Be vigilant

I was reminded recently how fear can make a person a fool. For the past three years I have been working on growing my faith and courage and shrinking my anxiety. My journey with this and through this, has been documented here as I have learned how to move forward. This past week though, one would have thought I forgot everything I had learned.

In a moment of weakness, I chose not to trust someone and decided to try to control something that was never mine. When it was brought to my attention I felt foolish. I knew the person was trustworthy, I knew I had jumped ahead by trying to control what wasn’t mine.

The devotional the next day reassured me that I was right to refocus myself on faith and courage instead of fear. Isaiah 12:2; Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

I had forgotten my song.

When I do not remain focused on the God I say I follow, then I start to wander, much like a child in a toy store. Too focused on the items around them to find the person whose hand they are supposed to be holding. As we all know the first thing that happens to that child when they realize they lost their parent, they start to panic. Much like I did the other day. I let fear dictate my reaction, instead of faith.

My devotion went on; The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. I found myself remembering how many years anxiety had plagued me, how many years I had spent fretting and worrying about the opinions of others instead of focusing on the God I love. His opinion of me is all that will ever matter.

As I reframed my perspective, I remembered yet another verse I had learned as a young believer, 2 Corinthians 10:5b; take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. To be vigilant, in my heart, my life, and my mind, means I have to watch what I am doing and remember that whatever crosses my mind and heart, is to be taken captive for obedience to Christ and to not allow the enemy one more inch into the life that I have handed over to God.

Best Beloved, what are you needing to take captive? What has wandered away in your life? Let us agree to do a search, to gather it back, and putting into the hand of Christ. When we do this very thing, then we will experience the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6).

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Broken vows

Years ago a co-worker suggested the book, Redeeming Love, by the author Francine Rivers, since I enjoyed books set in a historical period. The story is set in 1850 and it is a retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer from the Old Testament. The writing style is powerful and drew me in quickly. The theme of forgiveness and grace was palpable to me and resonated with elements of my own redemption story.

While in a thrift store a couple months ago, I came across another copy of Redeeming Love. I have a personal copy along with a lending copy already, but they are in a box. A friend came to mind when I saw the copy in the thrift store so I bought it immediately. I gave her the copy to read and found another one for me to read again.

The reason this story kicks me in the back side and tears at my heart so much, is simple. For every vow Gomer or in the story, Angel, makes there is the understanding that at some point it will be broken. Sometimes it will be broken out of stubborn willfulness and other times because of the brokenness in the heart of Gomer/Angel.

I have struggled with my own vows in my life and faith journey and even with my own marriage. I know that I long for my heart to be faithful to the God who loves me and sacrificed everything for me, but then I stumble, I struggle, and even out-right rebel against the best He has planned for me. I may go for weeks or months in rebellion, unwilling to bend to the will of God. In the end, I fall flat on my face, knees bloody, hands and face scratched and dirty from trying to make my way on my own.

I crawl back to God, waiting for His swift discipline to come down, knowing I deserve it. But instead of hands that bring down judgment, they come and comfort me. Clean me, hold me, and restore me. Not just the first time, or the second, or the tenth time- but every time. That’s the kind of love He has for me. And for you, Best Beloved.

Marriage is different, however. In a marriage, there are two very finite, very human parties involved. Each person brings with them the brokenness they experienced in their families of origin. Some may react in anger when the vow s broken, their may respond with grace, and still others may respond with cold indifference. In essence saying that they have been hurt too much and will not allow their hearts to be available for injury anymore. It is here that the injured spouse chooses to break their own vows.

When I promised to love, honor, and cherish my husband, I was making a vow that no matter what happened this would be true of my emotional and even mental state. My vows were not just flowery words, they were set in stone, it was a fact. Something I would stake my life on if necessary. In the twenty-plus years we have been married I have remained faithful to him, loved him, cherished him. Anyone who knows us, would to vouch for that.

Honoring a spouse though, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I did not understand the depth of the heart matter that came with this vow. By choosing to honor my husband, I am also choosing to listen with both ears, to let his words resound inside, instead of waiting to have a turn to respond in kind. It is here that my battle is being fought daily. Sometimes won, sometimes lost. Not because he isn’t worth honoring, but because my honor is finite. It is temporal and often lost to whatever is happening at the time.

