Wednesday’s Word: Awe

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So the plan for this weekly post is to have an encouraging word for those extra long days and weeks that weigh heavy and are discouraging.

Today’s word is a great word for that purpose. So many days we get tripped up by the mundane, sabotaged by the pain, or overwhelmed by the struggle. We’re taken down by those things because we lose perspective: the ability to see above and beyond.

A scripture that lifts me to a place of awe is found in Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

God can give us the ability to soar above…and that’s pretty awesome. He keeps his promise, gives us everything we need—including the ability run, or  the strength to just keep walking.

That’s awesome and amazing.

 

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Wednesday’s Word: Determination

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Determinination. The perfect word for January 31.

Statics show us the majority of people who made New Year Resolutions have already given up on them. Perhaps they were unrealistic or lofty. With every intention of reaching the goal they gave up when life got difficult or they got bored or another option caught their attention or fancy.

Disaster, disease,  and disillusionment throw detours in our path, and the easy response is to give up. The enemy loves when we give up.

The Apostle Paul knew a lot about discouragement, but he never gave up. He wrote this to the believers in Philippi: Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12, HCSB).

I make every effort. I press on. With all the strength of the One who has taken hold of me, I grab onto that goal and keep moving forward.

No matter what. Don’t quit. Never give up. Here’s the good news: We are MORE than conquorers. We win. I know—I read the end of the book!

Stay the course. Keep determined. Hold to your resolve. How? Paul tells the Philippians that, too!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Philippians 4:13)

Wednesday Words: Strength

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For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13, NLT).

This is exactly the word I needed for today. I need some of that “withstanding” power.

What great or pressure is coming down on you?

Whatever it is God is able to give you exactly what you need to face it, stand up under it, overcome it, and persevere.

Do you feel like you’ve reached your full capacity—can’t take any more?

Good.

Reach out to the capacity maker and capacity filler…he has all the strength you need.

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you (1 Chronicles 28:20a NLT).”

Courage to Wait

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14, ESV)

I don’t know about you, but when I think about waiting, the first thing that comes to my mind is not courage.

Boredom, frustration, inconvenience, yes. But not courage.

Waiting can take strength and courage.

Perhaps what you are waiting on is way more than a long line at Walmart.

Perhaps the news you are waiting for…or the person you are waiting for…or the call you are waiting for makes your fear-full, or weary, or alone.

Perhaps you have been waiting a long time…so long that no one else gets the ache in your heart.

God does and if you are waiting in him, you will see his goodness. Draw your strength and courage from that…from him.

PRAYER: God, waiting isn’t easy. I know your people waited a long time for the Messiah to come. I’ve been waiting, too. I want to see your goodness. I need strength and courage to keep waiting in you. Thank you. Amen.

He Uses Everything

The other day my husband brought me home a surprise. In the past, surprises included apple fritters, chocolate bars, DVD’s, and one time a diamond ring…but that’s a story unto itself.

This day he brought me home a sprinbrush toothbrush. He had bought one for himself and really liked it. Since he had a coupon and they were on sale, he thought I would like to have one, too.

And like it I do!

But this morning, I realized anew just what a creature of habit I am.

I squirted the toothpaste on my new brush. Put the brush in my mouth. And proceeded to manually brush my teeth.

The bristles aren’t designed for this. The brush moved sluggishly across me teeth…then it dawned on me…I forgot to turn it on. And the Spirit niggled my heart…I ended up giggling out loud.

God decided to use my toothbrush to remind me to do more than go through the motions and rely on habit.

This little reminder came as I was getting ready to head out to the funeral service for the woman I had cared for the past five and half years.
Relying on habit would mean that I put on my pastoral mask and face the folks with a demeanor of peace and confidence. Behaving this way has carried me through some really tough services in the past. But it seemed clear that I was to leave my mask at home.

The power I was to draw on was not the usual thing. The power source available to me would work much better. It was up me to access it.

I heard the words of Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

My habit or standard mode of operation would have been stiff upper lip, show no emotion, tough it out…hang strong. God was inviting me to leave that habit behind and “come clean.” I meekly said I’d try.

I sat at the funeral and wept. I sang the songs, prayed the prayers, remembered…and wept. That may not sound like much to you–doesn’t everyone weep at funerals? Not people who are in control. Not me. I didn’t anticipate weeping. But there I sat soggy and snotty and totally sans tissues. I had to get up and go retrieve some from the narthex.

