Those Things and Thankfulness

sunset picture (wburg)There is this thing I keep talking about.  This thing called thankfulness.  I keep coming back to it in my life and in my writing.

I think it is because God keeps bringing me back to it. Over and over and over again.

Today my devotional time included the verse I often use to deal with anxiety in my life (another common theme).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

But what struck me was the thanksgiving part.

I know that the antidote to anxiety is gallons of gratefulness, but I have missed one significant aspect of this in my life.

And maybe this is just me, but I think that God is calling me not to just find something for which I can be thankful just to be thankful (although that is not bad), BUT to find something in the challenge, crisis, difficulty, stress for which I can thank God.

Right now my job feels very stressful and sometimes I find myself struggling to have a positive attitude about it.  So, in my effort to have a better attitude I say, “But I’m so thankful for my house.  I love the home God has provided for my children and me.  I love the yard and the blooming gardens.”  It definitely gives me a better attitude (at times), but it doesn’t necessarily change my attitude about work.

I think what God wants me to do is thank him for this job.  This job that wrings the life out of me…that robs me of sleep, time, and my emotional and mental stability.  (See…my attitude stinks.)

Yesterday as I was driving home I was pondering the joy and gratefulness I felt upon hearing I had received this job.  How thrilled and thankful I was at that moment!  Now, I keep asking, “God, what was your plan in this?  Because I was already pretty weary and exhausted before this job…I got nothin’ left to give.”

Tonight I prayed, “Father, I know that this is the place you have me right now.  Please show me the things I can thank you for in it.  Please change my attitude, change my mind about this job. Please open my heart up to what you are doing.  And Father, please please show me how to not be so very overwhelmed with all I have to do, all the insurmountable challenges, all the things that cause me to have anxious thoughts and fussy feelings.   Lord, please be glorified in even this.”

Even as I pray that prayer, I’m thinking, but Lord please change my circumstances for the better.  Please make being a single working mom less difficult.

And then I think, but why should it be easier for me?  Why should I deserve better?

How many single working parents feel overwhelmed?  How many single working parents are exhausted, weary, and desperate for a change of circumstances?  I daresay, a fair number.

Maybe the answer won’t be a change of circumstances, or maybe it will and those won’t be much better…yikes.  (way to think positively…Lord, I’m thankful for the ability to think…please let it be positive.)

Our prayer could be, “Lord, if this is where you have me, please give me your peace.”

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

How often have I quoted that verse?  Times without number I have grabbed hold of that verse and begged for that perfect peace.  I have thought, Lord I’m trying to keep my mind on you, but it wanders often because there is so much to do and so little time and I feel like such a failure.  I can’t figure out how to get on top of things.  I can’t figure out how to do this life well.  I want relief.  I want peace.  Perfect peace.

Lord, help me stay my mind on you.

And then, I looked up this verse and I thought, “Yes!  I get part of this!”

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.  Psalm 50:14-15

Did you see the word? The word that just jumped off the beautifully well-worn and underlined pages of my beloved Bible?

Sacrifice.

Thanksgiving can be sacrificial.

Sometimes my gratefulness seems forced.  Thanking God in the challenges and disappointments of my life can be difficult.  Sometimes I do it out of obedience.

In my little notebook, I make lists of things I love and am thankful for…silly stuff like the sound of a car driving over gravel, the squeak of shoes on a basketball court, the smell of dinner in the oven, the feel and potential of a completely blank page in front of me, the smiling eyes of my children, still reading with my 15 year old son at night, laughter, a lesson plan completed and successful, a quiet classroom, and even pulling weeds in my lovely gardens (at least I hope they are weeds!).

My lists can put me in a better place for a moment, but the big difficult thing still looms over me and I can’t seem to find a good word to utter about it.  And it takes mere moments for the big difficult thing to stomp out all my joy and pour stress, anxiety, and irritation all over me.

I think that big difficult thing needs to be stopped, but God hasn’t stopped it yet.  So what do I do with it?

I think I can make that big difficult thing smaller by finding something about it that isn’t terrible…something that is relatively good…maybe something that I can genuinely thank God for.

Maybe this is the solution for all my big difficult things!  I have a fair number of them right now…imagine all the thankfulness I could have if I threw a little the way of each big difficult thing!

Truly.  That would be a fair amount of thankfulness.

I believe when I shut off this computer and pull out my journal later tonight, I will not just list my thankful thoughts.  I will list my big difficult things and make some notes of things I can find to thank God for even regarding those big difficult things.

Then my focus won’t be on how big those things are, but on God and how even in those things that I can’t figure out, can’t stand, can’t bear, can’t beat, God is there blessing me.

That sounds like some staying of my mind on God.

And I’m sure that as I do that God will give me peace…perfect peace that passes all understanding.

But he said…

photo beach

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

I have taken for granted that I understand this verse. I’ve had it memorized for years, but I don’t think I fully grasp its meaning.  I think I’ve been skating along the surface of it.  Satisfied with an easy glide rather than challenging myself to some beautiful spins and leaps.

Today I was thinking how much I do really want to get this passage and how there seems to be a depth to it I can’t comprehend.

