Failure to Identify

Don’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… Continue reading Failure to Identify

In the Middle of the Night

It is the middle of the night and I’m awake.  Wide awake. Yesterday I stayed home from work because I’ve been fighting a wicked cold or flu thing and I slept most of the day.  I was actually thinking I might be well-rested for the next day. No such luck. Part of the problem is… Continue reading In the Middle of the Night

Do I ever have a good week?

  I was asked this morning. “Do I ever have a good week?”  And my answer is, “Absolutely!” I absolutely have good weeks…but not easy weeks.  I have no easy weeks at this point in my life.  And, to be honest, these past several months have been the hardest of my life in many ways. Unexpectedly… Continue reading Do I ever have a good week?

Count it all what?

     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us… Today I have two meetings… Continue reading Count it all what?

ImageIt was a near perfect day.

I was very tired the night before and I didn’t set my alarm. After all, I have two alarm clocks ages 6 and 7.  They are relentless in their early morning wake ups.  And although, they did wake me up briefly,  they just went and played.  Beautiful!

I woke later than I’ve slept in years.  I thanked God for rest and began what was to be a great day.

My oldest daughter was downstairs with the dogs watching TV – and yes, the dogs were watching TV too.  Honestly – all the “children” in my house are enamored by any kind of screen!

As soon as I entered the kitchen, she shut off the TV and we planned breakfast.  We discussed making breakfast in bed for the boys, but decided we just wanted to get the day started!  The boys dragged themselves downstairs shortly thereafter and we got our day moving…with chocolate chip pancakes and oatmeal with all the fixings.

Emma and I ran out to pick up a couple of things including a soda for everyone.  Soda is a treat now.  We have been trying to lessen our sugar intake – no easy feat.

The rest of our day was spent outside working on the yard together.  Music blaring, sun shining, and dogs romping.  It was just perfect…except for 1 snake, 2 black widows, 1 brown recluse, lots of doggie landmines, and the task of filling 28 bags with leaves!

But the yard looks great!  And the soda tasted wonderful…although we all ended the day with headaches – either from dehydration or sugar…or both.

We enjoyed dinner on the patio and a family devotional around the fire pit roasting marshmallows.  (When we go back to sugar, we go back big!)

This day was such a blessing especially in light of previous week which had been a little challenging at times.  It included but was not limited to sick children and an overflowing toilet which poured nasty water down into the kitchen.  (I will say that my house is now very well disinfected, but yuck!!!)

This near perfect day reminded me of how I’m so easily impacted by my circumstances…whether they are good or bad.

My kids noticed my happy attitude that lovely day.  My son asked if I could sleep in everyday because I was so much less stressed.  My oldest daughter said, “Well, maybe it was because we were actually really helping mom today.”  I laughed and said, “I think it was a little bit of both.”

But I don’t want my emotions and attitude to be dependent on my children’s obedience or my sleep habits or anything else for that matter.

Lately God keeps bringing me to the book of Colossians – particularly 3:12-15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgive you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful. 

Those verses don’t only describe who I am, but how I want to be.

I am – chosen, holy, beloved.

I want to be – compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving, peaceful and thankful.

So how do I do that?  Even on a bad day?

It struck me that Colossians is a letter written by Paul, a prisoner, to share the secret of contentment and fulfillment with the church at Colossae – people who were in a much better situation than he was.  Isn’t that amazing!

I really love Paul’s perspective on things.  I love that he doesn’t offer Christian platitudes or a “name-it-claim-it” mentality or even a “do-good–or-else” mindset.

He shares often how difficult life can be.  In fact in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 he shares how he was to the point of giving up.

For we do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:8-10

He doesn’t sugar coat the challenge of living a life of commitment to Christ.

BUT….

he also tells what is possible in this life of being a Christ follower… what we are called to…

I’d say the one word Paul uses a lot…the word he calls us to is JOY

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

As I typed that verse do you know what hit me?  That it wasn’t “Rejoice!!!”   That’s how I would have written it.  But my teenage daughter tells me I use too many exclamation points – so maybe it’s just me?!

It’s one of those words which begs for exclamation points, especially when it’s an imperative.  But maybe the reason he doesn’t add the excitement is because it is supposed to be a way of life not a cheer leading competition.

After all, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 he says, “Rejoice always”.  Amazingly, this joy thing is supposed to be an all-the-time thing.  Imagine that?  Honestly, I can’t…but then again, I can.

I can because like I said before – there is a lot to be joyful about isn’t there!

Image

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                1 Thessalonians 5:16

That day was a joyful day.  I think every day should be a joyful day.

I’m not talking about being happy – I’m talking about joy.

Happy is hard…at least for me because it is based on my circumstances, what I feel.

Joy is another matter….joy is not about what I feel; it’s about what I know.

So what do I know…

 

I have an eternal inheritance and hope.

Nothing can separate me from Him.

I’m a new creature in Christ now.

I’m more than a conqueror.

I’m beloved and precious.

I’m forgiven and holy.

I’m redeemed.

I’m blessed.

I’m His.

 

I’m those things on a good day and a bad day.

I’m blessed no matter the circumstances of my day.

I was blessed the day we enjoyed sunshine and sleeping late.

And, although I can’t believe I’m saying it, I was blessed the day the toilet leaked all over the place.

Even though it was disgusting with a capital D, we did laugh, my bathroom and kitchen were cleaned…seriously cleaned, and we all worked together well.  Those are all good things.

