Friday, December 30, 2011

Helping the Hurting


This article that I have posted a link to here really spoke to me.  I saw myself in this; not as the one doing the helping, but as the "ugly woman."  I know how it feels to be that hurting person, one who told people to stay away by my countenance.  Because of the emotional pain I was in, I was firmly and safely inside a shell of my own making.  I might still be there today, except that God sent someone to me, someone who was listening to the Spirit and kept reaching out to me.  That person didn't give up on me, and I allowed God to deliver me from my bondage because of them. 

I want to be that compassionate person who allows the Holy Spirit to work through me to help the hurting. I pray that in 2012, I can begin to allow God to work through me to reach that hurting person who is in the same kind of bondage I was in.  He has His work cut out for Him with me, but "with God ALL things are possible"(Matt. 19:26).  He can do it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soaking in His Presence

The oil in my heart that needed to be changed in my last post had been changed—and yet some residue remained.  This past year has been hard on me, and some of the hard things in my life have affected me adversely.  God continued the analogy that He showed me a few weeks back.  A few days ago, He revealed another part to me.

As I said in the last writing, I had allowed bitterness to creep into my heart.  There were several factors in this, and there’s really no need to list them right now.  Because I hadn’t been casting my cares on Jesus, coming to Him as He says in Matthew 11:28 and bringing Him my burdens, they attached themselves to my heart.  Like the residue left on a baking dish or the crud left in a car motor, they were in layers in my heart.

Two of their names were anger and bitterness, which are very closely related.  Actually, I had already been shown about the bitterness, as I said in my earlier post.  Bitterness creeps in as a result of allowing anger to stay —they came as a result of me feeling like I had been overlooked and forgotten, that God didn’t love me as much as He does others. I felt that if He did, He would have given me a good marriage like He has given so many of my friends. Then there’s resentment.  This crept in behind anger and bitterness, and fed off them.  I started to resent people who seemed to have better lives than I do.  Anger, bitterness, and resentment decided to stick around since I didn’t take them to Jesus.  And stick they did.  My heart became hard and crusty with all the negative emotions that were hanging around.

The Lord showed me that I had done right in asking Him to drain all the old oil and let Him fill me back up with the oil of His Holy Spirit.  It was definitely a step in the right direction, but I needed to let Him do a more in depth work in me. When I cried out to Him and asked Him why He didn't often give me words like the one in the last post, He reminded me I had not been spending a lot of time in His presence.  Recently, though, I had become more sensitive to His presence and lingered after prayer and Bible reading.  I spent time in corporate prayer with the rest of the Heaven or Hell cast at church.  Because of this, He was able to get me to hear Him.  He said I needed to soak in His Spirit to get the negative emotions to come off the walls of my heart.  Only time in His presence and in His word would soften my heart and get the ugly crustiness off.   

Although I wasn't aware why, for the past few weeks I have played the same 2 or 3 worship songs in my car everywhere I went, and I have spent more time in prayer and in God’s word.  Little by little, the negativity that was encrusted on my heart has dissolved and has been washed away by the blood of Jesus.  The very intense presence of God at the prayer time before the Heaven or Hell drama tonight caused the last of the bitterness to melt and leave.  None of that can stay in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I broke and was unable to stop crying through the whole drama.  I slipped out and went to the bathroom instead of working at the altar tonight because I needed to talk to God myself.  I sat in the stall and just poured my heart out to Him.  Then I slipped out and came home.  I know some things in my life will be different, and that’s ok.  I know God is in control, and He has plans to prosper me, not to harm me. I just have to remember to bring my worries and cares to Him every day.  He's the only one who can do anything about them anyway.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Change the Oil


It's been a while since I have written. I’ve really wanted to write more, I’m just not getting anything. 

I was praying at church the other night, and I asked God to help me.  I know that part of it is I don’t spend enough time alone with Him and in His word.  I have to be more disciplined in that area.  He did show me something, though, after I prayed.  He showed me that I had some jealousy and envy that I had to get forgiveness for. This particular snare was causing me to become bitter. I felt like I was not being treated fairly, and when I got to the bottom of it, God was there.  He was ultimately who I was angry with.

