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.
The last several weeks have provided a lot of “think time” for me. Time that was not on my to do list… Time I didn’t think I could afford. I had plenty of plans and deadlines for this summer, but sometimes He blows our plans apart so that we will accept His much greater ones. I’m grateful He does.
And so instead of fighting Him, I’m choosing to make the most of the time He is giving me. I see already that He’s had a purpose in my unlimited “think time.” I’m learning lessons… far greater than anything I thought to learn in school this summer.
The lesson that is engraving itself on my mind and heart first came through our evening family story time. Let me share...
*He was an ordinary guy, only nineteen. He had felt God’s call to go and give his life to reach a certain Indian tribe for Him. So he left all he knew, home and friends, and purchased a one way ticket to South America. After years of seeking to get to them, he was brutally injured by an arrow shot into his leg by the Indians he came to love. But he did not give up. The work God did in him to reach the Indians was miraculous. Despite enduring terrible injuries and potentially fatal illnesses, he was faithful. And because of his efforts, God brought the whole tribe to a knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. The cross was exalted. Captives were freed.
In time, our young friend became engaged to a sweet girl who also loved the Indians and the the Savior. They eagerly looked forward to their future of service together. But the devil can never stand the exaltation of the cross. Their wedding day never came. She died in a heartbreaking car accident. Her fiancée received the telegram sent by her mother weeks later.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Indians were being threatened with the loss of their land or death, by the colonists. And it was our missionary's best friend and adopted brother, the first Indian to accept Jesus and the spiritual leader of the tribe, who was first to suffer. He was cruelly murdered.
In the midst of his heartbreak and dismay, our missionary friend went to visit one of the Columbian officials to report the death of his Indian brother. It was their conversation that has been burning itself onto my mind the last few days…
The Columbian official reminded our friend that the struggles and death they were going through were not in spite of Jesus but for Jesus.. They were because of the honor and exaltation of the cross. The devil was angered at the work done.
It was for this cross that they suffered.
The lesson imprinted itself powerfully on my mind. So often we find our willingness to suffer, in the knowledge that the pain is for our good. But is that the only reason for our suffering? Might there not be a greater reason, a reason that is far above our little lives?
Might it be that our suffering is for the exalting of the cross?
The devil is angry when we give our lives to be a testimony to the power of the cross, angry when he sees captives set free.
Could it be that we are called to suffer because the cross is being lifted high?
And might it be, that through our suffering, our Jesus wants to raise the cross higher still, by it’s visible power in giving us strength to bear our pain with trust and joy?
Could it be that our suffering is God's tool to break our self-reliance, so that He can then use us to lift the cross higher still?
I’ve noticed something lately. Many of us who are giving our lives fully to God’s work are facing trials. Sometimes its health challenges, or loneliness, days when it feels like the sun forgot how to shine.
But could it be that its for this cross?
The thought makes my heart leap. If this is the reason for our pain… Oh Jesus, send us more, that through it the cross can be lifted just another inch higher.
And when we suffer, more and more of the cross becomes our own. Jesus becomes dearer.
Paul counted his gain as loss, and his loss as gain. Think about that.
And so I’ve started praying a scary prayer-- scary because I mean it.
My plea is that I would be allowed to suffer more if the cross can be lifted higher by it.
That every gift I treasure most will be taken from me, so that I can gain more of my Jesus and His cross.
And that He will break me, so that I can be a more powerful vessel in His hands to uplift the cross.
Isn’t it worth loosing everything to gain everything? Even if we loose life itself?
I don’t know what will be the result of this prayer. It still makes my heart skip a beat when I pray it. But I'm convinced... Anything suffered or given up for this cross is not in vain.
I long to say with Paul,
…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and so count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Don’t run from your trials, from your losses. Be encouraged that even pain, health challenges, confusion about your future, and lonliness are not your enemies, but tools in the hand of the Master. Count them as gain.
Through them you may lift the cross an inch higher. And you may make an inch more of it your own.
Oh Jesus, we’ll willingly bear anything….
…for this cross.
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.
Quiet. It’s not something I crave naturally. Actually, it’s something I can tend to shy away from because it throws me way out of my comfort zone. But I’m discovering—it’s vital if we really want to serve.
It was only a week ago that I found myself on a plane headed home, leaving the country and all the beautiful people I’d come to love so quickly. The flight was none too long for me to process the last week, and fill up the pages of my journal. And I found myself wondering why God sometimes brings us to the quiet when there is a world starving for service. Now a week later, I don’t have to wonder.