Dear Ones, it is here that I call out to God. I need Him so badly. Sincerity is great, but follow through is more important. Consistent follow through is even better. I know that I cannot do it with God. My heart may be for my husband, for my God and my relationships with each of them. Yet, this side of Heaven I will fail, more than once.

Yet I do not give up. I continue to strive for the honor my husband deserves, the honor that shows him that he has value and worth. The same kind that God showed to me, even when I didn’t earn it. This is where I identify so well with Gomer and Angel. The desire to honor their husband was not easy to live out.

Paul said it best, I think in Romans 7:17-20: “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

‭‭Paul knew it was the Holy Spirit moving in Him that made his release from sin possible. And so it is with me.

Heavenly Father, you know my heart longs to please You, it also knows I cannot without Your direction, interaction, and intercession for me. Jesus, may my love for you and desire to honor you overflow into my love and desire for my husband. Amen

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Tap, tap

I woke to a tapping on my soul this morning… grateful when His word gives comfort for my concerns. Knowing He never sleeps or slumbers, I can hold up my heart and hands to Him and He will receive what I hold dear. In the past week or so I have learned of wildfires (see praying for rain) and of health diagnoses that may include a long battle in the future. It’s times like this when I find peace in the Psalms.

Now the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him — those who depend on His faithful love. We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him because we trust in His holy name. May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh, for we put our hope in You.” Psalms‬ ‭33:18, 20-22‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

As I lay awake offering my prayers, concerns, and the lives of loved ones into God’s capable hands, I found more encouragement in the passage of Psalms 33.

“I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh, for those who fear Him lack nothing.

Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who delights in life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good?

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” Psalms‬ ‭34:1-5, 7-9, 11-12, 15, 17-18‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Twenty-five years ago or so, I read the words of Psalm 91 for the first time. I was still a pretty young believer and the words surprised me. I didn’t realize that there were verses full of promises from God about His children. The promises weren’t to tell me my life would be full of joy, song, and without difficulties. Instead, they were to remind me that He would be with me, at my side, in the midst of it all.

As I lay awake listening to the hum of the fan in the window, the moon shining on me, I knew that even at that moment- God was singing over me (Zephaniah 3:17) and worry was washed away.

Best Beloved, what is making you stay awake at night? Is it a diagnosis, a relationship? Is it something you can fix at that hour? Put it in the hands of the One who created the sun, moon, stars, and you. He will meet you where you are and give you rest.

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Praying for rain

The land I love is burning as I write. It is the place where I met my husband and where I met my Savior. Over 30,000 acres are being swallowed by a fire whose ignition is unknown. I have been glued to my newsfeed for every new detail every new image. Friends scattered over the world have changed their cover photo or their profile frame as a sign of solidarity when we are helpless to do more than pray.

And pray we do, we pray for protection of our friends who are battling the fire, for family who may be in the area, and we pray for miraculous protection of the land we all hold so dear.

A land steeped in history, all the way back to the cliff dwelling Native Americans who were here long before Coronado came to seek his streets of gold. A region full of stories of fearless gunslingers like Black Jack Ketchum, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett. These stories, this history is in our blood and even our dreams.

And so we pray for rain.

I felt like God whispered in my ear today as I thought of my favorite place. My Child, are you aware that the people I love and land I created is also burning? At first, I couldn’t figure out what He was talking about. Then it came to me. The very children He created in His image have been fighting with each other, have been incendiary in their remarks, and their actions to someone God loves.

My prayers have redoubled now, Best Beloved. I am praying for rain for my precious region, but I am back on my knees again, for my family and my friends who are at odds with God. Whose very souls are scorched with anger and hurt, who cannot imagine the blessed touch of God’s miraculous rain that comes in His amazing, scandalous grace.Dear Ones, where are the fires burning in your life today? Are you trying to put them out on your own? Are you praying for rain? Isn’t it time to start praying for the cooling, healing touch of His mercies and grace? For His forgiveness?

Join me on my knees and let’s pray for rain. Today. Right now. Sweet, soaking, fulfilling, quenching rain.

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Side by side

On our farm we are raising a number of animals: goats, ducks, and a sheep named Sunshine.

She isn’t our sheep, we are boarding her for a friend who lives in town. The goats tolerate her, but she is not their “kind” so there is always a disconnect in the end.

