Monday, November 1, 2021

BUT GOD.

On Thursday, by the help of Paraclete, I finally confessed & repented of the fear & distrust I’ve been harboring toward God for a few years now. If you’re surprised to hear me admit that, I think I’ve been a “horrifically ‘good’ hypocrite.” If you’re not surprised, consider yourself privileged that I didn’t try to hide it from you too.


The back story that led up to Thurs night will appear on the blog of my journey with bipolar later … but for now I wanted to leave this here as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.


Because He helped me to finally lift up my eyes from the deep hurt I was clinging to {the “that” of the 2nd line of the quote}. This is what I wrote in my journal as I chose with His enabling, helping hand to change perspective.


Sure, work is still hectic. Yes, I still have bipolar. But I’m done acting like an abused victim! I’m done charading around trying to cover over a heart full of pain & darkness.

 

BUT GOD.

But God, that is NOT what I want to choose to believe about You.

But God, those are the lies of the enemy rather than Your true truth.

But God, You have promised in Your Word to work all things for good to those who love You & are called by You.

But God, I believe I am called and redeemed by Your grace & mercy, regardless of how much I want to run away.

But God, please whisper Your truth into my soul; draw me back into abiding trust & sweet communion in You!

But God, I don’t want to live this lousy hypocritical life any more. I am not living with integrity before You!

But God, I confess this to You.

But God, cause my eyes to see You as You truly are and to repent in sackcloth & ashes.

But God, You ARE the Kintsugi Artist who redeems & restores that which You did not lightly allow to break.

But God, my hope & joy are in Jesus Christ, NOT in my circumstances!*

But God, YOU are worthy.

Praise You, Paraclete. Only You could turn something so big & scary into something so beautiful & sacred!

I declare that I am nothing without You in my life. You are worthy & I praise You for Your perfect goodness—and I choose to root my trust back into You. I cannot keep that commitment on my own, But God, You are exceedingly, abundantly able to equip me with the humility of surrender. I believe You!

 

*A paraphrase from one of Elizabeth’s prayers in the movie War Room.

 

I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I seek to replow the ground of my heart & mind. It’s been rutted pretty deeply over the past 3.5-5 years into some negative thought patterns – but NOTHING is impossible for my God!!!!!


Yesterday, for the first time in about six months, I pulled my Bible off my shelf for individual, personal Bible study. And it was sweet!


This morning, I fell back into the rut and didn’t think of doing that until after I had been at work for a few hours.


But tomorrow is a new day!! And I serve a patient, faithful God!!




Sunday, July 25, 2021

"Look What You've Done"

In my car, the radio is pretty much always on to 94.9 KLTY, a local Christian station. It feels like in different seasons there's a song that plays every time I get in the car, even if it's just my 10-minute commute to work.


Recently, it's been this song:


Initially, I honestly resented this song a bit. The past three years have been challenging for me spiritually, not something I've usually been willing to rejoice & praise God in. And now, with my upcoming (Lord willing) visit to Uganda, all that heart crud that can usually hide beneath the surface is getting stirred up.

But on my way home from ministry group (church small group) this evening, as I got close to my parents' house where I needed to pick up a couple things, this song played again. And this time, Paraclete showered down grace---and I received the song with a heart of hope. As I listened to this song, I found myself hoping and praying. I found myself begging God, "Please let me see that song be true in my life next month!"

But then I wondered why I felt like I needed to beg God for that and plead with Him to make it come to pass. Isn't that exactly what He desires to do, to heal, to redeem?

And so by grace & in faith I intentionally shifted my prayer---"Lord, give me the humility to receive Your healing!" And I knew I needed to dust this blog off and report on what God is doing, the seed He is planting in my heart of positive change.

It's like the chives & hibiscus plant in my garden here at my new place. Last weekend when I went to plant the small hibiscus shrub I had bought several week before, I first cleared the area of weeds, mostly chives that had been allowed to run wild. Or at least I thought I cleared it!! 


When I started digging the hole "as deep as and slightly larger than the pot," guess what I found right beneath the surface? A matted, entangled, enmeshed network of chives roots & bulbs. I threw away the top three inches of soil, because I knew I didn't want those roots back in the hole with my poor hibiscus plant!!


The lies I believed They got some roots that run deep I let em take a hold of my life I let em take control of my life


The same is true with secreted resentment and bitterness. They're like the chive roots that have already sprung back up all around my hibiscus plant, that parts where I didn't dig those three inches deep to dig them out.


But God.


Standing in Your presence Lord I can feel You diggin' all the roots up I can feel Ya healin' all my wounds up All I can say is hallelujah Look what You've done


It's my hope and prayer that in the next month, as I spend two weeks with my dearly loved Ugandan sisters (towards whom I hold no hard feelings) and the others (some of whom I have struggled to forgive), that God will do just this.


