Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drawstring Stress

I opened up the mail the other day and I read "Are the stressful events in your life drawing you closer to God?" This was the heading in some mail from Marriage Today with Jimmy and Karen Evans.

I almost laughed out loud.

Hmmmm, do the stressful events in my life draw me closer to God?
Well I suppose if you count me filling up my journal pages with all the the things that I think are wrong with my life and with just life in general and asking God when or if He's going to do something about it as drawing closer to Him... I would say yes.

However, somehow, I don't think that what was what the question meant.

As I read further Jimmy Evans went on in the letter to say, "When you're under stress, the enemy can tempt you to doubt God's goodness or His motives. Many people think it's wrong to doubt and are hard on themselves for having doubts about their marriage. Doubt is something God wants to use for your benefit, not make you feel guilty about. He wants to strengthen your faith and show you just how trustworthy He is."

As I continued skimming through this intriguing piece of mail I read, "Doubt isn't sin until it causes you to disobey God in unbelief. Doubt and unbelief are not the same thing. Unbelief is what happens in your heart when you don't bring your doubts before Jesus.
Doubt says, 'I don't know if I can do this. It's so hard to trust God.'
Unbelief says, 'I won't do this! There's no way God can help me.'"

I continued skimming through this mail and then laid it down where I could come back to it... I knew I would need to.

It's been a stressful time. Life has been hard. My family has been through a lot, not in just the past few days, but the past few years. I know that most likely your family has faced it's own struggles as well. In these days of struggles. These wilderness years, I have had many moments of doubt, many moments of confusion, many moments of weak flesh, many moments of frustration... but my Redeemer has always seen me through.

I was reminded once again as I listened to the Precept video on Isaiah 53 that I am to count all suffering as all joy. Enduring whatever suffering I am going through for the joy and the hope that is set before me. I was reminded that if I am suffering it is because God is at work in me.

I was reminded that Jesus was not a victim. He willingly subjected Himself to suffering so that God would be glorified, so that I would be saved, so that you would be saved.

I had to ask myself-  "How often do I take on the victim role when suffering comes my way?" I have to admit that when suffering hits I seem to immediately respond as the victim, not the suffering servant that I am called to be in Christ.

 "For you have been called for this purpose,
since Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps"
1 Peter 2:21 

For some reason I still have to go through the whining and crying process before I wake up and realize that I am acting like a child and God ends up having to take me back and once again teach me the elementary principles of Himself. After He sits me down and tells me to shut up, and I stop and listen, I am reminded who He is. Then finally I will hear Him say, "Now press on to maturity." 

I absolutely hate when I doubt God. Isn't that the root of the whining and crying? Doubt. Doubt that He is ever going to deliver? Doubt that I am ever going to get to the point of maturity that I don't go through freak-out mode before I remember who my God is. Doubt that He could ever really use me if this is how I react to ever little thing that doesn't seem to be going right or that hurts. Doesn't the road of doubt lead us directly to fear?

I do not ever want to be the victim.
I want to be able to look suffering in the face the way my Savior did.
With my mouth shut and my face set like flint in full confidence in the sovereignty of my God. Knowing that He works all things for good. Knowing this truth and reacting to this knowledge, this hope, this promise, and not reacting to the suffering.    

I want to get to the point of drawstring stress. When stress comes I want to use it to pull my self even tighter to the waistband of my Saviour. I want it to lead me to tighten my grip around Him and cling to Him.
I no longer want it to cause me to push Him out to a distance just so I can look up at Him with my arms up in the air in the "what gives?" pose. 
Oh my the audaciousness in this... 

