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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and the Meaning of the Cross






The call came at about 5:55 am (pacific) and when I answered the phone, the voice at the other end was my best friend telling me to turn on the TV. Since I never got up before 7:30, I could barely comprehend what time it was let alone what she was saying.

So, I begrudgingly trudged into my living room, turned on my television, and sat in stunned silence looking at the billowing smoke coming out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Eight minutes later, I watched as another plane crashed into the South Tower of the WTC, and that's when I knew that the United States of America was under attack. Still sitting there in stunned silence, I called my mom and told her to turn on the TV. Since my parents never watched TV in the morning, I knew they would have no idea what was happening. In turn, she called my Dad and told him to turn on the TV in his office.

The next call I made was to my boss. I woke him up, and he was about to start yelling at me until I told him what was happening and that he needed to go turn on his TV. I also called my assistant and told him the same thing. Though he was young and ticked off that I woke him up, I knew that this moment in history was too important for him to miss.

Like the rest of the nation, I sat glued to my TV for the next three hours, watching in horror as a third plane crashed into the Pentagon and both towers of the World Trade Center collapsed upon themselves.

It wasn't until a few years later when I learned that one of my high school classmates was in the Pentagon when it was hit. To this day, I am still glad that it was he, himself, who was able to tell me the story of how he and some of his colleagues had to climb out of the building -- instead of reading his obituary in my high school's alumnus magazine.

When I turned on the TV this morning and watched the news coverage of the events that took place on this fateful day twelve years ago, my eyes once again filled with tears. It seems like only yesterday when those phone calls with my best friend and my mom took place, and the world as we knew it changed forever.

But it wasn't until today, while I was looking through images of 9/11 on Google and saw this photo of a cross, that my thinking about this event really began to be challenged . . . Namely in relationship to what Christ's death on the Cross should mean to those of us who declare ourselves to be His followers.


Now, I realize that what I am going to say next may really anger a few people. And, please believe me when I say that I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone, in any way, shape or form, when it comes to the loss of life (and friends and family) that was suffered on 9/11. I have friends who lost loved ones on that day and it was, and is, a tragedy that will stay with each of us until the end of our lives.

However, as I was watching the news this morning and thinking about the photo above, it struck me how much we, as a nation, grieve for the loss of life that took place on 9/11, yet, at the same time, how little we, who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, truly grieve for Christ's death on the Cross due to the nature of sin in our own lives.

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God ...
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
~ Romans 3:10-11, 18

Scripture clearly tells us that NONE of us are righteous! We neither seek after God, nor do we fear Him. Instead, we fear man and what he can do to us. Instead of the righteousness of God, we fear another terrorist attack. 

Which got me to thinking . . .  

Why is it that when we contemplate the meaning of the Cross, we do not get tears in our eyes the same we do when we think about the loss of life suffered on 9/11?

Have you ever  wondered what our lives would look like if we were to grieve our sin, and Christ's resulting death on the Cross, just as we grieve for those who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001?

 

In the same way that September 11th will forever be a single date on which we remember those who lost their lives as a result of multiple terrorist attacks on the USA, I pray that the Cross will forever serve as a daily reminder that:

[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, 
So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spiritual Depression - Men as Trees, Walking



 As I continue to struggle with my health, I have spent some time reading the book Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here are some of the things that gave me cause for thought today, in the chapter entitled Men as Trees, Walking . . .

~ The most comfortable type of religion is always a vague religion, nebulous and uncertain, cluttered up with forms and ritual ... The more vague and indefinite your religion, the more comfortable it is. There is nothing so uncomfortable as clear-cut Biblical truths that demand decisions.

~ If only we came to the Scriptures as little children and took them at their face value and allowed them to speak to us ...

~ This is God's Word which is timeless, and because it is God's Word we must submit to it and trust Him to employ His own methods in His own way.

~ There is nothing that so clears a man's spiritual sight as the apprehension and understanding of the doctrines of the Bible.

