Pain is the richest backdrop for joy.
Words written in my journal three days ago when I had no idea that He had a plan to put a smile on my face in a few short hours. But there's something beautiful about trusting without seeing.
Peace found on the roughest road is sweeter than peace found because the road is smooth.
Joy because we trust His heart is deeper than joy because we see His hand.
Singing in the midst of trial means more to our Jesus than singing on the easiest day.
And Love that loves so much that it allows pain, is to be valued far more highly than any love that will only permit sunny skies.
A true friend will be willing to pray that you will be placed in the furnace of affliction so that you may come forth as pure gold. And He who loves you so much as to place you in the furnace of affliction, can be counted on to be the truest Friend of all.
We are told that He "weeps with those who weep..." (DA p. 533), and in my minds eye I can see His hot tears falling on the gold as He purifies it. Every time He puts it in the fire, it breaks His heart too.
Maybe more than it breaks ours?
Could it be, that it would be easier for Him too, if all we had were sunny skies? But He is willing to suffer Himself, to see us made whole by the fire?
"...I wound, and I heal..." (Deuteronomy 32:39)
That's the God I serve.
That's the God I trust.
Wait a minute. Christians aren’t supposed to be worried about their lives being fair. Or are they?
Often when we think about something being unfair, we think about an advantage someone has over us. But how often do we see unfairness as an advantage we have over others?
I picked up my brother’s school book this afternoon and was flipping through it’s pages when I came across a question that went something like this…
List several advantages that you have over others that are unfair.
I thought I had misread it. I read it again. No, I had read right.
And as the meaning of the question hit me, I was ashamed. Of course. We have so many advantages.
Is it fair that many of us have a loving Christian family while some have no family at all?
Is it fair that we live in a comfortable home when there are some who live under a bridge, or worse?
Is it fair that we have food and clothing, while other fellow humans are starving and naked?
Is it fair that we walk in light and a knowledge of the Savior, while our brothers and sisters die in the darkness?
Is it fair?
And yet we ever dare to complain? Jesus help us! Sometimes we get so caught up in our own problems that we forget how many advantages we have.
It’s isn’t fair. Thus we are debtors. Debtors to those who have so much less than us. Debtors to those who don’t know the Savoir. And sometimes even those who have heard of the Savior don’t really know Him. It might be our next door neighbor. It might be our childhood friends. Are we paying back our debt to them?
A familiar voice whispers another question to my heart.
Was it fair that I, the sinless One, died for you, a sinner? Was it fair that the blood of the King of Kings was spilt to wash away the sins of a world that is as a speck in the universe? Was it fair that I left the glories of my Father’s house to come to your undeserving little world to save you?
No Jesus. It wasn’t fair. I am a debtor to You and the precious people who don’t know You.
I owe You my life. I owe them my life.
I give it. Use it for your glory.
I give Thee back the life I owe.
That in Thine ocean depth it’s flow,
May richer fuller be.
It’s the best way to pay back our debt. The only way.
A month has passed since my last post... and what a month it's been! Despite the fact that it's not been an easy month, I thank God for it. We don't grow half so much on the easy days as we do on the tough ones.
I'm remembering how two years ago today, my Jesus proved Himself to me, and prompted some friends to sing "Blessings" at an FC on just the day I needed it. It totally changed my outlook on trials, and ever since that day, I've prayed for trials... and longed for them.
And now two years later, I'm so very grateful for the way trials have changed me... the way they are changing me right now.
This last month has been filled with moments of intensely realizing my own weakness, and having to rely wholly on His strength. I've been brought to the end of my rope more times than I can count, but He's always been there to help me grasp onto Him instead. I've fallen on my knees in desperate need of the help and strength He can give. And there's something fundamentally different and powerful about being on our knees because we feel obligated to, compared to being there because we feel totally incapable of doing anything without going there first.
Sometimes He allows us to feel we have no strength to stand so that we will instead "live" on our knees.
And I've found myself pleading, even in the darkest moments, for Him to keep allowing trials, because I love the way they turn my heart to Him. I was lying on my bed this afternoon, and honestly felt a wave of joy sweep over me that He is taking the time to refine me. He's answering my prayers for trials.
He reminded me last week that trust is learned in the darkness... not in the light of day when everything makes sense, but in the night, when we can't see or understand.
And He reminded me this afternoon as I stood outside in the pouring rain soaking in every drop, that my blessings may come through raindrops.
