Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Glimmers of Hope

Hope seems to be the focus this week for my heart and mind. I am so excited to share what the Lord has shown me. Each little reminder feels like healing salve to my heart. Each time I watch the Lord work I feel strengthened and full of courage. And every time he speaks his truth over my heart, circumstances come that seem set to disprove that very truth. Yet, the Lord uses those circumstances to firmly root those precious truths deep within my heart and mind, removing all the doubt.

Events over the past few days have caused me to question whether we were making the right choices regarding the future of our children's education. Fears and feelings of inadequacies were filling my every thought. The conflict in my heart was fierce. Like a tug of war between wondering if I can really do this and the determination to prove to everyone that I can do this, the battle raged. When it all came down to the end though, the true question was what the Lord, and only the Lord, had led us to do.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is what the Lord has for us right now in this time. For how long I don't know. I just know that this is what we have peace about. So many things have confirmed this decision and tonight those things are reminders to me of the Lord's leading. I am so excited and eager with expectation over what the Lord will do in the hearts of my children and in our hearts as parents.

Tonight, I had a picture of what the outcome will be as I keep my goal as a "homeschool mom" focused on the goal the Lord has given me. My goal is simply to capture each moment as an opportunity to point my kids to the Lord. That is my whole purpose in this new journey. I have been praying for the Lord to give me a joy in my calling as their mom and for a supernatural love for my children and my husband. I am a warrior-mother and the battle is for the souls of my children. I know that I don't have to be a homeschooler to do this...but for this time in our life I need more time with my kids.

The picture I was given was in a simple exchange between me and my precious Joshua. I was working on research for Brittney's report and was writing notes. Josh simply said, " Don't tell me Mom. I know that you are doing your bible study, aren't you? I told him not this time but that I had earlier. True to his nature, his mind was spinning and his questions started flowing out. He said, " Do you remember when you were little, you said you read your bible every day so you could know all about Jesus? And you wrote love notes in your notebook to Jesus? Mom I want to have bible study every morning so I can know Jesus like you do." He then continued for the next couple of hours asking all the details of how to have a quiet time. He wanted to know do you get up early in the morning? What do you write? Can you read one of your stories to me so I know how to do it? Will you help me have a bible study? Will you wake me up when you wake up so I don't forget? So many precious questions of a heart beginning to stir towards a personal relationship with the Lord.

And those questions gave me hope. Hope that the Lord is at work. Hope that he will do his work in each of us, in my heart, in the heart of my husband, and the hearts of my children. He showed me then and there that He will make this journey of homeschooling successful...because if the only thing they walk away with is the knowledge and desire of how to truly walk with the Lord they will have the best education they could ever have. I have been drowning in all the parenting failures that seem to scream out louder than any success. Yet, here the Lord proves that he is more interested in the heart and that a heart that wants Him is the true definition of success. And he proved that, despite my failures, he is able to accomplish his will.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A friend asked me recently what incredible things God was doing in my life. I wrote this in response and wanted to share it here in hopes that it might encourage some of you.

On my way home yesterday, I was thinking about how incredible it is when the Lord reveals to you your gifts and then he uses them to touch someone else. Even more incredible is how he uses the pain and trials in your life for good. I realized though that we have to choose to be where he wants us and not fight against it. A change of how we think and perceive the things happening in our lives is required to see those things as being part of his will.

Once my heart finally surrendered to the Lord completely it was like a flood of his presence has filled every part of me. Everything I read, everything I hear seems to point me back to the truth. Pastor Al’s sermon combined with a book I am reading reminded me that these things that are bringing so much pain into my life are not meant for evil. They are meant for good…good because they drive me to an intimate relationship with the Lord. Good because it has given me the opportunity to reach out to others who are suffering and point them to the Lord in it. Good because they are producing something of such greater value than a life void of pain. Seeing all of this in light of how God is going to use it and is using it has increased my trust in Him and his ability to work it all out according to HIS purpose. I am learning that being at rest in his will comes from trusting his purpose and not having to work it out according to what I think he should do with it.

I guess I kind of feel like he has softened me into pliable clay. I have never felt so intimate with the Lord as I do right now. That is exciting to me because for years I have looked back to my teenage years and considered that to have been my strongest time spiritually. Not so good to be walking with the Lord for so long and to have lost that freshness in our relationship. It saddened me but not enough to stop fighting against Him and for my own way. I finally feel as though I can hear him again as he speaks truth in my heart. I can trust him with my heart. I can obey without fear. I can hear his correction and respond with surrender and not a “failure response” of giving up and running to sin rather than away from it. As a result, my heart finally feels again. It has been stone for a very long time.