I can’t remember a service that touched my heart as much as that one. Living into the multiple layers of loss, feeling the pain, I came heart to heart with the Great Comforter. I would miss this lady, but I was able to focus on the many gifts I had received from her. I would miss having a job, but I had an indescribable peace that God would lead where I needed to be.

God used a toothbrush to remind me to rely upon Him. What is He using in your life?

Surrender

We started our study of Conrad Gempf’s book, Mealtime Habits of the Messiah in our Sunday school class last Sunday. And as I suspected, we didn’t get very far, very fast. In fact, we only got through half of the introduction. Lest you wonder…this is a good thing. There was much discussion and participation. Our class has grown so much that we have to find a better way to squeeze us in–such a glorious problem!

So while I was studying and preparing for the upcoming class the topic of surrender was mentioned…but the way my mind stuck on it you would have thought that it was the main theme. Rumination at its best.

Surrender. Not a popular word. Somehow it has become the definition of weakness, of defeat. We don’t want to surrender to our enemies, our spouse, our boss, our grandchildren. And yet we daily surrender to our passions, our obsessions, our addictions. Go figure.

For a bit, I want to focus on what surrender means in the spiritual sense…at least for me.

Here’s the problem as I see it: we think surrender means giving away everything and getting nothing. And somehow in that process I get lost…the me that I am, is gone. If I surrender to my spouse I cease to exist and it’s only them. If I surrender to God…then there’s no me. And we can’t fathom not being. That’s why we fight death so fiercely.

Until we begin to understand God, this surrender thing makes him seem like some cosmic terrorist: why surrender? He’s just going to kill us anyway.

Our thinking is really twisted…thanks to the great deceiver and the work he’s been at since the garden. See, he started his number on the first folks, Adam and Eve–and primarily Eve. His job has been to distort God’s purposes and He’s really quite good at it and we’re really quite sucked into it. His opening remarks were to twist the words and purpose of God’s reasoning. “Did God really say that?” “I’m sure that’s not what he meant.” And then she bit and bought the apple.

What does this have to do with surrender? Everything. We think everything is ours and to get a piece of God we have to give it all up. As if to hold God in my hands I have to lay my stuff down. And there in, or in there, lies the problem.

Nothing I have is mine. It may be in my possession, but it doesn’t belong to me. Having trouble with that? I understand. I was dealing with my grandson on the concept just the other day. He was playing with a neighbor boy, who happens to remind me of Eddie Haskill (if you don’t remember Leave it to Beaver, go look it up on youtube). He’s older than my grandson and constantly tries to take advantage of his naivety. Especially when it comes to trading. (This is a boy concept which I don’t get very well.) Eddie-boy tries to grandson to give him something or things and in return gives him junk that he tries to pawn off as really great stuff. Grandson wants to be friends with Eddie-boy so he goes along with it.

This trading isn’t too big a problem until grandson starts to trade off the stuff that we have paid for (aka: of high value to us as it should be to him). That’s when I step in as the enforcer and put the kibosh to the whole thing. The last incident left grandson in tears and confused and me trying to explain. I wanted grandson to know that we provide these things for him so that he will have things to do and play with while he is at our house (daily). He is allowed to play with them and in some sense they are his things, but they don’t belong to him. He is also charged with the care of these things.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this is how God sees things, too. He provides it all–but it’s still his. All he asks is that we acknowledge that and take care of it.

I think that was why the Rich Young Ruler (see Mark 10:17-27) had such a hard time when Jesus told him to sell all that he “possessed” and give it to the poor. He didn’t really understand who the true owner, possessor, was. He really bought the lie (of the evil one), and thought he owned it. He thought to give it, to surrender, meant that he would lose it all. As if to think that God really needed his possessions? I don’t need to own all my grandson’s toys. In fact, when he’s grown and gone, so will the toys. It would just be nice if he recognized the provision occasionally, but that might be a lot to expect from a seven year old.

But we’re adults and it seems to be what God is asking of us.

Could this be what Paul was saying to the Romans (Romans 12:1-2) when he describes our reasonable service/sacrifice as one that is living? He says God wants a living sacrifice. That is what is holy and pleasing to him. Too often we think we quit living if we surrender.

