Monday, October 31, 2011

Kisses from Katie

I started reading a book that was suggested to me by a close friend. She told me that Katie and I seem to share a lot in common in our blogs. After reading 72 pages from Kisses from Katie today, that little light in my heart that beats for the sands of the Sahara is a bit brighter because He is calling me back. This dear believing sister, Katie Davis, is an inspiration to me. As a young twenty-something, she is the mother of several little girls, living in a country far away from home. She loves because Christ first loved her. She said "Yes" to God when things seemed impossible. She understands suffering and, while we have never met, she is someone who shares a passion to see the Gospel touch the lives of others through love and I can't wait to debrief with her in Glory. Here is what she wrote:
Most days, I wished I could wake up under my down comforter in a house with my loving family, not all by myself. Sometimes I just wished I could hang out with my little brother and his buddies, eating junk food and laughing late into the night. Sometimes I wanted to spend hours upon hours talking with my best friends about boys and fashion and school and life. I wanted to go to the gym; I wanted my hair to look nice; I wanted to be allowed to wear jeans. I wanted to be a normal teenager living in America, sometimes.
But I wanted other things more. All the time. I wanted to be spiritually and emotionally filled every day of my life. I wanted to be loved and cuddled by a hundred children and never go a day without laughing. I wanted to wake up to a rooster's crow and open my eyes to see lush green trees that seemed to pulse with life against a piercing blue sky and the rusty red soil of Uganda. I wanted to be challenged endlessly; I wanted to be learning and growing every minute. I wanted to be taught by those I teach, and I wanted to share God's love with people who otherwise might not know it. I wanted to work so hard that I ended every day filthy and too tired to move. I wanted to feel needed, important, and used by the Lord. I wanted to make some kind of difference, no matter how small, and I wanted to follow the calling God had placed on my heart. I wanted to give my life away, to serve the Lord with each breath, each second. At the end of the day, no matter how hard, I wanted to be right here in Uganda.
Opportunities to make someone else's life better were so much more attractive to me than the thought of the comforts I once knew. The longer I stayed, the more I realized that deep fulfillment had begun to swallow my every frustration. No matter how many contradictions I struggled with, how difficult certain situations were, no matter how lonely I got, no matter how many tears I cried, one truth remained firmly grounded in my heart: I was in the center of God's will; I was doing what I was created to do."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Psalm 118

Psalm 118 has become very important to me over the last few years... especially verse 17. I will tell of His great love. I will shout from the highest of places what the Lord has done... and continues to do in my life!
Stand firm in your faith, dear friends. This life is rough, but the Lord is good and that kind of love doesn't give up on us. When we are down and need to be known... He is there. He makes sense out of the senseless, gives us the strength to keep fighting when we think we've given everything we've got, and tells us: "I love you... unconditionally... forever... do not be afraid." Let this encourage you tonight as it has encouraged me.

Thank God because he's good, because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
"His love never quits."
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
"His love never quits."
And you who fear God, join in,
"His love never quits."

5-16 Pushed to the wall, I called to God;
from the wide open spaces, he answered.
God's now at my side and I'm not afraid;
who would dare lay a hand on me?
God's my strong champion;
I flick off my enemies like flies.
Far better to take refuge in God
than trust in people;
Far better to take refuge in God
than trust in celebrities.
Hemmed in by barbarians,
in God's name I rubbed their faces in the dirt;
Hemmed in and with no way out,
in God's name I rubbed their faces in the dirt;
Like swarming bees, like wild prairie fire, they hemmed me in;
in God's name I rubbed their faces in the dirt.
I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall,
when God grabbed and held me.
God's my strength, he's also my song,
and now he's my salvation.
Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs
in the camp of the saved?
"The hand of God has turned the tide!
The hand of God is raised in victory!
The hand of God has turned the tide!"