~ Come to the Word of God. Stop asking questions. Start with the promises in their right order. Say: 'I want the truth whatever it costs me'. Bind yourself to it, submit yourself to it, come in utter submission as a little child and plead with Him to give you clear sight, perfect vision, and to make you whole.

~ Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on a Cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible. He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God. He came to give eternal life and 'This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent'.

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised by how easy it is for me to struggle with depression when going through a trial like illness. Fortunately, I am not the first person to go through this kind of trial and I will not be the last person to do so. And, no matter what your own trial may be at the present moment, neither are you!


SO BE ENCOURAGED and ENDURE!

Why? Because trials and tribulations are part of the Believer's life . . .

Why? Because this world is not our home; we are only Sojourners here . . .

Why? Because both you and I have the ability to take to take God at His word, and if we choose to do so here is what He promises . . .

If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.
-- 2 Timothy 2:12-13

O Holy, Heavenly Father, help us to truly remember that this world is not our home. Help us to remember that You promise we will have trials on this earth. Help us to encourage and to be encouraged. Help us to love You more; that we may prove worthy of the calling You have placed on each of our lives. And most importantly of all, help us to remember that a life spent with YOU is the ultimate prize!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hypocritical Faith


Sometimes I feel like an absolute hypocrite when it comes to my relationship with God, and the past few days definitely fall into that category!

To say I am struggling right now would be a huge understatement! So, while I send notes of encouragement to others, here is the reality of my own "truth" (as written in an email to a pastor): 
Between being as sick as I have been (and being out here alone while dealing with it), along with the fact that God just seems so quiet and so far removed from my life, I am really struggling in my walk right now ... 
My time in the Word is going nowhere and even the books I have been reading do not seem to be offering any consolation.

Truthfully, I don't know if my heart is just hard (I certainly hope not), or if God is just choosing to be silent, but spiritually I am in a very low place and am really struggling to find comfort, encouragement, and maybe even a little hope(!) to help me get through this difficult time.


Sadly, the fact that I can no longer be at church w/o getting sick is not helping things, either, in terms of teaching or fellowship! As a result, the longer this situation goes on (i.e. God's silence, as well as any lack of comfort / encouragement / hope), the easier I am finding it to just set God aside and focus on the other things in my life that I can control . . . 
I am tired.

I am tired of being sick. 

I am tired of the seemingly endless trials God has sent - and continues to send - my way. 

And, I am tired of God's silence.

Last night I started reading a book on Job, by Chuck Swindoll, in which he writes: 
Misery and mystery are added to the insult and injury of Job's real-life disasters . . . His misery turns to mystery with God's silence. If the words of his so-called friends are hard to hear, the silence of God becomes downright intolerable. Not until the thirty-eighth chapter of the book does God finally break the silence, however long that took. 
Can you imagine? Job has just lost everything and God remains silent for thirty-seven more chapters of the Bible! Lord willing, perhaps that fact will help me get a better perspective on my own situation . . .

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Food for Today . . .





We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not of our own works or deservings.
~ Creeds of Christendom





God has appointed not only who shall suffer but also when, where, in what way, for how long, and for what truth.
~ John Bunyan
So important to remember that God does not waste our suffering, or any other situation He chooses to bring into our lives!

O Holy, Heavenly Father ...
Help us to love you more, no matter how we may feel at any given moment in time.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waiting on God

Leave it to God to state the obvious!

Let me explain . . .

Years ago, as I was wrestling with my faith and trying to figure out exactly what I believed about God, let alone whether or not I actually believed in Him, I was speaking with a friend of mine who shared with me that he had had a similar trial. 


He then went on to explain to me that as he struggled through his own situation he came to the realization that he had two choices: he could either pursue God or he could pursue self . . .


. . . HE COULD NOT. DO. BOTH.




At the time, I didn't really understand exactly what he meant by pursue God or pursue self. And, even though I was so angry at God that I had absolutely no interest in reading His Word, I decided to do so anyway and started reading through the book of Psalms because I considered them "pretty harmless!"

And here's what happened . . .


