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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Called to Suffer

For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, 
Not only to believe in Him, 
But also to suffer for His sake.
~ Phil. 1:29

I came across this verse of Scripture during my quiet time Thursday morning and thought to myself, "there it is ... in black and white ... Paul's statement that while we (as believers) have been given the gift of believing in Christ (for salvation), we have also been called to suffer for His sake."

About an hour after reading that verse, I was in the middle of something when I started experiencing the kind of pain I used to experience when I was young, and all of a sudden I got a very clear understanding of how that pain was brought about. Wow! I was not expecting that. And while that sudden insight did not give me any clue as to who the perpetrator(s) were who caused me that kind of pain, I now understood exactly why I was always in pain and why I always had so many bladder infections as a kid.

Truth be told, I also realized that it really didn't matter who did it, because it was not going to change anything. The abuse I suffered happened because our sovereign God allowed it to happen. It was His choice, not mine.

Later that the morning I stopped by my church as I was really needing the peace, quiet and safety of the church sanctuary to sort out my thoughts about a few things. However, when I started to walk into it, I discovered that it was already in use by one of our choir groups, so I went and sat in the "kiss and cry" room, instead.

The kiss and cry room is a soundproof room with glass windows, just off the church sanctuary, where parents can take their squirmy or screaming children and comfort them, while still being able to see into the sanctuary and listen to the church service. (In theory, it's a great idea! In practicality, I really do wish our ushers would take a more active role in encouraging people to use it -- but that's just my opinion!)

But, I digress ...

As I sat in the k + c room, watching the worship team having so much fun rehearsing together, the truth of how little joy / happiness / fun I have in my life right now really hit me hard. To some extent, I have been very aware of my lack of happiness since this trial first began in 2009. I would also say that I have been in a fair amount of denial about it, as well! But, it wasn't until Thursday morning that I really allowed that fact to penetrate my "everything is fine" fa├žade and actually let myself feel the pain of that truth.

Once the worship team was finished, I went and sat in the sanctuary itself. As I have said before, it really is a sanctuary for me. So while I'm sure many people on our church staff wonder why I go in there and sit in the dark, I am very grateful that they allow me to do so just the same! And, as I was sitting there, I thought about this verse ...

Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
~ Psalm 30:5

And that is when the tears began to flow. Just a few at first, until the flood gates opened and they came pouring out. Massive tears. Gut-wrenching tears. Can't-catch-my-breath sobs.

With tears in my eyes, as I poured out my heart to the Lord, one more thought crossed my mind, which was this: "If I had a friend like me in my life right now, I'd go running in the other direction!"  Thus, it seemed only fitting when I came across this verse yesterday morning:

I have become a reproach,
Especially to my neighbors, 
And an object of dread to my acquaintances;
Those who see me in the street flee from me.
~ Psalm 31:11

Truer words were never spoken! Because this trial has been so deep and has lasted for so long, it occurred to me that I have been such a "Debbie Downer" for so long even I would not want someone like me in my life right now! And I cannot help but wonder if the pastors to whom I've reached out feel the same way? Honestly, I would not blame them if they did!

It was at that moment in time when I truly wished the Lord would just take me home to be with Him. In fact, as I sat in the peace and quiet of the sanctuary, that was my prayer for at least the next 15 minutes. I didn't care if Jesus came back right then, or if my heart stopped working, I just wanted my life here on earth to be over so that I could enjoy the trial-free, tear-free life that awaits me in Heaven. Then this verse came to me ...

For in Him we live and move and have our being.
~ Acts. 17:28

Such a bulls eye of truth! Right now I do live, move, and have [my] being in Christ. I was bought with a price and as a result, I no longer belong to myself, so my life is no longer mine to do with as I please. I belong to Christ. And because of that fact, as long as I have breath in my lungs, I need to get on with the purpose of living my life here on earth!

O Father, help me! Help me to find happiness and joy, as I work through the pain and suffering of the abuse You allowed to take place in my life. Help me understand my purpose for being on this planet. Use my story and help me to be an encouragement to others who have also experienced or are suffering from the trauma of abuse. Help me keep my eyes on You; to find my shelter in You, and to live my life in a way that honors and glorifies You on a daily basis. In Christ's most Holy and Precious Name, that is my prayer to You today ...
You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again,
And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
May You increase my greatness and turn to comfort me.
~Psalm 71:20-21