Will the process be fun?
Probably not always.


Will it be worth it?
I believe so, definitely.


Please join me in praying the truths of this song over me in the coming four weeks!!!



Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

 I was up at 3 a.m. this morning, making herbal "Sleep Tea" that I had bought from a friend-of-a-friend, after waking up at 2 and having a fruitless hour of trying to fall back asleep.



I grabbed this mug because of its large size, but seeing what it said reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write!


Back on Jan. 19th, I was responsible for leading the daily prayer time at my workplace. I had contacted some of our workers for prayer requests, but only received two responses - not enough to keep us occupied for half an hour.


Then I looked at my Verse-a-day calendar on my desk, and it had the verse above -- and so I went with a bit of a longer devotional before the prayer time.


So, Nehemiah 8:10 - we all know it, even if we don't know the reference. "The Joy of the Lord is your strength." A positive, encouraging verse, right? Yes, but even more so if you know the context!


Anyone out there know the context of this verse?


Anyone?


{There was silence when I asked this question in the devotional time.}


So I took us back to the context, something I had noticed a few years ago (probably when I was reading through Nehemiah!) and that has stuck with me every time I've seen or heard that verse since.


After Nehemiah and company had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, there came a day when Ezra read the law to the people from morning until midday, with other priests there to explain the meaning (Neh. 8:1-7).


Nehemiah continues: 

 

"They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law" (8:8-9).

 

I don't know about for you, but this doesn't seem to me like the context for a go-to voice on Joy!


But that's not all - look at the majority of verse 10, the part that never gets quoted: 

 

"Then he said to them, 'Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength'" (Neh. 8:10).


Nehemiah and Ezra shared this line with a people who were grieving over the ways they had fallen short of what the law required!!


As New Covenant believers, we are no longer under the same set of laws and demands that the Israelites were. But what can we learn from their example?


I think too often we use this verse as a band aid or a somewhat trite expression to try and encourage someone. But what if, to really help our friends, we urged them to acknowledge and confess the ways they have fallen short, and then to find new strength in the joy of God’s forgiveness? What if we made confession like the Israelite's a regular practice among ourselves?


Then I walked through the definitions of 'confession,' from good ol' dictionary.com:

noun

  1. acknowledgment; avowal; admission: a confession of incompetence.​
  2. acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness, especially to a priest to obtain absolution.​
  3. something that is confessed.​
  4. a formal, usually written, acknowledgment of guilt by a person accused of a crime.​
  5. Also called confession of faith: a formal profession of belief and acceptance of doctrines, as before being admitted to church membership.​

As a Protestant, I don't believe that confession to a priest is necessary to obtain absolution. And, I had forgotten about the positive sense of confession, indicated in the 5th point.


I then read the following prayer of confession from a church in Indiana, a combination of two separate ones the pastor had shared on the church's blog:

 

"Holy and merciful God, in your presence we confess our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you. You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways, in wasting your gifts, in forgetting your love. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you. Cleanse us from all our offenses, and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires. With lowliness and meekness may we draw near to you, confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength; through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen."

And then I just opened up the floor for a couple people to pray their own personal prayers of confession, and then we launched into praying for a couple of our workers.


So, thanks for reading!! This is something that has been meaningful to me--as I said, for a couple years--and having thought through it a little more concretely recently, I wanted to share it on here!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Resentment & Repentance


I don’t know exactly how this post is going to come out…….I’m still in the messiness of processing this, and writing is usually my best way of processing. So here goes.

It was a couple weeks ago, the day I read Luke 15 in preparation for Bible Study that evening, and thinking about what I wrote in my previous blog post. I went out for a walk with the baby I’m nannying, and it wasn’t long before Paraclete walloped me on the side of the head with it: You’ve been acting a lot like the older son this past year.

And it’s true. There have been various moments in the past year+ when I’ve internally cried out the questions to God…“I was doing what I thought You called me to do. What happened?? What more do You want from me? Why did You take it all away? I don’t deserve…”

Do you hear the voice of the elder son there? ‘All these years I have served you, and you never even gave me a small party.’ As if service and outward obedience earn the right to demand fair recompense.

Part of me wishes we knew more of this story—how long had the elder son harbored such bitterness and resentment in his heart? How did he respond to his father after this? Did he stay the same, hard and unforgiving? Or did he repent?

But Jesus had evidently done what He intended with the story as is.

We know that His hearers at the time, the Pharisees, didn’t take to heart the application of the story. They didn’t change their attitude – they still hated Jesus for what He claimed and preached, and they still ended up killing Him as their attempted solution.

But what about someone like me, who never set out to harbor resentment and feelings of injustice towards God? Someone who comes to see the folly and selfishness of such a heart attitude? What am I to do to change and not be like that anymore?