The more I read His Word, the hungrier I became for it (even though I was still struggling with my belief in Him).

As a result . . .

Through my faithfulness, the more I continued to read my Bible, the more God started revealing His Word to me . . . and I actually started UNDERSTANDING WHAT I WAS READING!


Now, just to give you a better idea of how I previously "read" Scripture, there were times when I would say, "Okay, Lord, I'm going to open my Bible and point to a passage of Scripture, and ask You to show me what you want to say to me today."


And then I would do exactly that: I would open my Bible, turn a few random pages until I "felt" like I was on the page God wanted me to be on; close my eyes; point to a Bible verse and read it to myself.

And it would say . . . 

. . . AND JOB WENT TO THE BATHROOM.



Okay, it really didn't say that but I am willing to bet you know exactly what I'm talking about! :)

Which brings us to today's reading and today's "light bulb moment" . . .

I wait for the Lord,
My soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
~ Psalm 130: 5

Ummm . . . Can I be honest with you? I think I have been fooling myself over this whole health situation, because as I read that verse I realized one very important fact: I have NOT been waiting on God over this situation . . . AT ALL! See, here's the real scoop:

While this is what waiting on the Lord should look like . . .


This would be a more honest representation of my situation . . .


The good news is that I finally understand the pursue God vs. pursue self concept, and, as a result, I have spent a great deal of time in prayer about this situation with my health. I have prayed that God would help me to love Him more; I have prayed that He would be glorified in this situation no matter how it turns out; BUT . . . actually waiting on Him? Yeah, I don't think so!

My doctor said it would probably take about two years before I would start to feel better. I was expecting to feel better after two days. Then two weeks. Now I have had my sights set on feeling better after two months (August 28th). But, two years? Oh, just shoot me now!

As I stated in my opening sentence of this blog . . . Leave it to God to state the obvious . . . especially through His Word!

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
~ Isaiah 40:31

Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it?

If so, then perhaps you and I can learn how to wait together!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Not Forgotten

Let's face it: today's world moves at an exceedingly fast pace, and the general mood among most people seems to be ...

LEAD ... FOLLOW ... GET OUT OF MY WAY! 


 Which is what made yesterday so tough.

If you have ever gone through a really difficult trial, or if you are going through one now, one of the hardest things about it can be feeling like you are going through it all by yourself, and that is exactly how I felt yesterday! Not because people don't care, but rather because we are all so wrapped up in our own lives that unless the person in need is right in front of us, they are usually not even on our radar.

Sometimes I think that serious illness is one of the most difficult trials God allows into our lives simply because of its complexity and complete unpredictability.

Right now there are things happening within my body that are leaving me tired, weak and in pain. And, while I have seen a doctor who has put me on a protocol designed to help me with all of the issues that need to be addressed, after having two really great days a few weeks ago, I now feel worse than I did before I saw her! On top of that, I don't know when I am going to feel better -- or if I will ever feel better.

I don't know when the pain and inflammation in my joints and connective tissue will be gone -- or if it will ever be gone.

I don't when I will have enough energy to simply make it through the day without laying down -- or if I will ever have that kind of energy again.

I don't know if I will ever have the lung capacity I once had to swim, ride horses, play my flute or sing -- or if I will ever be able to do those things again.

On top of that, it is hard to feel this lousy all the time without being near my parents. And while I do have some friends out here, they are all married with families and busy lives of their own.

 


For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
~ Psalm 9:18







This morning I read this verse in the book of Psalms, and as I thought it through, it gave me hope to know that my life will not always be like this!

While I know that God brought me to Montana in order to do some work in my life that He wanted to do out here (specifically), I am often very lonely. BUT ... I will not always be lonely! And, although I spend a great deal of time alone, I will not always be alone. And, while I feel like I am going through this trial with my health alone (and the truth of the matter is that I am -- it's my health), it will not always be like this.

Yes, I feel that way now. And because I am single, and because I live far away from my family and close friends, I may always feel that way while I live in this body on this side of Heaven. But it won't be like this forever!

