I woke up this morning and I remembered... it was five years ago today.
I’ve always been one for remembering dates. I love to look back at the journey You’ve led me on. It always leaves me in awe. This morning was no exception.
I remember being so awed on my baptism weekend at the ways You had worked in my heart up until that point. I remember telling a dear friend that I felt like a different person to the little girl I’d been a few years before. You were changing my selfishness into a love for right… my self-dependance into a recognition of my need for You… my little world of pretend missionary exploits into a realization that I could actually serve You in real life. I remember the surealness of that day and wanting to pinch myself into realizing that this was really happening… that You had really given me the courage to stand up and tell the world what You’d been doing in my heart in the years preceding. I remember the conversation around the piano that evening and how we had somehow started looking at our globe and the many countries that didn’t know anything about You. I remember listening to my friends’ excitement about how we could share our love for You and determining deep down that I wanted to be a missionary— whether that was here in the states or abroad. It really was the most special Sabbath of my life.
This morning I went back and watched the video of that day (if you want a quick glimpse click here). And again I was awed as I looked back. Five years ago I was amazed at the ways You had changed my little heart. Honestly, today I am even more amazed at the way You have changed my heart since then.
How could I have ever known that You would allow trials to come a few months later that I didn’t understand or know how to deal with but that in the darkness I would learn a deeper level of commitment than I ever could have learned in the light?
How could I know that our move away from everything that was familiar would stretch me far beyond my comfort zone but cause me to lean on Your arm in a way I had never done before?
How could I have expected the joy and love for people I would find half way around the world ministering with my family when sickness had half of us in bed?
What would I have thought if I had known that after my prayers to go deeper than ever I would be surprised with an illness recurring from when I was little that would leave me utterly exhausted and often in pain for seven months but teach me a trust in You that endured the most painful of days?
How could I have understood the contradictions of pain and joy that ministry would bring… of emptiness and fullness… and the ways You would lead me so gently to understand Your real purpose for me and that being a missionary didn’t mean half the things I thought and a hundred things I didn't?
How could I have ever dreamed of the way You would win my heart and my love beyond my wildest imaginations and that life would turn into a beautiful journey with my best Friend?
Truth is, I couldn’t know. And I’m glad. I think it would have been a bit much for my 14 year old mind to comprehend.
One thing I know now. Your plans were perfect and I wouldn’t have them any other way.
I look back and it strikes me how much I didn’t know. How much I hadn’t experienced. How much of Your heart I didn’t even know existed.
And I have to wonder where I’ll be in five years time. How much of You there is still to find that I don’t know about… how much deeper there is to fall in love than I could even dream right now.
I don’t have to know. I’ve seen enough to know I want to sign up for every last little bit of it.
That while my future may remain unknown, I can look at my past and see so many fingerprints of grace that there need be no fear for the future.
Whatever storms come…
Whatever valley floors…
You see them. And You see me. And You know. I don’t have to.
So Jesus, sign me up. Your ways are beyond my understanding. That you would want to take a little rascal and turn her into your little princess is beyond me. Of everything you have done in the last five years, your wild love and friendship to a girl like me amaze me most. I don’t understand it. Or why you chose to pursue me. But I love it. I love you. And you’ve won my heart lock stock and barrel. Here’s to another five years… to a lifetime together… no matter what darts the devil throws.
Because you first loved me.
Forever your little girl.
His name was Samuel Rutherford. He wasn’t perfect but he was a man of rare love. Love that was forged in the fire.
Samuel was an extremely dedicated Scottish minister in the 1600’s. He deeply cared for those in his care, and was dearly loved by his congregation in return. But even early in his ministry he was faced with heartbreak. After being married for a short 4 years, his precious wife became very ill and after battling with the illness for 13 months, died. Shortly afterwards, two of their three children and his mother also died. He was left alone and in very ill health himself to take care of his remaining child and care for his parish.
His trials didn’t end there. A few years later he was banished from his parish and exiled far from his beloved congregation because of his faithfulness to what he believed. This was exceedingly difficult for him. If there was anything he loved to do it was to expand the beauty of his Jesus to the people in his care. Now he was separated from them and prohibited from preaching.
The political situation in Scotland changed several years later and he was allowed to continue his ministry. During this time he remarried and he and his new wife had five children. It would seem that things had finally changed for the better. But not for long. Two of his dear children died as infants. Two more died while he was away in London. Before his own death at the age of 61, all of his children from both marriages had died. I can’t even begin to imagine what his father’s heart went through.
