let Me move them

After two years of praying and waiting on the Lord for direction, The Cover of His Presence became a reality at the very end of 2015.  It seemed like a bursting of the gates as I realized just how much I was eager to write about and to share.  With great joy and fervor I tapped away at the keyboard well past my usual bedtime and puttered in my archaic graphics program to create Bible verse images to share as well.  I wondered why I had waited so long to take this step of faith and trust the Lord to grant success!  And then it happened…

Writer’s block.

It all came to an eerie halt.  Proverbial crickets chirping…

I scanned my journal full of notes from personal Bible study.  I scrolled through a list on my phone of ideas for future posts.  So many good options to pursue, but as excited as I was to explore and share God’s truth in real life, words failed me.  My mind was just – blank.

Nothing.

I prayed.  I stared at the screen until it blurred.  I prayed some more, stared out the window for a while, and even sunk back into my chair, staring at the ceiling.

More crickets.

So as I often do when life baffles me, I laced up my running shoes and hit the 5K trail through our community to get lost in thought and prayer.  With my ipod streaming praise songs, it didn’t take long for me to realize this was just what I needed!  When things don’t make sense, when I feel frustrated… I sense the nudge again and again to come aside and spend some time alone with the Lord.

When I run, I pray.  I often burst into His presence with chaos and commotion, unloading my scattered brain and unburdening my heart.  The Lord is so patient and so gentle.  As I run He softens me and by the time I am finished I am quiet before Him, ready to hear what He has to tell me.

Today was no different.  I even felt Him tugging me away from my usual prayer list – all good things to lift before His throne – but today He seemed to say, “just spend this time with Me… forget about any other responsibilities or expectations and just enjoy being with Me.”

So I tuned into some of those songs (like “Carry Me” by Audrey Assad and “I Can’t Do This on my own” by Plum) and paid a little closer attention to my surroundings – a gorgeous blue sky, bright sunshine, a fantastic breeze, trees, flowers and wildlife all reflecting the awesomeness of our Creator.  I especially loved watching a pelican that frequents the pond behind our house.  When I see him up close, I realize just how big he is, how expansive his wings are!  He soars so powerfully yet effortlessly.  It is truly amazing to watch.

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Despite the beauty all around me, my thoughts drifted back to my frustrations… without much effort I came up with quite a list:  feeling stuck at the computer, not-so-lovely moments in parenting, wishing we had more couple-time in our marriage – and much bigger concerns that seem like immovable mountains as we bring them before the Lord in our daily prayer time as a family.

To make matters worse, my legs started to feel stiff and tired and I noticed a pain in my shoulder.  Just when I could have easily spiraled down into a good old pity party, the Lord spoke to my heart, “let Me carry that pain for a while… let Me move those tired legs.  I called you to come spend this time with Me, I will see you safely home again.”

I thought of my favorite pelican and how he often reminds me of an eagle soaring above, how the Lord promised to carry His people, Israel, as on eagles’ wings.  He was inviting me to do the same… collapse onto His powerful and expansive wings and let Him carry me for a while.

I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.  Exodus 19:4

The Lord was drawing me away from my cares and back to Himself.

“He will cover [me] with His feathers.  He will shelter [me] with His wings.  His faithful promises are [my] armor and protection.”  Psalm 91:4

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He wanted me to shift my focus from those mountains to the Mountain-Mover!  He wanted me tuck away in His embrace for a while to remember just WHO. HE. IS!  To feel His presence and His tender care, to know His power, to allow His Spirit to bring His truth back to mind, knowing it is in that place that I will find rest.

Watching the pavement pass under my feet, I thought again and again, “let Me move them.”  Maybe this was about more than just my weary legs!?  Maybe the Lord was trying to tell me to collapse into Him for all of it – let Him move my blank mind to words when and how He knows they will offer the most genuine representation of His truth and bring Him the most glory… let Him move my attitudes and actions (and touch my kids’ hearts!) as I seek to love them and nurture their growth, to be a good mom… let Him move both of our hearts as we desire to invest in our marriage – and move our calendar to point us to time we can carve out for one another… and as only Creator God can, let HIM move those bigger concerns that seem like mountains.  For He is able!  For He is willing!  For His resources never run dry, His arm is never too short, His power is always abundantly sufficient!  And as Amy Carmichael says in Edges of His Ways, “He delights to meet the faith of one who looks to Him and says, “Father, you know that I cannot, but I believe YOU CAN!””

Letting the Lord do His work in His time … takes time.  It takes trust.  It takes patience.  It means ceasing from my own efforts to allow His work to be done and seen and known – as only HIS.  It is worth it!  I never want to settle for my feeble efforts when He offers His best solutions instead.

And so I keep praying… “Lord, help me to be still before You.  Help me to know that Your work within each of my frustrations is my best and only choice!  Help me to surrender each one of my cares to you again and again, knowing that You will only orchestrate what is truly best.  Help me to wait for You to move each mountain when and how I will see the most genuine representation of Your character and the most glory given to Your Name!”