God sometimes gives me better understanding through writing.  It’s like I think with my fingers on the keyboard.  So here I sit with a very few minutes before the day begins in earnest and I must rush to work.  I had to write though.  I had to “think” about this verse more.

I have a foundational understanding of the “grace is sufficient” part – I know how desperately I need grace and how it is all I need.

Sufficient is an interesting word…it means “enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.”   (Merriam-Webster)

Enough for me in my situation.  Enough to get me where God wants me…my proposed end in eternity.

Grace is the perfect amount to get me to God.  Grace is the perfect amount to give me hope.

No matter if I need a dash or dump truck full…God provides.  (Hmmmm….trying to think of a time I’ve only needed a dash…)

The second part of that verse is a bit more baffling to me.

“for my power is made perfect in weakness”

It’s like I read that verse and for a moment I have some clarity and then it clouds back up again and I think (as so many of my students say), “Wait, what?”

What has God’s power being made perfect in my weakness have to do with grace?  With sufficient grace?  And how does that word “perfect” fit?

I understand that God’s power shines through my life because I must rely on Him…trust Him with so much of my life.

Maybe the issue is not in my not understanding His power, but rather in not understanding my weaknesses.

I’m realizing that maybe I’m consistently viewing my weaknesses as all sin issues.  I should be able to do all that God has given me to do and do it well…it must be a flaw in me that I can’t.  I should be able to do this life better.

Do I have this all wrong?

I think I might.

Paul says that because of God’s power being made perfect in weakness, he “will boast all the more gladly of [his] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [him]. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Another verse that seems deeper than I treat it.

Sooooo….I boast in my weaknesses?  Seriously?  I want to hide my weaknesses.  Really hide them.  Like dig a very deep hole, bury them, cover with a pretty garden, and throw away the shovel.    The pretty garden is key.  Keep that baby hidden and beautiful.

Paul says that because of all this grace and power stuff, he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.”

Maybe I need to look up those words and see what applies to me.  Weak? Check. Insults?  Not sure.  Hardships? Check.  Persecutions? I don’t think so.  Calamities?  Ummm…seems like it.

Weaknesses.  In spite of them, God’s purpose prevails.  That must be His power.  The power to use this weak, fail of gal and make her strong in Him and possibly even a blessing to someone else.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

I looked this verse up in the Matthew Henry Commentary that we inherited from an old pastor.  (We backed over his books so they became ours…long story.  Kinda funny.  Good ending.  I now own a great (albeit slightly bent) set of commentaries.  And the pastor has a brand new set.)

Matthew Henry says, “ This is a Christian paradox:  when we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we see ourselves weak in ourselves, then we go out of ourselves to Christ, and are qualified to receive strength from him, and experience most of the supplies of divine strength and grace.” (p. 643)

I think that I understand it a bit better.  If I can acknowledge my weaknesses and not turn in on myself in despair, but rather look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…if I can turn to my Savior and grab hold of his strength and power…if I can step outside of myself and into His strength…that is the power in weakness.  That is God’s power perfectly working in my life not just in spite of my weakness, but within my weaknesses.

Again, I am back to the question of how does that practically happen in my life.

Maybe I’m looking too often for the 10 step plan when all I really need to do is change the way I think about things.

I seem to be looking for an actual sword I can wield throughout the day…slaying worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, and sorrow.  Have I not been given a sword to wield already?

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darks of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  Ephesians 6:16-17

Sometimes I forget the power that God has given us within His word.  I can look at those words as something to be studied, pondered, and memorized, and completely forget that they are life…life-giving, power-infusing, fear-dispelling, hope-instilling, peace-providing words.   Words that not only show me how to live, but words that make life livable.

Psalm 119

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (v.10-11)

Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (v.24)

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (v.28)

Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain!  Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.  (v.36-37)

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. (v.66)

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.  (v.73)

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  (v.92)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.  (v.103)

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.  (v.105)

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (v.111)

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (v.114)

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (v.165)

Those verse are rich with the beauty of how God’s word is an integral part of our lives when we let it…the blessings if it are many.

The oh-so-many weaknesses that I have are not my flaws, but the cracks in my pot that let God’s power shine through.  His power is holding this cracked pot together.  I’ve been trying to hold it together for a while, and it is difficult work – dare I say, impossible.  The visual I provide others is a harried, weary working mom who is easily frustrated, easily angered, and easily brought to tears.

The woman I show when God is holding me together is peaceful, even joyful…she knows her life is not her own that she’s been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).  She knows her Savior loves her.

No matter what I struggle with or where I go or what I do or say or even think, God loves me and His power is perfectly displayed in my life…and amazingly, even in my weaknesses.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

God said No and That’s a Good Thing

peace - beach photo

I just have to begin by saying thank you for all the prayers and kind words of encouragement.

Yesterday I finally called to find out test results.  I was twisted in knots waiting and decided that it was time to just find out already.

When I called the nurse took a minute and then came back and said some medical stuff I don’t remember (and frankly couldn’t understand) and then she said, “So the doctor would like you to retest at your next appointment at the end of the year!”

Now THAT I did understand.

