Saturday, May 30, 2015

WHAT HAPPENED???

So it would appear that my blogging wheels fell off this past week and a half.  WAY off.  We finished school, and without any structure whatsoever to our days, we've gotten almost NOTHING accomplished, including my thirty-day study, #livefreeThursday posts, laundry, cooking, other household chores, etc.  So, starting this weekend, I am recommitting to this blog.  I will jump back into my thirty-day study, I will post the #livefreeThursday post I wrote for last week but never posted, I will introduce the amazing artist who is helping me with blog photos, I will put our house on a schedule to help structure our days, and I will get myself back on track.  But first, I will fall on my knees at the foot of the cross, beg forgiveness and mercy and grace, and plead with my Savior to guide me and help me in these endeavors!!

Please stand by!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Winds of Change

First thing this morning, I headed upstairs to see what my kids were doing.  Immediately, they directed my attention outside.

"The big tree is down!  The big tree... it's down!!!"

Wait, what??

I looked out the window, and I was utterly shocked.

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When we moved into this house almost exactly two years ago, we found that the big, beautiful oak at the edge of the yard was actually dead.  We were charmed by its beauty and the lovely tree swing hanging from its lowest branch, so we left it.  Since then, the tree has slowly been losing branches.  First, the tree swing branch came down.  Then another large branch fell.  We knew it was just a matter of time before we lost the entire tree to a storm or strong wind.

This morning, when my children told me, "The big tree is down!" I looked out, expecting to begin the mourning process for the dead tree.  I thought I would see its remains littering our yard.  Imagine my surprise to see it still standing straight and true, just where it has always been.




I looked to the right, and my shock deepened.  The tree on the ground was a massive oak.  We knew it had some dead branches and hollow places.  There were several families of squirrels residing inside the tree.  We've spent hours watching wildlife scamper and flit among this tree's branches.  We've left food for the squirrels at the base of the trunk.  But now?  Now it is laying on the ground, broken, uprooted, and dying.






We will mourn the loss of this big, beautiful tree and the life it has provided in our yard. 

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Many things in this life are out of our control.  Things happen every day that cause pain, heartache, disappointment, and loss.  And we can't control them any more than we can control the wind that took down my tree.  In the midst of those storms, it is tempting to look around and ask, "Why, Lord?  Why this?  Why now?"  It is easy to see how people come to be angry at God when things don't seem to be fair or to make sense.


Why did You take this person and leave that one, God?  This person was providing for his family, he was a light to his friends.  He devoted his life to following You.  Why?

Why is my child sick?  I've followed You and trusted You, and now my child is very ill.  Why?

Why didn't I get that promotion?  I've worked harder than anyone in this place, but I keep being overlooked.  Why?

Why aren't my dreams coming true?  Everyone else's dreams are happening all around me.  But I'm still here, sad and lonely, with nothing to show for it.  Why?


Why did You take this tree that was still alive and leave the one that was already dead?  This tree provides shelter and food for many creatures in my yard.  Why this one, God?  Why not the other?  We were expecting to lose the dead tree.  We weren't ready to lose this one yet.  Why? 

Why?  Why?  Why?

In those hard moments, we sometimes forget the wealth of promises that God has already given us.  He promises that He has a plan for our lives (Jer 29:11).  He tells us of his deep, abiding love for us (John 3:16).  He even promises us protection.


Copyright 2015 Devon Atkins


Sometimes things happen in life that don't seem to make any sense.  We are left wondering why.  I don't have an answer, but I know the One who does.  In those hard moments, in those moments when I don't understand, I know that the only thing I can do is cling to the One who can answer every why.  When life is out of my control, I can rest in knowing that the One who is in control has got me covered.  He has commanded His angels to guard me.  That's when I have to rely on faith, even when faith doesn't make sense. 


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Lord, when the winds of change blow and trees begin to fall around me, help me to trust You.  Help me to lean further into Your grace and protection.  Remind me that You have ordered Your angels to cover me.  Help me to bring you all of my why questions and to be content in knowing that You have an answer.  I want to let go of trying to control my life so that I can turn it over to You.  Amen.

