Sometimes I wonder if we have lost perspective. We struggle to get up in the morning to spend time with God. We struggle to take time to really pray. We struggle to be content and really happy. And all the while we sincerely claim to love God most of all.
Sometimes I doubt that we even know what that really means.
You know the love and overflowing happiness on the faces of a newly married couple? The way they look at each other, always want to be together, find everything fun when they can do it as a team, make the simplest tasks a great joy just by being in each others presence, feel like nothing in life matters as long as they have each other, and can’t seem to stop smiling— just because they love each other so much. They are fun to be around… it’s almost like there is something in their joy that we all longing for deep down, even if we don’t know it.
Truth is, we were all meant to love like that. We were all meant to be that happy. We were all created with a deep longing to love and be loved and when that need is fulfilled, we can’t help ourselves from smiling.
We were all meant to love Him like that. But I have to wonder… how many of us do?
How many of us “look" at Him with adoration in our eyes? Do we really want to be in His presence as much as newlyweds want to be together? Do we find everything fun because we can do it as a team and find the smallest tasks a joy just because we’re together? How many of us feel like nothing in life matters as long as we have Him? Are we really radiant with a joy we can’t suppress?
Have we fallen in love with Him as much as a pair of newlyweds have with each other? Because really… if we claim to love Him best, our love should double theirs.
Perhaps we need a dear girl in the underground church in Romania to put things in perspective for us… We don’t even know her name, but the legacy she left has had me thinking for months.
Though young, she was totally committed to her Jesus, no matter what it cost her. Despite it’s being illegal, she spread copies of the gospels among her people, and did whatever she could to teach the children about her God. The secret police found out, and determined to arrest her. But to make it as painful as possible they decided to wait a couple weeks. You see, in two weeks, she was marrying her best earthly friend.
"On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride—the most wonderful, joyous day in a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in. When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, 'I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.' She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom left behind.”
Her husband-to-be waited for her release for five years. She went through terrible torture and when released she looked like a woman thirty years older. But she had no complaint. Instead she said it was the least she could do for her Jesus.
It moves me every time. Because honestly? We’re still trying to get up early enough to have an hour to talk with Him before the day starts. And sometimes we think that is a sacrifice. Heaven help us! We need a totally different perspective on what being a Christian is all about. At least I do.
Because the thing is… He loves us far more than any love we’ve seen here— even more than newlyweds. But we don’t know it. Sure, we’ve heard it a million times. We’ve read it in the Bible. We’ve heard it from the pulpit. We know He loves us. And most of us pass it off as old news, like something not worth giving a second thought to.
I wonder if any of us really know… Or maybe we have become so used to hearing the truth that it's never really sunk in. And maybe because we’ve never really known what it meant to be loved by God, we’ve never known what it means to love Him back.
He has a beautiful way of gently shaking us into the reality of that love though. He’s doing it for me… and if He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone. There really is nothing that compares to being deeply loved by the Almighty God. It’s an awesome thing.
And when I can grasp even a millionth of that love, I want nothing more than to be with Him and love Him back. And though He has to be very patient with this little slow learner… I am learning. There’s nothing sweeter than falling in Love with the greatest One in the universe.
I don’t want to be too complacent to take time to see His love. I don’t want to be content to love Him a little when I was made to love Him with all my heart. I don’t want to pass His love off as an old truth… to be so caught up in my own little world that I forget what it means to be in love with Him…
And I wonder how He feels when we claim to love Him but find it so hard to spend time with Him… when we treat His love as an old truth that we’ve heard a million times… could it be that our Prince stands with aching heart, longing for us to fall in love with Him and want to be in HIs presence even a tenth as much as He wants to be in ours?
A look at the state of things in our world is a sorry sight these days. Depression is an epidemic. A recent survey showed that two out of three americans can't call themselves happy. And we are the people blessed with more than almost any other nation... surely we should be a happy people. We have virtually everything we could want. But instead we're far from it.
And I wonder... where are the Christians who are the happiest people in the world... the Christians whose hearts are so full that they overflow with a joy that is contagious... the Christians who are living the abundant life... the Christians whose joy is a light to a dark, depressed world?
We have the promise.
"Those who in everything make God first and last and best, are the happiest people in the world..."
