Saturday, May 30, 2015

Desert. Wilderness. Renewal.

I knew my heart was in a wilderness.  A desert.  

It was dry.  It was quiet.  It was lonely.  It was numb.  Purposeless.  Empty.

Yet somehow, I knew in the depths of my being, it was being drawn in even farther.  I did not want to go to that place.  The experiences of the moment were heavy enough.  I fought with all my might to stop the process of entering the wilderness even farther.

 I didn’t stop to consider if it could be that this time, this calling even farther into the wilderness, was for my own rest, refreshment, restoration and renewal.   
Hosea 2:14-15  (AMP)  …I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.  There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [troubling] to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth…
Had I not discovered that it is in the desert, the wilderness, where angels attend and minister? (Mark 1:13)

Was it not in the wilderness that the Israelites experienced some of the most miraculous of God?
"The Israelites didn't leave Egypt and instantly arrive in Canaan. In fact, the Lord sent them the scenic route. Scenic? Oh, I know it was the barren wilderness, but think of what they saw and heard along the way- the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling like rain, rock-gushing streams, victories against troubling factions, fire by night, the thunderous voice of God, and so on. They witnessed the miraculous. Who would have wanted to miss that?

Actually, even with all my attempts to arrive speedily, it has been the things I've seen, heard, and experienced along my life journey that have been faith producing. Why, it was in the wilderness years that I witnessed the Lord's deliverance up close and personal. During those years I was aware of his hand parting my fears, of his nurturing provision for my shriveled soul, of his refreshment for my parched existence, of his direction for my wayward feet, and of his voice counseling my confused heart. It was quite literally miraculous, and as long and as hard as those years were, I would not have wanted to miss what I experienced of God."                  ~~Patsy Clairmont

When I stopped my running, calmed my panic, and ceased my whining long enough to consider these possibilities... I resolved to turn and walk forward.  To pause and listen closely to the tender voice calling me away.  To stop struggling and to settle into pace as I took off deeper into the dryness.  The quiet.  The lonely.  The numbness.  What seemed the potential finalization of my soul...

Only once there I began to discover... A stream deep within this desert.  A place of quiet, not to seclude, but to allow for rest.  Deep, satisfying, healing rest.  A companionship and honesty found with my Lord who accompanied me there.  When all other voices ceased, when I silenced my own voice, it was then that I began to hear His.

And in the moments that I wasn't hearing anything, I began to notice even the beauty and comfort of silence.  Just trusting that He had brought me to this place.  Discovering it to not be a place of punishment, but rather a place of His protection and His provision.  A place to linger.  To refresh.  To restore.

Not that the call to future times in the wilderness will come any easier, any quicker, or any clearer.  But I trust that the memory of this, my most recent journey to that place will surface and remind me that not every moment in a wilderness leads to destruction.

What about you?  Are you sensing yourself heading into a personal wilderness?  Maybe you're already there?  Or, maybe like me, not only are you there and have been for some time... but you are being drawn farther into it.

I encourage you.  Stop fighting.  Stop working.  Stop the pleading for the mountaintops, rivers and cool breezes.


Perhaps... just perhaps, He himself is calling you deeper into the quiet... where He can speak tenderly to your heart as only He can.  Deeper into the dryness where He alone can bring refreshment.

Where He can trade your valley of troubles for hope and expectation.  Where He can bring back the songs to your heart as in the beginning days with Him.  Where His angels can attend to you and where His miracles can be performed for you.

Do you dare to risk taking the journey into the wilderness with Him escorting and leading the way?  You just may find a renewal you never would have dreamed.  

And maybe that alone is the miracle of the wilderness journey...

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Observing and Learning from a Toddler

The Observation:

I am on my way home and stopped for a red light at a very busy intersection. This intersection allows vehicles to go in 4 different directions, each direction with 2 lanes and a turn lane. This allows for 20 lanes in all.

As I am sitting at the red light I glance across the street to the other side. There I notice a small boy, about 18 months old, holding the hand of his mother. He is one step ahead closest to the curb.