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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.




http://tsuzanneeller.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thirty Days--Day Three and Day Four

As part of a small Bible study I host, we've challenged ourselves to take thirty days and spend intentional time in the Word and in conversation with God.  Each of us came up with a specific plan to make a DATE (Determine A Time Every day) with Jesus.  My plan is to wake up early, spend time with Jesus, and blog each day about what I've learned or what I've heard from God.  These will be pretty nitty gritty posts, not polished, no graphics, just me, writing what God puts in my heart.  This will push me and stretch me and hopefully grow me closer to who God wants me to be.

Life has intervened in my blogging plans, so I am a couple days behind here.  I have, however, been spending time in the Word and talking with God.  I just haven't had a chance to get it blogged.  I will be doubling up blogging until I get caught up.  
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Day Three

1 Samuel 10:14-16

Saul had finished prophesying with the group of prophets and went to the high place, just as Samuel directed.  Saul's uncle came to them and wanted to know where they had been. When Saul mentioned that he'd met with Samuel, his uncle wanted to know what the priest had told Saul.

Was his uncle curious?  Did he know about the prophesying?  Was he a devout Israelite?  Was he being nosy?  What were his motives for asking?  Was he worried?  What was the relationship between Saul and his uncle?  Were they close?  What was the emotional and political climate as Israel waited for Samuel to anoint a king?  What did Saul's uncle think Samuel could have said?  There aren't many clues in the scriptures, but it makes me wonder.

Saul only told him of the message that the donkeys were safe.  He left out mention of the kingship.  Why?  Was he ashamed?  Afraid? Embarrassed?  Did he not believe Samuel?  Was he concerned that his uncle might threaten his safety or be jealous?  Why would he not share this news?  Again, there aren't really clues in the scriptures, but it makes me wonder.

When we receive messages from God, are we to share or should we keep it to ourselves?  Where is the line there?  Does it depend on the message.  Is God speaking to me for my own personal growth?  Or is He speaking to me to reach others?  Is there a difference in how we respond?

I don't know that I have any answers to these questions.  Is there ever a right time to keep God's messages to ourselves?  Or should His words always be shared?

Lord, give me discernment and guidance about when, where, and how to share Your word with the world around me!  Let it always be about You and never about me.  Amen.

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Day Four

1 Samuel 10:17-26

Samuel called together all of Israel in order to appoint a new king over them.  He gave them God's message:
I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.

He reminded the people of God's power and grace, how He had delivered them time and time again, yet they still demanded an earthly king.  Samuel was there in order to give the people what they wanted.  They chose their king.  Except when the time came to name Saul, he was nowhere to be found.  He was hiding with the bags.

Wait, so Saul is chosen as king over Israel, and he's hiding from it?  Didn't Adam and Eve try to hide from God once upon a time?  That didn't work for Adam and Eve, and it didn't work for Saul.

God has a specific plan for each of us.  When He reveals that to us, we can choose to accept that and live up to the calling, or we can try to hide from it.  Living a life of faith and freedom means walking into God's plan for our lives with hearts and minds wide open.  We can try to hide among the baggage, but God sees us even then.  And His plans for us are unchanging.

Lord, please give me courage and strength to step into the plans You have for my life.  Help me to always stand strong and to be bold.  Let me never hide from Your dreams for me.  Amen.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thirty Days-Day Two

As part of a small Bible study I host, we've challenged ourselves to take thirty days and spend intentional time in the Word and in conversation with God.  Each of us came up with a specific plan to make a DATE (Determine A Time Every day) with Jesus.  My plan is to wake up early, spend time with Jesus, and blog each day about what I've learned or what I've heard from God.  These will be pretty nitty gritty posts, not polished, no graphics, just me, writing what God puts in my heart.  This will push me and stretch me and hopefully grow me closer to who God wants me to be.

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Day Two

1 Samuel 10:10-13

Saul and his servant had just met Samuel.  Samuel hinted that he was going to appoint Saul as king over Israel, but Saul had his doubts.  Samuel gave Saul a list of events that would happen that day as a sign from God.  One of them was that they would meet a procession of prophets, and Saul would join them in prophesying.

Just as Samuel had said, Saul met up with a group of prophets and began prophesying with them.  Today, we think of prophets as those like Samuel, who heard from God and knew the future.  However, more often than that, prophets were simply those who spoke God's words and inspired His people to follow Him.  The scriptures didn't record what Saul prophesied, but it is likely that he began speaking things he had learned in the temple as a child or young man.