Truth is, if we don't have a joy that is deeper than any frustration, it speaks loudly that we have never truly known Love. And if we haven't, I wonder how we can be so sure that we are His followers.
Because when we really begin to grasp His love, no pain can quench the deep joy He gives. Life doesn't have to bring us sunny skies when we have the smile of His face. We don't have to have every whim gratified when we have all we could ever need in our Jesus.
One of the greatest evidences to me that my Jesus is real is the way He fills the hole in my heart like nothing else can. Even just this last week I ran off into my busy little world, happy about all the things that were going so perfectly, only to find myself stumbling along a little later trying to understand why I felt so empty. Silly girl. It's not like it's a new truth. Not even "perfect" circumstances can fill the hole He designed to fill with Himself. An hour with Him and I was more sure than ever that nothing in the world can make us sad when Jesus makes us glad-- and nothing in the world can make us truly glad if we don't have Jesus at our side.
Yet we spend so much of our lives waiting for everything to line up so we can be satisfied. As a little girl, I thought life would be so amazing when I could grow up and be a teenager. Once I got to being a teenager, I couldn't wait until I had finished high-school. When I finished high-school I eagerly anticipated finishing my associates. Once that was done, I started looking forward to finishing my Bachelors, and on and on. And I doubt I am the only one who has thought along such lines.
But why, oh why, would we put off our happiness until some future event takes place? Honestly, there will always be something we are waiting for. And if circumstances really are nothing to do with our happiness, why don't we put all of our little excuses aside and put Him first, last and best, and be the happiest people in the world?
Truth be known though, statistics don't show that we are shockingly more joyful and fulfilled than the world. Sure, we may seem to be a little better off, but why aren't physiologists blown away by the incredible joy of those who follow God? What have we missed?
Maybe the answer is really simple... Maybe we've missed Him. Maybe we have a little more knowledge than the world... and thus are a little better off. But maybe we've really missed Who it is all about, and thus there is no shocking evidence of our increased happiness.
I wonder if deep down, we've let the world alter our belief of where joy comes from. After all, we know that happiness doesn't come from circumstances... but so often we live like it does-- like we can't be happy until "such and such" changes.
Really though, life doesn't have to change one bit for us to be happy. We already have everything that our little hearts could ever long for.
We have a Friend who loves us beyond our greatest imagination of love... a Friend who will never stop gently pursuing our hearts... a Friend who will stick with us through thick and thin. It is our privilege to be with Him each second of each day for the rest of our lives. How could we not be the happiest people alive?
Maybe, instead of spending our life waiting for something to change so that we can claim happiness, we should pause and pick the flowers, capture the sunset, and melt in a Love that won't stop fighting for our heart.
Maybe living this second with Him is the only real recipe to our happiness.
And just maybe, it's the recipe to His as well.
We all have gifts we cherish. Precious family and friends, comforts and possession, dreams and plans… They give us countless moments of joy, fill up our days, and quite honestly our hearts too. We feel we have been blessed— and rightly so. This time of year often brings a fresh wave of gratitude from our hearts to the Giver…
That’s what Thanksgiving is about anyway, so we’re on the right track, yeah?
Or maybe not.
I wonder how much gratitude we would give if every gift the Giver has given was stripped away.
Sure, we may be determined that we would not curse God… we would not turn our backs…
But would we be grateful— even joyful?
Because the thing is… God is the One who is supposed to be first and foremost in our hearts. He is the One that should give us the most moments of joy and fill up our days, and our hearts.
And if we were just left with Him… we should find ourselves singing for joy that in loosing all else we can more fully embrace the greatest Gift.
But so often I find my own heart more attached to everything He has given than I am to the ultimate Gift Himself. I shrink from the thought that some of those gifts may not last forever… that seasons come and go… and so do gifts.
I look again at Job’s words— some of my favorite in all Scripture— and this time I begin to grasp a bit more what they really mean… “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
One can only say such words when Jesus is the One loved more than all else.
I remember again the story that has been burning this lesson onto my heart of late…
He was a simple preacher, dedicated to giving every ounce of himself for his Maker and the people around him. And communist Russia would test his resolve. While returning from a secret church meeting in the home of a friend, Richard is quickly taken by two police men and shoved in the back of a taxi cab. Blindfold on, he is clueless to where he is being taken, except for the nagging idea in the back of his mind. He had known this day was coming. And as soon at the blindfold is removed and he can see the dull grey concrete walls that surround him he knows he was right. He is left to wonder at the length of his sentence.