Ever been angry with God?  You might as well level with Him, because He knows it anyway.  Getting those feelings out in the open can help you see what's at the root of it, and help you let go of it; help you to ask for forgiveness.  I had been mad at God--though I didn't realize that I was--because He moved all my kids to locations far away from me. I didn't understand.  Why would He do that to me?

Then I remembered that God supplies all my needs.  All of them. Whatever I need, He provides.  If He doesn't provide it, then it isn't a need, it's a want. I don’t understand it in this particular incident, but that’s the truth of the matter.  I have had to give this to God.  If I trust Him, then I have to believe that He knows what is best for me. I have to take Him at His word and remember that He has "plans to prosper me and give me a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). 

And of course, I also have to realize that it’s not all about me. *Ouch*  We don't like to hear that, do we? 

It’s not always going to be easy, but I have to do some things that God has called me to do, and it may mean sacrificing some things. I have been given a very specific path that God has continued to confirm in my life. One of them is the college degree I'm working on.

Meanwhile, I have lots of things to be thankful for, like some wonderful deep relationships that God has given me.  These friendships enable me to have that loving family relationship right here at home in the absence of my own, biological family.  I also have a good job where we are a family, which is a  wonderful source of strength and support. 

In the end, God gave me an analogy to help me understand what unforgiveness and bitterness would do to my heart and my life.  He showed me that the bitterness in my heart was like oil in a car, way overdue for a change.  Just like the oil has to be changed or the motor will be ruined, the bitterness—the old oil—has to be drained from my heart.  I believe God supernaturally does this, taking the old oil out like in an oil change.  Then He replaces the plug, so to speak, and fills me up with the Holy Spirit.  I have to go back to Him regularly—ideally, daily—to stay full of His Spirit. 

I'm not sure why the oil change example, but that's the picture I got when He was speaking to me during my time with Him the other night. I have asked for forgiveness and for Him to "change the oil" in my heart, "transforming and renewing my mind" as He says in Romans 12. 

So here is my prayer tonight:

"The bottom line is, I trust You, Father.  Fill me with Your Spirit. Use me to encourage others in their walk with you.  Give me strength to walk the path You have set before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Under Construction

Life at times is a series of ups and downs; lately, it's been more downs than ups.  I'm tempted to look at the negative aspects of my life instead of the positives.  Without going into details, let me just say the future looks bleak and lonely for me. I can't see how things will ever change. Of course, I know I have to walk by faith and not by what I see.

However down on myself I may get at times, though, I choose to believe what God SAYS over what I FEEL:  "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6, NASB) He's not done with me!

So, there you have it:  I'm under construction; I'm a work in progress.  To quote Joyce Meyer:  "I'm not where I want to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be."

Tonight, even though it is taking all my energy to do so, I am thanking God for that.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In the Wilderness With No GPS


"Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications!" (Psalm 143:1). I have turned to the Psalms tonight, in an attempt to encourage myself, as David did.  Ironically, these are David's words here in Psalm 143. A lot of the time, David was literally running for his life.  I am so thankful that he was a writer as well as a fighter, because we have most of the Psalms as a result.  In the not too distant past, I have practically lived in the Psalms, reading over and over of God's faithfulness. Tonight, like David did, I have started out my prayer like this chapter starts:  "hear my prayer!"  

"For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me." (verses 3-4).

I find myself crying these very words out to God on my behalf tonight.  Sometimes the battle gets so intense, I feel I can take it no longer. These are the times I run to my Father, who is truly faithful. "I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah" (verse 6).  It's not only hot outside these days, it's hot in this spiritual desert where I find myself.

There are no highway signs, no GPS to guide me through this valley.  Just the loving guidance of my Father, and I cry out to Him, with David's very words:   

"Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You" (verses 8b-9). 

There's a lesson to be learned here.  I am always greatly enriched by these times, though they seem so lonely and desolate while I'm in the middle of them.  I trust in God, though, and He is always faithful. 

"Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; 
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me.  
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies  
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant" (verses 10-12).

Some of you might think I'm weak, and lack direction, since I go running to God crying so much.  I would answer you, yes, I am. I am weak, and I can't find my way sometimes.  But He--my God--is strong, and He alone knows the way through this wilderness.

Before GPS, we had to pull over sometimes and ask for directions, if we weren't too proud.  While I might be able to use my GPS to navigate in this earthly realm, God alone can navigate me through the hot, dry desert I sometimes find myself in spiritually.  

I'm not too proud to ask anymore. 

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend

I'm sad. It's probably not a rational sadness, but it doesn't lessen the sadness.  I am probably one of the most sentimental people ever, and a huge part of my life is going away. You see, tomorrow is the last day of school for an old friend...forever.  It's not someone who is retiring.  Once in a while, I can see friends I have worked with who have retired. While it's not the same, they are still in my lives.  No, this is something far more permanent.  I will never see this old friend again, except in photographs. This old friend is my old elementary school building, King Elementary.

One last look at my old school
I'm sure I just lost a bunch of you.  Some who know me well have heard all this before, and you are probably rolling  your eyes about now and surfing on.  That's ok.  Not everyone is sentimental, but I am, and I am writing about this to help myself deal with it.

King School entered my life in the fall of 1961, when I entered first grade. In those days, King housed grades 1--6, with only 2 classes of each grade.  I went there all 6 years, all the way through sixth grade.  I can't say all memories of King are happy--for instance, my first grade teacher hated me, and I almost hated school because of it.  Once first grade was over, though, I had a series of really awesome teachers.  I believe I am in education, albeit in the school office, because of my wonderful foundation of learning that I found at King.

my first classroom on the right
My kids all went there as well, so I spent many more years in my first school working as a PTA volunteer.  They will probably be affected by the demolition of the old school, but since they have moved on to other towns in other parts of the country, it probably won't be as dramatic for them.  I live near the school, so I have watched the progress of the new building for many months now; day, after day, after day.

I'm not totally oblivious to the fact that the old building has been long outgrown and is very old and substandard.  I most certainly recognize the need for a new building.  It is long-overdue and much deserved by the students and staff.  I get that.  The new building is a beautiful piece of architecture, all shiny and new, with bells and whistles galore. I am very happy for those students and staff.

So now the long-awaited day is here. The old King school building's last day of school is tomorrow, June 7, 2011. I just returned from walking around outside it, taking pictures with my camera, logging away pictures in my mind.  I will miss seeing the old building, simply because it has been such a fixture in my life. It has meant a lot to many others as well, if they would admit it.  It's hard to lose a piece of your history.  By the end of this week, I will have lost all 3 of the school buildings I attended in this town: King, the oldest part of what used to be Van Buren Junior High (now Butterfield Jr. High), and the high school.  Every one of those buildings have had to make way for newer and better buildings. I miss all of them. I have always loved school, and the old buildings are representative of a very important part of my life.  So be it.  Life goes on.
 
Goodbye, old friend.  I will miss you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In the Valley

God protected me in the recent thunderstorms and turbulent weather, and I am so very thankful to Him for that.  I truly do dwell in the promises of Psalm 91.

And yet there is an unsettled feeling.  God is doing something deep within my heart that is not entirely comfortable.  In fact, it is downright painful.  Many times I have asked Him to quiet this storm within me; the storm that rages and yet is unseen and unfelt by those around me, yet it continues.  I read somewhere once that sometimes God will quiet the storm you're in; but sometimes He quiets you and lets the storm rage around you.  I think He has chosen the latter for me. 

So here I am, once again, trying really hard to be still, to let Him quiet me in the storm. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Bulwark

"A mighty fortress is our God; a bulwark never failing...."

It is another stormy night here in tornado alley.  Outside, the wind is howling, the thunder rumbling, and the rain pouring.  On the heels of a disastrous killer tornado in Joplin, MO just last night, here comes yet another storm.  It is very tempting to panic.  It would be perfectly understandable to be afraid when all alone during a violent storm.  