A new song on my ipod offered a timely reminder that there is a challenging but equally amazing flip-side to this confidence in God’s sovereign power and delight in moving our mountains – it is the miraculous way His Spirit enables us to trust Him even when He doesn’t!

from “TRUST IN YOU” ~ by Lauren Daigle

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move

When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through

When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You

I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

 Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings

there’s not a day ahead You have not seen

So, in all things, be my Life and Breath

I want what You want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort, You are my steady hand

You are my firm foundation, the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher, Your plans are always good

There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

 When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move

When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through

When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You

I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Sooo… for now I wait.  I will happily tuck away with my Savior for a while where I am near enough and still enough to hear what He has to tell me, to be reminded of exactly who my God is, how His heart works, how HIS BEST is the only choice I want.  So, let those crickets chirp away as I enjoy this protected place as He covers me and carries me on His wings until He nudges my own wings back into full flight.

They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles… Isaiah 40:31

Read more here!  –  Ephesians 3:20 – Psalm 46:1 – Isaiah 58:11 – I Kings 17:14 – Zechariah 14:16-19 – Isaiah 59:1 – 2 Corinthians 9:8 – 2 Corinthians 12:9

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wind in my sails

On the first day of the new year I cracked open a brand new journal to begin jotting notes as I sit with my open Bible each day.  God’s Spirit has given me a hunger to know Him, really KNOW Him.  And I am one of those people who needs the process of hand-writing His Words and my response to them in a notebook to help me think about those Words (what, exactly, does this mean to me?!  what do these verses tell me about the One I am getting to know more personally?) – not just read them and forget them as soon as I close the Book.

Nearly two months have passed already!  I am thankful for the nudge earlier today to spend some time reviewing and reflecting on some of the things that have touched and encouraged my heart.  What have I learned so far?  What questions do I still have?  Despite my efforts to make reading my Bible a conscientious process, what have I already forgotten in a matter of weeks that is worth re-discovering!?

As I revisit these nuggets from God’s Word, I realize that they truly are “wind in my sails.”  The growing list of things I am learning about God gives me something solid to hold onto when the seas get rough, power and courage to forge ahead as He sets my course, and a welcomed lift to my spirit, much like fresh air and warm sun on my face!

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.  Ecclesiastes 9:10

Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.  Matthew 25:21, 23

There remains a rest for the people of God… ceasing from their works as God did from His.  Hebrews 4:9-10

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I have called him by name… I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship… and into their hearts, I have put wisdom that they may make all that I have commanded.  Exodus 31:2, 3, 6

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us… so that the servant of God may be complete, fully prepared and equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

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While they talked and reasoned together, JESUS, Himself drew near and went with them… He explained to them all that the Scriptures had said concerning Himself… suddenly their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.  Luke 24:15-31

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God… made us alive together with Christ… His workmanship, created in Christ for good works.  Ephesians 2:4-5

We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.  I John 3:2

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He gave to the seas His decree that the waters should not pass His command. Proverbs 8:29

The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.  Psalm 93:4

O Lord, You rule the raging sea; when its waves rise, You still them.  Psalm 89:9

Who has placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, it cannot pass beyond it.  Though the waters toss to and fro, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.  Jeremiah 5:22

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overwhelm you.  Isaiah 43:2

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Bezaleel and Aholiab finished the work the Lord gave them to do… Moses finished the work and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Exodus 38:22-23, 40:33-34

I have finished the work You gave Me to do.  John 17:4

Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7

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You are… chosen… royal… holy… special… praise… light.  I Peter 2:9

[His… for Him… by Him… to bring glory to Him!]

Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat… BUT I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.  Luke 22:31-32

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If this little wander through my notebook barely scratches the surface of who GOD is from two months of pondering His Word, it is thrilling to imagine what the list will look like at the end of the year!  How great is the GOD we adore!!  It is my prayer that these few thoughts have encouraged others’ hearts as well and that those who read them will be inspired to make their own discoveries – that our great God will reveal Himself to each of us in fresh news ways – every day!  As we are awed by His Person, steadied by His truth and wrapped in His love, may we truly feel His wind in our sails!

 

 

that I may gain CHRIST

An after-thought as I continue to ponder Abraham & Sarah’s story…

The Lord has re-written and re-written the “plan” for our life too.  We have moved more times than I ever want to count.  I would have happily lived and died in the same house, same town, same everything ~ but God’s plans were so very different!  We have operated on faith alone, more than once – without much of a plan.  But we were confident that the Lord was the One leading us to take each step and we had enough faith to obey.  It might not have been strong faith, with no reserve, no questions, no struggle… but it was ENOUGH faith to obey and follow the path to which He pointed.

And so, each time, we have left the comfortable, the known, and the planned… and went further out, further from family and friends and places where we had history – all to grow closer to the Lord and to become part of His Story!  Walking faithfully with Him, eyes on a greater inheritance than this earthly life can offer.

On occasion, I have caught myself trying to articulate the feeling of deep loss each time we have moved.  Each transition has been marked with struggle, emotional pain – a certain kind of grieving what we have left behind, relationships that would never be quite the same again, familiar routines that worked so well and now our new home felt so strange and awkward.

BUT GOD.  He has been faithful.  He has gone before us.  He has come close, taken us by the hand and walked us through each transition.  He has taken our “impossibles” and shown us exactly what He can do – immeasurably, abundantly, above all that we could imagine.

As we look back over the years of simply following without fully knowing, we see God’s hand moving and working IN us and THROUGH us.  And through it all, He knows it has been the exact path that would lead each of us to HIM.  He knew we would need Him so desperately, that we would reach for Him, that we would find Him… and find Him faithful!