I think the answer to that question actually takes us back to the other two parables in Luke 15, which each follow a very similar pattern. Something is lost, the owner searches and finds it, a celebration ensues, and the parables end with the statement “I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (vs. 10, vs. 7 is similar).

But really, what did a sheep and a coin do to repent? What could they do? They don’t even have enough sense to try to be found. It was all up to the owner to find what was lost, and yet the final verse compares them to a repentant sinner.

Maybe repentance has a lot less to do with me and my ability to return to God than I would like to think.

So how should I respond when the Holy Spirit points out something like this?

I guess the first step would be to confess it—to agree with God that what He said is true. And then to repent of it—to trust God for the grace and strength to stop resenting Him for what I don’t have and instead believe His promises of all the good things He has given me.

Easy to say, hard for my prideful flesh to be willing to do.

At the root of such bitterness as the elder brother showed is belief in a falsehood: That I deserve commendation and reward for my good behavior. What is the truth about every single one of us? What do we truly deserve? Only God’s condemnation and punishment for our sins against a perfectly righteous God. All else is only by grace.

I want and expect promises of comfort and ease—but that’s not what Christ gave. He promised that we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33), and yet in the same breath He promised His peace. So why do I try to stiff arm the challenges? In so doing, I also reject the lessons God has for me in those experiences.

Can I learn and choose instead to embrace whatever He has for me, knowing that He is a good Father and so whatever He sends must also be for my good? Not a journey that my heart has made much progress on….though I know and believe it to be true.

Like I said – I’m still in the midst of processing this. I don’t have the application all neatly packaged up and ready to be implemented….Lord help me to have the humility to submit to You and repent!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Elder Brother


Once upon a time, there was a man with two sons. The older son was dutifully obedient, but the younger son was willful and independent. One day, the younger son grew tired of living in his father’s home. After demanding his share of the family inheritance, he went away to a far country.

There he lived extravagantly for a time….until the money ran out. Then down to the depths he plunged, the depths of feeding pigs. Here he realized his folly and thought out a plan: to return and ask to serve his father as a servant.

As he neared home, his father came running to meet him. There was no criticism or judgment, only love and acceptance. A great party was quickly prepared to celebrate the son’s homecoming.

When the older brother came in after a long day in the fields, the festivities caught him by surprise. On finding out the reason, he utterly refused to join in. The father left the party to plead with him—but the son angrily responded,
“I’ve been serving you for years, never breaking a single command. But you never gave me even a little party with my friends. Then this rascal shows back up, having wasted everything you gave him, and you pull out all the stops—for him!”

The father answered,
“You are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right to rejoice at the homecoming of one who we thought was dead!”

How did the older son respond? What happened next? We don’t know for sure, because that’s where Jesus ended His parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15.

I’ve been thinking about this parable the past few days, because a Bible study group I am part of looked at Luke 15 last Thursday. Reading the chapter, listening to a children’s version of the story, and discussing it with the group recalled to my mind another study I had taken part in, years ago.

That book/video series was Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God. It’s been so long since the latter study, but some of the concepts have really stuck with me. I will try to specify which points I know come from Keller’s book – and hopefully I won’t miss any!

But my focus isn’t on what Keller shared about the story—as good as that was. My focus is on the personal application…for me, in this season.

As Keller points out, there’s not just one son in this story: there are two. A lot of the attention of the story and the readers is usually on the younger son, the prodigal* who returns home. But after his interrupted speech in verse 21, the younger son fades into the background of the story and a new dynamic takes center stage.

See, the older son was the ‘good kid’….or was he really? His response to the father in verses 29-30 reveals a heart that while outwardly obedient was inwardly resentful and even hateful. Some of us can easily see ourselves in the beginning of the story—a child living recklessly and thoughtlessly, who only later comes to his senses. But how many of us are willing to own up to the times we’ve been like the older son: self-righteous and angry that we don’t get what we “deserve”. {I believe one person can go through seasons of being either one of these.}

Keller argues that this story represented both of the groups of people Jesus was addressing (tax collectors & sinners vs. Pharisees & scribes – see vs. 1-2). The first group were like the younger son, and the elder son pictured the second group. Working hard to earn God’s favor and blessings. Angry that some people would just waltz in and get it regardless of the bad things they had done. Feeling like they deserved success and recognition for their stellar behavior.

[Well, it’s a week later and I’m just wrapping this up and finally posting it. I’ll do a separate post with the more personal application.]

*One of Keller’s excellent reminders is the original meaning of the word ‘prodigal,’ referring to extravagance (see verse 13). The way I typically think of this word (as a person who got off track) is because of this story—it’s changed the use of the word. Thus Keller’s title, The Prodigal [Extravagant] God.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Joy Doesn't Come from Smooth Sailing


I’m in a weekly study of joy, just going through the Bible looking at each mention of the word and studying/reflecting on the context of the rest of the chapter. I’ve definitely been enjoying this time with a couple other ladies from my church!