"For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man,
so I made the whole household of Israel
and the whole household of Judah
cling to Me,’
declares the LORD,
‘that they might be for Me a people,
for renown,
for praise
and for glory;
but they did not listen.’"
Jeremiah 13:11

Oh God give me ears to hear!
My desire is to listen!
No matter what form the suffering, the stress, comes in... whether it be marital, financial, health, family, children, work, whatever form, however it is delivered.
May it be drawstring stress.
Drawing me closer to Your waist where I can lean into the strength of Your arms and rest in Your embrace. My Jesus, You endured so much suffering for my sake.
You went to the cross so that I could be a person of Your own possession.
You created me in You to be a woman for Your renown, for Your praise, and for Your glory.
How can I glory You in the depths of self-pity?
I can't.
You deserve more than that.
You are worthy of more than that.
I believe my ears are open. I am listening. I am learning. I cannot promise that I will never again feel doubt. I cannot promise that I have finally got it, but at this moment in time, my sweet sweet Savior, I get it and I bow down before You in reverence and awe as I rest in Your faithfulness.

To You my God be all the glory, forever and ever. 


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Burden Dump

This week has been and will continue to be a week of dumping burdens.

I know what I am supposed to do with these burdens and even though I rest on one day and lay them down at my Saviors feet and cast them upon His strong shoulders... I will catch myself running to them and grabbing them back up and trying to carry them all over again in a spilt second.

When I grab all these up I find my focus scattered.
I find myself unable to even think straight because I am trying to keep account of all my burdens.
In my inability to focus I become unable to hear my family clearly and I can't find enough quiet in my own head to complete a single thought and then I find myself frustrated and spewing irritability on everyone.

Believe it or not I think I have discovered that these times are what set me into a migraine. It begins with me being dizzy and light headed and unable to focus my eyes and then the dull throbbing begins behind my eye and wraps around my neck and up the back of my head to my forehead.
Yes, I do believe that our attitude physically affects us.

My husband and I just finished having a conversation about attitude and about the fact that we are in complete control of how we choose to respond to certain things. You see I have chosen to respond to some of the things he has said to me this week with hurt and anger and I have chosen to hang on to each instance so that I could let the justification of my irritability build with what I call hard core facts.

 "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble,
and by it many be defiled;"
Hebrews 12:15

Yeh... ouch.

We talked about how we were both guilty of doing this to each other.
We have to make better choices... we are both learning and growing in grace.
How important it is that we recognize that we are both a work in progress. 

This week I ran and picked up my burden bags and then I held on to my bitter root and in my unfocused frustrated irritability I have pouted around in between my moments of gratefulness for grace.

I have swayed back and forth by the wind of my circumstance even though I know I am to be standing strong on my solid Rock.

So once again I'm running to my God, to my Savior, to cast my burdens upon Him.
He reminded me earlier today... Nicole, just breathe. I got this. 

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to the Burden Dump I go...


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Live Out the Word

This could be part of my rebellion issue popping up or it could be simply a "pet peeve" or it could be righteous indignation...

There is something in Christendom that makes my neck tighten up.

The ever present, "I don't care who this offends but I blah, blah, blah"
or the great threat, "Let's see who really loves Jesus and re posts this" or "forwards this"
or even the "If you care about (fill in the blank) then you'll re post/forward, etc"

I could be reading the most awesome email and then if I get to the bottom and read one of these it loses all sincerity to me.
I then delete it.

I just don't feel that I ever need to announce that I don't care if I offend you because of my convictions. The way that I live out those convictions should declare that in itself.

I also don't feel I need to prove my love for my Savior by cowering before a post threat... I just don't see how re-posting or forwarding an email is living out my faith before men. It's pretty easy to hide behind a computer screen and just press send.

You see that post might have said a really good thing, but if I re-post it because some person demanded me to prove something to them... then I am obeying man and not God. If the post is of God and it moves the Spirit within me, I'll re-post it because my God led me to, not because my loyalty was threatened by man.

I can forward a thousand and one emails and re-posts every thing I read and still deny my Jesus before men. I can declare on my facebook page how much I love Jesus... but it means nothing if I have not loved Him enough to obey Him or to share His love when face to face with another human being.

Personal interaction was important enough to God that He left the glory of heaven to take on humanity and this flesh in order to share His love with us face to face. God did not have a Written Word face and then have a completely different Human Interaction face. His life lived out His Word.

"And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth."
John 1:14

When we become believers we are sanctified in this Word and we are filled with the Holy Spirit and we too should be fleshing out the Word of God and others should be able to behold His glory in us.