When Sunshine is resting, you will often find her on the porch, lying right in front of the screen door. I have tried to get her to lie down in other locations, but she comes back to the door every time. This behavior can be annoying when you are trying to leave the house, since she will only move after you nudge her repeatedly.

Sunshine is a very sweet, gentle, loving animal and I have grown to enjoy her attention very much. She will call out to me when she hears my voice, will greet me at the gate when I come home from work. She loves to follow me when I am going on a walk on the property. The more she is with me, the more I understand why believers are called sheep.

While her legs are agile and she can jump over things and run if needed, her wool can make it easy for her to get stuck in fencing brambles, and even the door of the dog kennel, if she’ trying to steal a bite of his kibble.

She needs me to guide her and protect her. She needs my care and attention to thrive- even when her environment isn’t very dangerous. Yesterday I saw this post and it seemed just like the definition of Sunshine’s behavior.

It made perfect sense why she sought us out, stayed where we were, even watched for us when we are home– she knew her life depended on us. Best Beloved, what about you? Do you recognize that you are only going to survive your faith journey by sticking close to your shepherd? Do you watch for Him every day? Call out to Him for His comfort and companionship?

This kind of love, protection, attention, and affection can only one from Heaven itself. Dear Ones, where are you in relation to your Shepherd? Let us agree, it is time to seek our Shepherd and Savior. We need to be side-by-side with Him, everyday.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one,” (John 10:27-30).

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convenience

We live in a world that strives to make things easier. We have machines that process, plant, pick, prepare, produce, and even purchase on our behalf. Tasks and chores, once done daily by our great-grandparents, are now mechanized, all in the name of efficiency.

While I can appreciate not using a washboard every time I want to wash my clothes, or heating water on a fire-fed stove for bathing, there is something about the idea of hard work and struggle that I appreciate. When I work for something, I am reminded of the sweetness in the reward.

With my home is various stages of restoration and updating, I can appreciate running water, electricity, and washing machines. Over the past months I have had to do without all of these things. I have a washboard that I have used to wash clothes, a clothesline on which to dry them. I have heated water for washing dishes, etc. It has been inconvenient, but it has not been overwhelming. I have expected the inconveniences. It is part of the process.

I think that is why Jesus remind’s us in John 16:33,  In this world you will have trouble.

In other words, there will be struggles, there will be difficulties. We will never live in a world of complete convenience– the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty.

We are in between Eden and Heaven.

We are in a fallen world. The enemy is still battling the Victor and there will be trauma. There will be struggle, loss, discouragement. We cannot avoid them, no matter how convenient we want to make things. Jesus knows that there are sorrows on this side of Heaven. That is why He said in John 16:33, But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

The problems we face or even want to ignore, can feel like they will never go away. In the middle of it all, there is a way to find peace and keep it. We turn to Jesus, who said in the beginning of John 16:33, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. No matter what, every time. Our peace, our lasting peace, will only come through the power of the Holy Spirit, the very Lamb of God.

He promises, Never will I leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b). If I have to choose between convenience or deepening my walk and relationship with Christ, I will pick Christ.

Every time.

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Let it in, let it out

Today is one of those perfect days. I woke up to find sunshine peeking out of the clouds, the temperature is perfect for open windows, songs turned up on the radio. It is a wonderful way to begin a Friday.

I am able to sit at my desk at work and listen to music with my headphones and today, I picked Rend Collective and some other music with an uplifting beat. My only concern is that I will become too engrossed in the music and start to sing out loud. It’s a risk I am willing to take.

The past week or so has been stressful and irritating to me. We are smack in the middle of the renovation/ restoration of our house and it is crazy and chaotic. We are hosting our son’s graduation celebration and family is coming to stay with us in less than ten days. I have allowed the pressure of “perfect” push me into the corner.

Until this morning.

We live surrounded by farmland. Many of them homesteads for over a hundred years old, complete with the barns, out buildings, and occasional windmills. As I drove down the road today, I saw such an awe-inspiring view that I pulled over and took a picture.

It was in this moment that I let out the hurry I was feeling and let in the sweetness of the morning. The warm, gentle breeze, the pure breath I took in; I closed my eyes and just allowed myself to feel the whole experience.