That meant that God had said, “No, precious daughter, I’m not asking you to walk that path right now.”

Thank you Father.

I have a few friends walking very difficult paths right now.  I was speaking with one dear friend recently and the thought struck me that it is both comforting and difficult that God is in control.

When I said it, I thought how true that statement felt.   It is both comforting and difficult that God is in control.

But trying to unpack that…it’s hard to explain.  I just know it to be true.

What is comforting about God’s sovereignty?  

Is it knowing that my Creator is always with me?  That I’m loved and cared for in ways and to depths I can’t even comprehend?

And yet, what do I do with this element of difficult?

I find it difficult to let go…even though I don’t really know what I’d do if I was truly in charge.

Difficult to understand…the whys? And whens?  And what nows?

Sometimes I think I choose to live in the difficult.

Living in the difficult…that can be like living in a pit.

And I keep going back to my pit…instead of focusing on the Lord’s goodness and love and faithfulness.

My pit dwelling appears to be based on my circumstances…shocking I know.

And because my circumstances don’t seem to be changing anytime soon, I best figure out how to get out and stay out of the pit.

But how do I not slide back in anytime soon…or ever?

This past week, waiting for results, I felt like I was scrambling desperately to get out and I couldn’t quite do it.  Every “what if” thought had my feet skidding down the slippery, steep side.  I felt covered in the mud of fear.  Nothing I could do seemed to totally get that horrible slimy crud off of me.  I just couldn’t figure out how to stop feeling the anxious feelings I was feeling.

Anxiety.  It’s an awful thing.  And it pushes me into pits faster than almost anything else.

I kept trying to pour scripture into my head and think thankful thoughts.  I prayed for peace – begged for it.

And then I realized that I’m looking for God to do something that He has already done.

He has already given me peace…the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I remember a speaker once sharing the truth that we have already been given the fruit of the Spirit – we already have it all.  I don’t need to keep asking for it (not that I’m prone to ask for patience or self-control often – no matter how desperately I need them!  That prayer always seems to get me into a pickle!).

Maybe the key is asking for God to reveal how to tap into it?

But then again, why does it matter exactly what I pray when God knows my needs, my wants, my hopes, my longings?

I have heard that prayer is more about building a relationship with the Lord…connecting with Him, casting our cares on Him, learning about Him, leaning on Him, and in some ways reminding ourselves that He is in control. I believe that to be true. 

When I pray I’m acknowledging the One who really does hold me and everything else in the palm of His hand.

When I pray I’m reminded again that the Creator of All Things cares about me…listens to me and acts on my behalf.

As much as I speak (write) about prayer…about longing to be a prayer warrior…lately, I find it difficult.  My prayers have seemed to fall flat…to be “unpassionate”, kind of weary.

My youngest daughter feels like God doesn’t hear her prayers.  She has voiced repeatedly that she wants to believe in God, but she doesn’t feel like He is listening…or even there.  She bursts into tears every time we talk about it.

Dear Lord, what have I not done…or done…that my precious little girl doesn’t feel like she knows You?

And yet, Lord sometimes lately I feel that way too.  Sometimes I feel like my faith maybe isn’t as genuine as I thought it was.  Maybe it is way more wobbly than I ever thought it could or would be.

It hurts to type that.  To say that I don’t feel strong in my faith.  It probably makes you think twice about reading what I write.

I wonder if others go through seasons in their faith like this…where faith is just based on the past, not something happening right now?  

Remembering the joy of believing and trusting and knowing…it is a blessing in the midst of doubt, anxious thoughts, and questions.

Today while I was driving I was thinking about my faith and about gratefulness. How the two really do go together.  I was thinking that when I ponder the huge number of things I could thank God for, I feel a spark of my old faith coming back.

Tonight while walking upstairs to get something, I looked down at my beautiful hardwood floors and thought how kind God was to provide them.  Wood floors.  Who would have thought something so not amazing could remind me of God’s love.

My house is a big blessing.  It isn’t perfect, but it is near perfect for us.  And I can’t begin to understand how God could bless me in such a wonderful way, I feel so unworthy of it.

I’m comforted by the knowledge that God cared about so many little things when He choose and blessed me with this home.

I’m comforted by the blessing of dear ones in my life…people who love me, pray for me, and care about me.

I’m comforted by the knowledge that no matter how wonky I feel about anything and everything, God is always decidedly loving and faithful in His care of me and mine.

I think I’m seeing it…the precious comfort of knowing my loving Father is in control.

And I’m understanding the difficulties of letting God BE in control…of letting go of my struggle to make things work out the way I think they should.

How much more peaceful my life would be if I would let go of the struggle and embrace the peace of Christ.

This past week I struggled very much and even with the good news I still struggled…I was still out of sorts.  It seemed like I had residual anxiety…I maintained the fear even when the problem was resolved.   I’m not sure why I did that…seems weird to me.

The weight of worry needed to lift off and the power of His peace should have been clearly there.  Instead I held on to the anxious thoughts…grasped them like a crazy person.  Why in the world???

Is my new normal to be anxious rather than peaceful?  I shudder to think I’ve chosen that as my normal.