I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing CHRIST JESUS my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, that I may gain CHRIST.  Philippians 3:8

Abraham went out without the assurance of anything – EXCEPT that God would go with him!  He makes the way.  He goes before us.  We follow.  We may be called to experience painful losses along the way, but nothing – NOTHING – we ever surrender to the Lord in obedience will compare with all He has planned to give us and reveal to us as we stay close by His side.  Those glimpses of an eternal inheritance are ones we don’t want to miss by stubbornly digging in our heels to stay where it’s comfortable!

Abraham confidently looked forward to a city with eternal foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Hebrews 11:10

 Read more here!  – Isaiah 43:19 – Deuteronomy 31:8 – John 8:12 – John 10:4 – Philippians 3:8

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Sarah

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Ten chapters in Genesis cover the span of Sarah’s life.  Abraham, the “friend of God,” was her husband.  When God called Abraham to leave his father’s house and travel to a land He would show him, they obeyed.  They packed up all of their belongings, their entire household including servants and flocks, and started their journey.  They spent many years following without really knowing how God would fulfill His plans, but holding dearly to His promises –  of a permanent possession of land, of innumerable descendants, of His protection and the great reward of His own Presence, of a covenant with Almighty God, that they would become a great nation through which all nations of the world would be blessed.

Sarah was Abraham’s “princess.”  She was beautiful and treasured, but she was barren.  Abraham was wealthy and successful and boldly confident in the One true God who spoke to him and directed him personally.  But Sarah was still barren, and in her culture it probably felt more like a curse than any kind of blessing.

I am sure there were times of doubt, trying to make sense of God’s plans when they seemed so contrary to human reasoning.  We don’t know how Sarah felt about God’s call on her husband’s life or their new, transient lifestyle.  Did she find it adventurous and exciting, a chance to escape the judgmental glances or hard questions of others that she never could answer, or did it leave her weary, lonely, questioning, and longing – still longing for a child and now also longing for anything that felt like “home?”

We don’t know.  But we know that when God called Abraham, they went.  We don’t know how much courage it took, but we know it was a leap of faith – enough faith to obey and to follow the path to which God pointed.

There were faltering steps too… when fear and impatience led to unwise and ungodly decisions – when protecting Abraham, the one who had received the promises, drove them apart and left Sarah alone and in danger in foreign lands – when the fulfillment of those promises was too long in coming and Sarah, herself, offered the alternative path of using a surrogate mother to have a child, only to complicate their struggles with deeper strife, heartache, separation and blame.

But God!

God was the one who made the covenant with Abraham and He was faithful to fulfill His promises.  God protected the ones through whom those promises would be realized!

When all hope seemed lost, God reiterated His plans for Abraham to have a son through whom His promises would come.  Only this time, God spoke Sarah’s name!  He made it clear that His covenant promises would not be through a surrogate mother’s child, but through Sarah’s son!

Beyond human comprehension and the laws of physical science (as only God can do!), Sarah and Abraham would have a child!  Sarah may not have spoken to the Lord face to face as Abraham had, but she heard His voice.  She heard Him identify her by name and promise the impossible!  She would come to know in the very depths of her being that NOTHING is too hard for the Lord!

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I wonder if that day behind the tent door was a turning point for Sarah, when she heard the One true God speak her name and proclaim with assurance that His promise would be fulfilled through her.  I wonder if that was the moment she realized that the certainty of that promise was not up to her or to Abraham – or to the state of their physical bodies –  or even remotely jeopardized by their disbelief.  It was simply God’s doing – and nothing is impossible with God!

Hebrews tells us that Sarah, herself, believed that God would keep His promise, that she judged Him faithful.  This was not just taking Abraham’s word for it, not just following his lead as head of their home – this was her personal moment of trusting God!  And maybe for the first time, she stood confidently with her husband, knowing that Almighty God saw them as *one* and that *together* they would see Him accomplish great things!

I find it heartwarming that the Lord named their son “Isaac” – which means “laughter.”  Sarah would finally be a mom!  She would feel him growing inside her.  She would know the elation of hearing his first cry after the pain of labor.  She would rock and bounce a baby in her arms and sing him to sleep.  She would watch him grow and note each milestone.  Sarah would know a deeper joy than she could imagine … a true laughter, not of disbelief, but of awe and worship with which nothing could compare.

After the birth of Isaac, we don’t read of their family moving again.  Could it be that they were finally settled?  Living in God’s promised land, raising God’s promised son, and looking forward to the fulfillment of promises beyond their lifetimes.  Sarah enjoyed almost 40 years with the family she longed to have for so long.  When she died, Abraham purchased the very first piece of “permanent possession” God promised – for a burial place.  Sarah was the first to be buried there.  Abraham honored her with this act and mourned the loss of his “princess.”

As I have thought back over the details of Sarah’s life, one thing stood out to me – the transition from restlessness to rest, wandering and longing to peace.  What made the difference?  Could it be that for so many years she simply didn’t understand that God’s plans and promises for her husband involved her too?  That God never intended to lead Abraham and to bless him, to grow him and to draw him closer to Himself, or to fulfill great plans through him without her?

Could some of her weariness, restlessness, or impatience have stemmed from a feeling that she was forgotten or unimportant?