The way he related to this life of bitter experiences is clear from his own words…
“Think it not hard if you get not your will, nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but Himself.”
And again… “they lose nothing who gain Christ."
Spurgeon later quoted from one of his letters saying,
“dear Samuel Rutherford, when he wrote to a lady who had lost, I think, seven children, congratulated her and said, “I am sure that the well-Beloved has a strong affection for your ladyship, for He will have all your heart. He has taken away all these children that there may not be a nook or corner for anybody else but Him.”
His heart was captured by the love of the infinite. He willingly confessed that he was not his own…
“Since He looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it.”
To lose all on earth was considered a very small sacrifice indeed to gain Christ. He wanted nothing but Jesus… Jesus was heaven.
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee it would be hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.
I can’t help but be struck by such a love. It makes me examine my own. Is He really all I want? Is He my heaven?
So often I seem to think I deserve things here on earth… you know, that certain things are my right and it’s not fair if I don’t have them. And then I remember… I deserve nothing. Nothing but death. But because He loved me so much, He bore that for me and gave me the greatest gift in the universe— Himself. And I dare to think I deserve something more?
Oh my soul, claim nothing as your own.
For you there is God and God alone.
And really what could be sweeter? If I lose all I count dear, I still have Him… if I am called to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He comes too… if I am asked to pour myself out for His people and receive nothing in return, He will give me Himself.
How can anything but gratitude ever formulate in my heart?
God alone! God alone!
In Your courts, oh my Lord, is my home
You are my treasure, my portion delight of my soul
My life, my salvation, my fortress
My God and my all.
I want Him to be my heaven. Nothing but Him. Because if it is, who says heaven can’t start now and increase in sweetness every time I’m called to bear a burden because in bearing it I find more of His heart?
Spurgeon again quotes Rutherford…
“…he speaks of the coals of divine wrath all falling upon the head of Christ, so that not one might fall upon His people. ‘And yet,’ saith he, ‘if one of those coals should drop from His head upon mine and did utterly consume me, yet if I felt it was a part of the coals that fell upon Him, and I was bearing it for His, and in communion with Him, I would choose it for my heaven. ‘“
Oh heart. Be still and think. Could I say that? Or do I still want things for myself?
or can I sing...
Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be,
More love oh Christ to Thee
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee.
I’m willing to learn to claim nothing as my own. I want God and God alone.
Jesus, mold our hearts so that you are all the heaven we want…
Because, after all, we are all the heaven You want.
We’d only been climbing for an hour or so and I literally felt like I couldn’t go much further. It seemed like every hill I fought to get up would only give way to another one twice it’s size. We’d still had no glimpse of where we were actually going. I just wanted to know how close we were… how many more miles we had left to climb… how many more hundreds/thousands of feet I still had to battle up…
I didn’t know all I had gotten myself into… I did know that when we’d set off from the parking lot that morning to climb a mountain I still couldn’t see I felt a little fear and trepidation about the adventure.
It wasn’t until we’d mounted the hill I never thought I’d get up, and the landscape opened up in front of me, that it hit me. Sure, we had a very long way to go… yeah, that mountain in the distance with the snow on top was the one we were supposed to climb… true, we had to walk along an edge for an hour with a death fall on both sides… yes, my feet felt blistered and sore… But the question wouldn’t leave my mind and somehow it spurred me on—like somehow all the gusto I poured into climbing that mountain was a bit of an answer…
How high would I climb to fall into His embrace? How hard would I fight to see His face?
Maybe it’s fear that stops us. Fear of falling, fear of letting go of the idols that hinder us from loving Him…
I had to face a few of my own fears on that climb. I’ve never been a huge fan of heights… most of my nightmares end in falling off the top of some skyscraper and waking up seconds before I crumple on the concrete. But in climbing that mountain, we had to walk across an edge with a death fall on both sides. And though I had a few moments of panic, my mind was so set on the summit that I didn’t have time to let that fear consume me.
I wonder if part of the reason we don’t work through our fears is because we’ve gotten distracted and taken our eyes off the goal. We look around at all the things that might happen if we really throw ourselves into seeking Him… we look inside and see how messed up we are… and we shake with fear and say that there is no way. But just maybe, if we looked ahead to the moment when He’ll catch us in His giant arms and we’ll be able to gaze into His eyes, we’d be able to look up now and determine that we’ll be willing to do anything to reach that moment.
