still her arms were empty.

But did she blame God? Was she angry with him? Did she reject faith? While I'm sure she had her dark moments, the answer is no. She continued to trust God. Zachariah continued to serve Him in his priestly capacity. Until one day when all hope was gone, after 400 years of silence, God spoke. FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, folks. 400! This was about so much more than Elizabeth's aching arms. But, at last, she was blessed with her miracle child and the earth was blessed with the first prophet since Malachi.

Four hundred years is nothing to God. Though we may be tempted to lose hope in a much shorter time, we need to remember that God is still moving. Though we can't see Him, and though He may be silent, He has not left us. He has not taken his eyes off of us. He has heard our prayers. He has seen our tears. In fact, He cherishes them. He will show up--right on time.

I'm waiting--no where near 400 years. But if I need to wait that long, may I do it in faith and in hope... unswerving hope.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Heart is Good?

I just finished "Waking the Dead" by John Eldridge. My heart is stirred. My mind is struggling to wrap it all up.

Eldridge tells me my heart is good--made good by the presence of God (because I requested it) and as the fulfillment of His promise to give me a new heart.

As I was reading this book, I was struggling to believe my heart is good, yet also distancing myself from it because I'm afraid of being sappy and emotional. I want to be strong and stable! I'm wearing of hurting. I'm afraid of what I might feel if I allow myself to.

One morning after an evening of reading about how my heart is good, I actually wept over a painful situation that has caused intense heartbreak, and feelings of guilt and regret. I hadn't wept over this situation for months, maybe years. I wrote about it in Today I Cried.

The next morning, I wept again (see, I'm becoming sappy and emotional!) as I read  in my devotional, "God formed man from dust, a material substance, and breathed life into him--the breath of God, a divine substance. God looked at His creation [me!]--a combination of corporeal and spiritual reality--and declared it good." He declared me good? He declared me good!

Tears flowed freely as I felt God's confirmation that my heart is good--that I am good--because He declares me good! Not because of anything I have done, but because He created me, He breathed life into me, He gave me a new heart, and His presence dwells in my heart.

God continues this confirmation as He draws me again and again to Psalm 46. The first 3 verses talk about God being our refuge when our world is crumbling away. In verses 4-5 it says, "There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells, God is within her, she will not fall, God will help her at the break of day." Bells began going off in my head as I realized, that's my heart! My heart is the City of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells! (Yes, I know He's talking about Jerusalem, but He's also talking about our hearts.)

That's why my heart is good. That's why I am good. That's why I must proactively guard and protect my heart. I must care for and nurture it. And I must fight valiantly for it. I don't skip happily and carefree through life because my heart is good. No, there is an enemy who wants to take me out, and he will stop at nothing to do so. He wants me to believe the lie that my heart is not good and that I must distance myself from it. And he will win if I let him.

Even though I fear what I may find there. I fear what God may say to me there. I fear what I may feel there. Even though I may become sappy and emotional there, I must live close to my heart, I must fight for it, because it is the City of God, the dwelling place of the Most High. He is my refuge. He is my Unswerving Hope.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today I Cried


I have this situation in my life that has broken my heart for years. I feel like I have failed over and over. I just can’t get it right. The most important thing God has given me to do and I have failed miserably again and again. He keeps telling me to be still and know that he is God. That feels like such a cop out.

Today I confessed to him my lack of faith. I told him I feel like I’m slipping away—slipping in my faith. I confessed that I feel like my prayers do nothing. I keep praying and believing and nothing changes.

Wanting to find God in all these negative emotions, I turned again to Psalm 46. It was like I was reading it for the first time. Tears began to sting my eyes then run down my cheeks. I haven’t been able to cry over this situation for a very long time. I can't remember the last time I cried over it. Even as I have shared it with friends, they cry but I can’t.

My heart has been so broken so many times over this situation. It has hurt so long and so much that I feel like I have to harden it just to survive. But today, God sent me the gift of tears.

I feel a little relief—a little bit cleansed. It feels good to know that I still have the capacity to cry. But I also know that I will soon have to pick up all the pieces and tuck them all in. My precious little one will be awake soon, and will need to get ready for school.

But thank you, God, for a few minutes of closeness. Thank you for the tears.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Psalm 16:10


Be Still!





Last Sunday night, we had a Night of Worship at our church. A man who I'll call John, and who is a mighty prayer warrior at our church, stood up and shared a scripture: Psalm 46:10. He read, "Be still and know that I am God. That means stop striving! This is a message for someone here tonight." I thought to myself, "huh, wonder who that's for."


The very next day, I received a disturbing, disheartening phone call. I cried out to God, "What do you want us to do?!" As those words came out of my mouth, I heard John's words in my mind, "Be still and know that I am God."

Later that day, I got a call from a dear friend who asked about my situation. I shared with her the disheartening call I had received. She said that she really felt that God didn't want us to "do" anything about this situation but trust Him--not in an inactive way--trusting God takes discipline and effort. But she said she really didn't think we were to "do" anything but rest in His faithfulness. When she finished, I had to tell her about my experience with Psalm 46:10 just hours before her phone call.

That was one week ago today. Last night, I tossed and turned, thinking about this situation, wishing there was something I could do. It hurts so much to stand by and watch a loved one struggle.

Guess what my devotional was this morning? Yep, Psalm 46:1-11.

Lord, teach me to stop striving and rest in You, trust in Your faithfulness. Teach me to actively "know that You are God."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Not My Story

I am the media arts coordinator for my church. It is my job to create, organize and prepare graphic images and videos for announcements, sermons and special events.