(I just had a moment…a thought…I was thinking about Abraham offering Isaac. There seems to be some parallels. Would God have allowed Abraham to kill Isaac? Or was he wanting to see if Abe would give, surrender his son–give back to God what ultimately was his anyway? Going to have to think on this some more.)

If you’re still reading along with me, then you have exceeded blogdom’s suggested word count and I thank you. Let me hasten to close…

Surrender is not to be feared or avoided. In many ways it reminds me of how I define confession: agreeing and owning what God already knows about me. Surrender is recognizing who truly owns everything and receiving it back as a trust–whether it’s my life, my money, my toys…you fill in the blank. I’m not, you’re not, the owner, but the steward.

And here’s a thought: God trusts you with his very best and treasured possessions. How will that impact your living?

Thinking About Pain…because it’s easier than feeling it

I have lived a relatively pain-free life. Until recently. I can remember about a year ago when I was sitting at a meal with friends and the person next to me asked what was wrong with my neck. She went on to say that I seemed to be moving stiffly. I was surprised because I hadn’t even noticed.

Fast forward about three months and I did start to notice some pain in my shoulder. I pretty much tried to ignore the aching because I feared that perhaps I had injured my rotator cuff and my mind was full of horror stories of painful surgeries and even more painful therapeutic recoveries.

Then about six weeks ago at a routine checkup I mentioned to my doc how the pain seemed to traveling down my arm, seizing the bicep and causing tingly itchiness all the way down to my hand. I was having trouble typing on the computer, which all but put a halt to my writing.

My doc sent me for an x-ray of my neck and the findings supported her suspicion and diagnosis of degenerative osteoarthritis of the C5 and C6. Welcome to the perpetual pain club that goes along with getting older. Take your ticket directly to physical therapy and make friends with your nsaid.


Then I got sick, so-much-pain-I-couldn’t-move sick. Seems I had a wicked strep infection that my body responded to with an interesting, but non-life-threatening, condition called ermythia nodosum. I ended seeing a dermatologist and having a biopsy and a rheumatologist and gaining a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, along with several other multi-syllabic scary medical words.

Yesterday I wore tennis shoes to work. I was a little nervous about it. I work ten hours and the longest I had shoes on for almost a month was about a three hour stretch. Other than soreness in my shoulder, I’m feeling pretty normal. I’m quite happy to report that I wore the shoes all through the day, right up to bedtime!


Normal. Just what is that? And what will it look like in the future? How does one learn to live with pain? I have watched my husband be in chronic pain for thirty years. I have seen him cycle in and out of major depression because of it. I have made excuses upon excuses for his moodiness and the dark cloud of pain that has hounded him for so long. I don’t want to let my pain control my moods. I have seen it try…I didn’t like the way I responded.


As I pondered this, my thoughts seemed to automatically go to Paul’s prayer for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Paul: God, take this away. I can’t do everything you want me to do with this. Others will see this problem and focus on how you seem unable to remove it. That can’t be good PR for an al- powerful and lavishly gracious God.

And God says: No. Nope. Not going to do it. See, the more dependent upon me that you are, the more you will find that I am all you need and that I will give you just what you need, right when you need it. Not one minute before. And it will feel like I’m late, like I’m not paying attention. Do not give into that lie. See, here’s the thing when you come to the end of yourself, your answers, your strategies, your strength, I AM there. When you’ve come to the end yourself I AM. And I will be. I will be your strength. And I will be your joy.

On the first Sunday back to church in a month, I had the blessed opportunity to sing a duet with my pastor, a godly man with a wonderful tenor voice. We sang the old hymn, “Day by Day.” Words that went straight to my heart. Psalm 84:7 describes how the followers of God go from “strength to strength.” There is no gap, no space where His strength is not available to us. No space whatsoever. None. Day by day, every hour, moment by moment, the Lord himself is near me, with a special mercy for each hour. For you too.

My prayer is that when the pain is bad, and the heart is weary, that God will make His strength known, both in my head and my heart, my feelings…because that’s the place where the gap sometimes forms for me. When what I’m feeling hurts and screams louder than what I know to be true from God’s Word, I need to lean hard on the One bridges the gap.

Have pain? Need strength? Leaning hard?