I wonder though…

I wonder what my deal is.

I don’t totally understand myself, but God is revealing to me in little snippets and encouragements that maybe my faith has been quite a bit academic lately.  I know the Word and how it is to be applied and I know God and His love for me and I understand and am thankful for the Gospel.

But do I love God?  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love the Holy Spirit?

Do I really and truly LOVE them?

Is my relationship with more like a teacher and student relationship, than a Father and daughter relationship?

I think it has become that…in some ways it is easier to just do my faith using words rather than emotions.  (Which is kind of ironic considering how emotional I have been lately.)  It has been easier to just study Scripture than delve into a really truly deep relationship with my Lord.   I wonder why that is?

Maybe words are just easier for me.  Relationships involve trust…that’s not always easy.

I’m ready for a change though…to go beyond a student of the Scripture and embrace my true identity as a daughter of the King.

To once again know that my faith is indeed genuine.

To trust Jesus, who is my peace,  truly does love me. 

To trust that my God will never leave me nor forsake me.

And to know more deeply the wonderful mystery and blessing of a God who is loving, faithful, kind, and totally and completely in control.

Happy to Wait?

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Is there anyone in the whole wide world who is happy to wait? Anyone like the Psalmist who can truly say they waited patiently?

Let’s just say that I could absolutely not have written this Psalm unless you added the word kinda… I kinda waited patiently for the LORD.  I’m trying though…trying to wait patiently.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry blog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3

I had, as I prefer to refer to it, my stupid additional test last week.  But no results yet.  Still waiting.

I hate waiting.

And not knowing if I’m going to receive good or bad news is driving me crazy.

I wish I could just forget about it until they call.

I do forget…but then I remember and I’m awash with worry and anxious thoughts and my chest feels heavy and my eyes feel misty at the thought of being ill.

I know that God has me in the palm of His hand and that He loves me completely and totally and relentlessly.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand; your walls are continually before me.  Isaiah 49:16

But I know sometimes the answer is “no”, sometimes “yes”, and sometimes “not yet”.

And honestly I’m worried that the answer will be “yes.”  Yes, you have to go through this.

He has said “yes” before.

He has said “no” before.

He has said “maybe” before.

And He has said “wait” a lot.

“Dearest, wait.  And trust me.”

Waiting and trusting produces perseverance.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:2-6

Suffering…endurance…character…hope.

Waiting…suffering.

Endurance…waiting.

Character and hope.

I really don’t want any more character…to be truthful.  I feel like I’m kind of doing the suffering – endurance – character – hope cycle often.

Living here on this planet has its fair share of suffering.   And there is need for endurance.

Then God puts that word character in there and I’m a little at a loss.  I would think this would work better

Suffering – Endurance – Peace – Hope

or

 

Suffering – Endurance – Faith – Hope

But God puts character in there.

A person of character is someone known for their integrity, kindness, generosity, and morals.  The things we think and do, the way we act and react, the hopes and desires we hold.

I want to be a woman of character…I do.  A woman after God’s own heart.  That sinner David…he was a man after God’s own heart.  I take great hope in that.  A man who had such big sin issues…a man who tried and failed but was given grace and forgiveness.  Just like me.

We suffer.

We endure.

We become people of character.

We have hope for the future.

The future.

Usually when I think of “the future” I’m thinking loooong term.  You know, the eternal future God has planned for us.

But today I’m thinking the future like 2-4 days from now.

I want hope for then.

I want to feel hope regardless of the answer I receive this week.

When my marriage ended, for a brief time I felt hopeless.  I felt there was no way in a million years I could be a single momma with my quiverful of children.  But God has enabled me to do it.

When my ex-husband lost his job, I felt there was no way in a million years I’d be able to provide for my family, but God has provided instead.

Those are big ones, but there are small ones too.  Things that happen any given day that make me wobbly…that make my hope wobbly.

But every single day, God provides and gives me hope.

And he will do it again.  He will do it tonight.  He will do it tomorrow.  He will do it every day this coming week and beyond.

He will provide and give me hope on the day my doctor calls… good news or bad news.

Of that I am confident.  Of that I have hope.

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours along.  Psalm 71:14-16

Up to My…Head

IMG_1614When I started this blog I wanted to offer hope with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure.  I can, at times, be a little funny.  My amusing side has been slipping a bit lately, and I’d like to find that voice again.

As I begin this new year, I’m thinking I want to make a slight change in my perspective…in my way of doing things and thinking about things.  Maybe I shouldn’t say a slight change…a complete 180 might be more like it.

Joy has been a bit illusive this past year.  Hard to grasp for me.

Peace that passes understanding?  Haven’t had it.  I’ve chosen anxious thoughts and ungratefulness.

It has been a bit of a miserable time for me (and my kids, unfortunately).

I don’t think that my life has been harder than most, or that I’ve been called to do something overly extreme in difficulty.  My life is just more challenging and exhausting than I  want.

My vision for my life was different. And sometimes the farther I get from the vision, the more I struggle to accept where I am.

It has been easy to focus on the stress of my circumstances, rather than anything positive.