His head is held high, his eyes are wide open, and he is looking back and forth taking in all he can. The sights, the sounds, the activity... he is trying to capture the fullness of what is taking place around him.

His mother is not speaking to him but he does not appear to mind. He seems to be enjoying all he is seeing and taking in. There is a slight smile across his face and his expression is bright and one of excitement.

I sit and admire this small one. I wonder what all his mind must be learning? How, in that moment, he must be processing and developing in all he is experiencing.

And then their light turns green, his mother begins walking, he puts his head down and falls in step (actually a little trot, his little legs trying to keep up) beside her. He is off on his journey once again.

And then I hear it, the still small voice…

The Lesson:

My child, this is how I want you to be. Learn from this toddler. You are mine. I want you holding tightly to my hand. You know your destination and know the direction you need to travel. But I need you to wait with me at this red light. Your life is at an intersection right now and I need you to wait until the light turns green.

You are begging to hear me, pleading for me to say something. Why must you always be hearing me say something to believe I am there? Your hand is in mine, squeeze it just a bit and sense the presence of your little fingers engulfed in the palm of my hand. Your name is engraven there… on the palm of my hand. (Isaiah 49:16) Be assured I am here! I have not left you to wait at this red light alone.

Why must you whine and complain about this wait, this red light, this intersection of your life? Lift up your head, open your eyes, look at the sights, listen to the sounds, and take in the fullness of all that is happening around you. I have things I can and want to teach you at this light.

How can you hear what I need you to hear when you are doing the talking, begging and pleading for the light to turn green, to move forward once again? How can you see what I need you to see with your head looking down at your feet dwelling on the fact we are not moving, or looking ahead and straining to see as far down the road as you can?

Focus on the things around you. There are exciting things happening right here in this place. You need to learn from these things to grow, to learn, to develop as I need you to.

The light will turn green soon and we will begin walking again. You will put your head down for the task and begin moving forward. But for now, lift your head, look for the newness around you, the lessons to learn, and do not be afraid to enjoy the moment, to let that brief small smile creep across your face. Relish in the exciting things happening at this red light, and learn from them.

But be ready at a moment’s notice to begin moving forward once again to continue on this journey. It won’t be as long as you might think.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Aroma of Heaven

I don't know about you, but I am always up for a lovely scent. I am a scented candle burner. I am a potpourri displayer. I enjoy generating warm, inviting, relaxing and soothing aroma's in my home.

Did you know that evidently sweet scents are created in the heavenly realms? Revelation speaks of angels and heavenly beings holding incense and praising God.

I was amazed at what generates the smell of the incense that is burned. Perhaps you will be somewhat surprised as well. Since I have learned of this, I have been challenged to make sure I contribute more often.

Revelation 5:8 (NLT) "They held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people."

Revelation 8:3-4 (NLT) "And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out."

Revelation 8:3-4 (Message)"He (angel) was given a great quantity of incense so that he could offer up the prayers of all the holy people of God on the Golden A
ltar before the Throne. Smoke billowed up from the incense-laced prayers of the holy ones, rose before God from the hand of the Angel."

Now one might want to argue and say that since this is in Revelation, it is not happening at this time. Regardless of whether it is occurring now... or will happen in the future... the prayers of God's people will be incense-laced and filling bowls on the altar before the throne.

Regardless of timing, I want to be sure I'm a part of it!

How much am I contributing to the aroma in the heavenly realms? Do I offer only a few prayers that leave just a moment of a smell with more to be desired? Or am I one of the long lasting and burning candles that will provide scent for hours?

What about you?...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rate Your Marriage

I was posed with a question from my husband and it was my turn to answer. I could have just as easily been the one to ask him, but that isn't how it played out this time. He asked first...

"How would you rate our marriage?"

My husband and I have a practice that we have implemented in our relationship from the very beginning. It has helped us to keep a pulse on how things really are.

The guidelines are that either one is allowed to ask the question at any time. The one who was asked must respond first and then is permitted to ask the spouse the same question.

 "How do you rate our marriage?"