Inside his cell, Richard Wurmbrand contemplates his fate. He had given himself to ministry and served with all his strength. But in the flurry of activity, it was easy to miss the depth of experience possible. His mind drifted back to the words of a friend… “there are only two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Now he would know which he was.
Richard later wrote, “Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering— would I continue to love Him?”
Years of imprisonment followed. Richard had plenty of time to answer that questions. 14 years in fact.
Over and over he was questioned for his faith, and given every incentive imaginable to give it up. But to Richard it had become more than a faith. It was his best Friend he was being asked to turn his back on. He couldn’t do that.
Torture was the result.
And in the midst of unimaginable suffering Richard was content… even incredibly joyful. He writes, “Words alone have never been able to say what man feels in the nearness of divinity. Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if i did not give it expression.” Many times during the three years he spent in solitary confinement the guards found him dancing for joy. “I did not mind if my captors thought I was mad, for I had found a beauty in Christ that I had not known before.”
During torture he had a phrase that he would repeat over and over to keep his mind from the pain… “Jesus, dear Bridegroom of my soul, I love You.”
His captors were infuriated at his commitment to God and his fellow men, and arranged for a trial. Richard was quite ill when it took place, and when asked to speak he could only think of three words to say… “I love God.”
After eight years of appalling treatment and suffering Richard was set free… but he couldn’t rest while he thought of the many prisoners who sat in darkness without hope of the Savior he loved. He began to tell God that he was willing to go back to jail if that was His will. And after a few short months he was arrested and taken.
For six more years Richard faced horrible suffering for the God he loved so much. While the men around him crumbled and lost their faith in socialism and other political positions, he stood firm. All the tactics, torture, offers, and physiological methods the communists could employ could not induce him to leave the God he loved so much… the very God who had allowed him to be separated from his wife and son for fourteen years… the God who allowed him to live years without seeing the light of the sun, or eat a square meal, or sleep in a comfortable bed… the God who allowed his dreams to be dashed, and all his possessions to be taken. The God who knew that the real source of happiness is not found in material gifts, but in the incredible gift we have of cherishing Him as our best Friend.
Richard’s words sink into me… “I knew now that I was not play-acting. I believed.”
And I wonder how we have allowed God to become anything less than our all... How we’ve become so consumed with all He gives that we miss Him.
Because so often we are like customers coming to Him and expecting Him to give us what we want.
How often do we come to Him purely for the joy of being in His presence? Just because we love Him?
The words of one of my favorite songs have been engraving themselves on my heart of late…
...What if right at midnight Jesus softly struck a match
Could that change everything, the light one flame could bring?
The deepest dark surrenders when One candle flickers brights
The same flame that in daytime would be lost in worlds of light
The night is not the enemy, for darkness tells this truth
Only One light lasts forever, only One light is truth.
God, if you have to make our world dark so that we can discern the Only One who lasts forever… do it. Our treasures are all yours. We want the true Treasure. We’re willing to face losses, prison walls, loneliness, the loss of all things save You so that the continual motto of our heart will be…
Jesus, dear Bridegroom of our souls, we love You…
...We love God.
This thanksgiving the deepest gratitude of my heart is for You. You are all. You are enough.
High King of heaven… my treasure Thou art.
*Photo credit-- Yours truly :)
Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for the Omnipotent God to look down at a world of hearts that are closed to Him…
David said it so profoundly…
“God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
It’s heartbreaking. And it’s so far from all that God longs to give His children.
The last couple months have shown me a side of God’s heart I had never grasped before…
We’ve all heard a million times that God is personal and the One who will always be there for us and I’ve always believed and loved that thought. But somehow, it’s only been lately that I’ve more fully realized what that really means for me.
This God of ours is not some nebulas being who loves us but is somewhat distant from our lives. He is not merely a Master. His love is not some vague concept that we cannot feel.
The Jesus I serve passionately loves me with all His heart. The thought of loosing me is so hard for Him that He would rather come to earth and give His life than watch me slip away. He’s always there for me during the day to check in and see how I’m doing. He always has an encouraging word to speak when I’m down. When I fall, He picks me back up and holds my hand. All night long He watches me sleep, eagerly awaiting the moment I wake up, so we can be together again.