The Lord truly is becoming everything to me. In the past year, he has stripped away everything I was replacing him with. He is taking away the walls that I have been hiding behind. He gave me these certain friends who have challenged me in so many ways to find and cling to truth. He took my need to be pleasing to people and used that same need to face some things I really need to deal with and not run. In the process, its becoming more important to me what God thinks than what people think. I am not totally to that point of being free from my desire for approval but I think the Lord is loosening the fear that need had imprisoned my heart in. He took my greatest fear, brought it into my life, and then walked step by step through it, teaching my heart to seek approval in him and desire to hear his words alone, and then gave me what I needed in his way. So much healing took place in such a short amount of time and in a few powerful words. He is the very thing I thought I needed others to be.

I never thought the Lord would ever choose to use me again. I have failed horribly. I have willingly chosen to sin in horrible ways- like a rebellious child determined to crush her Father’s heart. I have dared God to leave me and walk away. I have tried, like I have done in many relationships, to convince him he shouldn’t waste his time. And true to who he is, he has waited for me to surrender and has patiently and passionately pursued my heart. Now he has allowed my heart to feel the freedom and healing power of his forgiveness. One day in the past couple of weeks, my mind was flooded with images of so many of the times I chose to sin. Each time the thought would come to mind, the Lord was there reminding me that it was paid for. It was incredible to me how many of the songs I heard that day had to do with the past and forgiveness.

So I am amazed and humbled that the Lord has given me the opportunity to be used again. It is bringing me so much joy. So much so that I never want to settle for less than God’s best again. I have been praying and asking him to allow me to have a women’s group again to lead, to serve, and to love. I am amazed now that he has brought these women together and it is more than I ever thought possible. I love it when the Lord allows me the opportunity to pour his love and truth into another person and getting to watch them grow. I have gotten to experience what happens when the Lord reveals things to us that have affected us and can be used as an excuse to justify our behavior. As I am learning to let go of those things and not let them be an excuse for me, I get to share with others how to do that too. Each time he gives me the opportunity to share with someone else, help someone else or serve someone I am overcome by joy. It makes everything else worth it to see God using it to bring someone else closer to him.

What are the incredible things he is doing? He is giving me a soft heart. He has replaced my mourning with gladness. He has brought me to the edge, allowed me to see the possibilities of things I could lose and asked me whether I will still choose Him. He has given me a steadfast faith that says “No matter what happens, I will follow you.” He has spoken his words of love, worth, and truth into my heart and has given me faith to believe him and cling those words. If you had known me these past ten years and seen the icy wall around my heart, the desire to be free yet feeling like I am always drowning never able to reach the surface, heard the lies that have waged war against my mind and heart, and felt the intensity of the fear that has imprisoned me you would agree that the things the Lord is doing is incredible. In finally surrendering to His love and allowing him to be everything I need, I feel like I can face the future, with whatever it might hold, with courage, security, and peace.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Author: Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Source: Streams in the Desert
Scripture Reference: Revelation 15:3

Songs of Praise Rise From Affliction

"Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints" (Rev. 15:3).

The following incident is related by Mrs. Charles Spurgeon, who was a great sufferer for more than a quarter of a century:

"At the close of a dark and gloomy day, I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on; and though all was bright within my cozy room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the Hand which I knew held mine, and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart I asked,

"'Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?'

"These fretful questions were quickly answered, and through a strange language; no interpreter was needed save the conscious whisper of my heart.

"For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of the oak log burning in the fireplace. Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window.

"'What can it be? surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of the year and night.'

"Again came the faint, plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke our wonder. My friend exclaimed,

"'It comes from the log on the fire!' The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak's inmost heart!

"Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all was well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold. But he had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness, and the vehement heart of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice. 'Ah,' thought I, 'when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified!'

"Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log, cold, hard, insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds, were it not for the fire which kindles around us, and releases notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will.

"'As I mused the fire burned,' and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me.