The numbers we use are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being fighting for survival and 10 being absolutely heavenly.  I have learned to keep the following guidelines in mind. Without them, this practice would be not be a successful, beneficial, or helpful experience.

Guidelines when Rating:

1. Be Honest: Do not answer how you think the other person wants or expects you to answer. Be honest. It is only in the honesty (hard to swallow at times... I know from experience) that the low rating has a hope of rising to a better rating.

2. Accept Spouses Appraisal: Whatever their response, do not argue, become defensive, or rationalize why they have responded the way they have. Accept it for what it is.

3. Be Willing to Talk: Ask how or what you could do better, or differently, or stop doing to increase the rating. Again, refrain from arguing, defending, or rationalizing why you may or may not have been responding in the way that they are suggesting.

4. Be Willing to Work: Whatever was communicated in #3, if it is something you can affect or change... work on it!

 5. Smile and Be Cheerful: As you are working on improving any areas that came up, do not become angry or bitter. If you do, your next "rating" session may reveal that a positive and happy attitude would be something you could work on to improve the rating.

Sometimes when we have asked this question of each other, we discover that the biggest thing to work on at the time is that life is in a busy season making it difficult for us to connect... to have time for us!
 When we discover this to be the case, we talk about what is making this season in life so busy, and when it is expected to end. If it is caused by things that have no end date, then we decide which thing or things have to go so our relationship can be restored to greater health.

The best times are, of course, when the question is asked and a very positive rating is received. The response is to "just keep doing what you are doing." A response like that makes for a very good day.

What communication methods have you found useful to implement in your marriage? Your friendships? Any relationship with other people?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Moment My "What If" Changed

Do you find, like I do, that you can be into a pattern of worry and asking the "What If's" of life before you are even consciously aware of it?  What does worry gain us anyway?
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matt. 6:27
What If.... (insert your worry or fear here.) 
I couldn't take it.  I couldn't survive it. I couldn't....

I've even looked at situations that are happening in others lives and said to God, "God, if that happened to me I don't think I could take it."  

And then one day, when I said that, a voice in my heart responded.... "No, you're right.  You couldn't take it right now because I've not given you the grace and strength for that situation.  If you were to ever encounter that, then you could hold up because My Grace and My Strength and Power would be made sufficient and enough for you for that specific situation at that time." (II Cor. 12:9)

It was in that moment my "What If's" changed.

What If... GOD.... (insert an amazing thing that would be from God alone here).
"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose."  (Rom. 8:28)
In order for there to be a "working for good", it would seem to me that would mean that there has to be a something not so good that needs to be turned into a good.   

WHAT IF in any of my "what if" moments, GOD did something amazing that demonstrated Him and His fullness to us in all of His glory?

Now that is a "WHAT IF" dialogue we welcome at our house!  It takes the fear, dread, and turmoil out of the "What If" of the things I worry about and turns it into one of excitement, anticipation, and eagerness to invite God to be a part and move on His behalf!

What about you?  Have you thought about the "What If's" that enter your thoughts?  What would happen if they changed to the thought of  "WHAT IF... GOD"?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Start With What You Know

I have a phrase that is uttered often during the school days here at home with my children. When there is a problem to figure out that, to them, seems much too complicated...I tell them, "Start with what you know."

Once given those instructions they go back to the basics and complete what they do know. It's amazing to watch how just completing a few steps of any given problem with what they know somehow helps the bigger problem at hand to not seem so overwhelming and impossible.

 And then I consider those life circumstances that seem too complicated to figure out.  The ones that seem so overwhelming, impossible, unfair and unexplainable. Those situations that leave one reeling and coming face to face with the sovereignty of God and who He is.

When encountering such a circumstance more recently I heard a gentle whisper flow through my spirit in encouragement and direction, "Start with what you know."

So I did. I went back to all I have learned and know God to be. I used my experiences, knowledge of His Word and understanding to get me started down the path of trusting and believing that He does all things well, that He works all things for good to those that love Him.

I encourage you to give it a try. Next time you are faced with something that seems much too complicated, unexplainable, irrational, or just too much to begin to even know where to start in processing it all.... just start with what you know.