And I just can’t help myself falling in love with this Jesus. He is so tangible… so personal.
It’s not a matter of trying to want to spend time with Him. I just can’t wait for it.
Nothing in the world is as sweet as the time when I can leave behind all the distractions of my day and go out to my meadow below the ridge behind our house and just be with Him. It’s not an obligation now, it’s a privilege. I want to open my heart completely to this God. To tell Him absolutely everything about me. I want to give Him total access to the deepest corners of my heart.
I want Him to look down from heaven and find my heart open to Him… all day. Every day.
And I realize more and more that all He really wants is our hearts. I mean, everything is His. He owns all... except what He wants most-- the hearts of His children.
My heart burns to give Him more. I wish I had a thousand lives to lay on the altar for Him.
But nothing puts a bigger smile on His face than when we offer Him our little wounded, dirty, broken hearts.
And this whole thing about Christianity… it’s not about trying to do all the right things and be the good people. It’s about falling deeply in love with the Jesus who it’s all about.
Christianity is not merely a matter of the mind, but a matter of the heart.
And when we open our heart up to Him, He changes it, draws it close, and makes it like His. We may not feel any closer to Him today than we did yesterday, but we can know that though we may not see, He is working. One day it will all be clear, and we’ll marvel at a grace that is as far beyond our highest dreams as heaven is above earth.
This Jesus has had you in His heart for all eternity. And when the day came for you to be born, He had the biggest smile on His face that you can imagine. The day had finally come. From now on, He could lavish His love on you, and begin the journey of winning your heart.
And all through your life, He's been on that journey. Everyday He tries to show us in a hundred little ways how deep His love is. But so often we keep our heart closed and our face turned.
He's been running after us all our lives, trying to show that He loves with all His heart and that you are the most important thing to Him in the world.
Maybe it's time to just stop running from Him, and fall in His arms and live the rest of our lives in adoration for the God who wouldn't stop seeking us, even when we were ungrateful hard hearted wretches who thought we were fine on our own.
Because this Jesus? Life is a million times sweeter with Him.
*Photo credits-- Hannah Rayne
It seems like just yesterday that I gazed out my car window watching landscape speed by... moments ticking down until the first Family Retreat of the year would begin. My expectations were high, and so was my realization of my dependance on the only One who would give me grace for another season.
And almost before I knew it, I found myself on a plane headed home from the last FR of the year, amazed at all that God had done in the hearts of others and in my own.
It's been a year of blessings too numerous to count. And as my mind drifts back over all the avenues He has led me down in the process, I am filled with gratefulness for a God who is far more incredible than I could ever deserve.
Sometimes in the moment it's hard to see the gift that I have to be a servant... to travel, share, sing, pray, serve, listen, and love. But retrospect always makes that privilege more distinct, and my heart swells with thanksgiving.
I have a hundred special memories and beautiful faces etched on my heart...
The last six months have left me with a deeper realization of the pain in a hurting world... and yet, beyond that, I see even more clearly the power and beauty of hearts that will love the world the way He did.
After all... there is nothing the world craves more than love.
Addictions... crazy busy lives... obsession with fashion...
So often it is a cry for someone to notice, to care, to love.
And sure, we can tell them that Jesus is enough-- and He is--but aren't we to be His hands and feet? Aren't we to be the ones who demonstrate His love to the world?
How can they ever understand a Jesus that loves them so much He would give His life for them until they see our hearts beating with a love for them that is so great that we give our lives for them?
It's not an easy path-- to love the world like that. All of a sudden my neighbor's pain is not just his, but mine too. The griefs, losses, and joys of those we love become our own.
But when did He ever promise an easy path?
Not easy... just rich and full, and more abundant than our highest expectations.
And isn't that better than an easy life anyway?
Jesus, give me a heart like Yours. Fill it with love for a hurting world. And when I have no more to give, break me, and make me sustenance for a dying world. I just want to love like You...
Sometimes I wonder how we can shrink down our God to make Him more manageable for our little minds…
Not that it’s a conscious decision. It seems to happen gradually over time. Almost as if we cannot comprehend the reality of a God that can breathe the universe into existence while loving and watching you and I as if we were the only ones. And because we cannot comprehend it, we find ourselves shaving off a little of His power, while simultaneously doubting the intimacy of His love... at least, in our own minds.