So what are my circumstances, really?  That seems like a good place to start when I’m trying to figure out how I should approach life.  I’m hoping for some perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing, living how I’m living, and thinking the way I’m thinking.  And maybe if I put it all in front of me in black and white I’ll see something differently.

Would you like to think through this with me?

What are the things that you are dealing with right now?  Not your emotions, but your circumstances. What does your life look like each day?

I have to remind myself as I go through analyzing my life that God is not at all surprised by my circumstances (or emotions).  They are the tools that God is going to use in my life to bring me good and Him glory.  And I’m confident that I will be stronger for the challenges.

The storms of life.

I once heard a pastor say that we are either heading into a storm, right in the middle of it, or drying off from it. When I first heard this I thought it was a rather dismal look at life, there have to be other times….don’t there?

Where are we now?

  • Hanging on for dear life in the hurricane.
  • Rocking on the waves but getting our sea legs
  • Working on storm clean-up – everything’s a little damp and musty, but thankful to be back on dry land
  • Floating in calm waters – an occasional wave swamps your boat but you are doing just fine
  • Sunning on the beach

In some ways I’m in clean up mode, but in others I think I’m still rocking a little bit on the waves.

Wherever I find myself (any given day), how do I respond to where I am…where God has me?

In all honesty, my responses have been mostly negative – BUT I’m determined to change that this year.

Part of the problem is that I tend to look at all my circumstances as only challenges rather than just the place God has me…a place God can still bless me.  That inclines me to respond mostly negatively to them.

Being a single working mom is challenging at times, but it is the place God has me.  It can be a beautiful place no matter how challenging.

Do I EVER have good responses to my circumstances?

Ummmmm…

Ok!  Think of three, Sue.  Three positive responses…(and the ability to say something sarcastic is not one of them).

Laughter – sometimes I can really get a good laugh at the ridiculousness of my circumstances

Joy – when I focus on the blessings and provision from God

Worship – when I take a moment to recognize how often God loves me when I’m decidedly unlovable

Getting tangled up in negative thinking and feelings has been all too easy for me.  Even when I’m studying the Word and praying, I can still struggle with negative emotions.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a natural response for me lately.

I know that I can trust God with my life and the lives of my children, and yet I struggle with feeling all those negative emotions.

I am thrashing about in the waves, gulping in tons of water while I grumble, complain, and wail – but there is this blessed undercurrent of peace – my feet are in it.

I’m in it up to my toes.  My goal is to get my whole body in that peaceful place – all the way over my head.

That is my quest this year.  To be not just up to my toes, but up to my head.

To build on those three possible positive responses to my circumstances.

To redefine my response to my life.

To evaluate from a different perspective.

To acknowledge where I am, accept it, trust God with it, and move forward.

To see my life as a blessing.

Want to join me on this journey?

I’d sure like the company.

Failure to Identify

IMG_3121Don’t you just LOVE it when God hits you right between the eyes with truth?

I’m not being sarcastic…truly.

The other night at my Bible study we were talking about finding our identity in Christ.

A topic I have explored often and tried to grasp continually.

I have spent the last several years pretty consistently reminding myself of who I am in Christ.

Apparently, I need A LOT of reminding.  I seem to always be forgetting…losing sight of it.

So our very dear leader gave each of us a visual about where we find our identity.  Listed around the edges were possibilities of things that we might find our identity in rather than Christ.

The usual…family, accomplishments, job, home, etc.

I looked at the options and realized I don’t find my identity in any of those things…I don’t want to.

But not for the good reason.

Rather because I feel like I’m failing in everything….all of them.

Every. Last. One.

It sunk in deeply.  All of sudden, I realized my struggle.

I realized why I simply can’t seem to get myself to a better place.  Why no matter how much I stick my face in scripture and pray…I’m still holding on to my false identity.

And then my sweet leader said that she struggled with finding her identity in her failures.

Failures?

Seriously, finding our identity in our failures?

Oh my goodness.  That’s me.

I have been wallowing in my real and perceived failures.

I look at myself as a failure…every day.

God looks at me as His dear daughter…every day.

Why can’t I grasp that?

I was so impacted by the lesson…I didn’t say a whole lot because I was trying to process what this all meant.  How was I going to change this identity crisis?

I was really excited when I got home.  I shared with my kids how the Bible study had so deeply impacted me.

And then…

Then I went upstairs to get little girls ready for bed…

And I lost my mind.

I was my feeling-like-a-failure, fussy, frustrated self.  I was impatient, unkind, irritated, and spoke words that I regret.  My tone was not kind.  My mood was not good.

How had I gone from convicted to crazy?

How had my heart-searching, mind-opening experience at Bible study worn off so fast?

I felt like even more of a failure.

If that was even possible.

Apparently, it was.

Oh Lord, why?  Why can’t I be better?

Then it hit me…well, it’s still hitting me.

I can’t be better without Him.

As long as I’m focusing on my own issues, I can’t find my identity in anything but me…and I’m a mess.

It is all about my righteousness…my ability to live right, to be right, to speak right, to act right, to know right.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to do any of those.  Maybe it is because when I say “right” I really mean “perfectly”.