A few years ago, I was preparing a video of an interview of a young woman and her parents. The young woman had narrowly survived a horrific car accident. She had sustained a severe head injury and it had taken weeks before they even knew if she would survive.

As the video played, the parents talked about the long hours in the waiting room. They told about how friends and family had organized prayer vigils and the miracles that came as a result.

Completely alone in the dark sanctuary, I watched the beginning of that video. After a short time I had to stop it. I couldn't watch any more. I felt bitterness and jealousy rise up in me. I heard my own voice echo through the large, empty hall, "Why didn't I get that? I didn't even get a chance to pray for my daughter's healing!" My daughter had died instantly when the car in which she was a passenger turned in front of an oncoming vehicle. She was gone before I even knew the accident happened.

The minute I heard my words echo through the sanctuary, I heard another voice--one filled with love and compassion for me--coming from deep in my heart. It instantly squelched the resentment that wanted to take hold of me. He said, "That's not what I had for you." In other words, that's not your story. You are living your story and they are living theirs.

I believe in healing. I've seen God do it. And I've seen Him "not do it." We each have a story to live out. I can't compare my life to yours and question God on the differences. I am living my story and you are living yours. They are probably very different stories, but their purposes are the same: that we may come to know and experience, on a much deeper level, the love and compassion of the One who created each one of us. And that is my unswerving hope.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Welcome, Child

I've been really down the past few days... not feeling well physically, and worried over a situation. Yes, I know we should trust, not worry, and I was trying to trust, but feeling pretty beat down. So, Lord, forgive me, and thank You for lifting me back up.

Anyway, I was struggling to get out of this funk, but I felt like I was wading through peanut butter. I couldn't think clearly, couldn't get enough sleep, and I was having a hard time finding God.

Then last night, I was reading Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis) to my 5-year-old. I'm so glad that even at this young age, she enjoys those stories. We got to the part where Lucy senses that, for the first time in a very long time, Aslan is near. As I read the words, I got so choked up, I could hardly read without crying. I want to hear Jesus and be drawn to him the way Lucy is drawn to Aslan. I could almost hear Him calling but the peanut butter was just too thick, kind of like Lucy's deep sleep:
Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name. She thought at first it was her father's voice, but that did not seem quite right. Then she thought it was Peter's voice, but that did not seem to fit either...
"Lucy," came the call again, neither her father's voice nor Peter's. She sat up trembling with excitement but not with fear...
 Oh, to have the faith of Lucy! She hears the call, navigates her way through the dancing dryads, and at last, she sees Aslan:
But for the movement of his tail he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment. And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane...
"Welcome, child," he said.
I can hardly type. The overwhelming longing to hear those words from Jesus. The amazing thought that He would welcome me! There is something deep within every one of us that longs to hear that voice. Something that needs to hear the words, "Welcome, child." To, at last, be safe in His arms. That is my unswerving hope.

Time to get out of this peanut butter and put it on toast!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Hi Mama!"

I don't remember the last time I heard my daughter say, "Hi Mama!" But I do remember that every time I heard it, my heart smiled. I remember hearing the young women I worked with say those words to their moms on the phone and I always hoped my daughter would do the same when she was grown. But it was not to be. She will be forever 15--that's when her earthly life ended and her heavenly life began.

I thought I would never hear those words again in this life. But God has such an amazing plan of redemption that filters down through every area of our lives according to His providence.

These days I get to hear the words, "Hi Mama!" all the time. Oh there's something about those words that does a mother's heart good. Each time I hear them, I'm reminded what an amazing privilege I have in raising a second little girl. I am reminded that I do not deserve this privilege. But God gives it anyway. That's how He works. He gives us what we don't deserve--that's grace--and it is my unswerving hope!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

For Glory and For Beauty

For over twenty years, I was a church secretary, an administrative assistant, or an office manager. Over the course of the past ten years, God has pulled me away from administrative duties and pushed me into more creative types of responsibilities. I have struggled with that shift.

I was raised on a farm in the Midwest, where work ethics were strong. Nothing was valued more that hard work and sweat equity. The arts were great for a hobby, but other than that, they were not of much value. It's been hard for me to see the value of my work.

I have seen what I do as "fluff," not "real" ministry. Real ministry happens in the trenches on the front lines--missionaries, pastors, teachers, counselors, prayer warriors, powerful worship lead by dynamic musicians. But putting pretty pictures on the screen has felt like "fluff" with little real value in ministry.

But in the past year or so, as God has pulled me more and more away from the administrative side of my job and pushed me further into the media arts (that's my new title, Media Arts Coordinator), He has also put in front of me articles, websites and devotionals that proclaim God's love for the arts!

Today's devotional from Chuck Colson, who's opinion I deeply respect, seals that message. He uses Exodus 28 where God tells Moses to have the priests wear garments "for glory and for beauty." God cares about beauty!

I have noticed that this Fall as the leaves are changing. I realized that God could have just had the leaves die and fall off the trees. But no, He chose to splash the forests with color--sort of a last hurrah before the leaves fall from the trees, leaving them naked and dead. Yes, for glory and for beauty!

Chuck moves on to Exodus 31:1-5 where God chooses Bezalel, an artist. God even says that He has "filled him with the Spirit of God... to make artistic designs." Wow, God would actually choose someone and then fill him with His Spirit for the purpose of making artistic designs?! You mean God doesn't just call ministers and missionaries? He calls artists too?