My little mind can only barely comprehend the vastness of this place we call home… never mind the fact that the sun is a million times bigger… or that 9.2 billion suns could fit inside Canis Majoris, the big dog star…that traveling on the space shuttle it would take 30 years to reach the edge of the solar system… that the solar system itself is the size of a quarter compared to the milky way, which would be the size of north and south america (plus alaska)… And as if that isn’t enough, that there are 300 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, and that there are an estimated 500 billion galaxies… That just blows my mind. I feel helpless to really grasp what it means.
And it was my God who made all that?
The God who watches my sleep each night counting the minutes till I’ll be up to spend time with Him… the One who is never too busy to hear the littlest thing on my heart at that moment… the One who wants me to be radically honest with Him about my doubts and fears even though they are pathetic compared to the pain He sees in the world each day… the One who longs to spend hours with me just talking when He has a million other things to do…
Yeah, that God.
And I can’t grasp it.
And so though I may sit in awe for a few moments, my humanity shrinks Him down to my size so that I can begin to understand Him.
But I’m realizing… shrinking God down causes major trouble.
Because really… when I shrink Him down, I shrink down my capability for love and worship. I mean, how can I stand in awe of something I’ve made my own size?
We're not the first ones to have this problem after all. Back in Moses day the Israelites did the same thing. They took their pieces of wood and covered them with gold and made their own gods. And yes, they were more manageable...
But whoever said we were to be the ones to make God manageable? Isn't He supposed to manage us?
The other day I found myself trudging down our road trying to recognize the presence of God in the business of my life... trying to trust Him with everything... Sun shines bright in my eyes as I walk, as if hinting to me of the size of my God, but I miss the memo.
And then it hits me while I sit in church the next day... God is so big, so big, that His presence fills the earth. It's not a matter of whether or not He is near, but whether or not I see Him.
And I realize that I've been shrinking God down... and it's no question why I begin to doubt. Because He is not the God I've made Him out to be.
He is greater. More powerful. More trustworthy. More loving. More intimate.
And if I am not standing in awe of Him right now, it's because I have shrunk Him down to my own size and created a God of wood and gold that I can manage instead of standing in awe of who He is and letting that melt me.
When God seems powerless and I feel like I need something more... it's not because He's loosing power... it's that I've robbed Him of it in my own life by lack of belief-- by shrinking Him down. God is always enough... the fault is not His.
Perhaps that's why the Christians in Bible and Reformation times saw such a manifestation of His power and closeness. Because they believed in it.
And maybe when we believe in a God who is so powerful and loving that He can shake the world... Maybe, just maybe, that's when He will.
*Photo credits-- Hannah Rayne
Sometimes I wonder when we transitioned from the carefreeness of childhood to the rushed and hurried lives we live as teens and adults. It seems like every year we get busier... we say we have more to get done, and yet somehow we're always still behind.
For years I'd been one of the people who had an everlasting "to do" list, or so it felt. I had high aspirations of what I wanted to get done, and when I wanted it done by. When I was in grade school that meant I was always trying to see how soon I could have the school year done. I even remember writing myself out a whole schedule of how I was going to get 7th grade done in four months. But for some reason, I always felt behind. I could never get it all done... and often, that really frustrated me.
And then, last year I found myself too sick to do anything for months on end. All my "to do" lists had to be laid down. And now, on the other side of my illness, I found my incessant drive to get to that "to do" list a little dampened. At first I worried that I was loosing my ambition. I'm now realizing that God had a lot more in mind.
I mean, when did we stop seeing life as a journey and start thinking it was a race to see who can get to the end first?
When did we stop recognizing the treasure of now?
And more importantly, how did our "to do" lists become so important that we feel too busy to give God our best?
I've told myself the lie a million times... "I don't have time."
But then, when was the last time you heard a little child complaining of a lack of time? And don't we have the same twenty four hours as them?
Maybe it's a matter of priorities. Of not being so controlled by that "to do" list. Maybe it's about figuring out what really matters.
Because really, we only have one life to live. And I don't want to spend it constantly rushing to the next thing.
I think we all intuitively know that God should be the very top of our priority list... But how many of us really live like He is?
As one of my favorite quotes states...
" God gave us time. And who has time for God? Which makes no sense."