It really is a good place to begin.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Resting = Survival

Rest, peace, solitude, quiet... Survive.

Have you found what I have? Life is full of uncertainties. Unknown jobs, unknown housing, unknown budget, unknown diagnosis, unknown response, unknown, unknown, unknown...

It seems all I know for certain is that there are a lot of unknown's.

It can be tiring. I often need a break. I often need rest.

One would think it so simple, to find time to rest. To nestle in and embrace quiet. Personally, I think it is one of the hardest things to do.

Physical rest eventually demands it. Lack of mental rest will lead to insanity. Emotional rest comes easier after a major breakdown. Spiritual rest?... a bit harder to come by.

I am wondering if maybe there is a lesson to be learned in the unknowns? Perhaps the lesson is learning to pray, to sit, and to wait on God.

To take one breath at a time.  To take one day at a time.  To take one decision at a time.

In the unknown and busyness to find time for that so important place... that place of rest, peace, and solitude.

Lord, continue to teach me how to rest in You, regardless of the change, the risk and the cost that is presented... the unknowns. When I see sacrifices needing to be made on my part to do what you are asking... give me the grace to accept it, the strength to face it, the joy to endure it, and the rest to survive it.

Mark 6:31: And Jesus said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."

Teach me to find my deserted place with You and be willing to stay and rest there a while.

What about you?  Are you stealing away by yourself to a quiet place and resting... with/in Him?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blind Obedience

"Sometimes obedience is not about the behavior at the moment as much as it is about developing maturity." --Unknown

What must it have been like? I have the end of the story. I can see in a moment (within just a few verses) the outcome. But what must it have been like in the middle of it?

I find the story of my wonderment in Joshua 6:1-27. The Lord comes to Joshua and tells him how they are to defeat Jericho. (vs. 3 -5) Basically, they are to march around the wall of Jericho… one time each day… silently… for 6 days. On the 7th day, they are to march around 7 times, then give a shout.

God had done miraculous things before this point! He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He had helped them to conquer before this. He was God and they knew it. He could perform the amazing, the incredible, the miraculous.

He had in the past. So why, in this case, did He tell them to march around the city? Not just once, not twice, but in reality a total of 13 times before He chose to move?

The Bible doesn’t give us the reaction of the people when they were told the plans. In fact, it’s not even clear that the people knew the complete plans.

They marched around the city the 1st day and returned to camp. They did it the 2nd day and returned to camp. For 6 days this was their routine.

I can just imagine what must have gone through the minds of just a few of them.
* “What is Joshua doing?”
* “Did God really tell Him this is what was supposed to happen?”
* “How does He know it was God that was speaking?”
* “Surely God is going to move in a mighty way… what? Back to camp?”
* “Joshua must be crazy! What in the world is he thinking?”

And on and on…

And then imagine day 7, first time around… ready to head back to camp… but no.. around again? And after the 3rd time around beginning the 4th. (Under their breath because remember, they are supposed to be silent.)

* “Are you kidding me? Joshua has really lost his mind now!”
* “I’m tired, can we just sit for awhile and rest? This is absolutely ridiculous!”
* “How many more times?”
* “I’m sure it couldn’t have been God Joshua heard. He has never asked us to do anything like this before.”
* “He can destroy these people without all of this embarrassment. We must be the laughing stock of Jericho by now.”
* “They think we are a bunch of wimps. Look at us, and we call this an army?”
* “They must think we are the biggest losers ever.”

Joshua was being obedient. He was following what he knew God had said, but there was probably grumbling, questioning, and doubting in the camp.

I have personally experienced similar situations. Following in the direction God has spoken, but it seeming to make no sense. The path seeming to be too long. Others around me (and even ourselves) questioning our actions. Doubting this is what God would have. Wondering if we had lost our minds.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at Joshua and the directions he followed… that was blind obedience! It did not make sense. It seemed so much easier to expect God just to come to the scene and perform. And yet, that is not what was asked. God required obedience before He would provide victory.

Joshua knew in the end, if obedience was completed, their victory would be Jericho. I have also been promised in the end, my obedience will bring forth victory. I have not been told exactly what that “victory” is. (I really don’t want Jericho… thanks anyway.)