So often we let the mentality around us affect the way we live. We don’t throw every inch of ourselves into the pursuit of God. We tire of really seeking His face. We stop dreaming of really seeing Him because that day seems so far away. Honestly, we don’t want to expend the effort it takes to walk with Him like Enoch did. We’re not sure if we’re ready to abandon ourselves to Him that way.
But honestly, the only goal that is worth throwing every ounce of ourselves into is to be as close to Him as possible now-- and for all eternity.
We throw ourselves into our careers— studying for years for a degree that claims we know our field… we throw ourselves into sports and athletics for a medal that will last a few years and then mean nothing… we throw ourselves into making something out of our life here, but sooner or later that too will end. But for some reason, we don’t throw ourselves into seeking God, into fighting to see the face of our Jesus. As a friend once shared with me… We know we are to dig for the Treasure, but we move one shovelful and give up because we find nothing…
It’s no new thought… maybe we have to just go back a little and remember what we were instructed.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”
There is nothing to say that we cannot walk with God now like Enoch did. And we have every reason to believe that if we fight for closeness with Him now, we will have it for all eternity. How can we be satisfied with anything less? How can stop short of doing whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to see the face of our Jesus?
The real soldier willingly fights for freedom because He loves His country. The real Christian willingly fights for a relationship with the Omnipotent because they love their Jesus. It's not all about sitting and basking in His love. It makes the enemy mad to see heart who want to live life as close as possible to Jesus and he will do whatever he can to stop them. He attacks hardest what he knows is most precious. He's not about to let Jesus have the highest place in our hearts. He will suggest a million different "glossy" things to fill His place. If we want to spend each minute in His arms and one day see Him face to face we will have to fight hard. We will have to throw every ounce of ourselves into seeking Him.
But if we really love Him, we will count it all joy. We will want to fight because we cannot bear the thought of not being with Him.
We made it to the top of that mountain. I’m still amazed. And very very sore. But it was worth it.
And when we walk down those golden streets arm in arm with our Jesus, it will be worth it. Oh so worth it. Every ache and pain will be forgotten when we can lay our head on His shoulder and simply rest.
As we clambered down that mountain it seemed clearer to me than ever. No hight is too much to climb for Him. No fight too hard. No pain too much. Whatever it takes. Whatever.
How high would you climb to fall into His embrace? How hard would you fight to see His face?
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 :)
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...
There was nothing different about the way she stood up and asked for prayer this morning than the others... But something about her prayer and praise petition opened my eyes.
"I would really appreciate it if you all could pray for my vision. I have been loosing my eyesight in my right eye for years, and more recently in my left eye too. I had surgery this week on my left eye and I anticipated it to be dramatically better, but it is worse now than it ever was before. I can hardly see. I would just like prayer as this makes it quite challenging to take care of my children and do the housework. But I want to learn to trust God more, and believe that He still has a plan for me in all this..."
She was young too with several little ones... Her little girl gently led her down the isle when the elder invited people up front to pray.
My mind starting spinning as I contemplated all the limitations lack of sight would bring. What would it really be like? How would I feel if that was me? I wouldn't be able to cook for my family anymore. I wouldn't be able to ever see the face of family or friends again. I wouldn't be able to journal. I would never be able to climb the ridge behind our home on my own, and have that precious time alone with Him. I wouldn't be able to see the sunset He paints on the sky or the majestic Milky Way arching over our house. Life would be nothing like the one I know.
But sometimes I wonder if we are the ones suffering from blindness. We can see with our physical eyes, but maybe we're missing a different kind of vision.
Because I can spend delightful hours in the kitchen making food for my family. I can see the faces of the people I love. I can pull out my journal and find my clarity in writing. I can climb to my favorite prayer rock and revel in the stillness and aloneness with Him. I can gaze at the beautiful colors He paints in the sky, and the glories on display at night.
But do I ever stop to realize what a huge privilege that is? Do I really know how blessed I am?
I will admit that after months of health challenges myself, I do appreciate the little things so much more than I did before. Each ounce of energy given back is a gift, and I praise Him. Every time I jump out of bed in the morning, every time I return from a walk with a spring still in my step, every time I can spend hours cooking and cleaning without needing to sleep the rest of the day to recover, a wave of gratitude washes over me.
But I sense I'm only seeing a glimpse... That my gratitude is only touching the surface of all the gifts I've been given.
Sometimes He takes things away temporarily so we will see their true value. But should He have too? Shouldn't our hearts be bursting with gratitude already?
Because really, "What if you woke up this morning and all you had was what you thanked God for yesterday?”