17-20 I didn't die. I lived!
And now I'm telling the world what God did.
God tested me, he pushed me hard,
but he didn't hand me over to Death.
Swing wide the city gates—the righteous gates!
I'll walk right through and thank God!
This Temple Gate belongs to God,
so the victors can enter and praise.

21-25 Thank you for responding to me;
you've truly become my salvation!
The stone the masons discarded as flawed
is now the capstone!
This is God's work.
We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!
This is the very day God acted—
let's celebrate and be festive!
Salvation now, God. Salvation now!
Oh yes, God—a free and full life!

26-29 Blessed are you who enter in God's name—
from God's house we bless you!
God is God,
he has bathed us in light.
Festoon the shrine with garlands,
hang colored banners above the altar!
You're my God, and I thank you.
O my God, I lift high your praise.
Thank God—he's so good.
His love never quits!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Walking Through the Valley

“How could he be dead? Surely, God would somehow, someway, still intervene...He was not to intervene in the way I hoped, but in quite another way--equally miraculous. Just how miraculous I was not to realize until much later. I was to be led by that Power outside myself into areas beyond my knowledge, along the path that leads through and out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. There would be rocky ledges, steep slopes, slippery places, many a fork in the road where a clear-cut decision would be required. I knew none of the trails: the Valley was untrodden country. yet by sure steps I would be led through it. I was to discover the Lord as my Shepherd- quite literally and in many practical ways”. - Catherine Marshall “To Live Again”

I looked out the window of the plane on my way home on Friday night, thinking about being amidst those that still feel the ache from the loss of my lovely sister. I remember feeling the way Mrs. Marshall described: walking blindly through the Valley, finding the ledges, the slippery places, and the forks in the road to be daunting... but they were powerful projectors that pushed me forward into the unknown-- into the good. Even after all of this time, my eyes still fill with tears as I remember Nikki’s sweet smile, her laugh, and her trust as she told me her most intimate and precious secrets. I often hear people tell me, “You are so brave.”, “You have so much strength in you.”, “I can’t believe you are still moving forward at this pace.”

Well, truth is, I am not the strong person I’d like people to think I am. I was incredibly surprised by my response to her death-- that I was so concerned with making sure the Gospel was talked about at her funeral-- so that many people that did not know Christ could hear His message to them through her life. My usual selfish streak wasn’t showing itself at the time. It was very unlike me to put others ahead of myself, especially in a moment of deep pain. Something was added to me those days that followed her death. Some form of selflessness that was absolutely foreign to my typical way of doing life. Trust me, I’m NOT that mature of a person.

I find myself often still feeling the linens on her bed as I laid my head down by Nikki’s hand and her legs, exhausted from no sleep... with the sounds of Family Matters reruns in the background on the TV. I will never forget singing to her that night, with my voice shaky and begging God to heal her. Never before had my prayers been so desperate. I remember the night nurse watching me as I sang in those early hours of the night and wondering to myself, “What is she thinking? Am I crazy to be believing she could wake up at any moment?”

After all of the mess, I found myself questioning my faith and my life. I became terrified of future pain and suffering. There was no way I was going to get through all of this. My pain dominated my life. (And it still does at times!) After the initial few weeks of selflessness, my typical selfish behavior returned and still rages inside my heart on multiple occasions throughout the week. Praise the Lord that we have the Cross- that He had to die on our behalf because we couldn’t save ourselves- that our hearts would need redemption in the most unlikely place- through death.... and then, through resurrection. He trumps our selfishness every time. Marshall wrote, “I was to discover the Lord as my Shepherd- quite literally and in many practical ways.” So far, I’ve been blessed with His incredible presence in teaching me what it means to love amidst the pain. I’m looking forward to more of His direction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Awakening- Sara Groves

Dress down your pretty faith. Give me something real.
Leave out the thee and thou and speak to me now.
Speak to my pain and confusion.
Speak through my fears and my pride.
Speak to the part of me that knows I'm something deep down inside.

