Day 3 – Armed and Ready

sword and shieldI have been so excited to get into God’s word that last night I almost just stayed up past midnight getting started.  I probably should have…might have been divine prompting…because this morning has been one mishap after another.  I’m on outfit number 3.  I apparently have 6 single socks with no partner…I searched with that silly IPhone flashlight everywhere I could think of and managed to knock more things over in my attempt to be quiet than you could possibly imagine.  Making coffee has proven problematic but I have prevailed and it is almost ready…so in about 15 minutes this writing might actually make sense!

Yesterday my class began a new vocab list.  I had forgotten what most of the words were due to our extended snow vacation (yay!) last week.  One of the words was rejoice!  How cool is that! I felt that it was God confirming His call to rejoice!

One of the other words was sentinel…a guard, watchman, or protector.  I thought how in all my angst at this life I have forgotten about my calling as a watchman at the gate for my family.

I have always loved the picture of the Israelites rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah.

When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.  From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail.  And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall.  Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.  And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.  Nehemiah 4:18

What a great reminder that as we work to rebuild our families, we are to be prepared for battle. We are to have our weapons handy.  We are to be armed with the word of God.  We are to be ready to wield that sword of the Spirit with gusto!

But I know me…and maybe some of you…I tend to take that picture and imagine myself slaying dragons and winning battles for my family…forgetting that a little farther down in that passage is the sentence:

Our God will fight for us.  (4:20b)

You know what?  That sounds great to me!  I’m pretty weary…a weary warrior to be sure.  And God, the creator of all things, has all the power and strength I need and some.

So what am I supposed to do?  What is my role in this battle for my family…for the heart and soul of myself and my children?

Being armed for battle means I’m ready to fight.  I’m in a position to stand strong in the face of adversity.  I’m ready and willing to follow the order of my Commander and Chief.  I’m aware of the struggle, the temptations, the trials, the tests…the arrows of the evil one.

And I don’t run ahead into the battle without my Father’s leading…and my Father’s protection.

For too long I have continued to wage this war for peace in my life without taking a moment to consult with the author and perfecter of my faith.  For too long I have run into battle without armor…without my sword.  For too long I have relied on my own battle plans, my own strategies, my own strength…I have come to the point of exhaustion…I am wounded, weary, and worn…Medic!

In just a few short days I have felt the reviving of my soul, the calming of my heart, and the joy of the Lord infusing me with a new hope.  Yesterday wasn’t amazing in any other way, except that I was ready for it.  It was not easier or less stressful, but I had my weapon in hand…I had God’s word in the front of my brain.  I had put it before my eyes and started the day with His perspective, not my own.

I was working armed with the knowledge that God is always with me.  And when those arrows flew my way yesterday, I was able to deflect them with that knowledge.  I was able to say, “I am precious, honored and loved…nothing can separate me from the love of God (not even me)…He will never (not ever) leave me nor forsake me…in all these things I can rejoice!”

And in rejoicing, I find the joy of the Lord truly is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Strength for the Weary Warrior

silly knightYears ago I lead a women’s retreat called “How to Dress Like a Warrior.”

Lately I have felt anything but warrior-like.  If I am a warrior, I’m definitely a weary warrior.

Today I reread Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

I thought I’d look up the word might in my mighty big concordance.  It pretty much means strength, might, and power.   So I decided to look up other verses about God’s might…I’m in awe.

 The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases his strength. 

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

WOW!!!! Did I need to read those verses right this very minute!  I can’t even begin to tell you how weary and faint and NOT mighty I am right now.

There is just no way around the tired…believe me, I’ve looked.  I’ve tried to get rest… get on top of things…have less going on…take charge…let go…hang on…release…you know, everything that is supposed to make life easier, but nothing really changes the crux of the matter.

I’m a single working mom with a bunch of sweeties…throw in trying to sell a house, find a house, prepare lessons, grade papers, deal with family issues, financial issues, and continuing ex-husband issues…well, there is no way to avoid the tired.

And sometimes when I consider the armor of God, I wonder if I’m even wearing it.   Sometimes it feels like I’m in a battle wearing my pjs and my only weapon is a feather pillow.

I was thinking about that verse – Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.  I’m thinking that means that before the armor goes on I need to have the Lord’s strength working in my life.  Otherwise I’m just putting on my own armor – my own righteousness, my own truth, my own salvation, my own everything.

And honestly, I’ve got cruddy armor.

My breastplate is dented.  My shoes are Dollar Tree flip flops.  My shield is made of cardboard.  My helmet is an old baseball cap.  My sword…well, it’s more like a toothpick.  You get the idea.

If the armor must be God’s, I’m thinking the strength must be His as well.

In the New Testament that strength is often equated with the resurrection of Jesus.  Everything truly does go back to Jesus and the gospel.  I can live a life of victory and strength because of Jesus’ victory and strength on the Cross.

There’s a quote by Matthew Henry which basically says that no matter how good your armor is on the outside, if you don’t have a good heart on the inside, it’s useless.

“Let a solider be ever so well-armed without, if he have not within a good heart, his armour will stand him in little stead.”  Matthew Henry

I could have all that righteousness, faith, salvation, truth, and even the gospel, but if it all hasn’t reached my heart…it’s not of much use to me.  And if the foundation of my faith is not God’s strength, but my own…well, let’s just say that’s not much of a firm foundation.

Maybe things have been so difficult lately because I’m trying to do all this in my own might? Unfortunately I’m not sure how to do it any other way.  How do I not do everything that needs to be done…and what does it look like to do things in God’s strength, not my own?

In each ridiculously busy day, what do I give to God?  What do I let go of?  I wish I knew right now…I wish the next paragraph in this blog would hold the key to letting go and letting God.

But maybe it isn’t so much about me doing anything more or less.  Maybe it is more about me having a shift in my mindset.  Maybe I need to re-evaluate what is causing me to feel so weary.  Could it be my own expectations?  My wish and hope to have a different life?  Discontentment?  Fear?  Insecurities?  Anxiety?  Anger? Bitterness? Frustration?  Probably some of those, maybe all…depending on the day.

I keep trying to figure out how to make this life easier…get off the battlefield.  I don’t think that is God’s plan for me yet.  I think the plan is to teach me to trust despite the battle…to smile despite the frustrations…to be thankful despite the weariness…to praise despite the problems.

And as I’m listing some of what causes me angst, I’m thinking that part of the change in perspective might be stopping all the focusing on the battles, frustrations, weariness, and problems.

Good gravy!  There are good things in my life too!  The blessing of children.  The love of friends.  The provision of a place to stay, a car, a job, and food on the table.  There’s even things like beautiful clothes to wear, inspiring music to listen to, and wonderful books to read (if I had time to read).

Most morning on my way to work, I see gorgeous sunrises.  I’m also blessed to drive through a park that is often filled with deer walking quietly through the morning mist.  It is exquisite and peaceful.  A truly wonderful way to start my day!

In the evening, I can step outside and look up at thousands of twinkling stars…again exquisite and peaceful.  God does offer me peace, rest, and opportunities for thankfulness and praise.  If I would but open my eyes and take a minute away from the stress of my circumstances, I think I’d see so many more things to inspire and bless!

There will always be things that distract us…things that cause us to take our eyes off of Christ…things that sap our strength…BUT nothing can sap God’s strength!  And if God is the source of our strength, we do not need to fear the frustrations of life, we can rest assured He will provide all that we need…even the armor to get us through the battle.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church

and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!  Ephesians 3:20-21