But this is what the Lord says, your Creator, the One who formed you: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name; you are Mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

Despite the missteps, the doubting, the rushing ahead of God, the times when they did not act “as one” and ended up with a mess on their hands, God remained faithful.  And at just the right time, God made sure Abraham and Sarah knew that He saw them as one.  God spoke both of their new names – changing Abram (honored father) & Sarai (princess) to Abraham & Sarah (father AND mother of many nations).  God named their son Isaac (laughter), knowing that through him, TOGETHER, they would experience deep, soul-strengthening joy that could only come from God taking their “impossibles” and showing them exactly what He can do – immeasurably, abundantly, above all that they could imagine!

Sarah’s story captivates me!  There are so many interesting facets to her journey.  I am sure I will revisit it again and again with great interest and joy… and learn new things each time!  For now, I am thankful for the chance to let it all “simmer” while I consider some stand-out thoughts about the God who wrote her story… and writes mine too!

He is the God who spoke Sarah’s name personally and made sure she knew from His own lips that the promises He had given to her husband involved her!  He is the God who saw Abraham and Sarah as “no longer two, but ONE.”  Together they would receive all He had promised.  The call to leave home and pursue His greater, further reaching plans was not just to Abraham, it was also to Sarah!  They would become the father AND mother of many nations.  Together they would walk by faith, stumble through fear and frustration, pack and move more times than most of us would prefer… and experience God’s unshakeable faithfulness at every turn!  He is the God who would lead them back again and again to His promised land, to Hebron, where peace finally reigned, where they could enjoy the son of God’s promise for nearly 40 years together.  The first actual purchase of land in the territory He had promised would be for a permanent burial place for His special people ~ the first of which was Sarah.  She was precious to Abraham – and to God!  Her life of struggle found a place to rest – with the One who had called, the One who had promised, the One who was faithful – to both of them!

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Read more here!  –  Genesis chapters 11-20 – James 2:23 – Hebrews 11:11

 

 

yet will I trust Him

 

[A Bible study about suffering this week has brought me back to these thoughts I put into words almost 2 years ago.  It was the result of a weeks-long, prayer-drenched endeavor to meet earnestly seeking hearts with real truth from God’s Word – not just “pat answers.”   It has been so good to read through it again myself – I hope it will encourage someone else today too!]

Dear friends of ours have battled through a difficult year, to say the least.  A cancer diagnosis 2 years ago brought the early delivery of their 5th child, a healthy baby boy, followed immediately by his mama enduring surgery and follow-up treatments.  The news was good.  They caught it early!  They got it all!  Declared cancer-free, life returned to a joyful normal, even determined triumph when this mama of 5 crossed the finish line of her first ½ marathon!  We all rejoiced with them with prayers of thanksgiving!

Eighteen months later, our hearts stopped when we heard, “the cancer is back.”  Our favorite, quintessentially southern mama would face 6-7 weeks of intense radiation and chemo, followed by 3 more additionally aggressive chemo treatments.  All-out battle loomed.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  It took me 24 hours to process my own emotions and swirling questions.  I was numb.  Heart sick.  Helpless!  I prayed non-stop until the Lord’s gentle whispering to my heart finally gave me the ability to collect my thoughts and reach out with love, support and hope-filled, confident encouragement and reassurance.

“Replace fear with truth, My truth!” were His words to me.  And so I passed His truth on to our dear friends:  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will NOT overwhelm you.”  Isaiah 43:2 ~ “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified.  For the Lord, your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

The battle was long.  It was fierce.  But our God is faithful, and the treatment, though harsh, WAS successful!  Bald, but proudly donning her beloved monogrammed head scarves, physically weakened from the months of fighting, and admittedly emotionally fragile, our friend still radiated JOY and thankfulness as she shared the happy news that she was, again, “cancer-free!”  We all rejoiced again, with prayers of thanksgiving that didn’t seem to find words that were big enough, full enough, exuberant enough to express our gratitude to the Lord for His tender care and healing power!  Their family enjoyed a long-anticipated beach vacation, and she started running again, determined to tackle her second ½ marathon, the Princess race at Disney, in less than 6 months!!

A few days ago I finally had the chance to sit with our friends, enjoying a delicious brunch of French toast, banana pancakes, and a Cozumel omelet.  Our visit was emotional, still overflowing with thankfulness, but very “real” and vulnerable about the struggles of their year, and the questions that remain.  One of them surprised me.  They have walked a path few of us are asked to walk, and have shown courage and faith that has emboldened all of us who are watching and praying.  Yet they confessed their faith has been shaken, not by their own trials, but by the devastating news this very same year that a sweet 4-yr-old warrior named William had lost his grueling battle with neuroblastoma.  Childhood cancer had claimed another young life, far too soon!

Both of our families hold a special place in our hearts for William’s family.  We (and our kids!) know his dad as our favorite pediatrician of all time!  So it hit heartbreakingly close to home to hear of William’s diagnosis, battle, and seemingly sudden passing onto heaven’s shore.  Our only comfort is knowing that he is heavenly healed, never to know pain or struggle again.  But the loss of his precious young life, and the gaping void in the lives of his parents and sister, is unthinkable!  The questions are harder to answer.  And so our friends looked earnestly, searchingly, across our brunch table and into my eyes, my heart.  Their words left me at a loss for my own, “how do you reconcile faith in an Almighty Sovereign God with unspeakable tragedy?”

Tragedy is unavoidable in our fallen world.  None of us believe that the brokenness is from God.  But is it allowed by God?  And what we really wrestle with is WHY, when God is all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty and sovereign, more than capable of swooping down to rescue us, in miraculous, loving and intensely personal ways, does He choose NOT to act?  Why do children (and children at heart) die from cancer?  Why is evil permitted to go door to door and systematically take young lives because of their love for this very God?  Every part of our being begs, “WHY?!!!”