If my God is the one I think He is... the One who breathes out stars... who speaks mountains into existence... how can I think that He will fit into the tiny spaces of my day that I squeeze out for Him? How can it do Him justice?
And how can I think that I will know His presence when all I give Him is a fleeting thought here and there?
So yeah, I've started seeing time in a new way. The work will never go away, but this moment will.
Not to say that the work is not important... but to say that God in this moment is more important than the work will ever be.
Maybe true ambition is not how much I can get done in this little life, but how much of God's presence I can recognize... how much of the almighty God I can know.
So I'll stop to see the sunrise... to head for the woods in the crisp morning air to tell Him good morning ... to pause for a lingering look at the bouquet of flowers in the kitchen... to write a line or two in my journal of gratitude for a God who's always there...
Because I can have as much of Him or as little of Him as I choose.
There is no limit.
Sidenote... I'm taking a plunge in this whole perspective of time and will be making time to update my blog far more regularly. So keep an eye out for much more frequent posts. :)
*Photo credit-- Hannah Rayne
I sit here on the plane and finally have a few moments to put some of the last two weeks on “paper.” It’s hard to know where to begin. God blessed abundantly and poured Himself out like we knew He would. I praise Him for His ever present strength. He is an incredibly good God.
He was at work at UKFC again this year. It is such a joy to our hearts to see families hearing and getting excited about their potential to live closer to each other and God in a way they never have before… To see the joy and happiness in families who were once on the brink of disaster. If anything spurs us on to travel for weeks of the year, it that right there. Nothing beats seeing lives changed.
We went this year with the realization in the back of our mind that because of financial concerns this might be the last UKFC. To be honest, that was not something I wanted to think about. So many lives have been touched at that camp over the last six years. I hated to think of it closing down because of money. I knew God could supply if it was His will, and I trusted that He would do what was best.
Last year God did beautiful things in the hearts of the people and in our own at that camp. I know that when the plane carried me home I left part of my heart in that country. And through all the business of the year, part of me was always eagerly anticipating our next visit and the when we would see all the dear people who had crept into my heart. Going back this year was so rich… so beautiful. I treasured the moments. Even being down with a sinus infection for the second half of the trip couldn’t spoil the privilege I felt at being back for a little while.
And it struck me again this morning in a deeper way… Might what I felt about that country be just a little part of what my Father feels about being separated from His beloved children on earth? Could it be that He left part of His heart here, and that He will never feel whole again until we are with Him? Might everyday apart hurt Him? Could He be looking down on us with longing for the day when we will be ready for Him to come and take us home? Isn’t the separation far harder for Him than any separation we have ever experienced here?
It makes me pause for a minute. My little mind just can’t grasp the depths of a Love like that.
I wonder at how we can be satisfied here when He is not satisfied to leave us here. How can we be content to let day after day pass without making vigorous strides toward that glorious reunion? Why aren’t we doing all we can to hasten that moment?
Just to think that there is a part of our Father’s heart that won’t stop hurting until we’re together…
If the joy is anything like what I’ve felt in being reunited with so much that I love these last two weeks… it will be beyond anything I can imagine.
I want to end the pain in His heart.
I want that reunion to come soon.
I want to go home.
God worked in marvelous ways this year and provided the funds for next year’s UKFC. He works in ways that are beyond our imagining. The dates are booked for next year’s camp. There will be another year to watch God change lives… I praise Jesus. That puts a song in this heart.
And since I can’t really sum up the last two weeks fully in words… here are some pictures from the trip. After all— a picture paints a thousand words.
I look back on OKFR with a heart full of gratitude for the blessings God poured out... He never fails to come through.
I praise Him for the privilege of service and of being His hands here on earth... for every precious individual He placed in my path to bless (and to bless me)... for every ounce of strength He gave... for all the smiles I saw on the faces of His children... for every song sung from the heart... for giving grace and words at the moments needed... for reminding me of His glorious plans for those yielded to Him... for proving yet again that He is faithful and true...
And most of all, for showing me afresh the joy of faithfulness, even in the hard things...
Friday afternoon found me sitting on a log overlooking the lake behind the cafeteria, and pleading with Him to give me the strength for the upcoming task. I was on for the next message and my topic was the beauty and power of trust even in pain.
I knew when I started planning this message several months ago that He wanted me to share the experiences I had been through with Lyme disease... and from the start, I had struggled with the thought of being so vulnerable as to share that with a whole congregation.