I will not always be forgotten ... and neither will you.

My hope will not perish ... and neither will yours!

Because here is what God promises to us, if we will just cling to His Word and seek His face always:

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
~ Psalm 9:10

Amen, Lord ... Amen!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Morning By Morning

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is Your Faithfulness.
~ Lamentations 3:22-23


Rough day today, Lord, and so desperately in need of Your mercy right now . . .

Sunday, August 4, 2013

When God Says "No!"

There is nothing more difficult than watching God say "No" to a prayer, even as it is being prayed. Yet, that is exactly what God chose to do with my prayer during our corporate worship service this morning!

 
With hope in hand, I decided to try to attend church again today. And, things were really good when I first arrived! My breathing remained normal and the dizziness stayed away.

Unfortunately, I could feel things quickly start to change within about 10 minutes, and as they did I began crying out to the Lord to please, please stop everything that was happening so I could stay and be part of the service. And He chose to say . . .


So once again, I had to leave the sanctuary and go lay on a couch in order to catch my breath, before I could leaving the building.

O Father, why? Why are You allowing me to continually get sick at church and have to leave? It's CHURCH! It's being part of the body of Christ! You say you have "plans to give me hope and a future," but I just don't understand what that means. It doesn't make any sense, and it hurts so, so much.

I have spent a great deal of time meditating on the lyrics from the Plumb song, Need You Now.  Over and over and over again, I keep praying the refrain of this song ...

How many times have you heard me cry out
"God please take this?"
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh, I need You,
God I need You now.


Yesterday I read this verse in Psalm 123:

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
~ Psalm 123:2

O Father, please be gracious to me now . . .

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Perfect Storm

During a conversation with one of the pastors at my church yesterday regarding the possibility of having the elders pray for me (regarding the issues with my health), he told me that if I don't feel comfortable sharing everything that is going on, I can just tell them that I am "having some problems with my health right now that are really rocking my world and I would appreciate your prayers."

To say that my world is being "rocked" is an understatement. In fact, as I was driving home thinking about our conversation, I came to the realization that a better term to use regarding my health would be "perfect storm."


According to Wikipedia, the definition of a "perfect storm" is: "an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically."

In addition to the fact that I regularly struggle with phantom pains in my groin ...

A virus in my gut is now keeping me from digesting the food I eat, so most of my days are spent with the kind of stomach cramps you get from food poisoning ...

An allergy to wheat has created an auto-immune disorder causing my body to attack itself in 8 or 9 different places, including my heart, my liver, my brain and my joints, so much of my day is also spent in the kind of pain that feels like a continuous muscle cramp ...

The elimination of wheat from my diet is now causing me to go through the kind of detox that most alcoholics or heroin addicts go through ...

I am constantly dizzy ...

A new allergy has just developed to the building materials used by my church which is now giving me breathing problems while I am in the building, causing me to become dizzy and to start hyperventilating within the first 20 minutes of our Sunday morning worship service ...

And that is only part of what is happening inside of my body!


I would like to say that I am content in this situation and in one sense I believe that I am. While my doctor wanted to give me something for "anxiety," the truth of the matter is that I am not anxious about the situation. Rather, I just don't feel well!

In fact, can I be honest with you? While my brain seems to work just fine (although I am sure there are those who would debate that fact!!!), most mornings I wake up feeling like I have been hit by a mack truck!



As I was reading my Bible this morning, I came across these two verses in Psalm 31:

You are my God ...
My times are in Your hands ...
~Psalm 31:14, 15

And, that is the truth I must speak to myself on a daily basis as I walk this road!

Even though God took me through the most intense trial of my life between 2009 and 2012, shaking my faith to its very foundation and causing me to question everything I believed about God and His sovereignty, He is once again choosing to allow me to go through another intense trial.

The first one was mental. This one is physical ... and I barely have enough strength to make it through each day.

Right now I only have enough energy to keep my spiritual life on track; work on my business (in order to have an income) and focus on taking care of my health. That's it. There is nothing left to give to anyone else.