I know that I am not perfect, but compare me to most,
In a world of hurt and a world of anger I think I'm holding my own.
And I know that you said there is more to life.
And I know I am not satisfied.
But there are mornings I wake up and I'm just thankful to be alive.

I've known now, for quite a while, that I am not whole.
I've remembered the body and the mind,
But dissected my soul.
Now something inside is awakening,
Like a dream I once had and forgot.
And it's something I'm scared of
And something I don't want to stop.

And I woke up this morning and realized that Jesus is not a portait.
Where stained glass windows or hymns or the tradition that surrounds us.
And I thought it would be hard to believe in
But it's not hard at all.
To believe I've sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.

And He's not asking me to change in my joy for martyrdom
He's asking to take my place.
To stand in the gap that I have formed
With His real, and His sweet, and His real amazing grace.
And it's not just a sign or a sacrament.
It's not just a metaphor for love.
The blood is real and it's not just a symbol of your faith.

So leave out the thee and thou and speak now.

- Sara Groves

I Have Come to Do Your Will

(another awesome excerpt from DeMoss's book Surrender)

When Jesus left heaven to come to earth He had one purpose in mind.

"I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38 NIV)
"Then I said, "Here I am...I have come to do your will O God." (Hebrews 10:7 NIV)

We consider it remarkable when a human being fully surrenders his or her agenda and will to the will of God-- probably because such an individual is so rare. But as we have seen in light of who God is and who we are, such surrender is completely reasonable. What makes the attitude of the Lord Jesus so astounding is that He is God. For Him to surrender His will to that of the Father can only be explained in terms of utter selflessness, trust, humility, and deep devotion to His Father.
Throughout His years here on earth, Jesus maintained this posture of surrender to God. Virtually the only insight we are given into Jesus' life from age twelve till He reached manhood is that He was obedient to His parents (Luke 2:51). That obedience to human authorities was an expression of His surrender to the will of God.
Before He began His earthly ministry, Jesus endured a period of intense temptation in the desert. What was the underlying issue that Satan used to tempt Jesus. It was this matter of control.
As he had done with the man and the woman in the garden of Eden four thousand years earlier, Satan attempted to get Jesus to surrender to his control. And as with the first couple, he started by appealing to Jesus' physical appetites-- you decide what to eat and when. Though Jesus had not eaten in forty days, He refused to operate apart from the direction of His Father, even in the seemingly insignificant matter.
In his final volley, Satan offered to give Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" (something that was not his to give, for that all belongs to God!), if only "you will bow down and worship me" (Matthew 4:8-9 NIV)
Adam and Eve had failed essentially that same test. Offered an opportunity to control their own lives, they had bowed down and worshipped the one whose sole intent is to usurp the throne of God.
Jesus knew that if He conceded even an iota of control to Satan, he would be rejecting the kingdom and control of God. He understood that that is the essence of sin; it is what separates God from man, and it is what accounts for all the misery in the history of the world.
Jesus acknowledged only one King and was fully surrendered to the will of His heavenly Father; therefore, He would not for a moment concede control to the Father's archenemy. He would not bow before any other so-called king; He would not worship anyone other than God. He would not indulge His human desires for food or comfort or gain, if to do so required Him to operate outside His Father's will.
Jesus came to earth expressly to do the will of God, which required that He offer up His body as a sacrifice. never for a single moment did He ever resist the will of His Father. Never was there a hint of a power struggle between Father and Son-- never a battle for control-- just complete, glad surrender. To demonstrate that surrender, the Lord Jesus took upon Himself "the form of a bond servant." Then, in the ultimate display of relinquishing control, "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death" (Philippians 2:7-8 NASB)

Every time you and I bow our heads in acceptance of and surrender to the will of God, we embrace the cross and we manifest to the world the heart of Christ who bowed His head to the will of His Father. When all is said and done the conquering King will turn over to His Father all the kingdoms He has overcome--all the spoils of war. And then, once again, as time gives way to eternity, the Son of God, the Almighty, sovereign Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of heaven and earth, will bow His head in a final, magnificent act of surrender.