I know I can’t be perfect.  I am oh so aware of that.

Why must I constantly set myself up for failure by assuming that I can be perfect?  It’s not like I really believe I can be.  I just want to be.  I expect myself to be.

I want to be the best mom for my kids.  I believe right now I’m barely passable as a mom.

I want to do my job well, inspire my students and have great relationships with my coworkers.  I’m so tired, overwhelmed, and disappointed that I find myself struggling to be a positive and encouraging person at work.

I want to be a good friend, daughter, and sister, but I don’t seem to have time to invest or bless.

I want to have a perfectly ordered home.  At this point I’d settle for not tripping over something everyday.

I long to have time to rest, write, read, and simply hang out and watch TV or play a game.  I barely have time to brush my teeth before I fall asleep at night.

I feel like my lack of time, lack of patience, lack of sleep, lack of joy in work, lack of fellowship, lack of order is all and completely my fault.

BUT when I take a step back…look at things from a different perspective.  I see that my expectations are ridiculous.

RIDICULOUS.

The other day someone said, “But you are single working mom…you remember that right?”

Yeah, how can I forget?

I am where God wants me.

How I wish he wanted me in a cabin somewhere…with a roaring fire, a good book, and some good friends surrounding me.

But that isn’t where I’m to be right now.

I’m to live here and now.

As is.

I’m to focus on life with Him…life as His daughter.  Life as the woman he has made me to be…not the woman I think I should be.

Even as I type that I wonder…but isn’t there a woman I should be…shouldn’t I aspire for more?

Yes…and no.

Yes, it is a good thing to aspire to be better…to live better.

No, not if it is my identity.

My identity rests securely in the fact that God has redeemed me…called me by name…I’m HIS (Isaiah 43:1).

Sometimes I look at this list I made a few years ago and remind myself again…who I am.

I am a new creation (Colossians 3:9-10); God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); loved (Ephesians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:4); precious in God’s eyes, honored and loved (Isaiah 43:4); redeemed (Isaiah 43:1); Called by name (Isaiah 43:1); free from condemnation (Romans 8:2); forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:12); a child of God (1 Peter 1:23)  Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20), a friend of God (John 15:15), blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3); chosen (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12); holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 5:1); righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21); have a reason to be joyful, prayerful and thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18); filled with the Holy Spirit and all His fruit (Galatians 5:22); saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9); reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11); more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37); free (John 8:36, Galatians 5:1 an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20); holy and blameless before Him (Colossians 1:22); called out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 1:13); an overcomer (Revelation 12:11); a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); the light of the world (Matthew 5:14); not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39).  And even if I am afflicted in every way, I am not crushed; perplexed, I will not be driven to despair; persecuted, I will not be forsaken; struck down, I will not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

Sometimes it helps to remind myself that I am so much more than I think I am.

I am not defined by my successes or my failures.

Say it again.

I am not defined by my failures.

I am not defined by what I accomplish, what I say, what I don’t say, how I parent, how I teach, how I take care of my home, how much I read or pray or study or speak or write, how many friends I have, how much time I spend doing anything or everything…I am defined ONLY BY HIM.

I think right now my favorite definition of me is precious.  That has been my favorite for a long time.

Maybe it is because I felt so “unprecious” when my husband left.  In his eyes I was not an excellent wife.

She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15

An excellent wife who can find.  She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10

Maybe it is because I feel unworthy of being precious to anyone.

Not that God hasn’t put people in my life who treat me as precious.  He has.  Definitely.

Why do I feel so unworthy of being considered anything good?  Why does it feel like a sham?

…and yet God…

God says I am.

I am precious.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:4

Precious.

Honored.

Loved.

Those aren’t words that define a failure.

But they do define me.

Logically, that must mean I’m not a failure.

I am defined by who I am in Christ…not who I am in my mind.

Yet another area that I need to focus on Christ not myself.

I’m so thankful for the 2×4 of truth that God gave me the other night.  I’m so thankful that He never seems to tire of telling me again and again and again who I am…that I am His.

I’m so thankful that I am not defined by what or how I feel, but rather by who He is.

I am His.

I am precious.

I am all that He says I am.

 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61: 10

Whatever It Takes

IMG_1718I’ve become a late-night person…through no design of my own.

I desperately need more hours in the day…more days in the week…and more sleep in my bed.

Last night as I lay my head down on my crazy configuration of multiple fluffy pillows, I began to pray for friends and family, for my children and myself.

I want my people to know the Lord.

I’ve been praying “whatever it takes” off and on for someone.  Actually a few someones.

I began to utter that prayer again and the thought crossed my mind, “Gosh, I hope someone isn’t praying that prayer for me!”

I stopped praying.

Then I thought, “Wow. How you have changed Sue.”

What happened that I fear that prayer now?

Is it that I think God is a father who would say, “Ok, I accept that challenge!  Let’s see what it takes.”

That is not my Father…He is not willing to play with my faith or my life.  He loves me too much.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

Or is it that I know myself better today than 7 years ago when I was willing to pray that prayer for myself and anyone else I loved.

Back then I was the “righteous one” – I was the victim of someone else’s sin – or so I felt about myself.