As anyone who is single (or who lives alone somewhere without any kind of support system of family or close friends) knows, being sick is difficult when you're alone!

But the truth of the matter is this: even though I feel alone as I struggle through this, I cannot trust my feelings because God promises otherwise!

 
Do not fear, for I am with you; 
Do not be afraid, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you; 
I will help you; 
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
~ Isaiah 41:10

And, it is my job to take Him at His word!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Today's Prayer ...

O Father, please help me! I feel so sick right now ...

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
~ Psalm18:6

Please hear my cry right now and help me to continue to surrender to Your will, even during this overwhelming struggle with my health ...
 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

~ von Schlegel

Usually I am not a big fan of the "old" hymns because they never seem to speak to me.  But God, in His infinite wisdom, grace and sovereignty, led our worship pastor to include this one in our service on Sunday morning.



What a blessing it was to read these words and to speak the truth of them to my heart -- especially as I work through this situation with my health.

Honestly, I have shed many tears over the last three weeks and especially last week, after receiving the final round of test results. But, I also know this truth ...

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
~ Psalm 30:5 (NLT)

That does not mean that I am not still scared of what lies ahead. But yesterday afternoon God was also gracious enough to allow me to cross paths with a fellow believer from my church who has also struggled with her own extremely serious health issues. And as she prayed for me she asked God to give me the ability to be content in my moments of suffering, knowing that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

Although I have been praying that God would be glorified in my situation, I had forgotten to ask Him to help me be content. Such an important reminder from the Apostle Paul:

In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
~ Philippians 4:12

So that is my prayer tonight: that right now, in this very moment, God will help me be content in my circumstances, knowing that joy will come in the morning. Maybe not tomorrow morning. Maybe not even the morning after that! But ...

Joy. Will. Come.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Not My Own

Isn't it funny how, when you choose to honestly surrender your life to God, asking Him to do whatever He wills, He always takes you up on your offer?

That being said, what I was not expecting to discover in doing so (after two blood draws last month involving 100+ different blood panels) is the fact that I truly am in a life and death struggle ... for my own life! Yet, if I believe what I say I believe, the truth of the matter is this: my life is not my own! It belongs to my Heavenly Father to do with as He chooses.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
~ Acts 20:24

So as I process the truth of my situation, I only have one prayer: that I will do the things the doctors have told me I must do for myself, to improve my health (Lord willing), while leaving the final  results up to Him -- even if they do not turn out the way I want them to in the end.
 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Today's Prayer ...

Oh Father,
You know my heart. You know the choice before me. You know how tired I am from lack of sleep and that I have no fight left in me. You also know the path you want me to take. Please reveal it to me. And if it is not the one I want, please fill me with the desire to do Your will; no matter how I may feel. Thank you for being my shelter in this storm and a God who hears -- and answers -- my prayers.

"Discouraged people don't need critics. They hurt enough already. They don't need someone to pile on more guilt or distress. They need encouragement. They need a refuge. A place to hide and to find healing."
-- Chuck Swindoll

Friday, March 1, 2013

Psalm 121

A couple of years ago one of the pastors at my church taught me Donald Whitney's system of reading through the Psalms. It goes like this:

You start reading the date you are on (i.e. today is March 1st = Psalm 1) and then, if nothing in what you read "speaks" to you (my terminology), you add 30 to get to the next Psalm (i.e. Psalm 31) and you just keep adding 30 until you run out of Psalms!  

When I do this exercise, however, I actually read through all five Psalms, asking God to show me what He wants me to learn, remember, etc. Sometimes verses from each of the five Psalms jump out at me. Sometimes only one or two verses catch my attention. In any case, my reading for today included: Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91 and 121. 

Ah, yes ... Psalm 121 ... the Psalm which God so richly used to open the floodgates of my life in 2009. 

Here are the verses which opened those gates:

The Lord watches over you --
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm --
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
~ Psalm 121:5-7 (NIV)

It has been a little more than 3½ years since my world came crashing down all around me and those three little verses above provided the straw that broke the camel's back ... And oh, how the camel's back did break!