This one-word question leads to many more questions than answers.  It has already been days of thought and earnest prayer, longing for understanding, even just a glimpse of God’s perspective that will calm my anxious heart.  I found myself right back where I started, “replace fear (or in this case doubt?) with truth, God’s truth.  So, what exactly do I already KNOW?

As for God, His way is perfect.” [Psalm 18:30]

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.”  [Ps 116:15]

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the acts of God.”  [Ecclesiastes 11:5]

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.”  [Ps 28:7]

We hold unswervingly to the truth we possess, because He is faithful who has promised.”  [Hebrews 10:23]

These few verses barely scratch the surface of the wealth of promises and truths in Scripture.  But they reassure me that although the mind and heart of God are beyond my human comprehension, He is trustworthy.  Every death is precious to Him too!  Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, even with the Divine foreknowledge that He would raise him from the grave that very same day [John 11:35].  He is not callous or careless.  The One who laid the foundations of the earth, defined the boundaries of the sea, commands the morning to appear and daylight to spread across the earth also wrote every moment of our days before one of them came to be [Job 38, Psalm 139].  His choices are carefully and exactly made, down to the most intricate detail.

Could it be that we just don’t see the big picture?  We can’t possibly know all of the far reaching factors that could impact a Divine decision.  Yet “as for God, His way is perfect.”  How do we trust that?  What creates and fosters that trust?  Why has He asked SO much of some of His children?  Why has He asked some of them to wait SO long for answers, for fulfillment of promises, for deliverance?

The Lord called Abraham to leave his homeland, to travel to a land the Lord promised to give him.  He also promised that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, with descendants as numerous as the stars.  God faithfully led Abraham and Abraham faithfully followed, with unquestioning obedience.  But God asked Abraham to wait until he was 100 years old to see even one of God’s promises come true.  When Abraham and Sarah were beyond child-bearing years and after living many disappointing years of marriage without the ability to have children, the Lord blessed them with the birth of their promised son, Issac.  The birth of Isaac was humanly impossible, but more than possible with God.  He fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah in a way that was undeniably His doing.  And He rewarded their faithfulness with so much joy that they were filled with laughter (the meaning of Isaac’s name).  Because of their faithfulness they were given the unspeakable gift of being able to experience the impossible!

But then the inconceivable request came.  God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.  How could this be?  Abraham’s heart must have been torn into a million pieces.  His mind must have screamed so many questions.  But scripture tells us that he rose early the next morning and obediently began his 3-day journey to Mount Moriah, where he was supposed to sacrifice his beloved son.

As Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, God called to him from heaven and stopped him.  A ram caught in the bushes near the altar was provided by God as a substitute for Isaac.  “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your only son from me.”  [Genesis 22:12]   Abraham’s faith was tested in the most unbelievable way.  He passed the test.  He named the mountain “Jehovah Jireh”, which means “the Lord will provide.”

The question has been asked, “how could Abraham sacrifice the one in whom was all his hope?”  The truth is that in the 100+ years of walking with God, Abraham had learned that his hope was not in anyone or anything.  His only hope was in God Himself!  He was able to do the unthinkable, regardless of very real human emotions, because “he judged Him faithful who had promised.”  [Hebrews 11]  Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary, to fulfill the promises He had made.  He probably still didn’t fully understand all the reasons why the Lord had asked SO much of him, but his faith and trust in God clearly extended beyond the grave.  He had caught a glimpse of the eternal mind of God, and although he couldn’t make sense of it, he was willing to place unquestioning trust in the Lord and His perfect plan.

It has been said that the Lord asked SO much of Abraham because He wanted to give him more of Himself.  God wanted to reveal things uniquely to Abraham.  God wanted Abraham to know His truth, not just by hearing it, but by experiencing it first hand.  He knew he could trust him with the hard path He planned for him.  He knew that Abraham’s own version of God’s story to tell would impact generations to come!

Abraham didn’t know the details of the rest of the story as we do now, but he trusted God.  As scripture unfolds, we see that the substitutionary death of the ram in place of Abraham’s beloved son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah was a beautiful foreshadowing, a picture of God’s eternal plan of redemption for us.  Mount Moriah would eventually be known as Calvary, where God gave His own Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, to die for us.  He is our substitute.  Because of His death, we receive eternal life!  God the Father knows full well what each parent feels in the loss of their child.  Through the story of Abraham we can know a little more clearly just what was given for us, just how much God loves us and was willing to sacrifice so we could have a relationship with Him and a home in heaven with Him eternally!

Abraham played a very important part in the love story of God’s ultimate provision for each one of us.  Because he trusted God and was willing to obey, he lived the impossible, he endured the inconceivable, he was given the blessing of knowing the God of the universe in an intimate and personal way.  Although he probably would not wish any step of his journey on anyone else, I’m sure he wouldn’t trade the end of the story for anything else either!

So WHY does God ask SO much of some of His children?  Why does He ask some of them to wait SO long for answers, for fulfillment of promises, or for deliverance?  Is it the very enormity of those requests and the subsequent faithfulness of His children in the face of every obstacle that creates and builds our faith?  Is this how His light shines brightest in the darkest darkness?  Would these accounts of the unbelievable have the same impact if they were more palatable?  What else (WHO else) could win the hearts of men and women (and children!) and cause them to claim their allegiance and offer their obedience, even when that testimony of faith costs them their lives or means the loss of someone dear to them?  ONLY the living God, transcendent beyond anything we can even imagine, could have made Himself real enough to them to cause them to trust Him beyond the grave!