Today, I am just me and my own sin…my own failures and fears….my own faithlessness.

God’s been opening my eyes to things in my life…I feel it’s just layers and layers and layers of stuff.

It is painful and difficult.

I’m tired of painful and difficult.

I think that might be why I’m struggling to pray that prayer.  I think I don’t want to go through anything else…I’m tired of doing hard things.

Living hard.

I’m tired of others struggling with hard too.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble.  But fear not, for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Well, that confirms what I already knew…Jesus is a man of His word.  I got trouble.

But if I do…God has to have a reason for allowing it.

God doesn’t mess with me.  He sometimes allows messy but not messing.

Lately, as God has been showing me my layers and layers of issues and sins, honestly, I’ve had some moments of despair.  I’ve felt that I must be the most hopeless case ever.

But then….God.

(There is that “But God” thing…)

Then God reminds me that as big as my sin is…the cross is so much bigger.

The gospel.

Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I live at the foot of the cross rather than the door to the empty tomb.

Sometimes I forget that although my sins put Him there, His love took me from the cross to the throne of grace.

There is a place for self-reflection…for a moment.  A place for recognizing that I still need my Savior.  A place for seeing my sin and its effects, but my eyes aren’t supposed to be fixed there.

My eyes focus intensely on Christ.

The Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Sometimes I think that my faith is all about me…It’s my job to protect it, strengthen it, reveal it, and nurture it.

I was never given that job…my job is to have it.

Have faith.

Trust that God can bring me safely to my inheritance.

Trust that God knows me better than I know myself, and, amazingly, He still promises to never leave me nor forsake me.

Trust that God doesn’t play games with my life.

Trust that God knows what He is doing…and it is good.

He can’t do bad.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that…God can’t do wrong.

And if He can’t, then I can pray that prayer…even if I have flocks of butterflies in my stomach and bats in my chest while I utter the words, “Whatever it takes…”

Whatever it takes to strengthen my faith.

Whatever it takes to make me the mom my children need.

Whatever it takes to keep me walking with You.

Whatever it takes to grow me into the woman after Your own heart I so want to be.

Whatever it takes to have a life that You can use for your glory.

Hard prayers…and yet, not.

If I trust Him, I can pray for those things and know He loves me and whatever it takes is worth it.

I can’t say that I’m joyful or even excited about some prayers I feel called to pray, but I can say that I feel loved and peaceful in the care of my Father.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter if I pray those prayers or not…God is going to do what is best in my life…whatever brings me closest to Him…whatever it takes.

 

A Deep Breath

IMG_2803There is a place I find myself…sometimes…it is no longer a place of deep grief, but of deep sighing.

A place where I find myself needing  the strengthing of a deep breath, the focus of a whispered prayer, and the hope of an all-powerful God.

In the past, this place has been about me…about my very own pain and sorrow.

But now I find it mostly about others…dear ones.

I am having difficulty taking that deep breath at the moment because I can’t bear the thoughts that keep crowding in.

I’m overwhelmed by fears and hurt for another.

So instead of steadying deep breaths, I’m whispering my prayers with short breaths of hope, pleas for peace, and requests for grace.

I’m trusting that regardless of what I can see before me…the issues of this life, the pain of another, the loss of things that weren’t supposed to be lost…I’m trusting that God sees more.  God sees beyond me.

He sees what He can do to redeem, restore, and reconcile.  He sees what He can do to love another whole.

My prayers are not about whys or whens.  They are about Who.

Who holds all the broken together in infinite, lavish love.

Who brings life out of death.

Who speaks truth into lies.

Who binds up the brokenhearted.

Who restores the lost.

Who redeems the bound.

Who heals the sick.

Who loves the unlovely.

Who forgives the fallen.

Who comforts the heartbroken.

Who is faithful to the faithless.

Who is my Father…my Savior…my Comforter.

I have found these prayers to the One Who Is…the One Who Listens…the One Who Loves…these prayers surround me like the comfort of a soft blanket gently layed on my shoulders.

I have felt hope wash over my hopelessness with a few well-spoken words of a friend.

“Overwhelming for us but not our Lord.”

I have felt peace as I emotionally, spiritually, and mentally hand over my burden to Him.

I have felt strength as I turn to His word…as I find truth and hope and healing in the letters and words and sentences of my God’s love letter to me.

Today I have hope even as last night I went to bed with tears in my eyes for one I love deeply who is struggling.  And one I love deeply who is lost to me.  And one I love deeply who is hurting.  And all the ones I love deeply who are going through things I can’t fix.

But this morning, even though my head is slightly foggy with sickness, and my eyes are rough with dried tears, and my body is weary…I feel hopeful.

I feel the power of my God…the strength of His hand…in the prayers I and others have prayed.

I feel peace and even great expectation of what He will do in these lives.

I feel great expectation of what He will do in my life.

My chest has finally risen with a deep breath of joy in the hope and strength of my Lord.

Wanna Stop Swerving?

DSC_0253It’s a bit earlier than I planned to get up, but up I am.  Thanks to one pain in the rear Labrador Retriever….and, I think, thanks to the Lord.