I am learning what it means to trust in a God that has been there, experienced my temptations and struggles. He is still working and will fight for us until the end. I can bow my head in surrender to a God this powerful... who has paved the road with His blood.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Face of Holiness

(From Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)
"If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably struggled with thoughts like those expressed by this discouraged believer:

I hate myself; I hate my sin... I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world [as holiness], nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp; till hope itself almost died out...I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I had...Often I am tempted to think that one so full of sin cannot be a child of God at all.

Would it surprise you to learn that these anguished words flowed from the pen of one of the most revered heroes in the history of the Christian church? J. Hudson Taylor, nineteenth-century pioneer missionary to China, was renowned as a man of extraordinary faith, sacrifice, prayer, and devotion. When he wrote these words, Taylor was the leader of a thriving mission enterprise.

For several months, he had carried a burden for greater holiness in the mission and in his own life. he later wrote of that period:
I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently...but all was without effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me.

In the fall of 1869, Hudson Taylor found himself at a crisis point. The pressure of circumstances had been building up for months. He had experienced a bout with serious illness, the unbearably hot climate, the stresses associated with overseeing a large and growing ministry, endless demands on his time, and extensive travel under primitive conditions in the interior of China. He found himself with frayed nerves, irritable, prone to harshness, and unable to live the life of holiness he so longed to exhibit.
From his tormented heart, he asked a question you may have asked on occasion, as have I: Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end- constant conflict, and instead of victory, too often defeat?
Still in turmoil, he returned home from a trip to find a letter from a fellow missionary named John McCarthy, who had recently encountered Christ in a new way. His testimony included a quote from a book called Christ in All:"The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun; the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing; the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete." went on to describe the radical difference this message was making in his life:

Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in the love of an almighty Savior;...this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me. I feel as though the first dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me.

As Taylor read McCarthy's letter, he was given a new look at Christ. That look proved to be transformational. Six weeks later, Taylor received a letter from his sister in England. She poured out her heart about the pressures she was undergoing as a mother with a growing family and the frustration she was experiencing in her own walk with God. In his reply, Taylor eagerly shared with his troubled sister what God had so freshly done in his life:

As I read his letter, I saw it all!...I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, "I will never leave you." "Ah, there is rest!" I thought... I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones...Oh, the joy of seeing this truth!...It is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior; to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor? or your head be well fed while your body starves?... All this springs from the believer's oneness with Christ. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been!

From start to finish, the pathway of holiness is a life of faith-- faith in the person, the work, and the gospel of Christ. We were justified-- declared righteous-- by faith in the atoning work of CHrist on our behalf. And we are sanctified-- progressively made righteous in our practice--not by our own efforts, but through faith in His sanctifying grace.
In looking to Jesus, Hudson Taylor discovered the power to live a holy life. He wrote to his sister, "I am as capable of sinning as ever, but Christ is realized as present as never before. He cannot sin; and He can keep me from sinning."
Jesus can keep you and me from sinning. And when we do sin, it is He who will cleanse and pardon us. Through the cross of Christ, God has made provision for every sin we could possibly commit. His grace is infinitely more powerful than any sinful bondage.
As Charles Spurgeon says so eloquently, such a Savior is a sinner's only hope:

Though you have struggled in vain against your evil habits, though you have wrestled with them sternly and resolved, and re-resolved, only to be defeated by your giant sins and your terrible passions, there is One who can conquer all your sins for you. There is One who is stronger than Hercules, who can strangle the hydra of your lust, kill the lion of your passions, and cleanse the Augean stable of your evil nature by turning the great rivers of blood and water of his atoning sacrifice right through your soul. He can make and keep you pure within. Oh, look to him!