That is exactly what I am choosing now. I have a house in the middle of construction, a son graduating high school, another one home from college, and then the normal schedule to follow. I could allow myself to get fully wrapped up and become overtaken with the activities.

There was a time that I would have done that. Now, I am practicing the letting it in and out. The sentence, “I don’t know. When I am supposed to know something then I will find out.” It makes some people frustrated that I don’t know every answer.

I find it freeing.

Best Beloved, what do you need to be freed from today? It’s time to let it go, put it down, walk away. Come with me and close your eyes, draw in a deep breath, and let it go. Take a walk around the block, in a garden, in the woods. Wherever you feel free.

It is not our job to control, worry, or fret. It is our job to trust that God’s power, strength, love, mercy, is enough.

Let us fall into the arms of Christ and find the very rest we have needed.

Let it in, let it out, let it go. He has us.

Numbers 6:24-6 says it best:

‘“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

 

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

 

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’

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Broken glass

Our farm has had only three other owners before us. Two owners were from the same family, the third was a stranger. The stranger did not know the history of the house, the hours, the sacrifices, the stress, the joy, and the sorrow the original family had experienced. Quite honestly, they did not care. It is evident in the way they cared for the house and some of the contents,

I walk through the wooded section of the property daily with the goats and sheep. I have learned to have something with me to carry things I find. The strangers took many of the antique canning jars, bowls, bottles, and crocks to the woods and shattered them. Maybe by throwing them against the tree, maybe by using them for shooting practice. It has been hard to understand why they destroyed these things. I have found myself getting irate about the beautiful things, the jars, the crocks that have been destroyed.

God whispered in my ear while I was spouting about the loss of these things. You know, that’s how I feel about my children when others can’t see their worth. I stood still. “Oh, Father.” I thought of my own children and how indignant I become when someone does not recognize the amazing gifts and talents my children have and share with their community.

God said that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). When God’s children are not valued and treasured as He says they should be, I cannot imagine how it must hurt His heart. The very children that His Son, Jesus, died for on the Cross treating each other poorly, as trash, as objects. Never stopping to see the value, the worth, the gifts and talents they possess. Just like the broken glass in the woods was destroyed and their very purposes lost forever.

The pieces I have collected did not lose their story, however. I can see that they were bowls, jars, crocks, items that contained something at one time. Their initial purpose isn’t there anymore, but that doesn’t make them ugly or useless. I have collected them to allow them to tell their stories again. We have wooden spools from electric lines and I will be creating a mosaic table top for the porch.

Then whenever anyone gathers on the porch they will see that the broken glass is still beautiful. It still shines, it still tells its story, it still has purpose.

Best Beloved, how are you feeling? Are you feeling broken? Undervalued? Discarded? Are you feeling precious? Priceless? Treasured?

Dear Ones, don’t listen to the strangers, those who have chosen to dismiss the value God has placed on you and in you. Don’t let someone come and try to throw you away. You are a child of the One True God. If you have been dashed against the ground or the trees in your past, don’t let the strangers make you feel like you can’t be used again.

God is a Redeeming God. He is the God of Second Chances. Restoration. He can take your broken pieces and make them into something new and something beautiful.

Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion, He understood. All I had to offer Him, was brokenness and strife. But He made something beautiful of my life (Gaithers). 

He will make something beautiful in your life too. Just ask Him.

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wings and strings

May begins the summer adventures, but it marks the end of the school year, too. There are the goodbyes, the gifts, the last minute assignments, end of the year programs, a whirlwind of activities. As much as this month is full of excitement and joy, it is also a month that makes one weary. In our case, our last son is to graduate high school. Our oldest has finished his first year in college. The house is in the middle of a major renovation/restoration project. Ceilings are torn down, furniture is stored, and boxes are in every nook and cranny. It is chaos, even it’s for a good reason.

Chaos is tied to weariness, I have found. The more wild and active the schedules become, the more tired a person becomes. It’s just part of the experience. If I allow myself to look at all the work to be done, all the things that must be completed before graduation weekend, I find my head begins to spin, I feel out-of-sorts, and I need a nap.

As much as the chaos seems to pull me down like seaweed to the ocean floor, I am encouraged. Scripture has verses that deal with weariness and the most familiar are in Isaiah 40, verses 28-31.