Regardless of what he said, it is apparent in verse 11 that this kind of behavior was very out of the ordinary for Saul or his companions.  People began mocking him, asking, "What's this now?  Saul is among the prophets?!"  It was just as Samuel had said, but the people were making a joke of it.

Again, I can't help but wonder how I would feel in Saul's position.  He came from a wealthy family, upstanding and likely important in the area.  He had gone out on a vital mission to locate his family's donkeys and found Samuel instead.  As if telling Saul that he was going to be king wasn't enough, Samuel also told Saul about some strange things that would happen that day, and they did.  Was Saul scared?  Was he encouraged?  Excited?  Frightened?  Freaked out?  I imagine that he was feeling a mix of these emotions and more.  As strange as it was for others to see him prophesying, it must have been a strange feeling to suddenly be speaking God's words with no prompting or preparation.  God was trying to prepare Saul's heart for ruling Israel, but was Saul getting the message?

A couple things come to mind here.

First, so many times God calls us to do things that might look a little strange to the world around us.  Stepping out in faith might call unwanted attention to us.  Like Saul, people will probably ridicule us for following God when that takes us on a path that is very different from our peers.  We might lose friends.  But God promises us that He will provide everything we need.  That includes protection for our feelings and strength in the hard times.  We have to be willing to be faithful to do His will, even when it is scary, feels strange, or might seem foolish.

Second, God's plans are so much greater than our own.  Romans 8:28 promises us that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.  God had a plan for Saul.  He was trying to use this moment with the prophets to prepare Saul for something greater.  God is using the strange, the difficult, the absurd, the painful, and the hard to change us and mold us.  He wants us to be transformed.  But that requires us to be faithful in those situations.

Lord, grant me the courage to step out in bold faith, to go where You call me to go and do what You call me to do, no matter how weird it may look to the world around me.  I want to be who You want me to be, and I want to accomplish Your plans for my life.  Fill me with Your peace and courage, and strengthen my faith.  Amen.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Thirty Days-Day One

As part of a small Bible study I host, we've been challenged to take the next thirty days and spend intentional time in the Word and in conversation with God.  Each of us came up with a specific plan to make a DATE (Determine A Time Every day) with Jesus.  My plan is to wake up early, spend time with Jesus, and blog each day about what I've learned or what I've heard from God.  These will be pretty nitty gritty posts, not polished, no graphics, just me, writing what God puts in my heart.  This will push me and stretch me and hopefully grow me closer to who God wants me to be.

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Day One

1 Samuel 9:1-10:9

Saul went on a mission to find his father's missing donkeys.  Instead, he found Samuel, and the course of his life was forever changed.

The people of Israel were demanding a king.  They'd been ruled by Judges, men appointed by God to lead them spiritually and judicially, for many years.  But the Israelites looked at the nations around them, all ruled under a monarchy, and they wanted the same.  Samuel warned them against it, but God had bigger plans.

Verse 9:1 says that Saul's father, Kish, was a "man of standing."  He must have known about, and probably even participated in, the cry for a king.  Saul knew, as well.  They also knew who Samuel was.  They would have known his reputation.

On their search for the missing donkeys, Saul began to think about giving up and returning home.  He was afraid his family would think he was lost.  They had searched far and wide over the course of three days with no luck.  Saul was probably discouraged and disappointed.  But his servant spoke of a seer, a man of God, "highly respected," and "everything he says comes true" who was in a nearby town.  Saul protested that they had nothing to give the seer.  They were out of food and money. He doubted the man would speak with them.  The servant pulled out a small coin and offered to use that to pay the man.  Saul agreed, and they went to the town where Samuel was staying.

When Saul and his servant approached Samuel, Samuel told them about themselves.  He already knew who they were and why they were there (God had spoken with him). Upon their first meeting, Samuel hinted at Saul's future in 9:20, saying, "And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?" 

Then Samuel began to tell Saul all the things in store for him that day.  He would meet two of his father's men out looking for Saul and his servant.  He would meet three more men, one of which would give him two loaves of bread.  He would meet a procession of prophets and begin prophesying with them, and God would be with him in whatever he set his hand to do.  Then he was to wait for Samuel for seven days.