There is something powerful about fixing our eyes on Jesus as we seek to be holy. The apostle Paul put it this way:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.- 2 Corinthians 3:18

As we look upon Him, we are changed into His image. At the moment, our ability to behold the Savior is limited, because we are in these finite bodies and still have to contend with our corrupt flesh. But one day, totally freed from sin, we will be able to see Christ clearly, as He is. Seeing Him, we will adore Him fully and will be drawn to become like Him. In that moment, our transformation into His likeness will be complete.

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when [Christ] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.- 1 John 3:2

The longing of my heart--and the longing of every follower of Christ--is to be like Him. That transformation is not something we can produce on our own, apart from the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. Like Hudson Taylor, you may have been striving and struggling to be more holy. The Lord Jesus invites you to cease your striving, to come to Him, and to find rest for your soul. As you meditate on His magnificence and follow in His footsteps, He will bring about in you a marvelous transformation that will be completed when you finally see Him face-to-face.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prayer during Singleness

Hannah Whitall Smith, in her letter to a single woman wrote, " No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on everything else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone. As long as our expectation is from other things, nothing but disappointment awaits us. Feelings may change, and will change, with our changing circumstances: doctrines and dogmas may be upset; Christian work may come to naught; prayers may seem to lose their fervency; promises may seem to fail; everything that we have believed in or depended upon may seem to be swept away, and only God is left, just God, the bare God, if I may be allowed the expression; simply and only God... This, then, is what I mean by God being enough. It is that we find in Him, the fact of His existence and of His character, all that we can possibly want for everything. God is, must be, our answer to every question and every cry of need. If there is any lack in the One who has undertaken to save us, nothing supplementary we can do will avail to make it up; if there is no lack in Him, then He of Himself and in Himself is enough."

Dear Heavenly Father,
Yes, it's me again. I wanted to thank you for all that you have done to show me the kind of woman you are molding me to be. Thank you for loving me well, especially because I don't deserve it. I turn my eyes away from yours often and I choose my own way. I take the gifts you give to me and the whispered path you want me on, gather up my bags, and leave earlier than you ask. I'm an impatient woman, who tends to desire ease and false security when I know you have called me to live a life of faith. I don't trust that you will bring the gifts my way, especially the love of a husband. Truthfully, Father, I do not trust your timing in the story and I certainly don't like to hand over my control, especially in the area of relationships. Father, please forgive me. Help me to be patient. Help me to put my hope in You, and wait patiently for what You will provide, in Your own time, in Your own way. Forgive me for living even a moment of life drenched in fear rather than drenched in faith. Help me to focus on becoming a woman worth waiting for and give me the courage to trust you when that time comes. You are a God of incredible power, with incredible truths pouring out on your children. Thank you that you love us this much to wait patiently and discipline us with your Great Love. When the angel told Mary she would carry the body of Your only Son, she said, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants." (Luke 1:38) Lord, teach me this faith. My heart is fuller because you dwell there. Thank you that you let me see your face, and let your beauty reflect on me.
Thank you for calling me "Yours". Now THAT is love.
Yours first,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Assigned Portion

An old radio program I stumbled upon today and thought I'd share. :)

An Assigned Portion

Elisabeth Elliot: Do we think of our lot as hard? In a measure, yes. But let's remember that no matter how hard our assignment appears to be, it is an exact measure, apportioned and given by the will of the power that rules our destiny. "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are theeverlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, continuing my talks today on "Whatever My Lot." I told you yesterday about having tea with Mrs. Vester, whose name was Bertha Spafford. She was the 91year-oldlady who had been the daughter of Horatio Spafford, the author of "It Is Well With My Soul," that beautiful hymn, the story of which so many of us know--how his wife and children were in a wreck at sea. The children were all drowned, and this lady that I had tea with in Jerusalem was then 91. She had been born after that disaster.

We talked about what the word "lot" means. It just means whatever happens to us, whatever befalls, whatever comes by the powers that rule our destiny. I gave you that wonderful verse in Psalm 16:5: "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure." God in His mercy measures out exactly the things that are best for us. We are to learn through the sorrows and the difficulties to love Him, to walk with Him, to show Him to the world, and we may learn to do what He did--to help lift other people's burdens.