They say that you should "be careful what you wish for" because God might just grant your wish. 

One of my biggest wishes was my desire to leave California and move to Montana. That was a wish He graciously granted and everything fell into place for me to move here in three days. I now know that it was all part of the healing journey for which He was preparing me to take.

Let me explain ...

Before reading Psalm 121, I remember praying that God would strip me of everything that "wasn't me," so I could begin to get back to the bare bones of who I really was. You see, after spending 15+ years in the entertainment industry, I realized that I had lost so much of who I was that the time had come for me to find me again. I just wasn't prepared for how God had planned on helping me do that ...

It was in the middle of a dance class at my acting school when I first became aware of the fact that I had been raped. That realization promptly caused me to go running out the door and throw up!

Little did I know it at the time, but seven months later, at that same school, I would find myself in the girls' bathroom with a different man who was there to rape me. I didn't know that was his intention. Rather I only knew there was someone else in the bathroom with me and I knew that something was wrong with that other person. Thinking it was another girl, I almost asked "her" if she was okay, but now I truly believe it was the Holy Spirit who protected me and prevented me from doing so.

Instead, I washed my hands and walked out the door. It was only by the grace of God that I ran into my girlfriend, V, as I was leaving the bathroom, because this man was right on my heels trying to grab me. (I did not even hear him come out of the bathroom stall, let alone realize he was right behind me.) However, as soon as he saw V, he said something to the effect of "whoops, wrong bathroom," and ducked into the mens' room. 

Unfortunately, right after I went back into my classroom, he went back into the ladies' room and attacked V. Fortunately, she was able to fight him off and get away, but not before this guy pulled a gun on her, and one of our school administrators, and the three of us later found ourselves at the Pasadena Police Station looking through books of mugshots!

That incident shook me to the core of my being and once we were done at the police station, my friend Daniel drove me home because I was shaking so much I literally could not drive. He stayed with me until my roommate (and best friend at the time) got home, and when she found out what happened, her only response was "Oh, is that all?" after which she promptly went into her bedroom and shut the door. Unfortunately, our friendship went down hill after that.

Two years later I acquired a stalker. And, as things progressively got worse with this guy, the Burbank Police Department politely informed me that until he actually did something to me, there was nothing they could do!

Sadly, I have since come to realize that those three incidents were only the tip of the iceberg for what has taken place in my life. They became the starting point for me to begin shutting down from life, causing me to withdraw from people and to become extremely protective of my personal space and (in many ways) my privacy. They also became the catalyst for the collapse of my relationship with God, which only deepened after I read Psalm 121, as well as the tool that He has used to truly strip me bare before Him! (Remember? Be careful what you pray for ...)

However, what goes down must come up ... except, as one of my pastors so graciously pointed out, in the case of gravity!

This week I finished reading a book entitled Living Fearlessly, by Sheila Walsh. In it, Sheila talks about the fact that since God already knows everything about us, we should (basically) not be afraid to "come clean" with Him about our deepest fears because they will certainly not come as any surprise to Him. As I thought through her comment, and as I came to the realization of what my deepest fears really were, I realized that one of my deepest fears is being sexually assaulted again and not having the strength to fight back. 

You see, I know that if I had been the one attacked in the bathroom, instead of V, I would not have had the strength to fight back and get away. And that realization terrifies me because I am afraid that should something like that happen to me again, where I would be the one attacked, I would just freeze and not fight back. 

And you know what, that may very well happen! However, whether it does or it doesn't, I also know that this is now the truth for my life:

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, "You are my God." 
My times are in Your hand ...
~ Psalm 31:14-15

Every single moment of every single day of my life (and yours) is in God's hands. He controls it all! And, He also controls what happens to me -- both good and bad. I may like it. I may not.

BUT ...  

Our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.
~ Psalm 115:3

What happens in my life is HIS CALL, not mine!