But even  if we had not laughed but rather fought and yelled and despaired, I’d still be blessed because God is my God.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved with various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

final diagram verse

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.  Romans 5:3-5

This morning my Bible study was on suffering.  I had a few thoughts as I realized what the day’s topic was:

Ugh.  Really? Suffering? 

What a minute…isn’t this Bible study on the book of Philippians – shouldn’t it be mostly about joy!?

Oh no!  I don’t want to study suffering…whenever I study something my life seems to mirror the topic. 

Can I opt out?

I don’t want any more character…

But I diligently went through all the verses on suffering.  They were familiar verses like Romans 8:28-30 “…for those who love God, all things work together for good…” and 2 Corinthians 4:11-18 “…this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” and 1 Peter 1:6-9 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I really like the verses in 1 Peter.  Being a past grammar teacher (please don’t judge my grammar now…many many brain cells have died since then), I had the fleeting thought of diagramming the verses to see what modified what and all that English major geeky stuff.  Instead I decided to diagram 1 Peter 1:6-9 my own way.

It was interesting to see it all laid out visually.  I’m a consummate visual learning.  Big pictures are good for me.

So often I need big pictures, hand-written notes, and some serious concentration to understand.  Sometimes a friend will say that I’m a deep thinker…really I’m not.  Occasionally I’ll have a profound thought but if I don’t write it down immediately it’s gone…forever.

So as I’m studying today I thought I’d write down what God is showing me about suffering.

I’m in an interesting place right now.  There is no big thing causing me to suffer great amounts of pain or sorrow.  I’m living a life that is just simply challenging.  I don’t believe it’s more difficult than most nor is it easier than most.  It’s just my life.

I used be a judgmental kinda gal…in my head. I recall sitting at a Bible study listening to ladies share their prayer requests thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding?  Really, THAT’s your prayer request?!  Just wait til I share mine!”

Oh my goodness! I’m so ashamed of those thoughts.

I distinctly remember the last time I thought that.  It was during the second year of my single parenting adventure.  I was working full-time, trying to raise two toddlers, two teenagers and a middle child J and I was fried.  A sweet, sweet lady shared a prayer request that seemed so ridiculous to me…and those thoughts started.  Almost immediately I thought, “Who am I to judge how this dear friend feels about things in her life.  Just because they seem minor to me does not in any way discount how major they seem to her.”

I’m not sure what was different at that point except that God was softening my heart with all the love and grace He was pouring into my life.  I’d received so much of it that I was able to offer it…not out of the goodness of my heart but out of the overflow of His.

The suffering in my life has produced something good.  Something wonderful.  I believe that I’m becoming a more compassionate, kinder, more grace-filled woman.  It doesn’t always show but God’s working with me.  Becoming more and more that godly woman has become the desire of my heart.  I have a vision for it…for her…that woman, mother, friend, daughter, Christian I want to be.

It sounds an awful lot like the character thing that Paul mentions in Romans 5:3-5! Maybe I was wrong about wanting more character…well, I think I should probably take the word maybe out of this sentence.  I can always use more character.

Suffering = Endurance = Character = Hope

And hope.  Who doesn’t want more hope!?  I most certainly do.  Each day I’m beginning to understand more and more the hope that is mine in Christ.

In the days, months, years since my family shattered, I’ve been particularly blessed by many of the Psalms.  I especially love how they pour out their anguish, anger, and anxieties to God and then will often say things like this:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

How beautiful that God continues to bring us back to Him.  What a blessing to know that in the midst of great suffering there is hope.  Not only can we bring all the difficulties of our suffering to God, but we can trust Him to bring us through it all.

It brings to mind another verse I read this morning:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Those Psalmists probably were groaning to the Lord and the Spirit was interceding for them…searching their hearts.  He interceded for them just as He does for us.  And the confidence of that intercession brought them to the same place those verses in Romans can bring us…a place of understanding that God will always work things together for good.  Thank you Father!

It isn’t just in our suffering that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us though.  I have always loved this verse:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:25

Jesus LIVES to make intercession for us!  Lives to do it!  What!?!

Dictionary.com defines intercession like this:  “an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person; a prayer to God on behalf of another.”

Jesus lives to plead on my behalf.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  Not only did He live the sinless life I couldn’t, die the death I should’ve, and be raised to life again with power I can’t comprehend…He NOW lives for me!

Jesus is so all about me!

Why can’t I be all about Him?  (Argh.)

A lot of the verses I read this morning were about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, having a desire to know Christ better through His sufferings, following the example He set while suffering, and glorifying Him through our suffering.

I think being all about Christ means that I’m willing to suffer for Him, with Him, like Him.  I don’t think it means that I have a desire to suffer but rather a willingness to because it is a “gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:18-25) and it brings Him glory and me growth in my faith.

I write about suffering with great trepidation.  It’s not based on anything Biblical, just a fear of more suffering.  I wish I was braver.

I trust God and I know He uses it all for good, I just hate going through it.

I understand though and, like the Psalmist, I do believe that God is worthy of praise and trust even in the trials.

Studying suffering is going to be good for me.  Reminding me again that God is good even when life is bad.  That I can indeed rejoice in my suffering because I have Jesus.

Time to put the proverbial big girl pants on and get busy in the Word!

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  1 Peter 5:8-10


 

Grief Upon Grief Upon Grace Upon Grace

I wrote this blog last week and hadn’t posted it yet because I can’t seem to catch up with school, work, and house…well pretty much anything. I was sharing with a friend some of things that I’ve been thinking about and writing about lately. This dear friend challenged me to share a happy post I’d… Continue reading Grief Upon Grief Upon Grace Upon Grace