(28) Do you not know?

    Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

    and his understanding no one can fathom.

 

(29) He gives strength to the weary

    and increases the power of the weak.

 

(30) Even youths grow tired and weary,

    and young men stumble and fall;

 

(31) but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.

Until I started thinking about the word weary I didn’t realize how many times it shows up in these few verses. The word in its original Hebrew is לְהַלאוֹת or yaga which means to labor or toil. This is the word used to describe weary in verses 28, 30, and 31.

So God doesn’t grow tired of laboring or working. Now the youths will grow tired of working or laboring. But those who hope in the Lord will find their strength renewed. They won’t be tired from working, they will have energy and power to rise up above it all.

So what does the Hebrew word עָיֵף in verse 29 mean? This word for weary is ya’ep which describes a sense of exhaustion and fatigue. This kind of weariness is deeper, more complete in its feeling. This is the kind of weary new parents experience or those who are struggling with a long term battle that shows no sign of ending may have.

What I love about this verse is that there is a promise with that kind of weariness. It says that God will give strength to those who are weary, and power to the weak. He doesn’t leave them in the middle of the battlefield, He strengths them to continue on. He doesn’t tell them it’s a tough break and that they will be left behind. God meets them where they are and gives them what they need. Just when they need it.

Which leads me to the string.

One of my favorite Greek mythology stories is about the maze and Minotaur. Theseus was the son of King Aegeus, enemy of King Minos. Theseus planned to kill the Minotaur that King Minos put in the middle of a labyrinth to kill any enemies Minos sent there. When Theseus went to the labyrinth he took the ball of string given to him by King Mino’s daughter, Ariadne, to unravel as he went further into the maze. When the Minotaur was dead, Theseus would be able to find his way out by following the string.

It was the idea of the string that made me realize God gives a string of hope to those who are battle weary. They are in the middle of a labyrinth, one that could easily leave them lost and without hope. But with the string, they have the ability to find the route out again. That is what hope does, it gives us something to hold onto.

This is the hope I need. The kind that helps me put one foot in front of the other. Dear One, what kind of hope do you need today? What kind of weary are you feeling? Is it from being tired, maybe after a long day at work- whether in the office or in a field? Or is it the kind of tired you feel in your bones?

Best Beloved, don’t give up. You have been given something far better than a piece of string. You have been given access to the LORD, maker of heaven and earth. He will be with you in the midst of it all. Just call you to Him. He is waiting to give you something to hold onto, His hand.

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electricity

Our house is being worked on. It is a century-old farmhouse and had been allowed to fall into disrepair prior to our buying it. So, the work will overhaul the plumbing, wiring, as well as correcting other issues that have developed over the last 100 years. We aren’t trying to make it into a modern house, we are striving to restore it to its original beauty.

One of the things about all the work is the electricity. While we have been able to use the plugs, run appliances, etc, the wiring is not up-to-date.  Where the wires were once covered in cloth and threaded through porcelain tubes and around hubs, new wires are wrapped in a plastic cover with a grounding wire included inside.

While the old wiring style had its purposes, the new wiring gives a safer, steadier source of electricity. The more I think of the wiring, the more I see God’s wisdom in how He re-wires us when we accept Christ and grow in Him. We may be able to function at first as a new believer, but as we grow we need to have old viewpoints changed, old habits re-routed, we need to make sure the connections are secure. The only way to do so it to be re-wired.

When we are not connect to God, we risk losing the continuous power flow. As work has been done on our house, contractors have needed to use electric tools. One outlet kept dropping the power level. Sometimes it was 110 volts, sometimes it was as low as 40 volts. There was no consistency. But with God, we will always have the same amount of power, there is no fluctuation with God.

There are those who want to be connected to the True Source, but don’t want the discomfort of being re-wired, they want the result, but not the work. Just like our house has been able to function with the old wiring, when the ceilings are taken down to expose the joists, the danger is finally realized. Light fixtures, light switches have been faulty connections. The fixtures have not been attached correctly, putting everyone else in danger.

Just like the vine and the branches in John 15, we are to remain connected to the source. Plugged in, if you will, to the very thing that brings us life. That will restore us to grow the fruit we were created to bear (Galatians 5:22-23).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

That is the kind of connection I want. What about you?

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