So, God has definitely gotten the message across that art is important, that He can use it, that He loves it, and that the church should be leading the way in art. I got that.

Now if I could just feel like an artist.

I can't draw. I can't paint. I'm untrained.

But I am called... for His glory and for beauty!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Voting Values


I recently came across this video. Please join me and fasting and praying for the upcoming election. There is much at stake.

Monday, October 1, 2012

St. Benedict's Prayer


This morning I passed by my mantle on my way to the basement to work on my altered book journal, and this card caught my eye. It came in a packet of cards I had bought on a whim a few weeks ago. I read it and realized it needed to be my prayer this morning--and every morning--really. I just want to read it over and over until it truly becomes my heart's prayer...
"Gracious and holy Father, give me the wisdom to perceive You;"
Yes, I need wisdom just to perceive You--to be aware of Your presence, Your omnipotence, Your providence.
"Intelligence to fathom You;"
Can we ever gain enough intelligence to truly fathom You? Only by Your grace.
"Patience to wait for You;"
Ok, now you're getting really personal, St. Benedict. There are so many things I want to do, experience and know. I feel so many responsibilities weighing on my shoulders. It's hard, Lord, to be patient and sit quietly still in Your presence. Yes, grant me the patience to wait for You.
"Eyes to behold You;"
I have so many filters on my mind--so many preconceived ideas about who You are and how You relate to me. Give me eyes free from those filters to see You, Lord.

"A heart to meditate upon You;"
Oh Lord, my heart is so selfish. It would rather meditate on what's for lunch, how can I make others think I'm smart, how can I lose weight without really trying, how can I promote myself above my peers, and how can I write a blogpost that will make people want to follow me? Oh Father, give me a heart--peaceful, selfless, submitted, to meditate on You.
 "And a life to proclaim You."
A life to proclaim You, not me! You will not share your glory!
"Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord."
St. Benedict was, I'm sure, far holier than I, and he realized that the only way to attain the wisdom, intelligence, patience, sight, heart and life to know God was by the power and spirit of Jesus Christ. How much more do I need to realize that truth and pray diligently for all those things. I am unable to attain them on my own.
"Amen."
 So be it!



More on 24

In my devotional last week I read about time--I also wrote the previous post from that devotional. Another point Chuck Colson makes in that reading is one by Eugene Peterson that, "in the Bible a day doesn't begin at sunrise--it begins at sunset. The day begins when we go to sleep. We wake up and join God in the work of the day He began while we were sleeping. We don't begin the day; rather, we wake up and step into God's rhythm of grace, a day already in progress."

What a great concept! It's not about me me! I can rest, knowing God is at work, preparing my day for me. I don't have to make things happen, I need to observe what God is doing and join him--not the other way around. There is so much more going on than what we see around us and we must stay in tune with God and what he is doing. I love this vision that Daniel had. It gives me chills every time I read it. It makes me want to be on the same page as God and never give up. There is a conflict going on and I don't want to waste my time worrying about things I can't control. Daniel 10

24 Hours

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

How many times have I said, "There just aren't enough hours in a day!" I have so many things I want to do and know--so many books I want to read, so many responsibilities I need to fulfill--there just aren't enough hours in a day! There, I said it again.

But it's not true. There are enough hours in each day to do what God has called me to do. He wouldn't ask me to do something and create a day too short to do it! God has given me 24 precious hours every day of my life. Haw many of them have I squandered? Ouch! How many have I squandered on TV, Facebook, sleeping, eating, shopping and a thousand other ways.

Lord, help me to see each day, each hour, each moment as a precious gift from You, to be used for You. Help me to stay focused on my calling, "remembering that you have given me all the time I need to carry out your plans and purposes for my life." --Chuck Colson in How Now Shall We Live Devotional

Wisdom From Yogi

I love Yogi Tea--especially the Blueberry Slimlife flavor. I was hoping it would make me instantly skinny, but I think there may be more to it than drinking tea. :(

Anyway, each Yogi tea bag has a little saying--a word of "wisdom." You certainly have to consider the source, like a fortune cookie. Some are really good, and some are just silly.

This teabag caught my eye last Friday evening. I know my blog content lately has been severely lacking. There has been no depth. It's because I have had no depth. Depth takes time, focus, concentration, prayer and meditation. It takes reading, both of the Bible and of authors I deeply respect. I've just been doing enough to get by--just enough to get me through the day, but not enough to gain any depth. Is there a pattern here? I think so. I do well for a while, then my routine changes--school starts, holidays hit, vacation, summer, whatever. When my routine changes, I lose my discipline and I lose my depth.

That's why this teabag caught my eye...

"To learn, read" Yes, I love to read. I love to read my friends' latest status updates on Facebook, I love to read the sale ads from Kohls, I love to read the drive through menu, and sometimes even the laminated kind at the real sit-down restaurants! Those things are easy. It's a little harder to read the kinds of things that bring learning. It's time I do a little more of that!

"To master, teach" (Yes, I know I skipped one--I'll get to it in a minute.) How true. Usually when we teach something, it's a lesson that we need more ourselves than those we teach. (at least that's what all the teachers I know say!)

"To know, write" Oh boy, this one is getting personal. To know what? Myself, my selfishness, my sin, my desires, my strengths, my hopes and dreams, and yes, my God. I am a "writer." I don't mean writer as in author. I just mean that I need to write. I have so many thoughts whirling around in my head, unless I write, I never really think. I just whirl! That's why this blog helps me. Whether anyone else ever reads it or not is not the point. Sometimes, I just need to stop the whirling and the accountability I feel toward this entity helps me with my lack of self discipline.