Jesus didn't have to stand up on a soapbox and shout that He didn't care who He offended and He didn't have to threaten anyone to spread His message. He just spoke and did what He did and didn't change according to where He was at or who was listening.
He simply lived out His Word.

May we too, as His disciples, follow His example and live out His Word.

May we not just be computer christians, blogging believers, facebook faithfuls, email evangelists, or testimony tweeters.

Let us also manifest and magnify the glory of our God and declare His gospel and let us praise His name outside the gates. Let us also, when we are given the opportunity to be face to face, and look another human being in the eye, be bold and confident enough in the truth that we know to share the only Name that eternally saves.

 "Therefore Jesus also,
that He might sanctify the people
through His own blood,
suffered outside the gate. 
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp,
bearing His reproach."
Hebrews 13:12-13

Not Be Shaken

Last night I ran from massive multiple tornadoes on foot all night long. They were everywhere. Yes, for those that don't know I do live right in the middle of the April fury. Our home somehow managed to get missed by less than a mile, but the damage was all around us. My husband had been home from work only 3 hours when the first tornado ripped through his work. My dad called as He watched one coming down across the street from his place of work right before they all ran across the street to seek shelter in a basement. We spent the day and night running back and forth across the street to our neighbors basement. 

It was a day that our children will never forget especially since after it happened they went with us to help those who were directly hit. They saw first hand how we can lose everything in mere seconds. I pray that this taught them to not put their treasures or hope in the things of this earth. We used this storm to help teach them this truth. We also used it to teach them that sometimes it takes God allowing these kind of things to happen to wake people up so that they remember that the only thing that lasts is Him. 

"At night my soul longs for You,
Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;
For when the earth experiences Your judgments
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." 
Isaiah 26:9 

I suppose all the thunderstorms that have come through here as of late renewed this day in my mind and so I saw tornadoes and debre flying in the air all night as I ran to seek shelter. The funny thing was in my dream the storms were all around me and trees falling and being ripped up and yet my hair was not even blowing. I was completely protected.

Then would you believe that I wake up this morning to the sound of thunder once again. I go outside to see if the wind and rain is going to blow me out of my sacred spot and I step out the door and just sit on the steps to listen to what was a gently rolling thunder.

Then too close for comfort lightening strikes and this crazy loud crackling thunder explodes and I physically jump up off the steps and my heart is pounding like mad in my chest. I am thinking to myself, "God that is so not funny!" Then I am immediately reminded of the awesomeness of my God and reminded that I need not take Him lightly in anyway. He is God.

Yes, the fear of God put in me in an instance. My mind goes to the mountain in Exodus when God was spoke to the people as a whole and when His voice thundered they all came to Moses and said "you talk to Him and then just tell us what He said..." I have to admit that this morning I sympathized with them... 

After my heart stills I sit back down outside under our breezeway and contemplate whether it is safe to bring my stuff out and then another lightening strike and simultaneous crazy loud crackling thunder explodes and shoots light out of the "off" bulb above my head... yeh, I go in the house.

I now crowd in my kitchen corner (because it is conveniently located next to the coffee pot and I don't have to stop my study time to refill my cup... just reach over). I am in Isaiah 55 today and then I am directed in my homework to research the times I have seen covenant in my studies these past few weeks. I love studying covenant, because our God is a covenant keeping God.

With my very recent morning experience this one verse spoke volumes and immediately sent me into a song of praise 

“'For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,'
Says the LORD who has compassion on you."
Isaiah 54:10

As I read about this covenant of peace that will not be shaken the Spirit of God in me took my mind to Romans

"Therefore, having been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom also we have obtained our introduction
by faith
into this grace in which we stand;
and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 
And not only this,
but we also exult in our tribulations,
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 
and perseverance, proven character;
and proven character, hope
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." 
Romans 5:1-5   

No matter what mountains around us are removed and no matter what hills may shake, no matter how many storms come through our lives we know that our covenant of peace with the One who does the shaking will not be shaken. His lovingkindness will never be removed from those who are in covenant with Him.
Yes we may, no we will,  face tribulation, but in this we have a hope that we know through the love of God that is within us through the ever present indwelling Holy Spirit given to us that this hope that we have will not disappoint.