Jesus, I've promised you that I will embrace the cross. Don't let me give up just because it takes me far out of my comfort zone. Don't let me ever be so distracted with the weight of the cross that I forget it's purpose-- it's beauty. Don't let me ever shrink from raindrops because they come from dark clouds-- for it's in those clouds that the rainbow is seen.
"I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown."
Jesus, I'll embrace darkness, weakness, and raindrops willingly, if through them I can learn to trust you more fully. Help me remember...
Weakness pulls us to our knees.
Trust is learned in the dark.
Blessings come through raindrops.
Words fail me when it comes to summing up five packed days in a few paragraphs. But before anything, I want you to know how much we appreciate your prayers. Each one made a difference. I could feel it.
We set off last Thursday with my dear mother feeling very weak from her violent D & V of the night before. But God was faithful and got her through the journey and the many times that followed of speaking on an empty stomach.
By Sabbath she was feeling somewhat better, and all four of us were able to speak together for Sabbath school. But the peace was not to continue for long. Moments after the preaching the 11:00 service, Father found himself in our bathroom with the trusted bucket that mother had used, and Caleb had missed. Another attack from the devil.
And along with the news that father was down came the realization that Caleb and I were now the only ones who were feeling 100% well. It was grace, and grace alone, that was going to get us through!
Another realization hit home to me… I was the only one who hadn’t gotten sick. I could be next…
And it was that day that the miracles really happened for me. After speaking on my own that afternoon, and then leading the choir, we had to fill the parents spot that evening and speak again. There was no more than fifteen minutes to go over the notes, and my head was pounding from the incessant noise. I don’t know if I’ve ever had to rely on His strength so fully before…
But what thrilled me as Caleb and I stood in front of the people that night --and still does now-- is the power He can give when we have totally come to the end of ourselves. We could feel it holding us up, and it is like nothing I had ever known. I wonder why we don’t come to the end of ourselves sooner…
In the last few minutes of speaking, I became suddenly aware of a wave of nausea washing over me. I’ll be honest… it struck fear to my heart, at first. And yet, even in that moment, He held us up to the end.
Just minutes after we finished speaking I found myself in our little bathroom, awaiting the fate that had attended this illness for the rest of my family. I had told the Lord just that afternoon that I was perfectly willing to go through this sickness if it was His plan. I had been resisting it all week, and now I given it to Him, and here I was. But what amazed me was that the fear I always had (ever since a little girl) of stomach illness was now totally gone. I now faced it with joy because it had come through His hand. That was a work of grace.
An hour passed and nothing happened. Finally I climbed into bed, taking the necessary bucket with me. But though I didn’t fear the illness anymore, I couldn’t bear the thought of being sick in bed the next day, when I should be out with all those precious people who had crept into my heart.
Lord please help me be well in the morning. We just can’t let the devil win. I don’t mind getting sick, but please, please, let me be fine in the morning.
And then the familiar little voice…
Child, are you willing to give even your desire to minister to me, and let me do whatever I know is best for the people?
Silence. Yes Jesus. Just do what is best for them.
I was sure I had resigned to my fate, and yet as soon as I said those words, I had a consciousness that the storm had passed. Instantly I started feeling better. So much better, that I went to my bed and turned to “Peace be Still” in DA. It seemed like it was written for me. And by the time I was done reading, I knew He had calmed the storm that had been raging in my stomach. Praise God, I never needed that bucket.
I was thoroughly exhausted physically, but sleep evaded me for hours. He had just performed a miracle for me! Every other member of my family (and my grandmother) had been down for several days with this, and it passed in a few short hours for me! And when I finally did fall asleep, my heart was bursting for joy.
The day before I had written in my journal the words the Lord impressed on my heart. As I looked back at them that Sunday morning, my heart skipped a beat.
Today will be a day you will look back on and see my hand. I will bless. I will strengthen. I will do miracles, pour out my Spirit, and open the hearts of the people. I will be there. “Greater is He that is with you…”
He was faithful to the end. It may not have been our typical UK campmeeting, with mother having to do three solo messages back to back with a bad stomach and on two yogurts-- but it was what He knew we all needed, and there were signs of His working everywhere. Just the fact that father didn’t get sick a moment before the 11:00 message, or during, but right after, is proof that He was in control.
And I am even more convinced than ever that Satan is very upset that the work is going forward. Sunday morning we found out that the father of one of the helper families had been rushed to the hospital that same night with chest pain, and had a heart attack. And there have been many more things… Satan is trying to crush out God’s work. We cannot let him triumph.