So thank you, myunswervinghope.blogspot.com! And thanks to anyone who takes time to read!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Roughin' It

This weekend marked the first day of Fall, and our family has enjoyed every minute of it. I keep saying, "This is my idea of roughin' it!"

My husband is an outdoorsman. He loves camping, hunting and fishing. I love running water, my own shower and toilet. I want clean hair and face, and at least a touch of makeup on this 51-year old skin.

So we bought this tiny mobile home on a tiny plot of land. It has all the comforts of home for me (just on a much smaller scale) and all the outdoors my hubby needs.

I sit here this weekend, so grateful to God for allowing us this privilege. As my husband and daughter are out in the woods setting up a tree stand, I'm enjoying a WOW Worship cd, a hot cup of German Chocolate Cake flavored coffee, and a great book by one of my favorite authors. It just doesn't get any better than this. This is my idea of roughin' it! Thank you, Lord.

Monday, September 17, 2012

40 Days of Prayer

If you're like me and you're concerned about America, let's start praying! God promises that if we will humble ourselves and pray, He will hear from heaven, heal our land and forgive our sins. I'm not waiting for September 28! I'm printing out this prayer card from Max Lucado and starting today. I'm also going to fast from sweets until election day. Who's with me?!

 

Downtime

Had a very busy weekend. Taking some downtime today to work on my altered book journal. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I am sensing some direction.

 Yes, my "art" looks a little "kindergartenish" but the messages that came from these pages are...

  1. Follow the dotted lines of prayer to the open window of inspired dreams.
  2. Plain and simple, calm and restful days are too few and far between.
  3. It is extremely difficult and expensive to attain royalty. It costs nothing but requires EVERYTHING!
Conclusion--pray more, take more calm and restful days, and realize that my royalty has been bought and paid for, but continues to require all of me!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

She Waited for the Call That Never Came

I love this poem by Ruth Bell Graham. It has brought me strength and encouragement when I have felt so powerless...

She waited for the call
that never came;
searched every mail
for a letter,
or a note,
or card,
that bore his name;
and on her knees at night,
and on her feet
all day,
she stormed Heaven's gate
in his behalf;
she pled for him
in Heaven's high court.
"Be still, and wait; and see"--
the word God gave;
then she
knew that He would
do in and for and with him,
that which she never could.
So doubts ignored
she went about her chores
with joy--
knowing, though spurned,
His word was true.
The prodigal had not returned,
but God was God,
and there was work to do.

--Ruth Bell Graham

Providence in Scripture Reading


This weekend I took my chronological Bible to the lake with us to catch up on my reading. I didn’t get a lot done, but I did some. I don’t know about you, but I often have a hard time concentrating and forget what I read the instant I finish. Plus, I often get interrupted—mainly by my 5-year-old.

This morning, back at home, I opened my Bible to the point where my bookmark was. I realized I had read this section already, so I skipped ahead to find an unfamiliar part. I came to Nehemiah 4, and the last few verses spoke to powerfully to me and a situation in my life—especially regarding events of the weekend.

I underlined several phrases and wrote in the margin. Then I turned the page and realized that I actually had read all of it while at the lake! Where I had actually left off was two pages beyond my bookmark! Had I forgotten to move my bookmark? I never have before. Had my 5-year-old moved it? Possibly, but I never saw her anywhere near my Bible. All I know is that I was meant to read Nehemiah 4 today…

“When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.” Nehemiah 4:15 (NIV)

I am often distracted by the enemy’s plots. I get so wrapped up in my own stuff—my grief and worry. I get caught up in discouragement and despair, and that keeps me from accomplishing what I truly believe God has called me to do. I feel unworthy and incapable. Who am I to think that I could serve God or speak to anyone else about Him? But if I would just listen and seek God, instead of focusing on my worries, fears and insecurities, maybe I, too, would be more aware of the enemy’s plot. Just maybe I could see how God was frustrating that plot!

“Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.” Nehemiah 4:17-18 (NIV)

Ruth Bell Graham wrote a poem that has helped carry me through times of terrible worry and stress. If you’re a mom, you understand—especially if you’re a mom of an adult child who has struggles. I want so much for my child. I want things that he doesn’t necessarily want for himself. But part of me feels like I must convince him to want these things! I have to make him understand. Graham’s poem addresses this problem we mothers have. She talks about how she prays all day long as she goes about her work, and she spends time on her knees in prayer at night. But she also realizes that there is a work that needs to be done in her child that only God can do! She ends by saying, “God is God and there is work to do.”  So instead of wearing myself out worrying and strategizing for my child, I will pray, put my child safely in the hands of God, and then I will go on with my work that I feel God calling me to do. I will do my work with one hand and in the other I will carry a weapon—the word of God--that I continue to pray over my child. But I will not stop moving forward. I will not be paralyzed by fear and worry!

“Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” Nehemiah 4:20 (NIV)

Instead of wasting my prayer time trying to convince God to do things my way, I will trust His way. Instead of trying to change His mind about my situation, I will listen for that trumpet. And when I hear it, I will rush to join God in the work that He is doing. He will fight FOR me!