Beyond the grave… maybe that’s part of it!?  Are we just too short-sighted?  Is our definition of “what is best” just too limited?  Could it be that in His choosing NOT to act, He is actually sparing us from a greater tragedy we just can’t see when blinded by grief?  Could it be “severe mercy?”  A mercy so severe and yet a severity that is somehow merciful?  Is His “harsh treatment” actually what is necessary to bring about the greatest healing, display His greatest glory, bring about the greatest good for us?

The Old Testament also includes the remarkable story of Job.  The Bible tells us that Job feared God and lived a life before Him of complete integrity.  God Himself describes Job as the finest man in all the earth [Job 1 & 2].  But God called Job to suffer the loss of all 10 of his adult children, all 7000 of his sheep, all 3000 of his camels, all 500 teams of oxen, all 500 female donkeys, and all but a handful of his servants in a single day.  While still staggered by grief, God also called Job to suffer horrible boils from head to foot.  His health deteriorated to the point that no one could bear to look at him.  His own wife urged him to curse God and die.  But Job’s faith in God remained steadfast.  He declared his wife’s reasoning “foolish,” asking, “should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

In the chapters that follow, Job honestly and boldly shouts his questions at God.  Though maintaining faith and trust in the Lord, he is not shy about expressing his hard questions.  “Why wasn’t I born dead?  Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?  What have I done wrong?   I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish.  My bitter soul must complain.  Why have You made me Your target?”  But Job is also humble before the Lord: “God is so wise and so mighty.  Who has ever challenged Him successfully?  He moves the mountains, shakes the earth, commands the sun to rise and the stars to shine.  He marches on the waves of the sea.  He does great things too marvelous to understand.  He performs countless miracles.  If He snatches someone in death, who dares to ask, “what are You doing?”  So who am I, that I should try to answer God or even reason with Him?”

The later chapters of Job describe the Lord taking time to respond to Job personally.  He answers Job’s hard questions with hard questions of His own, reminding Job that He is the Almighty Sovereign Creator, all-powerful over the entire universe, yet involved in the smallest details like food for the raven, the birth of a goat, every blade of grass for the donkey, the feathers of a stork, the hair in a horse’s mane, or the perfect place for an eagle to make its nest.  After a relatively brief synopsis of the Lord’s role as Creator and Sustainer of all of creation, He basically asks Job, “do you still question me?  Have I not proven that You can trust me to know what is best and to provide for you more than the horse or the eagle?”  Job replies, “I have questioned Your wisdom in ignorance.  I was talking about things far too wonderful for me.  I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  I repent in dust and ashes.”

After more tragic loss in one single day than any of us have ever experienced, followed by mounting health challenges few of us are ever asked to endure, Job declared, “the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord.” [Job 1:21]  Have we forgotten all He has given?  Have we been so distracted by what we feel He has denied us that we have forgotten all that He has done, all the times He has chosen to act?  If we took time to remember every moment, every breath, every miracle (big, small, seen or unseen), would we not be humbled by His overwhelming graciousness and confess that He has proven to be faithful again and again?  Would we not say with Abraham and with Job that He IS trustworthy, despite the challenges, especially through the challenges, He is faithful who has promised?

At the end of this unbelievable time of testing, the Lord honored Job’s faithfulness, even when it was mixed with bold, hard questions.  The Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.  Job was completely restored to health and strength.  God gave Job 7 more sons and 3 more daughters, 14000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 teams of oxen, and 1000 female donkeys.  In all the land, no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job.  [Job 42]  Like Abraham, Job learned by experience, through the most difficult set of circumstances, that God could help him live through his worst nightmare x 10 (x 100?).  God trusted Job with this incredibly difficult path. He knew that as Job took his doubt and anguish to the Lord, God could reveal more of Himself to Job in an intensely personal and unforgettable way.  Like Abraham, Job’s own version of God’s story to tell has strengthened and inspired generations after him to place their faith and trust in the same Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.  With God’s help and watchful eye, we, too, can survive the impossible.  We, too, can say confidently with Job, “I know that My Redeemer lives… with my own eyes I will see God.” [Job 19:25-26]

He longs for us to know Him, to choose to love Him, to trust Him.  He knows exactly how to make Himself real to each of us in a way that will be personally meaningful to us.  He wants us to know that He is worthy of our trust.  How can He prove that if not through our experience of facing the unthinkable and finding Him faithful to see us through, to inexplicably provide strength and courage to take one more step?  As our faith in Him grows, we can reach a place of confidence to say, “even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, even when it makes NO human sense, He is good and He is right and one day I will agree with Him that His way was best.”

Yes, still more questions than answers.  But Job showed us that our great God can handle our hard questions.  As we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us [Ps 9:10].  We may never be able to comprehend the full heart and mind of God, but we can count on Him to reveal what we need to know when we need to know it.  God didn’t answer all of Job’s questions.  But He revealed enough of Himself to Job to put his questions to rest and enable him just to trust God.  And for this “need to know” girl, it is huge to realize that I don’t need all the answers, I just need to remember Who has the answers and that I am in His tender, intensely personal, entirely capable care.  I pray that He will help me trust Him more.  He is Almighty God and I am His child.  May I rejoice in all He has provided and leave the “knowing” to my Father.