In Gal. 6:2 we read, "Carry each other burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I had a letter from a radio listener who has no mate, no children, no friends, no job. She's getting older and she is utterly miserable. She's asking me to help her with this. Well, I hope I helped her by pointing out to her the fact that she had no mate, no children, no friends, no job and that she was getting older were all a part of an assigned lot. You know, that woman could be very angry with me for saying that. She could say, "Well, what do you know about it? You have a great life. You have a wonderful husband. You have children. You have friends."

Well, I am getting older. I guess that's the only one that she would have to acknowledge was true. Is there anybody listening to me that's not getting older? You may be a long way from old, but we're all getting older, aren't we? Do we think of our lot as hard? In a measure, yes. But let's remember that no matter how hard our assignment appears to be, it is an exact measure, apportioned and given by the will of the power that rules our destiny--the will of God. I tried, of course, to turn her thoughts to the One who alone can meet her need--to turn to Christ in her loneliness, to offer it up to Him for His transformation, that she may be able then to lift the burden of someone else. The whole first chapter of 2 Corinthians is about Paul's sufferings and the ways in which God gave him the privilege of comforting other people because of the suffering that he himself had been through. That's true of every one of us.

Whatever the form of suffering that God has chosen for our lot and apportioned for us is there not only to teach us how to know Him and to love Him and to accept the lot that He gives us, but that we might also comfort other people. Out of Horatio Spafford's tremendous loss we have gained--by that beautiful hymn that he wrote. That may be the most important thing that he did in his life. Only God can judge that, but it's the only reason that most of us know the name of Horatio Spafford.

It was a revelation of Christ to him to realize that, though Satan should buffet and trials should come, here was a blessed assurance that kept him under control: "Christ hath regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul." Without experiences of loss, bereavement, weakness, what knowledge or understanding would we have of the Savior of the world? He bore our grief. He carried our burdens and our sorrows and He calls us to do the same in this sin-sick, suffering, bewildered, lost world.

Do you know that beautiful story of the widow of Zarephath? In 1 Kings 17, God had been feeding Elijah the prophet in the wilderness by sending ravens to him with food every morning and every evening. But then the day came when the brook dried up and the ravens had been bringing him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he had been drinking from the brook. But when the brook dried up, because there hadn't been any rain, then the Lord said, "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."

So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and said, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so that I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me please a piece of bread." "As surely as the Lord your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I'm gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and then die."

Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said, but first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have, and bring it to me. And then make something for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord the God of Israel says, 'The jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land."'

So she went away and did as Elijah had told her. There was food for every day, for Elijah and the woman and her family. The jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord. Tremendous spiritual lesson in that little story. Here was the most destitute of women. There were no more destitute women in Old Testament times than widows. She was out there gathering the last few sticks to make the last of the cakes that she could make from what she had left of oil and flour.

Imagine the arrogance of this prophet coming along and saying, "Make me a cake first." But she didn't hesitate. She knew somehow that God was speaking through that man. In her obedience and what she thought would be a great sacrifice, God completely replenished that almost gone store of oil and flour, and continued to replenish it. I have found that this is true in the spiritual life. If we accept the poverty and the suffering that God has given to us in whatever form it may be--and my poverty has not been financial, but there are certainly other ways in which I've discovered that I am poor indeed. But if I receive that with thanksgiving and offer it back to God, He can replenish my emptiness for the good of others.

I read you the story of a woman depressed, self-pitying and hopeless. My advice to her is "Spend yourself " Is. 58: 10 says, "If you pour yourself out for the hungry, then the Lord will satisfy your desires and you will be like a watered garden." The Apostle Paul said, "I am poured out like a drink offering." Isaiah tells us that Jesus poured out His soul unto death. Paul's lot in life was one of radical limitation, no physical comfort, unfairness, and abandonment.