Thank you, Lord, for not allowing me to skim over this portion of scripture that I’ve read so many times. However that bookmark got placed two pages back doesn’t matter. What does matter is that You will go to great lengths to speak to me. I just have to listen!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Second-Guessing Myself... Again


About a year ago, I felt very similar to how I’m feeling today. At that time, I had a decision to make that I felt so unstable about that I fasted and prayed for three days. God came through as usual, and I knew what I needed to do. I did it, and with lots of prayer and trust in God, we’ve made it to today.

Now it feels like life is taking us right back to that place. Have we made any progress? I keep telling myself that we have, and that “That Day” will come. “That Day” that I wrote about a week or so ago--the new beginning or happy ending that I’ve written much about. But is this faith or am I just telling myself that? Because me, talking to me, is meaningless. Am I back to swimming in the sea of denial because “I can’t handle the truth?”

My neck is stiff, my lips are chapped and sore from biting them, I sigh so often, I’m hyperventilating.  These are usually signs that I’m stuffing something. I’m not dealing with “my stuff,” and “my stuff” is dealing with me.

Have I done enough in the last year? Have I done what God has called me to do? Or am I giving up too easily yet again?

I fasted and prayed for 3 days again last week. On the first day of my fast, I received news that we may be going back to where we were a year ago. I had just come from a peaceful time of prayer, and I felt that steady, undergirding that fasting and prayer bring. But today, I’ve come down from the mountaintop, and I’m unsure of myself again. I’m not unsure of God—when I am faithless, He is faithful—I’m unsure of myself. Have I been too selfish over the past year? Have I given enough? Have I been obedient in every little thing? Have I missed that one thing that might have made a difference?

I’m going back to my knees in prayer—I need that unswerving hope!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On That Day...

On day two of this mom fast, my Bible reading was in Zechariah 14. The phrase, "on that day" is repeated numerous times. This is a prophecy about the refining of the nation of Israel, specifically, the city of Jerusalem:

They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'

On that day... The people have been refined and tested--a painful process to say the least. But the result will be that they and God renew their commitments to each other.

On that day... His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives - Jesus will show up in a way that cannot be denied!

On that day... It will be a unique day, a day known to the Lord. Things will not follow the normal routine.

On that day... Living water will flow!

On that day... There will be one Lord and His name the only name. There will be no denying who is in charge, and Jerusalem will finally be secure.

On that day... "Holy to the Lord" will be inscribed on everything from horse equipment to cooking utensils to the sacred bowls in front of the altar--everything will be used for His glory.

On that day... There will not longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty! He has come to take his rightful place as King.

This is a prophecy about the last days when Jesus will return for his people, but it is also about the refining process going on in our hearts each day.

As I fast these three days for my son, I trust that a day is coming when God will claim him as his child and my son will declare "The Lord is my God!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mom Fast 2012

 I'm doing the mom fast again this year. It's been not quite a year since I did my first mom fast, and it seems to be time for another. In this past year, I have seen answers to prayer. And now it feels like it's time to step it up a notch and seek another move of God.

Right now I'm sitting in a gazebo in the park, enjoying a cool, clowdy day with Jesus. Here is my prayer for today:

Father, today as I spend this time with You, I pray that You will empty me ... Of my sins, my agendas, my selfishness and pride, my insecurities and addictions... And fill me with You... Your spirit, your thoughts... Dare I even ask that I begin to think like you, to love like you, even to look like you! That sounds so crazy because I know how far I am from looking like you. Will I ever be a reflection of you? Will you ever be able to look into my tear-stained face and begin to see your own? Only by the power and grace of God.

And so begins my mom fast 2012. If you have children who desperately need Jesus, please join me!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fight or Flight


I went to a creative workshop this weekend. It was a kind of art class, but also about journaling and listening to the Holy Spirit. Creativity, journaling and prayer—right up my alley, right? Not if wanting to run crying from the room half way through the first day is any indication! And I did. Fortunately, I was as far from the door as one could get in our crowded artsy-cluttered room.

When it comes to difficult situations, folks usually come to a “fight or flight” decision. I am usually a flight risk. I’ve never considered myself a fighter. In fact, I give up too easily when it comes to confrontation, disagreements and challenges.

As I sat there at my workshop, staring at my blank page, having no idea what to do while everyone around me buzzed cheerfully and excitedly about their work, admiring their neighbors’ creativity and ingenuity, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

It was like that bad dream I often have before an important event. In the dream, I’m a young student who forgot to study for an important test. As I get to school and turn the test sheet over, I am horrified that I cannot answer a single question.

Thankfully, at the beginning of the workshop, our instructor read from a children’s book called, The Dot. In it, a teacher encourages a child who doesn’t feel like an artist to just make a dot on her page. “Now sign it,” the teacher tells her. The child goes on to create amazing art with her dots and later encourages a young boy who doesn’t feel like an artist to just draw a line, “then sign it.”

As I stared at my blank page, feeling like that young child, I dipped my trembling brush into the pain and made a swoosh. I soon finished the page and began another and another.

I still feel like my pages look like a kindergartner created them, but I love my new journal. It is a part of me. It has many more pages that I need to finish, and I plan to discipline myself to do it. Unlike our  instructor, this will probably be the only journal of this kind that I will make, but I know that the Holy Spirit has lots more to say to me as I complete it.

At the end of the workshop, I had to make yet another fight or flight decision. We were instructed to pass around our beautiful nametags we had been given as came in the day before. Each person was to write a word or phrase about the others on the backs of their nametags. I had been so wrapped up in myself and my own fears, insecurities and frustrations, I had barely spoken to most of the other women in our class. What would I be able to write on their nametags? And mine would surely come back blank because they wouldn’t know what to write on mine! Again, I wanted to run crying from the room.