My thoughts drift back to our dear friends, who are probably still wrestling with their own questions.  I don’t know how the Lord will meet them right where they are, but I know He will.  As they seek Him, I trust that He will lead them to know Him better.  Even in their hard questions, I believe He will find ways to answer them in ways that are undeniably His doing.  I can only pray that though the road may not be easy, the discoveries they make will strengthen their faith rather than shake it.  I pray that the Lord will continue to make Himself real to them in ways that are uniquely personal and will change their hearts and lives forever.

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”  [Jeremiah 33:3 from the Holman Christian Standard Bible]

coHP call to me

closed for repairs

It is winter in south FL and our home is brighter and richer because of the arrival of our very favorite snowbird – “MomMom.”

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MomMom and I share a love for her son, a walk in the beautiful salty breeze by the ocean, a good puzzle or a nice long chat.  We both enjoy people, puttering in the garden, hymns played on piano, or a delicious bag of fresh Ranier cherries!  But our most treasured common ground is a love for the Lord and digging into His Word.  While she is with us for a few months each winter, it is a joy to share our latest questions or discoveries about God’s truth – to crack open our Bibles side by side in search of answers and a deeper appreciation for our Savior.

This morning, while the house was still quiet and MomMom wasn’t up and about yet, I came across a few verses in Daily Light about God’s strengthening power in our lives:

The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people.  [Psalm 68:35]

He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might He increases strength.  [Isa 40:29]

Though our outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day.  [2 Corinthians 4:16]

How encouraging to know that God’s limitless power and strength are available to us!  But I wondered how that strengthening or renewing process takes place?  I felt the urge to dig deeper, ask some good questions and pray for understanding.

But I remembered that I had promised our favorite snowbird that after a month of rain in “sunny” south FL, we would take advantage of the first dry day to go for a walk on the beach!  The Lord knew my heart, and that unexpected tug between longing for answers and fulfilling a promise.  He seemed to whisper, “go to the beach… I will go with you… look for what I have to show you there!”  So with a slight guilty feeling that I was “playing hookie” – off we went.

A few of our fun discoveries from today:

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Hmmm… What could the Lord be trying to tell us here?!

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An anchor – so cool!  I think the heart of a boat-lover in me skipped a beat! ~ “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast.” Hebrews 6:19

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We were happy to lose our shoes and walk through the water, letting the sudsy foam wash over our feet.  It was beautiful and refreshing.

And a fairly typical clam shell, washed up on shore in a tangle of seaweed.  It looked like it had been attached to something that changed the way it was formed – how interesting!

lantana beach walk (8)A whole section of the beach covered in millions of tiny pieces of broken shells…  the pieces had been ground so fine that the edges were no longer sharp.  All of those broken pieces, mixed with the sand and the salt water shimmered like flecks of gold in the sunlight.

Lost in our individual pondering, MomMom and I didn’t talk much, but we cherished our walk on the beach today!  I believe the Lord was with us, touching our hearts in familiar and unfamiliar ways.  As I let our scattered discoveries turn over and over in my mind, I wondered if there were lessons in these “fun finds” along the shore.  And I wondered if the bigger lesson was realizing the merit in simply taking time out of our normal routine to come to this quiet place!

I thought of the Lord Jesus taking time from His ministry to withdraw to lonely desert places, mountainsides long before dawn, to PRAY.

His Father met Him in those quiet times when He stepped away from busy days.  It was in those times that He was strengthened, directed, when He might have poured out His heart to the Father about things that troubled Him, people He longed to reach with His truth. 

If the Lord, Himself, made this a priority, maybe a trip to the solitude along the coast isn’t a guilty pleasure after all – but a vital part of my own walk with God, where I can talk with Him and He can teach me lessons in beautiful, tangible ways!

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I started my day wondering exactly how God’s strengthening and renewing process works.  When hard work and long hours leave me weary and worn, it may be a sign that I need to be “closed for repairs.”  I need time to come aside from busy days, to slow down, to be still, to notice things, to ask questions, to wonder – I need open-ended time to PRAY.

Before I look for answers, before I write, before I carry on with my day, I need to PRAY.  I need the Father to remind me where my hope is anchored, to let God’s truth wash over me like sudsy foam, allowing all my broken parts to be softened and molded so they can sparkle in His light and display the undeniable and permanent impression of His character as He changes the way I grow.

I thank God that when I feel depleted, His strength and power are limitlessly available to me!  May He help me to make wiser choices that allow time and space for His strengthening and renewing process to happen – to make prayer in those quiet places a bigger priority – to have eyes to see and learn beautiful lessons from the fun things He plans for me to find!  And maybe to do so, MomMom and I need to walk in the salty ocean breezes more often!

For You will light my candle, the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness… As for God, His way is perfect… It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect… You have given me the shield of Your salvation, Your right hand holds me up and Your gentleness has made me great.  Psalm 18:28, 30, 32, 35

 Read more here!  Matthew 14:23 – Mark 1:35 – Luke 5:16, 9:18, 9:28 – 1 Samuel 30:6 – Hebrews 6:19

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voice of truth

In a panic I reached for my phone to text a trusted friend.  I was scheduled to fly out of state in two days and I was suddenly gripped with an illogical fear that I might not make it home again.