Except that I'm not alone.  Jesus is with me every second of every day.  Instead of giving in to fear, I turn to the Bible, God's word, and there I find strength:

"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid." Psalm 56:3,4.  

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!'.... 
He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. 
You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; 
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you." Psalm 91:1-7

Know what a bulwark is?  We had this discussion while singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" one time at praise team practice.  I looked it up:  

bul·wark

1. a wall of earth or other material built for defense; rampart.
2. any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance.
3. any person or thing giving strong support or encouragement in time of need, danger, or doubt.

When I watched the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I got a visual for what a bulwark was.  At one point, they were hidden away in the stronghold, which was cut into the mountain and reinforced with stone. I suddenly realized that is essentially what God does for us when we trust in Him.  He hides us away, safe in His stronghold.

This is how I get through tough times.  I am a big chicken. I get afraid, just like lots of others do. I have no courage on my own. I just know where to go:  I run to my Father's arms and wait out the storm.  He has never failed me.  He never will. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Zoe Ann

I haven't written in a while.  In fact, it looks like I skipped April entirely.  There's a reason for that.  College classes were keeping me busy, along with work and church.  But the big thing that April 2011 will be remembered for is...little.  Zoe Ann, my first grandchild, was born 3 weeks early on April 21, 2011.  She weighed 5 lb., 12 oz. and was 18 1/2 inches long.  Tiny and cute, and in perfect health, thank God.
 
I dropped everything and drove up to where my daughter lives when she called and said she was in labor.  She had a C-section, since Zoe was frank breech and couldn't be delivered safely by the natural means, therefore I wasn't there yet when she was born.  I got there around 30 minutes after they had finished with the intense exam they give preemie babies, so I got to hold her almost as soon as anyone did.  I stayed a week to help out, then returned home.  I just got back home from a quick trip up there--roughly 24 hours from start to finish.  I'll go back every chance I get. In fact, I'm going in a couple of weeks for Memorial Day and stay a couple of days.

Being a grandmother--"Mimi," we decided--is wonderful.  I just wish we all lived closer together.  My family is too spread out.  
 
Thank God for weekends and a reliable car.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Psalm 25

Tonight, I feel like I should share my favorite Psalm.  God caused this Psalm to come alive to me during a particularly rough and painful time in my life several years ago.  Once He ignites a word in your heart like that, you are never the same.

Third Day's song "My Hope is You" is taken right out of this Psalm. The timing of the release of this song and the heartbreak in my life was amazing.  Only God could have done that.  We learned the song at church the very same week that God spoke to me through Psalm 25, in my favorite NIV Bible that I bought when I got saved in 1994.  This is why it is my favorite song. 

Interesting fact:  HOPE is the word that God gave me for 2011.

"In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you  will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. 
They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD,is in you.
Deliver Israel, O God, from all their troubles!" 

Psalm 25 (New International Version, ©2011)

Be blessed, my friends.

<3

Friday, March 11, 2011

The River

The river bed winds through the canyon, snaking its way around mountains and through valleys.  It goes along on its way to the sea, making its path wider as the rains come to fill the river to overflowing.  At least, this is the way of rivers typically. There's one difference in this river...it has gone dry. Not even a hint of moisture from days gone by trickles through this valley.  

This is where I find myself.  In the river bed, waiting for rain.  Daily asking God to pour out His Spirit--the water--and fill and refresh me once again.  And yet...nothing.  He has chosen to be silent. He has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, to leave me there, waiting.  

I realized something very basic about rivers as I started writing this.  It's so basic, so simple, it is downright embarrassing to admit that it just dawned on me, but I'm going to anyway.  The thing revealed to me about rivers...they are in the valley. Water, by nature, flows to the lowest point in the valley.  Gravity continues to pull it down, down, down, until it is at the bottom. 

A drought comes, and the water dries up.  And so, here I am, waiting in a dried-up river bed.  I know that God is up to something.  He has not brought me here to hurt me, even though I am hurting.  He promised in Jeremiah 29 "not to harm me but to give me a hope and a future."He has drawn me to Himself, and I believe He is creating a larger capacity within my heart for Him.