But I didn’t bolt. I looked at each nametag as they came around and I looked at each woman and I realized I had seen enough of each of them to be able to write something sincere on their nametags. And when I got mine back, it had words on it that brought me to tears… words that made me realize that maybe I’m not such a flight risk after all!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brutal Honesty



I just read a book by Kristen Johnston, called “Guts”. Johnston is an actress (3rd Rock from the Sun) who is also a recovering alcoholic/drug addict. She swears like a sailor, and she and I would not see eye to eye on much of anything relating to religion or politics. One thing we do see eye to eye on is the need for honesty… the brutal, gut-level kind. And that is what I found refreshing about her book.

I really didn’t even mind her swearing and I eventually got past the religious and political gap--first, because she doesn’t spend a large amount of time talking about those things; and second, because I was so drawn in by the way she admitted that she used to lie… all the time… about everything. A huge part of her recovery, and probably the biggest hurdle she had to cross was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. She had never done that before, and she didn’t think anyone else did either.

Being a recovering Polly Anna (and liar… the denial kind), I value brutal honesty more than I ever knew possible. Telling the truth is also a large part of my recovery and I cannot stand Christian literature that glosses over the ugly truths about what goes on in the human mind. Frankly, I don’t think Jesus can stand it either. In the world today there is real suffering, real pain and real sin. If the truth about those things cannot be told, how can we ever be healed from our grief, our sin, and yes, our addictions—and we all have them—IF we are brutally honest enough to admit it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Best Worshippers



“I’m convinced that the only people worth knowing are those who’ve had at least one dark night of the soul. Now, a dark night of the soul is completely different from simply having a very bad night… Recovering addicts and alcoholics sometimes refer to this as their ‘bottom’ but it happens to almost everyone, at some point or another.  It’s that life-changing moment when everything you’ve always wanted to become, everything you actually are, and everything you know you’ll never be, all slam into each other with the deadly force of three high-speed trains. It’s the night of your reckoning, the terrifying moment when your mask falls away and you’re forced to see what’s actually been festering underneath it all these years. You finally see who you really are, instead of who you’ve always pretended to be.”
--Kristen Johnston in “Guts”

And I am also convinced that the very best worshippers are those who are in the very midst of their “dark night of the soul.” The dear friend who continues to wade through one financial setback after another, all while facing the grief of losing two family members in the past year, the single mom who faces the challenges of maintaining a godly family in a very ungodly world, the parents navigating the mine field of life and death boundary issues with their adult children who have made really bad decisions, the family who gathers around one of their own who, due to a tragic accident, is responsible for the death of another, the list could go on and on.

These folks are facing faith shaking dark nights of the soul… there are no more masks, no more pretending… hopes and dreams are dashed… the future is frightening, and yet they raise their hands and tear-stained faces to God in worship. It is truly a sacrifice of praise, and it’s the kind that’s most dear to the heart of God. Psalm 56:8 even says that God keeps a record of our tears—as if he keeps them in a bottle. They are so precious to him.

As I see people who I know are facing unthinkable life challenges reach out to God during worship, I am touched with the thought that they are the truest worshippers. Any of us can sing and dance on a good day, but those who do it during a dark night of the soul are accomplishing something truly miraculous.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Gift of Today


A year ago today, I downloaded a devotional called Jesus Calling to my Kindle. Today’s entry is interesting since this date has the power to reach deep into my soul and jerk the tears right out of my eyes. Here’s what it says…

“Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you.”

Really God? Was this day eight years ago a precious gift from you? Did you prepare it for us before we even got out of bed that morning? Because by 6:00 that night, my entire existence was changed. My little girl’s life on earth came to a screeching halt as you gently lifted her off this earth and into your presence. Great news for her, life changing, faith altering, excruciating grief for me!

Eight years ago? Really? Can it have been that long? Or has it been 800 years? Sometimes it feels like it was that long ago. And yet, as I type this, the tears flow as freely as if it were yesterday. Yes, this is a Gift of Grief kind of day.

My devotional continues… “Bring Me the gift of thanksgiving, which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow, thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me. Sing praise songs to Me; tell of My wondrous works. Remember that I take great delight in you; I rejoice over you with singing.

Oh, I remember those days following this date eight years ago. Praise and thanksgiving did not come easily. It was truly a “sacrifice of praise” as I stood in church and attempted to sing. It’s hard to sing when you’re choking on grief. But I did it anyway. Sometimes alone in the balcony with my sweater pulled up over my head and tears streaming down my face. But deep in my heart, I knew You were weeping right along with me. Those times were indeed excruciating, but Your presence was so near. There is a special sweetness about those times. Thanksgiving in the midst of such pain really does open our hearts to rich communion with You.

So, again today, for the eighth time, I will offer up the sacrifice of praise, trusting that Your Word is true… that You are who you say You are… That You’ll do what You say You’ll do. You are my only Hope—My Unswerving Hope.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Still Trying to Let Go of That Bus!

My devotional (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) this morning says, "Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities--things that are beyond your control... Do not miss the Joy of My Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders." In other words, You Can't Hold Up a Bus!

This morning I am feeling a little lighter, breathing a little easier. I don't want to try and pick up that bus again. It's so freeing to let God handle it. It may appear on the outside that I am the one holding it up in the air, but inside, I know it's God. No matter how super-powered I think I am (or at least like to appear), no amount of straining, working, thinking or planning will ever allow me to hold up that bus.