Irrational thoughts had haunted me for days: What if I didn’t make it home again?  How would my husband know what happens with the kids every day?  All of the key phone numbers he might need would be in my phone… with me … and not available to him.  What about those promises I made to my daughter about making a special recipe with her?  Who would be my son’s personal alarm clock for school in the morning?  In a frenzy I wrote out as many details as I could think of, leaving instructions on the desk and kitchen counter.  I prepared little love notes to post on my husband’s and kids’ bathroom mirrors.  You could say that I was doing the “wise” thing to be prepared for any eventuality.  But I was still feeling extremely anxious and agitated.  I kept taking deep, deep breaths, trying to calm my racing pulse and untwist the knots in my stomach.  This was – FEAR.

I hadn’t flown in a very long time.  It had been even longer since I had flown alone, without my family.  Flying is unusual for us.  But when we have done it together, I have settled any fears of what might happen with the knowledge that whatever we encountered, we would be together.  Thoughts of this particular trip – alone – seemed to rattle me more than usual.

The Lord was nudging me to send that text.  I knew that as a redeemed child of God, lovingly protected and provided for by HIM at every turn, this fear was worse than illogical – it was allowing doubt to creep in.  I trust my Savior with my eternal security.  Surely He is willing and able to see me safely through this weekend trip.  And if He did have other plans, I could certainly trust Him with those as well!  So why was I such a mess?  I needed the voice of truth!  I needed to hear myself say these crazy “what-ifs” out loud and hear that trusted friend meet my insanity with God’s eternally unchanging Words of truth!

And she did just that.  In kindness, she didn’t ridicule my anxieties.  She didn’t laugh.  She didn’t scold.  She simply reminded me of who God is and steadied me with scripture:

Perfect love drives out fear.  I John 4:18 – God will be with you.  Isaiah 41:10 – He has a plan for this trip, for each day.  Psalm 139:16 – The devil may be trying to cast doubt, to distract you from God’s purposes in this trip, but God will be faithful to use it all to grab your attention and fix your eyes on Him and His plans for you in each moment.  You can trust Him to provide for you and to protect you… and to take care of your family at home.”

She quoted the very timely lyrics from a Casting Crown’s song, “Voice of Truth”:

“Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith to step out of my comfort zone to the realm of the unknown where Jesus is – and He’s holding out His hand… the voice of truth says, “do not be afraid!”  and the voice of truth says, “this is for My glory”… choose to listen and obey the voice of truth.”

coHP - holy Holy HOLYShe prayed for me.  And in her prayer, she appropriately poured out her heart in adoration and worship for this great God whom we trust!  She reminded me in her own heart’s posture about the God to Whom I can bring all of my anxious thoughts… to the One who is “holy, Holy, HOLY!!!”  With each successive and increasingly emphatic mention of that word “holy” I felt my shoulders drop, my breathing slow, and my white-knuckled grip on those fears relax with the KNOWING that I could not be in better hands!  My God is holy, Holy, HOLY.  He is Almighty!  He is eternal.  He is always in control and completely trustworthy.

Whatever path He might call me to walk – whether I travel or stay home! – is for my ultimate good and to be used for His glory!  The only appropriate response was to bow in worship to Him and acknowledge that He is Lord of my life.  The energy that was being wasted on “what-ifs” was instantly redirected to the only rightful recipient – our great God.

The Lord nudged me to send that text because He knew that my friend would be faithful to meet my illogical, irrational, out-of-control fear with Godly wisdom.  His wisdom would replace my fears, calm my spirit and draw me to Himself in confident surrender to His best plans.

The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield in sweet reasonableness, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality [predetermined thinking] and without hypocrisy [acting in a way that goes against claimed beliefs or feelings]. – James 3:17coHP - voice of truth

My trip was pleasantly uneventful.  I felt reassured at every turn that the Lord had made abundant and gracious provisions for my every need.  My flight home was late afternoon on a Sunday and I had been happily reassigned to a window seat.  When we soared above the clouds, into deep blue sky, the sun was brilliant!  Later in the flight, I had the joy of witnessing the sunset from the air for the very first time.  It was equally breathtaking!  The rainbow colors across the sky seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see in all directions.  It reminded me of the descriptions of God’s rainbow encircled throne in Revelation.  I can only imagine that God’s throne room is immeasurably bigger and the colors even more intense and brilliant!  The rainbow I was looking at from the sky was bigger than any I had ever seen and yet it will be dwarfed by God’s eternal and staggering creative power displayed in our eternal home.

Utter gratefulness filled my heart as I realized how my fear-filled trip was ending in such a sweet spot.  The truth of God’s Word and His promises had shifted my focus from my fears to the God who writes my story.  He had trained my heart to watch vigilantly for exactly what new pages He would unveil in this one weekend.  As we began our final descent toward home, He granted me one of His extravagant gifts with that rainbow sunset from the sky – and reminded me again that His promises are true and trustworthy!  He is eternal God.  He is holy, Holy, HOLY.  His very nature quiets my anxiety and reminds me that He’s got me.  I surrender again to His sovereign hand upon my life and simply bow before Him in utter praise and thanksgiving!

Read more here! – Joshua 1:9 – Psalm 34 – Psalm 56:3 – Isaiah 41:10-14 – Zephaniah 3:17 – Philippians 4:6-7 – 2 Timothy 1:7 – Revelation 4

coHP - fear not