But what I love is that even though the devil may fire his darts to weaken us, he cannot win if we trust in God, for it is in weakness that we are made strong.
Can I plead with you… Don’t let him win in anything. Even when you find yourself utterly weak. We must fight and win this battle together. Grace will always be there to strengthen us—for it is in weakness that we are made strong.
So glad he could be up there with me!
Family Panel Sunday night. All together even if some were very weak.
Leading the choir (just love these children).
Some of our dear UK friends
My long time little friend (he never ceases to make me smile).
Men's singing Sabbath night
Some of our many young friends we've come to love.
So grateful for my dear brother.
Its almost as if I can see him, the old weary warrior, treading decidedly down the road to sacrifice. But there's no cloud on his brow, no fear in his eyes. He doesn't waste his last moments looking for sympathy. He is more concerned for his brothers and sisters in the faith. His words rise on the still summer air, reminding them that there is light behind the grave, a crown beyond the cross.
Paul arrives at the spot where he is to give back his greatest gift. His eyes rise to the clear sky, and its almost as if he can see the face of His Redeemer. The executioners ax descends, but he makes no cry of fear. His last thought springs up with joy at the glorious future before him, and it so absorbs him that the ax looses its terror. He finds his greatest joy in giving back his greatest gift.
And then I see me, so often fearing to give up my self. I'm ashamed.
It's a lesson my Jesus has been teaching me over the last couple weeks (even if it takes being in a plane over the Atlantic to give me a moment to get it in words). Paul's story made it hit home even clearer. It's not just about the receiving...
It was only a few months ago He was asking us to give up one of the gifts we cherished most-- wonderful friends and home in Montana. At times it felt like a big sacrifice-- some days it still does-- but I'm learning... Even more beautiful than receiving a gift is being able to give it back.
It's not in the bestowal of blessings that we receive our greatest joy, or even in the removal of them, but in the willing surrender of them, in the action of giving them back freely and unquestioningly.
Paul gave back more than a home and friends. He gave back life-- in the face of an executioner's ax. And it hardly seemed like a sacrifice because of the joy he felt in giving back.
Are we willing to give back life and all it entails-- even in the face of an executioners ax?
Jesus, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the beautiful gifts you have given me. But even more, I thank you for the privilege of being able to give them back. Your greatest gift is found in giving.
What does it really mean to embrace the cross? It's a question I've been pondering lately. And the answers that I have found have shocked me. It's now an experience I crave.
Embrace means: to take or clasp in the arms, press to the heart; to receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly.
Cross means: the cross upon which Jesus died; any suffering endured for Jesus' sake; opposition, thwarting of plans, frustration, any misfortune or trouble.
Some of those definitions really surprised me. Because when I put the definitions of these words together, I found the definition of embracing the cross: to gladly or eagerly accept frustrating circumstances. To willingly accept thwarted plans. To clasp trouble with both arms. To press opposition and misfortune to the heart. To eagerly receive the cross on which Jesus died. To gladly and willingly accept any suffering for Jesus sake.
In the last four months I have been learning what this means practically. Leaving wonderful friends in Montana, giving up our beautiful home in the mountains to live in a fifth wheel and know hardly a soul in the area has not been a bed of roses. There have been many opportunities to clasp trouble with both arms; days where I have wished that I could go back. And there have been many chances to accept frustrating circumstances. I'm remembering the time I opened the stuffed kitchen cupboard only to have a box of oats fall out, hit me on the head, bounce off the counter, and spill out all over the floor. And then just minutes later to have the raisin bran fall out, only to add to the mess on the floor :) I remember too, the days I would get up and plan to get a lot of school done, but get to the end of the day feeling like I hadn't accomplished a thing. Four people trying to concentrate on four different projects in a camper sized living room. I'm smiling now, sitting in our new home, enjoying the space, the feeling of walking half a mile to get to the kitchen, the amazing thought that I have a whole room to myself to sleep and work in.
And yet, I wouldn't trade the last four months for anything in the world. He has taught me so much. So Jesus, if you need to take me away from my friends, and my home and put me in a camper again, I'll go. My longing is to learn that the greatest joy and privilege on earth is-- embracing the cross.
Jesus keep me near the cross,
Let me grasp it tightly
Though it cause me pain and tears
Victory it bringeth!
Worth the pain of loss or grief,
Is the strength it gives me!
I have grasped the bloodstained tree
Following where it leads me.
I will ever trust Your hands
Hands that grasped before me
The blessed tree of suffering
And thus went before me.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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Hands Open. Heart Full.