"Singing in the fire! Yes, God helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pictures by Amy Carmichael

The thoughts of the son ran thus: My hopes painted beautiful pictures, but they are fading one by one.
Then his father spoke to him: Thy hopes painted pictures? Destroy all those pictures. To watch them slowly fading is weakening to the soul. Dare then to destroy them. Thous canst if thou wilt. Thou must if thou wouldst be My warrior-son. I will thee other pictures instead of those thy hopes painted. Look up, O thou son of My love.
Then the son looked up and he saw a Cross raised high against the sunlight, then a darkness that might be felt. And he heard, as it were, an echo of a voice, "Father, glorify thy name"; and a Voice that answered I have both glorified it and will glorify it again. And he knew that strength and beauty were in the sanctuary and would presently pour forth. Calvary was not the end of that day's story. And his heart stayed itself upon this assurance: He shall choose our inheritance for us- no fading picture that, but the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.
From Amy Carmichael, "His Thoughts Said...His Father Said..."

His thoughts said, "Father there are some things I cannot forget."
His Father said," The humbling memory will help thee to walk softly with Me and tenderly with others. But even so there is relief from all distress. O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? When I spoke unto Israel in the visions of the night, I did not use the that glorious name; I used the old name which had so a sorrowful a meaning. I said, Jacob, Jacob, and he answered , "Here I am."
Jacob, Jacob, the deceiver, the supplanter, that name is a reminder of thy fall, but also and far more of My mercy. It is to thee I am speaking, to thee, not to another, worthier one, but to thee, My child- Jacob, Jacob.

Monday, March 08, 2010

How majestic are your whispers, O Lord. The words of the song rolled off my tongue and I couldn’t help but smile. I knew a little something about the whispers of the Almighty God. Standing in the midst of other worshipers as we declared the truth of the Lord, made the words of this song feel like I was on the inside of an inside joke. An intimate exchange between me and the Lover of my Soul could be described in the majesty of the whisper of God. The sovereignty of God, ordering these particular worship songs to be sung on this very day, was nothing less than a continuation of this exchange.

The details of the encounter from the night before flooded my mind and melted my heart. Healing words had washed over my broken spirit. Words from man joined the words of God. Both working hand in hand to restore the assurance I so desperately needed. Only the Lord could have known the words I needed spoken over the ache in my heart. He alone knew the cry of my heart. He had seen the struggle. He knew how much I was doubting my worth and place in this world. He knew how unloved I felt. He knew the battle that was daily raging in my mind as I fought against insecurity and accusations.

So he whispered.

He whispered his truth.

I love you.

You can do this.

Be brave.

I have given you strength.

I am so proud of you.

You are my treasured possession.

I have chosen you.

Look in my eyes and see how I see you.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Writing from my heart comes naturally for me. I am a die hard journal writer. I am even more a hopeless romantic who delights in finding the treasure in each moment. Each experience becomes something of value to be cherished. Each intimate time with the Lord leaves behind some altar of remembrance to be looked back on and learned from. Put my love for writing together with my love for sharing with the Lord is doing and you have a never ending flow of words! I just can't help it. Keeping such incredible moments to myself feel like I am robbing others from great treasure.

Sometimes my mouth seems to run over and it gets me in trouble. One too many times I have said things or shared things that were just a little too much. I just don't know what not to say sometimes. The problem is this: when the Lord changes your life, you want to shout it from the mountain tops. When he sets you free from something that has held you in bondage, you want to tell your fellow prisoners so they to can be free. When He speaks into the deepest parts of your heart and brings healing with his intimate love, you want to speak those same words to those around you who are hurting. When he is at work in your life and is allowing you to join him in that work, you want to call out to the people watching inviting them to join you too. When Jesus becomes everything to you, you just can't help but tell someone.

Being vulnerable is difficult. It means allowing the Lord to strip away all you hide behind and allow your heart and your life to be raw and exposed to those around you. Its painful, at times, when you know that there are so many watching you struggle and you don't really know what they are thinking. Vulnerability costs you the security of the mask you hide behind. Yet, for those who are willing to be vulnerable and real, comes such great rewards. True intimacy with the Lover of your soul. True friendships with people who love the real you. True freedom. And the joy of being used by God as he uses your struggles to reach someone else.

How else can I reach back and strengthen my brothers and sisters if I am not willing to share with you genuinely? Honestly, aren't we stirred greatly in the depths of our souls when we here someone's story of redemption? Aren't we spurred on towards godliness when we see someone struggle and fail and yet get back up and keep pressing on towards the goal? I know I am. That's why I have to tell my story. There is too much at stake to keep the works of my God to myself.

Author: Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Source: Streams in the Desert
Scripture Reference: 2 Corinthians 7:5

Our Dependency on Christ

"We are troubled on every side" (2 Cor. 7:5).