But I did not really realize that fact while I was trying to work through my "issues" with verse 7 of Psalm 121 ... The Lord will keep you from all harm, until I read that same verse in the NASB, which states it this way ... He will keep your soul.

And that's when it hit me ... Yes, my body was violated; many times and in many ways, and it may even be violated again sometime in the future. However, my soul belongs to God alone and that is all that matters!

Through Sheila's book, God gently revealed to me that the time has come for me to start Living Fearlessly. And, while I am not exactly sure what that means or what that looks like right now, I am confident that in His perfect time, and through His infinite wisdom and grace, He will reveal it to me! 

In the meantime,  I want to share a song with you written by my dear friend, and beloved sister in Christ, Marsha Skidmore. Marsha sings at most of the Billy Graham crusades and I was just thinking that her song, Where Does My Help Come From, is the perfect ending to this blog.

Love you, Marsha!  Thank you for sharing your beautiful voice with the world ... xoxo
 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Can I Pout Now?

Can I let you in on a little secret? I just realized that when it comes to my relationship with God, I am really a little brat sometimes ... and I had absolutely no idea!

In fact, it wasn't until this morning, while reading a book entitled Healing the Past God's Way, that I realized just how I often expect God to do things my way and to see things from my infinitesimally small point of view! O, Father, please forgive me!

Here is the excerpt from the book which so poignantly woke me up to this fact (at least for today):

We are inundated with conversations and lessons about our rights as citizens, as human beings ... But here is the thing, when I stand before God, I have no rights. I have no authority to demand that He act or behave in any manner that is contrary to His own. God doesn't answer to me.

Darn it all, anyway! 

You would think I'd be a littler quicker on the uptake, thinking I could tell God how my life should go, considering in His Word He (basically) already gave me a heads-up about the fact that nothing I tell Him is a surprise!

O, Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
~ Psalm 139:1-4

Hello??? Wake up, Sharon ... He's already on to you! But apparently you're a little slow to catch on, because more often than not, this is the verse that seems to better describe you:

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the Lord determines his steps.
~ Proverbs 16:9

I am sure there are many, many days when God sits on His throne in Heaven and just laughs and laughs and laughs, as I go about making my little plans and expecting Him to oblige my every whim and desire. Silly girl! If I was paying closer attention, I would remember these words ...

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways ...
~ Psalm 55:8

And these, as well:

Our God is in Heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
~ Psalm 115:3 

So as I head into tomorrow, here is what I hope I can remember (also from Healing the Past God's Way):

Embracing in word and in deed, God's ownership over all the earth, including me, brings me to a place of balance in my relationship with God. God owns; I use that which He lends to me ... God plans; I live out those plans in circumstances, in consequences for my sin, in His eternal design ... God acts and gives and allows and chooses and when I understand His sovereignty, I stop swimming up stream and work with Him to accomplish His good purposes.

Amen, Lord. Amen ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Food for Today

Just finished reading this ... now imprinted on my heart:

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.

Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.

Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your ordinances are good.

Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me through Your righteousness.
 ~ Psalm 119:33-40

O, Holy Father in Heaven, this is my prayer to You today:

Teach me ...
Give me understanding ...
Make me walk ...
Incline my heart ...
Turn my eyes ...
Establish Your word ...
Revive me ..

I love You, Lord ... Help me to love You even more!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Called to Compassion

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them,
Because they were distressed and dispirited
Like sheep without a shepherd.
~ Matthew 9:36

Jesus Christ was a man with a mission.

He was also a man who had compassion for others.

That is why I am finding a recent conversation with a friend from church to (still) be so distressing. In fact, I was so angry after our last conversation that I was shaking when I got home.

Truth be told, this friendship has been nothing but taxing since it first began. However, things really came to a head (for me) the other morning when, during the course of discussing our plans for the rest of the day, my friend told me that they have no compassion for others and resented having to go help a friend of theirs later that day.