I can know, however, that there is a reason for the things God is asking of me. It may not even be so much about what is being asked of me as much as what my obedience and trust is maturing and building in me.

I feel at times I am marching around the same spot, day after day, only to return to camp each time. Occasionally it does seem ludicrous, senseless, tiring, and a waste of time. But, victory can not and will not be attained until I complete the full 13 times. I must take each and every step exactly as God has commanded, regardless of how utterly insane it may be.

If I falter, if I lose heart, if I give up, even on that last lap… that would not be obedience, and therefore, would not lead to the victory intended for me.

"Often the last step is the winning step.  The greatest challenge in receiving great things from God is holding on for the last half hour."  ~L.B. Cowman in Streams in the Desert

So, I will not question the directions. I will sandal up for yet another trip around my wall. I will be silent as I walk, careful not to question, to complain, to wonder why… but simply to trust.

I will walk with my head held high, my shoulders square, and my mind settled that this is indeed what God has asked of me.

I will not attempt to rationalize Him, to explain Him, to excuse Him…

I will only state that I am following the directions I have been given. I will march until I am told to shout…  I will take just one more step in obedience.

Blind it may be, but Obedience nonetheless...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

God Speaking: What Might it Look Like?

How does God speak?  When someone says that He spoke to them through a song, what might that look like?

As I was driving, the song "Always" by Kristian Stanfill came on the radio.  As I listened, God's very own Word began to insert itself in my mind all through the song.  This is a snapshot of what that looked like and how I believe that God sometimes speaks to me through music.

(The words in italics are words of the song.  The words bolded are the words that flooded my mind during the song, straight from God's Word.)

My foes are many, they rise against me, But I will hold my ground
"Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord is going to bring to you today." Ex. 14:13 

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding... My soul will rest in You
"Be still and know that I am God." Ps. 46:10

I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God." Is. 41:10a

My help is on the way, my help is on the way 
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
"God is our refuge and strength." Ps. 46:1

I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always 
"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." Ex. 14: 14

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord.... 
"Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord" Ps. 121:1b-2a

Did you notice that I was driving?  That means my Bible was not immediately available to reference.  Although each of these references did not come to mind and I've had to look them up for this post, the words of the verses themselves did come to mind!

Are you spending regular time in God's Word so that you would recognize His voice and He could speak to you in the middle of your day, even while you are driving?

I want to be doing it more and more!  I want to be so immersed in His Word that every moment verses (His Word) are coming to mind and I recognize His voice to me personally!

Here is the song in it's entirety...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's Not What You Know... But Who You Know

This is an article I found tucked away. I did not write this and I am not sure of the author. I figured this a fitting way to conclude my personal notes on Psalm 23.

(You can read my Part 1 here... and my Part 2 here.)


There was once a Shakespearean actor who was known everywhere for his one-man show of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a dramatic reading of Psalm 23.

Each night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation - “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” - the crowd would listen attentively. And then, at the conclusion of the psalm, they would rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor’s incredible ability to bring the verse to life.

But one night, just before the actor was to offer his customary recital of Psalm 23, a young man from the audience spoke up, “Sir, do you mind if tonight I recite Psalm 23?”

The actor was quite taken back by this unusual request, but he allowed the young man to come forward and stand front and center on the stage to recite the psalm, knowing that the ability of this unskilled youth would be no match for his own talent.

With a soft voice, the young man began to recite the words of the psalm.

When he was finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation as on other nights. All that could be heard was the sound of weeping. The audience had been so moved by the young man’s recitation that every eye was full of tears.

Amazed by what he had heard, the actor said to the youth, “I don’t understand. I have been performing Psalm 23 for years. I have a lifetime of experience and training, but I have never been able to move an audience as you have tonight. Tell me, what is your secret?”

The young man humbly replied, “Well, sir, you know the psalm… but I know the Shepherd.”

Oh yes, there is a difference!!

What about you?  Do you know the Psalm?  Or do you know the Shepherd?...