As I lay on the sofa trying to get my mind to stop moving so I could fall back to sleep, I decided maybe this was an answer to prayer.  I’ve missed writing so much.  Missed looking more deeply at my life…my thoughts….my Savior.

It’s been a whirlwind lately.  Although, I can’t think of an extended amount of time that it’s been anything but a whirlwind…and I guess to some extent I’m okay with that…for a little bit.

I’m kinda tired right now.  Sick and tired.  No, actually sick.  Strep throat.  Can’t kick it.  Probably a key factor is a significant lack of sleep.  My mom is concerned I’m going to have a heart attack.  I’m just worried I’m going to pass out.

Right now, 2 hours before my alarm will sound, I feel quite good (except of course the sandpaper that is my throat.)

So this dark and early morning…what does God want me to learn about Him?

Lately I’ve been studying Hebrews…one of my favorite books.

I have a new Bible and nothing is underlined…I feel like everything is new.  It is funny, but part of me is embarrassed by my perfect new Bible without anything written in it…looks like I don’t study it.  I believe that’s called pride. Ugh.  The other part of me loves that it’s a new start…a chance to look at things in a new way.

I’ve been studying faith.  It’s made me think about my own faith…how sometimes I have such great confidence and other times I make choices that prove I don’t.  I live my life in fear…fear of what?  You know, I don’t know that I can even answer that question, really.  I mean, what do I fear?  Nothing…and maybe everything.

That lovely verse, “Perfect love casts out fear” comes to mind.  God loves me perfectly there is no need to fear…anything.

And yet…

I fear.

I’m anxious.

I’m twisted in knots.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

How do I hold unswervingly to hope?

What does that look like?  Practically speaking.

I love the words God uses to encourage us, but often I’m unsure of what it looks like as I’m dealing with my children, my students, my friends, my family, myself.

What does holding hope look like?

I think maybe the answer is in some of the verses that follow those:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

And…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

It’s easy for me to look at those verses and see the do’s and don’ts…but I think, at least for me, what God is showing me…again…that it isn’t about ME.

What God is revealing to me is that it isn’t about what I do or don’t do, it’s about Him.

Both of those passages begin with imperatives…”Do not throw away your confidence” and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance” and “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

The key is that last one…

I’ve tried to be confident in many things…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I either stumble from pride or fear.

I’ve tried to throw off things that cause me to stumble and sin…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I can only walk forward a few steps before I find myself stumbling and falling yet again.

I’ve tried to run with perseverance…to live hopefully and faithfully and graciously…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I fail at it every time.  Every. Time.

I’m unable to be the woman I was made to be without fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I just can’t seem to do it.

Holding unswervingly to hope seems very similar to fixing my eyes on Jesus.

When things get wonky in my world (which they are A LOT), do I choose to have hope?

Maybe I’m looking too much for the seven steps to holding onto hope…when maybe there is just one.

  1. Choose hope.

I know that sounds trite…maybe a little naïve on my part.  But believe me, I am not naïve of the difficulties of life.  Been there, done that.

So much of survival…of thriving survival…is where I focus.  Choosing to take my thoughts captive to Christ.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

On what am I focusing?

Lately, if I’m honest, it’s how difficult this place God has me in…this place that is decidedly lacking in joy and grace.

And instead of choosing to bring the joy and grace to the situation, I’ve chosen to focus on the difficulties and what’s lacking.  Ugh.

I can see it in my children.  They are beginning to show the signs of strain…the joylessness of a life that doesn’t look for the things to be grateful for in the midst of difficulties.

I’ve not modeled well.

It’s a war for hope.

It’s a battle to choose hope over heartache.  But IT CAN BE DONE!

God wouldn’t tell us to hold unswervingly to hope if it wasn’t possible.

On the darkest days of my life, there was always hope.  Sometimes those days seem easier than these…these days of hectic, harried, stressful busyness.  These days of just wishing I could be still for a minute.  Still and quiet.

But I am!  Right now.  I’m probably gonna be a bit tired later, but how very worth it!  How very much I’ve enjoyed this quiet time with my Bible and laptop open.

The focus on those darkest days was Jesus.  I didn’t have anything else to cling to…no person beside me, no inner strength reserve, no wisdom, no powerful perspective, no provisions, no nothing…all I had was Jesus.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…Jesus, my shepherd.

The complexity of who Jesus is in my life strikes me right now…He creates, sustains, strengthens, and guides my faith…He is my hope.

So if I’m fixing my eyes on Him…I have hope.

I have hope that I can indeed walk on the water while waves crash, thunder echoes, and lightening crashes…just like Peter did.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Be when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-30

I have hope that I can endure the challenges of life…just like Paul did.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

I have hope that I am forgiven…again…just like, well, everyone.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

I have hope that God has a plan for my life…and my future is secure.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Proverbs 23:17-18

Will you fix your eyes on Jesus with me?  Will you hold unswervingly to hope…even when everything seems a bit hopeless?

I’m going to pray that we can do it.  That God will enable each of us to hold firmly to hope…to focus intentionally and intently on Jesus.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

Hebrews 13:20-21

So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.