I was so stunned by my friend's comment that I probably looked like a deer caught in headlights -- especially since this person has been the recipient of nothing BUT endless help and compassion over the past year by friends, fellow believers and our entire pastoral staff! In fact, I am not sure if I even responded to that comment before my friend went on to say that this past year has been the worst year of their life (and the lives of family members), and that they (basically) had to learn to suck it up and deal with it all by themselves in order to survive, so everyone else should have to learn to survive on their own, as well! Huh ...

The funny thing is that once my friend made that comment about not having compassion for others, I was able to get some perspective about a previous conversation we had had more than a year ago. While I do not trust others easily, I thought I would try (yet again) to open myself up to this person, in the hopes of cultivating our friendship. When I did, however, there was absolutely no compassion expressed during that conversation. At first, I could not put my finger on what it was that bothered me so much, but now I have complete clarity!

There's an old saying that goes something like this: When people tell you who they are, believe them.

Hindsight being 20/20, time and time again this has proven to be true. However, I do have to say one thing about this relationship. While this person has continually shown that they have no compassion for others, and that they are completely self-centered and self-obsessed, God has graciously used this relationship to reveal situations in my own life that need to be addressed!

And, while lack of compassion and total self-centeredness are not the issues at hand, He has certainly used the character traits I am continually observing in my friend to show me how certain behaviors in my own life are keeping me stuck exactly where I am.

The whole purpose for starting this blog was to help me work through the challenges I was having in trying to understand the sovereignty of God -- especially in relationship to the abuse that He allowed me to suffer. Gratefully, this blog has also provided me with a platform to process all of my other thoughts and questions regarding the concept of His complete and total Sovereignty ... Period!

So, as I have thought through this particular relationship over the last several days, I am actually grateful He brought it into my life, because I now have a much clearer picture of some of the changes I need to make in my own life. That is not to say they will be easy changes to make, as years of ingrained thoughts and behaviors need to be changed. Nonetheless, however, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for loving me enough to show me these things!

And, as far as my friendship with this friend goes, I am not sure what happens next. I really need to take a break from our relationship. In fact, because this relationship has been so toxic and so draining for so long, I actually had to have a conversation with my pastor about it quite a while ago, just to get a biblical perspective on how to handle it. Funny enough, it was during that conversation that I found out how much help and compassion was being extended to my friend, because he told me it was okay to take a break, as there were plenty of other people taking care of my friend, and loving and supporting them through this difficult time in their life! Unfortunately, circumstances are such that the kind of break I desire is not actually possible.

So for now, I must rest in this truth ...

The Lord is my portion ...
Therefore I have hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, 
To the person who seeks Him.
~Lamentations 3:24-25  

Praying that God will continue to strengthen my compassion for others. Also praying that He will help my friend recognize and be grateful for the grace and compassion they have received from others over the past year, so that they can now extend that same grace and compassion to others in the years to come ...

The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning,
Great is Your faithfulness.
~Lamentations 3:22-23  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back at My Heart

Today's Prayer ...


Strong on the outside
But coming apart at the seams
That's me
Tragically always together 
But bruised underneath
That's me
I stand just to stumble
Tripping on my pride
Why do I always try to hide

Meanwhile back at my heart
I'm desperate for all that You are
Undo me, take me apart
Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, Lord, please make me whole
You know just where to start
Back at my heart, back at my heart

Patiently waiting 
To pick up the pieces of me
That's You
Healer of hearts
When the world leaves it broken in two
That's You
Maker of Heaven
The sky and the sea
When You stretched your arms
You reached for me, You reached for me

Meanwhile back at my heart
I'm desperate for all that You are
Undo me, and take me apart
Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, Lord, please make me whole
You know just where to start

Back at my heart
Back at my fear
Back at my brokenness
Lord meet me here
And though I'm exposed 
I'm not afraid anymore

I'm desperate for all that You are
Undo me and take me apart

Meanwhile back at my soul
Mend me, Lord, please make me whole
You know just where to start
Back at my heart, back at my heart
Back at my heart, back at my heart

Healer of hearts
When the world leaves it broken in two
That's You  
© Natalie Grant