I can't help but wonder what I would have been feeling in Saul's position. I show up here tired, hungry, discouraged.  And then I come to a prophet, one who speaks directly with God, to help me find my father's donkeys.  And what the prophet says to me... The desire of Israel?  Israel wants a king.  Why would Israel be looking at me and my family for a king?  Are you saying that I'm going to be king?  I'm not sure I want that... OF COURSE I want that!  Power, wealth, fame beyond imagine...  but the responsibility...  I don't know how to be a king!  And how do you know that I will meet these people exactly where you say I will?  I don't know that I want to prophesy with a group of prophets.  Won't that look a little strange?  Why is this happening to me?  But Samuel says that God chose me.  I don't know if I want to be chosen...  The thoughts and feelings swirling in Saul's heart and mind must have been overwhelming.

But verse 10:9 says, "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day."  Saul was confused and not entirely certain he believed Samuel.  He doubted that God would choose him.  He was feeling insecure and unsure of himself and what he had just heard.  God had a plan for him, but he didn't believe it.  But God changed Saul's heart.

God didn't give up on Saul, even when Saul couldn't quite get himself to believe in God's plan for him.  God changed his heart.

I know that God has plans for me.  Big plans.  More than I can even imagine.  But, like Saul, I feel unequal to the task of fulfilling those plans.  I doubt whether God has really chosen me, if He really knows what He's doing, if He realizes all my flaws and shortcomings.  I mean, I know that He created me, which means He also created those flaws and shortcomings.  But I doubt whether I can be used by Him and for Him.  But God changed Saul's heart.  And I know that He can change mine, too.

Lord, change my heart, just like you changed Saul's.  Grow me into whoever it is You want me to be.  Guide me on Your path for my life, and help me to cling to You through the tough times.  Amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Singing

Music has always been a big part of my life.  As a small girl, I dreamed of being a singer on a stage in front of huge crowds of adoring fans.  I craved that fame and attention.  I expected to do great things with my gift of music.





I pursued a music degree, I sang in choirs, I played and practiced, but I was never quite good enough or dedicated enough to become more than mediocre.  Meanwhile, I diligently watched shows like American Idol, just dreaming of my own place in the spotlight.  I so badly wanted that for myself.




As I matured, I slowly began to put away my dreams and face the reality that I will never be famous.  I thought I was okay with that.  I have been blessed beyond all that I can ask or imagine.  I don't need for anything.  I thought that was enough.




Recently, I was presented with an unexpected opportunity.   It was a small thing, but it was BIG to me.  During a Wednesday night rehearsal for Sunday morning worship, the lead guitar player began working through one of our songs.  I started quietly singing along.  The worship leader asked me... well, ordered me to sing into the microphone.  I did, and the whole band began to join.  After we finished the song, our leader decided that I would sing lead for that song on Sunday.  I was thrilled and a little nervous to accept, but I agreed.  I went home and practiced.  I even told friends about it, and we prayed that it would go well.




On that Sunday morning, as we began to rehearse the song before services began, the worship leader started singing the lead.  I was confused and dismayed.  I was confident that he would soon remember that he'd asked me to do this, we would stop, and things would be made right.  But that never happened.  We finished the song, ran through it again, and continued on with our morning.  I was stuck in a place of speaking up and making it about me, or letting it go and pretending like my feelings weren't hurt.  I did my best to let it go and move on, since I knew that was the "right" thing to do, but I was still hurt.  What had started out as an exciting morning quickly turned to disappointment.  I began putting that dream to rest once again.

Then, on the way to worship practice again, as He often does, God spoke with me through a song. 

If You want to steal my show, I'll sit back and watch you go.  If You've got something to say, go on and take it away.  Need You to steal my show.  Can't wait to watch You go.  Take it away!
--Toby Mac, "Steal My Show"
 BAM.  Instant perspective shift.

I've been praying for God to use me, which is just another variation of the dream of being famous.  I wanted to be famous for God.  I wanted Him to use me mightily.  I wanted to be known far and wide as a God girl, as someone who changed the world for Him.

But what I need to be praying instead is for God to CHANGE ME.  When I allow myself to be changed by God, my life becomes about Him.  I fade away.  It isn't about my talent or skill.  It's all about Him and what He's doing around me.  It isn't the song I sing, but the song He sings over me.





Lord, I pray that the cry of my heart will continually be CHANGE ME!  I want to be changed by You first and used by You second.  I want to be known as the girl who was changed by an everlasting Father.  I want to be transformed into whoever YOU want me to be.  I want Your song over me to be louder than any music I could ever hope to create.  Amen.

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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.



http://tsuzanneeller.com