My devotional goes on to say that if I concentrate on keeping in step with Jesus (that is the key--maybe the topic of another day's post), instead of trying to anticipate His plans for me... if I trust that His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, I can relax and enjoy the present moment...
  • I can enjoy that cup of coffee shared with my husband early in the morning
  • I can enjoy curling my little girl's hair for picture day
  • I can enjoy this quiet moment I have at the coffee shop before work
  • I can enjoy the fulfillment of my job today
  • I can enjoy the time I get to spend with my son this afternoon
  • I can enjoy my interaction with friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances and strangers today
There is so much to be enjoyed today! But I will miss it all if I am straining, concentrating, planning and scheming about how I'm going to keep this bus up in the air! What a shame to miss all this that's right in front of me while trying to figure out how to do something that is not mine to do!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Important is The Book


We just watched “The Book of Eli” last weekend. Wow.

I need to add a disclaimer here that there is lots of violence and not for the faint of heart, but wow.

Denzel Washington plays the part of Eli, and he is traveling by foot through the desolate wasteland of what’s left of the United States in the year 2044. His only instruction, given by a voice from deep inside him, is to go West. In his backpack, Eli carries a book—a large, black King James Version of the Bible. He defends this book with his life. He fights for it, suffers for it.

The villain in the movie wants the book desperately. He too fights for it and suffers for it, and causes others to suffer for it. He will stop at nothing to get the book. He tells his cohorts that it’s a weapon. He finally catches up with Eli, shoots him, and gets the book. He takes it back to his lair, unable to open it because of the lock that holds it closed. He watches as his locksmith works to open the book. He is feverish (from an infected injury) and nearly hysterical as he waits to open the book.

I don’t want to give away the coolest parts of the movie in case you want to check it out. But, wow, if only we desired the word, realized its power, and were willing to give anything to get it in our hearts and minds as the characters in the movie are! We have become so complacent. I couldn’t even tell you how many Bibles I have in my home. Many of you are the same, I’m sure. We have Bibles everywhere—on our Kindles, on our smart phones, iPods and computers, on the Internet, and even some hard copies in multiple versions, paraphrases and languages. Eli carries with him the only remaining copy.

After watching The Book of Eli, my desire to read and memorize The Word has been renewed. Am I willing to walk for 30 years? Am I willing to suffer and fight for it? Am I willing to give my life for it? Am I even willing to experience some discomfort for it? Am I willing to spend time reading and memorizing it? I better be because it is life, it is power, it is truth.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dangerous Hope

My husband and I went and saw Hunger Games last weekend. I didn't think I would want to see it--I haven't read the books, and it sounded way too dark and depressing for this girl and my rose colored glasses. But I'm so glad I did.

When I listened to President Snow's words to Seneca about HOPE, I almost came out of my chair! "Hope: It is the only thing stronger than fear." He goes on to say that, in order to control the people, "a little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous."

I want to have that kind of hope. The kind that is dangerous! The kind that can pull me through anything life hands me. The kind that can encourage others to do the same. The kind of hope that overcomes any amount of darkness, sin, brokenness, and yes, even fear!

There is only one source for that kind of dangerous hope--the victory that is ours through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To know Him, to trust Him for my every need... to look to Him instead of any other comfort... to allow Him to fill me to the point that I need nothing else... If I really, really believe what I say I believe, there is nothing that can overcome that hope--not even fear. And that is my unswerving hope.

Monday, June 4, 2012

a + b ≠ c


I used to think that a + b = c. I do what pleases God: pray, read my Bible, go to church, give, serve, watch Christian TV, and basically live a good, moral life. (That’s a + b.) As I did all that, I would get c: God’s blessing and prosperity, a perfect, clean-cut family that was the picture of a godly family (the picture in my mind anyway.) C to me was basically a life with no difficulties… smooth sailing. Nobody would die prematurely; nobody would experience pain and hopelessness. We would live and raise our children, become grandparents, retire with a giant RV and become snow birds. Life would go according to my plan because I would make good choices, right?

Not right. God had other plans for me—and for most of us, I think. God wants so much more for us than an easy, carefree life. He is so much bigger than a mathematical equation. We try to put God in a box… into a little equation, and He breaks all our rules!

I heard a phrase a few weeks ago that blew me away, “Jesus did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men alive.” Does that blow you away like it did me? I’ve read it several times since in a book by Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham) called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Now that is a mathematical equation God can use!

 

We have a problem, and our problem is sin. I work very hard to “fix” my problem of sin by trying harder and beating myself up when I fail. Oh, and I do the same to those around me! I demand good behavior from them and when they fail, oh boy, do I let them have it—at least in my thoughts.

 

But our sin is not the root of the problem. It is a symptom of our deadness. And there is absolutely nothing I can do to “fix” my problem of deadness! Only Jesus can make me alive. And he reveals himself to me in the toughest, most difficult times. At the times when I am empty and have absolutely nothing to give God--no goodness, no performance, nothing--I still have everything because I have Jesus.

 

So I have a new equation. Since a + b ≠ c, every day I will remind myself that Jesus + nothing = everything! The solution to my problem has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Jesus! And that is my Unswerving Hope!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Does My Wordle Say About Me?

Wordle: My Unswerving Hope I just found the coolest website: www.wordle.net. I used it to create this image. All I had to do was enter the URL of "My Unswerving Hope" and, using the words I have written, it came up with the image above. I'm a little disturbed that the word anger came out so big, but yet I understand why. It's all very telling--I need to study it a little more! Thank you, Recovering Church Lady!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Can't Hold Up a Bus!