If all was in vain, yet he was willing to be poured out like a drink offering. In Phil. 2:12-18 this is what he says: "My dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you to will and to do according to His good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you might become blameless and pure children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you." I don't know what your lot is today, but can you say with Horatio Spafford, "Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul"'?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pain + Joy= Growth

I am tempted to run to despair mode when things get thrown in my face all at once... Remembering the truth of the Gospel gets difficult in the tough times and clinging to hope is desperate. It does feel easier to just add up all of the losses lately and throw my hands in the air but the problem with doing this is that I forget the good and joyful moments that sit in those times. I was on my way home tonight, feeling vulnerable and upset about a few things, one in particular was the loss of another family member this month and the situation that surrounds it... and, of course, because cops love me, I get pulled over. I'm not one of those girls that gets out of tickets, and this time I cried and didn't care at all what he thought. All I was thinking was... "Great. Just another check on the "Let's kick Katie when she's down list". The police officer didn't even check to see if I was alright (I had tears streaming down my face), told me some mess about reading an envelope to pay the fine, drove off quickly, and something inside of me just fell apart. I cried the entire way home. All I wanted was a hug, someone to tell me it was going to be o.k., and then I started thinking about potential loneliness in the next stage of my life and I just about lost it completely. (Yes, I know how ridiculous this can sound... welcome to the inner thoughts of my mind)
Praise the Lord that He just put his hands on my face, told me that I was His and that was all that mattered. I was reminded of something I read today:

It feels right to me that life
Must have balance, that good
Times and hard times are
Meticulously measured out, for it is
Only in the blend of both
That we grow...
That wholeness comes,
That we know how to laugh
With others
And how to cry.
Substance in the human heart
Is built... nurtured... so much
More by pain and failure
And disappointment
Than by happiness and joy, yet God, in
Infinite wisdom, understands what
Our limits are and never
Tries us more than we can handle.- Ann Kiemel Anderson, This Is a Story about God

Amidst the mess, the last 3 weeks have been wonderful and a huge encouragement to my soul. I have laughed harder, smiled bigger, and experienced the gift of delight and joy more than I have in the last 3 years. All of these things so quickly get forgotten when darkness tries to seep back into my soul. However, I can stand up, even with tears in my eyes, and trust that the God that knows my heart better than any man or woman, is leading me down a path that is fulfilling and glorious. He has to be enough. He IS enough.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Choose a Full Life

There are no guarantees how your life story will read. You hold on to hope, and you trust that God has a better script for your life than you could write on your own. Married or not, childless or with a house full of little feet, at the top of your field or amazingly average- God's blessing is on your life because the gospel of Jesus is real and true. And if it is true indeed, then you refuse to dull your heart, because being half alive is not what you were made for. You choose to live from the inside out, offering yourself in a hundred good ways to the people God brings your way. Anyone will tell you this path is harder in a heartbeat. But it leads to a place worth going, and this makes all the difference. To live in the rarer air of the in-between- neither shutting down desire nor demanding it be fulfilled in a particular way- is your own heart's journey in what it means to trust God with your life. The disease to be feared is not, as our culture claims, that somehow we won't get anywhere or end up with the life we want. The real fear is that you and I will go through life holding back the life God has put in us, playing it safe. We'll miss giving it away to those around us. The pain of unmet desires can actually enlarge our hearts. The more we let ourselves long for life, even though it brings the ache of incompleteness, the more we are actually able to savor the joy that comes our way. This paradox surprises me on a daily basis. More and more, I recognize this kind of pain for what it is- a ticket to becoming a woman so thoroughly alive that she is afraid of almost nothing.- Rinehart

For those that are discouraged with the way the Lord is writing your particular story, remember the words from Proverbs 3:5-12. I chose to use the Message translation this morning because I think it points us in the right direction when we realize the hope we have in trusting our Savior.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline;
don't sulk under his loving correction.
It's the child he loves that
God corrects;
a father's delight is behind all this.
-Proverbs 3:5-12