"...And you will know that I am the LORD;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame."
Isaiah 49:23

I don't know what storms you may be facing today. I don't know what hills may be shaking under your feet. What I do know is that God will not disappoint you. What I do know is that if you are His in the covenant of peace, justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then stand in His grace and exult in the hope that is yours because you know above all else you are infinitely loved by your Creator and Eternal Father and Covenant Keeper.

Oh yeh... and here's the song of praise that I sang this morning as I read Isaiah 54:10...
Our God will not be moved, our God will never be shaken!
Praise Him with me :-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Carry the Name

I have made lots of decisions without ever consulting the Lord. Before December 9, 2001 it never even occurred to me to seek God's advice in anything. The only time I prayed was when I wanted Him to do something for me and it was never to seek His will, just to get me out of this mess the way I thought He should do it. This prayer was usually a time that I would attempt to bargain with God.

You know the classic, "Dear God if you will do this then I will do that... I promise!"  

You see I didn't know God well enough to seek Him before I made the bad decision that I was now asking Him to fix. Pro-active prayer was not on my mind at all. I just went through life as I wished and expected Him to do what I wanted Him to when I asked Him to do it. Then I would discount His existence and reality when He failed to comply to my demands. 

Wow... yeh... I had alot to learn...
How very thankful I am for the patience of my Creator and Eternal Father.

I wish I could say that after December 9, 2011 I finally got it. Nope. Not!
However, the learning process had finally begun. I finally had stopped and said, "God, I am missing it and I know it. Please teach me!"

Even as a (to the best of my known ability) fully surrendered bond-servant of Christ I have made decisions without consulting God first. How easy it is to think this is what I am going to do and I don't need to pray about it. Most of the worst ones were in my early times of learning but I catch myself still falling into this trap.

The one that weighs the heaviest on me to this day is the decision to have my tubes tied. Today as I consider this decision I cringe. I had been walking with the Lord faithfully for almost three years when I chose this step, yet I know that I never one time asked God if this is what I should do. I just put my foot down, said it was the plan, and delivered my youngest and had them immediately take me back for the tubal.

You see my first child, was a wonderful precious child, that literally did not sleep for almost three years. When I found myself pregnant with my second, I told God He was crazy and was trying to kill me. Before I even knew who my Bekah would be I shut the door on any future consideration of another child. I basically said, "well God I'll take care of this myself"

Now 7 years later I would give anything to take back that decision... or simply to know that it was God's guidance that led me to make it, not this ever present reminder that I never even asked Him what was His will. Now I will never know if He had a son for me, that man-child, to carry my husband's name to a next generation, or another beautiful girl to melt my heart with her giggles of joy.

I have often prayed that God would just take it upon Himself to reverse my decision, to just throw down His Godly gavel and shout Over-ruled! And heal my womb and bless me with life again... but He hasn't. But I love Him still. I will bear the indignation of the LORD and keep this as my reminder to pray in all things.

This morning as I was working in my Isaiah Precept homework I read

"Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from His people.”
Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
  For thus says the LORD,
   “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant, 
To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off."
Isaiah 56:3-5

You see I have sought my God's forgiveness for this decision of mine. This choice I made without ever asking His will and in His love and true to His unchanging character and His standing forever Word, He has been faithful to forgive me in His mercy.
However, He showed me this morning that although He may not ever reverse my sin. He is going to bless me in spite of it.
In His mercy He has forgiven and in His grace I believe He has said to me...

"Yes, you are as this eunuch, you are dried up, but if you keep My sabbath, if you continue to please Me by your faith and keep My covenant I will give you a name that is better than sons and daughters a name that will never be cut off, and though you may not bear fruit from your womb again, you will bear fruit in and through Me, through My name that you carry."

So even though I may not be allowed or able to carry the name of my husband to the next generation, I am allowed and able to carry the name of Christ to the next generation.
In this I will rejoice, always.
For there is no greater honor than this!