Now I knew in an hour I would be on the stage with 300 hundred eyes looking at me and expecting me to speak. And quite honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to. At least, not about this. But I knew what He wanted, and I knew that I really wanted what He wanted too. I was excited about sharing... It's just that this was out of my comfort zone-- by a long ways.
The question in my heart at that moment... Am I willing to do the hard things for my Master?
Sure, it might not sound very hard to you. And really, in comparison with the sacrifices He made for us, it wasn't. But at that moment, with the clock ticking down, and my heart beating faster, it didn't seem the easiest thing in the world to get up and share the deep things of my heart.
I knew my duty though, and with another prayer of surrender to His will, I left my quiet log, and went to action.
And I can tell you that when God requires something "hard" of us, He always gives the strength we need to perform it. He gave me so much freedom up front that I was actually surprised at myself for not being more nervous. He is good, always.
When the hour had passed and I walked off the stage, it was with a joy deep in my heart that only comes from the knowledge of obedience.
And since I'm not the only one who has ever been asked to do something outside of their comfort zone, let me encourage you...
The harder the task given, the deeper the joy when performed.
Here a few pics for the picture lovers...
for a bunch more, go here www.foreverafamily.org
His promise is the key
Freeze tag conversations are a blast. :)
Beautiful spot to pray
Singing with friends after sharing up front.
Let the little children come...
Sweet little guy.
Sweet praises from young hearts...
So harp is not a girls instrument after all. :)
400 or so on Sabbath
Thank you Jesus for another year...
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY, SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
-Sir Ernest Shackleton-
Quite a proposal. What would inspire a person to sign on to such a trip? What motive could possibly make a man want to leave his home and family for that? What if he did never come home? Could it be worth it?
Love does away with fear. In this case love of adventure...
Another quote comes to mind... this one from a famous astronaut.
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." Virgil (Gus) Grissom
And later he and two friends did give their lives. While testing the Apollo 1, a fire broke out in the capsule and all three men died.
Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee before the fire.
What could have motivated them to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
Yet again we find love. In this case, not only love of adventure but love for conquest.
And it makes me think... What would motivate us to endure long months of complete darkness? What would give us the courage to live a life of constant danger? What would we deem a worthy cause for which to expend our life?
And the same answer strikes again. Love. This time capitalized.
Because that add was not just something written to inspire men to join an adventure to the South Pole. Someone much greater asks for similar courage.
And if hundreds of men could apply for that because of their love of adventure, shouldn't hundreds of Christians be willing to face the same for love of their Master?
If three men were willing to give their lives for the conquest of space, shouldn't we be willing to give our lives for the conquest of something much greater?
Shouldn't we be willing to face hardship this year?
Sometimes God uses hardship as the very means of our growth. And I say that with more confidence than ever before...
Dec. 31 2012
Lord, I want a year of growth-- if that means a hard year-- let it be a hard year. Take me out of my comfort zone. Send me trials. All I want is the year of greatest growth in you that I've ever had. That will make it my best year so far.
Little did I know what I was asking for...
After various trials and several months of fighting an unknown illness, and then being diagnosed with Lyme disease in August, I have a little more idea.The seven months of sickness and pain have been God's answer to my prayer in the above journal entry. And yet I wouldn't have that prayer unsaid, or those seven months "unlived" for anything. I can truly say that hardship was my greatest blessing.
Fast forward to another journal entry a year later...
Dec 31, 2013
...Though I now know more than ever before the heart definition of pain, I know also the heart definition of upholding Love. I may have known personally what it is like to be utterly weak, but I have also known the amazing power of sustaining grace. I might have known disappointments and confusion but it was only so that I might now truly know trust. I may have experienced darkness, but it was only so that I could now appreciate more the one true Light.
I now see my greatest struggles as my greatest blessings. Hardship is not our enemy. It is a gift the Master allows that we may be strengthened to fight our real enemy.
This year, I'm excited to see what new things He has in store. I know my Jesus doeth all things well. I praise Him that the last few weeks have marked improvements in my health, and the beginning of a slow, but sure, recovery.
And for the record, Lord, I am willing to endure hardship for You this year. I deem You worthy of risking my life.
After all, didn't You deem me worthy of risking Yours?
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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