When I say, “You Can’t Hold Up A Bus,” I’m not talking about the kind of hold up where you would use a ski mask and a gun! I’m talking about literally picking up a bus. 


Stay with me here... I heard an interview once with an actress on a Superman movie. In one scene of the movie, this villainess was shown picking up a city bus. When the scene was being filmed, for a split second, she forgot that she wasn't actually holding up the bus--there was a crane doing that. She actually injured herself as she tried to support a city bus. Now that sounds crazy because we all know that none of us is strong enough to actually pick up a bus. 


But we essentially do the same thing when we try to control every circumstance of our lives and the lives of those around us. Lately, I’ve been exhausting myself trying to control the people around me. I’m not trying to control them in a bad way. I love these people and I want what’s best for them. I just want to make sure they don’t make wrong choices or put themselves in situations that might cause them pain. So I’ve been trying to head off any mistakes they might make—I’ve been watching them like a hawk, straining to discern every comment, every action. And I am exhausted! 


The truth is, the only person I’m responsible for is me. I want to be an encouragement and support to those I love, but when I start trying to “will” them into the “right” (according to me) decisions and behaviors, I may as well be trying to “hold up a bus.” 


God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change 
The Courage to change the things I can 
And the Wisdom to know the difference! 


 And that is my unswerving hope!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Cruel Prayer?


“I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains…” What? That sounds so cruel, Brother Lawrence. How can you not pray that someone who is suffering be delivered?

I am reading “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. He worked in the kitchen of a monastery and had very little education. But what he did have was a profound peace in the midst of poverty, a lowly position, and much hard work. This peace was so profound that visitors to the monastery sought him out to learn his secret. Hence this little book of his writings was assembled.

So this man of great peace wouldn’t pray for his friend to be delivered from his pains… what did he pray for? “…but I pray GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross: He will loose you when He thinks fit.” He continues that “men of the world” who consider sickness and pain as just a part of living, and “not as a favour from GOD… find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effects of His mercy, and the means which He employs for their salvation, commonly find in it great sweetness and sensible consolation… GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health.”

That speaks to my soul. I have experienced that amazing sweetness of the nearness of God during times of unimaginable grief and pain. It’s hard to describe how you can hurt so badly and yet experience the presence of God so sweetly at the same time. God knows that the pain you are suffering through is unbearable. By the way, despite what many will tell you during times of grief and pain, God DOES give you more than you can bear! But He does not make you bear it alone. He uses it to help you see your utter dependence on Him.

So, if you’re a friend of mine, I’m sorry, but I won’t be praying for you to be instantly delivered from any pain and suffering. But I will be praying for God’s profound peace and the sweetness of His amazing presence to carry you through until He has accomplished all that He wants to accomplish in you. God wants so much more for you than your present comfort.

Brother Lawrence continues, “[God] often sends diseases of the body, to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body." And that is my Unswerving Hope.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Weary in Well Doing

Feeling a little weary today. I'm trying to stick with my goal of journaling three times a week, but wow, that's hard work.

In my weakness His strength is made known! And that is my unswerving hope!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't Just Count to Ten!


I recently had a bout with anger. On the same day that I was struggling with my anger, I happened to read a devotional about counting to ten when you become angry. (Yeah, probably not a coincidence) I sighed wearily as I began to read it, because counting to ten never really works for me. But as I read on, I realized this was different, and it really did help. My devotional is geared toward a specific anger, but it can apply to any type of anger. I took out the specifics so that this outline can be used in any situation. Here’s how my devotional suggested we count to ten using prayer and scripture:

1.              I acknowledge that “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life” You desire. Show me Your way, Lord
2.              Let me follow your wisdom and not sin. (Proverbs 4:4)
3.              Help me to search my heart and “be silent” (Psalm 4:4) waiting for your spirit to lead me, because, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
4.              Make me “quick to listen.” (James 1:19) Help me respond and not react so I will not jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions that I will regret later.
5.              Help me to keep my head “in all situations” (2 Timothy 4:5) so that I may have wisdom.
6.              When the time comes for confrontation, fill me with an extra measure of love.
7.              Give me grace to be careful with my words, so that even when I am angry, I will say “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
8.              Help me to “restore gently” in love. (Galatians 6:1)
9.              Help me not let the sun go down “while I’m angry” (Ephesians 4:26) so that I will not harbor any resentment in my heart.
10.          Please give me grace to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so that I may place all each one of us in your hands moment by moment. Then together we will walk from a season of anger into a season of your blessing and joy.

As I’ve written before, relationships are messy, but so necessary. We need relationships and the messiness that comes with them. That messiness oftentimes involves anger. I’m one who would much rather just run away than deal with anger. I would rather stuff it, or let an offense slide, or even walk away from some relationships, than deal with my anger. But this way of counting to ten helps me deal with that anger righteously and gracefully. It helps me to “take my thoughts captive and bring them into obedience to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) That’s something I’ve always tried and failed to do because I didn’t have anything to replace the thoughts with… they would continue to swirl until I worked myself right back into anger. 

I intend to go back to this list of ten prayers many times as I learn to work through my messy relationships. I hope you will too.

About Me

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I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother raising her granddaughter. I am blessed with incredible family and friends. I love working for my church and serving on our Women's Ministry Team. I especially want to reach the women who wear their "Everything's fine" smiles on Sunday, but go home to deal with tough real-life issues throughout the week.