Friday, March 27, 2015

Waiting...

Have you ever waited for something? Maybe it was a favorite holiday. Maybe it was a package in the mail. Maybe someone was late for an appointment. Maybe someone promised you something. Regardless of the details, waiting can be excruciating. It requires patience and sacrifice and trust. Waiting is hard.

I was on the way home from a friend's house tonight when a song came on the radio. The lyrics hit me right in the center of my being.
I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait
And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience 
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait 
I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait
Yes, I will wait
And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience 
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait
And I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting 
Songwriters:  John Waller Iii
Published by:  TRAVELIN' ZOO MUSIC

Peaceful?  Hopeful? Bold? Confident? Faithful? Am I really these things in the midst of my waiting? Yet the scriptures promise good things to those who wait upon the Lord. 

Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Psalm 37:9 "For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land."
Lamentations 3:25 "The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him."

Waiting on God is scary, though. His timing is very different from my own. He has plans that look nothing like what I pictured them to be. Waiting on God requires faith... Sometimes more faith than I possess. In those moments, I can only cry out to Him and beg Him to help me in my unbelief. 

Lord, while I wait, help me! Help me to serve you, to worship you, to love you, to trust you, and to be at peace while You work out Your timing. I will serve You while in waiting. I will worship while I'm waiting. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Deliverance...

As I sit here, typing these words with tears in my eyes, I have no idea what to write.  Today is #livefreeThursday, but I'm feeling anything but free.  My life is a mess.  I have one child who just got over two days of high fever and upset stomach and another child who woke up early to an upset stomach.  I'm staring at mountains of laundry, both clean and dirty and a house that looks like it might have been ransacked recently. My husband messaged me a little bit ago to tell me that his entire load of work clothes seems to have oil stains and melted green plastic all over it.  I have half a dozen phone calls I was supposed to make early this week but still haven't made. I needed a shower two days ago. My home, my life is in shambles. 

I recently attended a session of Hearts at Home where the speaker was discussing Titus 2: 3-5.

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind , and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."
In order to teach these things, one must be living them herself.  Scripturally, we are to lead by example.  Looking around my home right now, I have failed this ideal miserably.  And I can't even bring myself to read about "The Virtuous Wife" in Proverbs 31.

I feel like one big failure.

It is in these moments that the enemy whispers in my ear.  "See?  You're not enough.  You can't handle the pressure of being a wife and a mom.  You'll never amount to anything.  You'll never be good enough. You'll never measure up. You suck." 

And he's right.  I am one big ball of mess.  I won't ever measure up.  I will never be good enough.


I will never be enough on my own.  I don't deserve God's love.  I've done nothing to make myself worthy of His notice.  But the good news, the gospel, is that I don't have to do anything to earn God's love.  He's given it freely to me, long before I ever knew His name.  Through that love, I have the power of Christ, who died for me even in all of my failures and screwups, to hold me up.  And that makes me enough.  HE makes me enough.

So today, I am going to cry out to God for His mercy and deliverance from these painful, difficult, demoralizing circumstances. I'm going to rely on Him to show me the next step to take, the next word to write, the next thing that needs done.  And I'm going to trust that He's holding me in the palm of His hand.  I am His child, He loves me, and He will see me through this day.  He will set me free!

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This post is part of #livefreeThursday with the wonderful women over at Suzie Eller's blog, tsuzanneeller.com.  Check out the links there for more encouragement.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Choices

Brenda is a mom of three beautiful daughters.  She packs up her bags to head home from work after noticing the darkened windows outside her downtown office.  As she steps out of the building to walk down the alley towards her car in the parking deck, a man steps out of the shadows and grabs her.  In that moment, she has to make a choice.




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Hard situations are a fact of life.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, WHENEVER you face trials of many kinds..."  James 1:1 (emphasis mine).  Note that this passage doesn't say IF you face trials, but WHENEVER you face them.  Hard times will come: job loss, sickness, deceit, cancer, violence, betrayal, infidelity, and even death.  These and countless other difficulties occur  because we live in a broken, fallen world.  And the results, the fallout, can be devastating.  These events can leave us feeling shattered, defiled, and utterly hopeless.  It can feel like the very ground beneath our feet has fallen away, leaving us stranded in the pain.  Like an old friend, worry can wrap itself around our hearts and cripple us.  In these moments, we have to make a choice.


Photo credit: monks-retreat.blogspot.com


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Brenda has a choice to make.

She and her daughters have been studying martial arts for four years.  In their classes, they train for different scenarios so that they know how to respond if they ever face that situation for real.  They work on blocks, kicks, strikes, stances, and techniques all designed to protect themselves from a possible attacker.  They practice these techniques in the classroom, using each other as the target.  They talk through the emotions that are brought up in the moment of contact.  They focus on remaining calm, trusting the training they've put in, and visualizing the effectiveness of the techniques they've rehearsed. 

At the moment that Brenda's attacker grabs her, Brenda has a choice to make.  She can choose to follow her fears and panic.  Or she can choose to tap into the training she's put in for the last four years, remain calm, and fend off her attacker.  One choice leads to more pain and fear.  The other leads to freedom and victory.  If Brenda chooses to panic, her attacker gains control of the situation and she is at his mercy.  If Brenda chooses to trust her training, she gains control of her attacker and he is at her mercy.  She has to make a choice.