Why should God have to lead us thus, and allow the pressure to be so hard and constant? Well, in the first place, it shows His all-sufficient strength and grace much better than if we were exempt from pressure and trial. "The treasure is in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

It makes us more conscious of our dependence upon Him. God is constantly trying to teach us our dependence, and to hold us absolutely in His hand and hanging upon His care.

This was the place where Jesus Himself stood and where He wants us to stand, not with self-constituted strength, but with a hand ever leaning upon His, and a trust that dare not take one step alone. It teaches us trust.

There is no way of learning faith except by trial. It is God's school of faith, and it is far better for us to learn to trust God than to enjoy life.

The lesson of faith once learned, is an everlasting acquisition and an eternal fortune made; and without trust even riches will leave us poor. --Days of Heaven upon Earth

"Why must I weep when others sing?
'To test the deeps of suffering.'
Why must I work while others rest?
'To spend my strength at God's request.'
Why must I lose while others gain?
'To understand defeat's sharp pain.'
Why must this lot of life be mine
When that which fairer seems is thine?
'Because God knows what plans for me
Shall blossom in eternity.'"

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Matt Brouwer- "I Wanna See You"
Jesus, I am reaching
Im longing for You now
To meet me in my weakness
And heal me with Your power
I wanna see You
Open up my eyes
I wanna see You tonight
Jesus, I am ready
To leave the past behind
But Im still hesitating
Oh, to let go in my mind
Im fighting with confusion
And Im drowning in my sin
I thought I knew the answers
But Im left unsatisfied within
2001 New Spring Publishing, Inc. / Wheat Sheaf Music (ASCAP)
(admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing)

Tonight at church we sang a song about the joy of our salvation being restored. Fighting back the tears, I knew my heart was crying out to the Lord to restore the joy to my soul. Something has happened in the past few days that has taken my joy away. I willingly let it be taken. I admit it. I know better. I know the "right" answers and the "right" things to do. I even know the truth. I just have had a death grip on my grief and I didn't want to let go.

You can only wallow in this self pity for so long before it starts to eat away at you. It starts in the mind and convinces you of all kinds of horrible, terrible things that are just not true. In a single moment, the whole world becomes your enemy, including God. The prison of solitary confinement brought on by believing those lies begins to make you literally insane.

Thank God though that he doesn't let us stay there too long. Just long enough to not want to be there any longer. I truly do want joy to permeate from within, a joy not based on circumstances, a joy that isn't changed with the ever changing state of my mood, but a joy based on this truth alone: " I have been set free by Jesus my Savior and he promises to restore all that has been lost. " I don't have to stay here, in the depths of depression, abandoning all that God has done in my life up to this point. I can get up and move forward in His Will.

All day the Lord has been confirming his love and forgiveness for me. He has showered me with songs filled with words declaring his mercy and his love. I have actually chuckled, through the tears, as I have seen him again doing what he does best- Pursuing my heart, Whispering his words of intense love for me, reminding me again of his hope, his plan. He proves to me over and over that He will not go away. No matter how hard I try to make him quit on me, to give up and leave me for the junk pile, Jesus keeps picking me up and gently restores me. I have even brought up the deepest areas of my life that are so dark, thinking maybe that will be enough to make him go away. Yet, he doesn't run. Instead, he takes that dark sinful area and shines his light on it, transforming me so he can make me beautiful. What an incredible, intimate lover of my soul the Lord is.

I realize too that joy doesn't equal the absence of grief. I am still trying to learn how to cling to joy and hope and not to the grief. It seems the common thread in all the loss of the past week has been the deeper realization of how desperately I need Jesus. It is easy to say "Your all I need, your all I want..." and not really think about what we are saying. Its easy to declare those words when we have Jesus and everything else. But when all else is stripped away, everyone else has let you down or walked away, and you are left with only Jesus, is he enough? That question has been the ponder of my heart this week.

I wish I could say that I was satisfied with Jesus and only Jesus. I am praying that will be a statement I can say...Jesus you are all I need. You are all I want. You are more than enough for me. How I long to have that stability that comes from that truth taking up residence in my heart. I long for the day that I see having Jesus as the "best" thing and not just the result of not having something else. I think this will be evident in my life, when my heart is so full of Jesus and so satisfied just to have him that I no longer find myself vacationing in the pit of despair. Perhaps then my words will be true when I declare that if he was all I had, he is enough.