This past Saturday we looked into Psalm 105. The mention of joy is near the end of the chapter, but the verses before definitely lead up to it. So here are my reflective notes on Psalm 105….

105:1-6 – The call/application: To be in relationship with God! Speaking to Him and speaking about Him to others. Seeking Him out, and remembering His marvelous works. And thus the rest of the Psalm!

105:7-12 – God’s character, specifically focused on the promise He made and His commitment to keeping it.

105:13-15 – Historical overview: God’s protective hand over His people—not allowing the kings of the nations to harm them.

105:16-22 – Joseph—tested by the LORD until the time was right for him to take charge.

105:23-25 – Israel’s time in Egypt—numbers increased, but so did hatred of them.

105:26-36 – The plagues sent against Egypt, to compel them to let God’s people go.

105:37-41 – God’s provision for His people during the Exodus—booty, a cloud/fire protection, food, and water.

Why all of this? Verse 42 points back to verse 8—God had made a promise to Abraham, and He remembered it!

105:43 – Thus “He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness.” It took centuries of time and apparent setbacks before the right time came for God’s plan and purposes to be fulfilled. Joseph didn’t feel joy when he was sold into slavery, but that was a step in the joyful Exodus. Four hundred years of Israelite slaves didn’t experience the joy of release—but their descendants did.

105:44-45 – God did all that so His people would receive the land of the Gentiles and keep His law there [which they did NOT do very well!].

This chapter was a good reminder for me this week. Tomorrow marks a year since I left Uganda, and that anniversary could get me stuck in grieving what I miss and what I lost last year. But this chapter is a reminder to me that God doesn’t just work joyful things through the good times. No, He is working out His plan in ALL things, no matter how hard/bad they look or feel to us at the time.

I find it interesting that, unlike a sermon, this Psalmist started off with the application. Verse 1-6 are full of commands: to sing, to glory in His name, to remember His wondrous works. And yes, sometimes that includes remembering the hard times, as this Psalm does—but to do so with eyes focused on the ways that God fulfills His promises and redeems the suffering into joy!!!

So that’s my goal for tomorrow and this week: to remember His faithfulness and the joy that He works out through the suffering and the scars.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Fruit of Suffering

A friend and I hung out for several hours on Wednesday afternoon. It was a fun time, but we also talked some about heart-level things. One of the verses she reminded me of was the one about Christ's promise to follow suffering with restoration.

Yesterday and today, I have been wrestling with my emotions yet again. I'm still not sleeping the best, waking up around 3 each morning and unable to fall back asleep. After two weeks of this, it is beginning to take a toll emotionally. And yesterday, a praying, supportive, encouraging friend from church finished her earthly race. She was ready to go, but I am still grieving our loss--which of course is heaven's gain!

All that to say, I needed this passage this morning. And I wanted to share it in case it encourages anyone else too.

1 Peter 5:5-11 - Submit to God, Resist the Devil

5:5 The calling for each of us is to humbly submit to one another. The motivation is that God gives grace to the humble!

5:6-7 So we should humble ourselves under God's hand & cast all our cares on Him--that He may exalt us at the proper time.

5:8 A strong warning: we most definitely do have an adversary, who is out to get us & devour us. So we must be sober (self-controlled) & vigilant (watchful), looking out for his traps.

5:9 Resist him!!! How? By FAITH! Knowing that I am not alone in experiencing the sufferings of temptation...my brothers and sisters throughout the world face the same.

5:10 The God of all grace is the answer! He called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus! Yes, He allows us to suffer for a while. BUT, He promises to perfect (restore), establish (confirm), strengthen, and settle (establish) us.

5:11 Yes, Lord, to You be all glory and all dominion, forever and ever!

I wanted to look a little more at those four words of promise in verse 10, so I checked them out using the Strong's numbers on Biblehub.com.

perfect - #2675, which means to complete or prepare. It implies doing an action to something to "bring into its proper condition (whether for the first time, or after a lapse)." The same Greek word is the one used in Matthew 4:21, when James and John were mending their father's nets.

establish - #4741, which means to make fast. It implies buttressing, propping up, or supporting something. This is the Greek word used of Jesus in Luke 9:51 when He set His face towards Jerusalem.

strengthen - #4599, which basically just has the one meaning. But it also implies a strengthening that still allows for mobility "i.e. able to move in a way that achieves something in the most effective way." Interestingly, 1 Peter 5:10 is the only use of this Greek word!

settle - #2311, which means to lay the foundation of. Two other usages of the Greek word bear mentioning here: Matthew 7:25 (the house that did not fall because it was founded on the rock), and Ephesians 3:17 (Paul's prayer that the believers would be grounded in love).

These words are the promised fruit of our enduring the suffering of temptation by the enemy. Because no matter what I face from our adversary, God is greater, and--spoiler alert--He wins!!