The things we take for granted are often some of our greatest gifts. And we pass by them and don't even notice. But now I see... or at least, I'm learning too.
And I think He just might have had to use a sweet blind mother to open my eyes afresh .
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?
We all dream. All of us. And I'm not talking about our nighttime dreams.
I believe that in every human heart is a longing for something great. Something big.
It's obvious to see what the unconverted heart has done with this desire. They want something great for themselves. The consuming interest becomes "my clothes, my boyfriend/girlfriend, my friends, my stuff, my career, my money."
The dreams all begin and end with something big for "me."
But God asks us to give those dreams to Him and trade them for something better. Most of us know that. Many of us have done that.
Instead we dream of a life of active service for the One we love. And as we come to love Him more, we come to love His children. And then we dream of a life serving not only Him, but them too. We no longer want something big for us, but we long to do something big for Him and His suffering children.
We make our plans of how we will serve Him, the degrees we'll get, the mission fields we'll run to. The dirty little faces we'll clean. The broken hearts we will comfort. The souls we'll save.
Sounds better, right?
But then sometimes, right when we think we're in reach of our dreams, He asks us to give them up. We think we've misunderstood. We question Him. Wasn't it His will for us to give our life for Him and others?
I'm not just theorizing. I've been here. And recently.
But we forget that He is the dream-Fullfiller. He's not out to smash our cherished hopes, only to enrich them, or give us altogether new and better ones.
We forget too, that He is the dream-Holder. When He asks us to surrender our dreams, He does not ask us to throw them down, but to give them up. Up to Him.
If you've ever watched a careful parent guiding their little child up the stairs, you might notice that they ask their child to hand them their toys so that the child can hold the parent's hand instead of trying to climb with hands full. When they reach the top of the stairs, the parent will give the toys back.
Our Father does the same. He asks us to give our dreams up to Him, so that we can grasp His hand instead. He carefully holds them for us as He leads us up the ascent. Then, when He sees we have learned to hold His hand and climb with Him, He gives us the dreams back.
He is the dream-Giver, the dream-Holder, and the dream-Fullfiller.
If He asks for your tightly prized dreams, and you find yourself with empty hands, reach up and grasp His. He will lead you safely up the ascent. And when you reach the top of this little "staircase" you will be stronger.
When He sees that you are just as content to walk with nothing in your hands but His touch, He will give you your dreams back. They may not be quite the same as when you gave them to Him, but only changed for the better.
Because everything His hand touches is transformed and made perfect. That's just the way my Jesus is.
It was a simple thought, but one packed with power. My brother was telling me that he had been contemplating the other morning how water can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still-- how we can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still.
That thought really struck a cord with me. The depth of it's meaning is something I'm still trying to get my mind around. Just as the restless water produces a distorted reflection, we produce a distorted reflection of our Maker when we allow the storms of life to shake our trust, or when we become so frazzled by the business of life that we lose sight of Him. It's no accident we are told to "be still" and know that He is God.
A complete reflection of our Jesus can only shine from the heart that is perfectly still.
That rules out anxiety, which is really just a lack of trust.
It rules out the all-consuming business that leaves no time for Him.
It completely dispenses with frustration of any kind.
Instead this reflection requires trust. The kind that believes in the heart of it's Savior, even when it doesn't understand.
It asks us to be willing to accept His plans instead of our own, without having a "grown up tantrum." We've all seen the little child's version, but do we ever consider that sometimes we throw grown up "internal" tantrums when God says no? This summer has given me plenty of opportunity for them (like even this afternoon when I found out there are only four more GED testing dates this year at the "local" college before the new GED comes out, and two of them are on Sabbath, and one we are likely traveling, and the other will probably be booked by the time I get the necessary papers. :)) But I'm learning that real peace is found in giving Him the pen. I had definite aims and deadlines, ones that I'd prayed about and thought were right for the last few months. But sometimes He knows we need the gentle push towards deeper surrender and reliance on Him that disappointed plans will bring. And then, we can either struggle or surrender. But the restless water caused by the struggle reflects the Image poorly.
This reflecting Him... It calls for time daily to come apart and learn of His heart. Only the individual who knows the Master can reflect Him...
It asks us to be still. So still that not only the world-- but also our Maker-- can see His face perfectly reflected in us. It's the kind of stillness that only comes through trust.
*Be all at rest and let not your heart be rippled,
For tiny wavelets mar the image fair,
Which the still pool reflects of heaven's glory.
And thus the image He would have you bear.
*Streams in the Desert
Photos taken at NJFC
Credits: father :)
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.
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.