This may sound depressing, but there is hope.  God impressed that on me as the word of the year for me.  Hope.  There will be rain.  I believe that when He has refashioned my heart and enlarged my capacity to love, He will bring a flood, and this dry river bed will once again overflow its banks.

And so I sing His praises while I wait.  The more I hurt, the louder I will sing.  He deserves my praise and adoration.  I have embraced my desert, and I know He will once again bring the rain.  

video

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Take the First Step

"...the LORD said to Joshua, 'Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’” Joshua 3:7-8

This was in my Bible reading this morning.  It's the passage where God has instructed the children of Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  I've read it before, of course, but I noticed something today.  He told them to go and stand in the water.  

"Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground." (verses15-17).

He did create a way for them, as He did for their fathers who came out of Eygpt across the Red Sea, but at the very first, He told the priests to take the ark and go stand in the water.  So when the priests took the ark of the covenant and started toward the river, nothing had changed.  They had to act in faith that the water would be stopped.

This spoke to me.  Sometimes I have a rough day, like today. It started out good, but by noon I had a headache and just generally felt unwell.  I could not gather any energy to do anything.  I felt depression start to creep in, like it does sometimes.  I tried to take a nap, thinking I was just tired, because I had awakened at 6:00 and couldn't go back to sleep.  I couldn't sleep.  I kept thinking of all the things I had to do, but had no strength to do.  Then this passage in Joshua came back to me, and I felt I had to make an effort to get up and do what I had to do.  It was hard at first, but I gained strength after I got started.  I was even able to go to Walmart and get what I needed.

No matter what obstacle is in front of us, it's no different than when those priests took the first steps into a raging river at flood stage.  God dried up the river so much that they crossed on dry ground.  He will do no less for us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

...and because I love you...

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze..."

Sunday at church, we sang a song taken from that scripture, and it continues to be on my mind.  I've been through a little of both in the last few years. At times, it felt like I was going to drown in the tears and sorrow of my circumstances.  Other times, it was so hot, I felt I would suffocate in the flames of the purifying fire that God was using to refine me. Through all of it, though, I survived.  I had God's promise in Isaiah that I would. 

I write this stuff down because I will start to lose sight of it in a few days, weeks, or months.  I have to be reminded of God's promises to me.  I need to be reminded that He has a plan and purpose for my life. 

I gather my courage when I read that He is with me always, like a doting daddy that is holding his little girl's hand as she wades through the stream.  He will not let go of me, but will always be there for me.

I gain strength when I read that He loves me, because, let's face it, we all want to know we are loved.  And just like we tell our loved ones that we love them, and we hope they will tell us--sometimes daily, if that's what it takes, because we are frail humans, and we forget--God tells us that He loves us....DAILY, in His word if we remember to go to His word every day.

And so, that's where I am tonight, one single child of God, needing to be reminded that I am loved in this season of Valentines and hearts and flowers. It has not been an easy season for me in the past few years, but God always gets me through it. 

"...since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you..."


Isaiah 43:1-2, 4. <3

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Will Always Have Hope


I had a hard time shaking off depression in the weeks following the holidays.  One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I cried out to God for help, and He spoke in my regular Bible reading, which just happened to include Psalm 71 that day.  Here is a little of what He said in the chapter.  It was a rhema word (meaning it "jumped off the page," figuratively speaking):

“Be not far from me, O God. Come quickly, O my God to help me.  May my accusers perish in shame; May those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.  But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more…though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.  You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.”  ~ Psalm 71:12-14, 20-21.

I underlined the part about hope because it was God speaking straight to my heart.  In the weeks and months ahead, anytime I am tempted to believe that it is hopeless I can read this entry and remember that I WILL ALWAYS HAVE HOPE. God has not deserted me; He is just refining me and pulling me closer to Him.

I am broken tonight, again, as I was on that day in early January; but I will always have HOPE.  Thank you Jesus!