From the outside looking in, it seems like the choice is obvious.  If Brenda has the capability to defend herself, she should do that.  If she can disarm and disable her attacker, that is what she should do.  However, if she has not practiced her art, if she has not used it enough to make it second nature, if she hasn't participated in enough classroom rehearsals of real-life scenarios, she might not be able to trust her training.  The panic might become overwhelming.  Her body might shut down.  Her reflexes might not be fast enough.  If she doesn't have confidence in her martial training, it becomes difficult to make the choice to use it when she really needs it.  If this isn't second nature to her, it will be almost impossible for her to make the choice to effectively defend herself.

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In the face of hard times, we have to make a choice.

We've been Christians for years.  We've participated in Bible studies, attended countless sermons and church services, served on mission trips, joined in prayer groups, and been to every church outreach.  We know the Scriptures and can quote them with ease.  We've counseled others on how to walk through difficult times.  We know all of the things to say and do to be a "good" Christian.

Then trouble hits.  A spouse loses their job.  A child becomes gravely ill.  Divorce looms large.  A dear friend is a part of a deep betrayal.  And we have to make a choice.  We can choose to follow our fears and panic.  Or we can choose to tap into the spiritual training we've put in for years, remain calm, and fend off the attacks of the enemy.  One choice leads to more pain and fear.  The other leads to freedom and victory.  If we choose to panic, the enemy gains control of the situation, and we are at his mercy.  If we choose faith, we give God the control and our enemy is at His mercy.  We have to make a choice.

Just as in Brenda's situation, the choice here seems obvious.  Our God is the Creator of all things. "I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." Is 43:15  He is faithful.  "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you?  You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you." Ps 89:8  He has already won victory over everything we face.  "On this mountain he will destroy the shroud the enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth." Is 25:8

Photo Credit: georgetteann.wordpress.com

 When difficult times loom large, the choice of faith over worry should be an easy one.  However, if we haven't put in the time to practice our faith in real life situations, if it isn't second nature to take our fears to the Lord, if we haven't trusted Him with the small things in our lives, if we haven't gotten to know our Lord on a day-to-day basis, trusting him in a moment of real difficulty will not be easy.  It won't be a choice that comes naturally.  It will be a struggle.  It will feel stilted and maybe even false.  And it won't be effective in overcoming the fear and worry of life.

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We are engaged in battle every single day.  Ephesians 6:10-13 reminds us of this.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Friends, we face hard times every single day.  Some are small and seemingly insignificant.  We can handle them on our own with ease.  But just like the classroom in a martial arts setting, these are the things that prepare us for "real-life scenarios," those moments when life gets too hard to handle alone.  If we aren't engaging with God daily, inviting Him into our lives, our struggles, our little daily difficulties, then we are missing out on training opportunities.  We can't become warriors without practice.  Would you join in in dedicating ourselves to inviting God into our training grounds?  Let us become prayer warriors so that we no longer have to struggle over what to choose when life gets hard!





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This post is part of #livefreeThursday with the wonderful women over at Suzie Eller's blog, tsuzanneeller.com.  Check out the links there for more encouragement.

tsuzanneeller.com

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Less

"Scabies babies!" they called us mockingly from across the parking lot.  Confused and embarrassed, I found myself growing more and more ashamed.  I was ostracized by these mean kids who I had thought were my friends because I had associated with the lonely, dirty boy in the  corner of the recess yard.  I contracted scabies from him, and they taunted us both about it mercilessly.  This was not my first taste of shame, nor would it  be my last.

Shame

Shame is defined by dictionary.com as "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc. done by oneself or another."  We've all been there, embarrassed, guilty, humiliated by one thing or another, picked on, mocked.  But there was a time before shame became part of your existence.

My grandparents and I had an evening ritual every night that I stayed with them.  After dinner, we would turn on Lawrence Welk, and I would situate myself upon an old iron and leather foot stool.  That little stool became my platform.  The living room floor was my stage.  I sang and danced with my whole self during that hour, and my grandparents clapped and cheered me on.  It didn't matter that I didn't know the words or the melodies or the dance steps.  I sang and danced my little heart out.  I knew no shame in those moments.

Shame is not something that occurs from inside ourselves, initially.  As we grow and become more aware of the social constraints around us, as others point out our flaws and mistakes, as we watch the people around us and learn from them, as we are ridiculed and humiliated, we react by feeling shame.  We become embarrassed of ourselves or the people around us.  I was so confused when my classmates started calling me names, because in my mind, I had no reason to be ashamed.  I had done nothing wrong.  Yet when my friends began taunting me, I was overcome with feelings of humiliation and self-consciousness.

Adam and Eve had no shame, originally.  "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Genesis 2:25  They were naked.  And they were not ashamed.  They had not been taught that nakedness was taboo.  They had not experienced guilt or sin.  They were innocent and free to do as they pleased, within the boundaries God had set before them.  No one had told them that they SHOULD be ashamed or that there was anything wrong with their nakedness.  Until they ate of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings." Genesis 3:7  When God came to speak with them after this, He was not pleased.  "Who told you that you were naked?" Genesis 3:11  Shame was not part of God's plan for Adam and Eve.  And it is not part of His plan for you and I, either.

Less

His plan for each of us is that we must become less so that He can become more.

Fearless.  "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

Guiltless  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24


Angerless  "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."  Ephesians 4:31-32


Less me, more God.  "He must increase, but I must decrease."  John 3:30

Shame is not of God.  It is put upon us by the world, but we do not have to accept it.  We don't have to take on the constraints that others place upon us.  We don't have to accept their labels as true.  Instead, we can take hold of the Less that God has for us.  We can be fearless.  We can be guiltless.  Like that little girl who once stood upon a stool and shared her heart for all the world to see, we can be shameless!

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This post is part of Suzie Eller's #livefreeThursday #shameless