Our first, full day home found me up on a ridge on our property taking time to think and pray. It’s amazing how that spot has become special after only four days. And it’s been in that time of communion that the answer to the question I battled with on the flight home has become obvious.
Quiet is preparation for service.
David lived out his youth in a quiet valley before he was qualified to be the king of Israel. Enoch spent many quiet weeks in the hills before going down to speak to the people. Moses raised sheep for forty years in the wilderness before he could lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. John the Baptist spent his childhood in the wilderness before giving the message for which he was born. And our dear Jesus lived in a little village for thirty years before his three years of ministry. The disciple John never received the Revelation until on the lonely island of Patmos. Paul spent several years in the wilderness before going out on his missionary journeys that shook the world.
The pattern strikes me. Could it be that quiet always comes before we can do something great for God?
On my little rock overlooking the valley I’ve been doing some deep thinking. I came across a quote that says it should be the mission of the youth to give the gospel to the world in this generation. And that left me pondering… what is it going to take to make us give the gospel to the world in our generation. The answer that came really hit home. Before we can share the gospel, we need to be living the gospel. I mean, really living it—not just talking about it. We can’t share it’s changing power until it’s changed us.
And so I’m seeking to remove all obstacles. I want to be totally changed—completely revolutionized. I’m seeking to treasure the quiet, and really learn the lessons it provides. And quiet is more than just living in the hills. Because with our phones, iPods, and tablets we can bring the clamor of the city to the hills, can’t we?
We’re headed out again… but my iPhone is still in my closet at home. (I’m still blogging from my old computer, but limiting myself to using it very little). J My phone is one of those distractions that is watering down the quiet, and taking it away almost completely when we’re on the road. And it’s shocked me how even the few hours I've been without it have shown me how dependent on it I was! Far too dependent. That’s going to change. It seemed like every five minutes I would find myself reaching for it.
If it takes three weeks to make a habit… I’m going for three weeks without my phone. And if I succumb to the temptation to use it within that time… I’ll start the three weeks again. So far, it’s challenging me, but I’m loving it. I've had so much more time to think—really think.
And so on this trip I’m choosing to take some quiet with me. Jesus, you can have my phone, and all the other things that distract me from you. I’ll find my joy in some little mountain spot of communion with you.
Quiet is preparation for service.
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.
We're off to start the next camp--this time in England-- and again the devil's not happy. Yesterday afternoon had the second member of the family go down with some very nasty stomach illness.
And that was enough to cause some fear and trepidation in the rest of us. If charcoal indeed works as a preventative, we've had our fair share.
But it struck me as we went to bed last night... this is the second time. Just a few weeks ago it was a broken down car. This time it's sickness. And to add to it, there's only the four if us over here to speak at the camp. None of us can afford to be down. This is probably our busiest camp of the year.
And yet a reassuring voice whispers in my ear...
I'm not going to leave you, child. This is my work, and it will go forward. "The Lord will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."
I'm learning slowly. It's another chance to trust. And by grace I will...
This family camp starts tonight and runs through Monday morning. And I know that we will need every ounce of strength He gives us. And yet... "My grace is sufficient for thee, because my strength is made perfect in weakness."
Thank you Jesus, thank you.
Alone--helpless. With Him--invincible.
I'm excited. I don't know what Grace is going to do this week, but I know that He does all things well.
If you think of it, would you please keep us, and all the precious people attending camp in your prayers? I know there's four hearts over here who would be very grateful.
The car hums quietly as the sights of home drift behind us. I pull my old computer out, well aware of my great need of Him. The journey has begun! Not just the journey to OK Family Camp, but the beginning of the 2013 camp meeting season, and for me the journey of writing book number two. Excitement is hanging in the air.
Ear buds in, I start typing. But not for long. I haven’t even finished the first paragraph before the car slowly glides to the side of the interstate. I pull my ear buds out. I don’t hardly need to ask what’s going wrong. We all know.
Our much-loved car has developed an annoying trait of not starting some of the time, which has been turning into half the time lately. Normally father or Caleb can fix it and we’re fine in five minutes.
But it’s never stopped while running before. We conclude that it happened because we were driving up a hill. (I’m thinking, this won’t be the only hill between here and OKFC). Praise God it starts first time and we’re back on the road… for about a minute. This time as we drift to the side of the interstate, we know something is really wrong. That becomes even clearer after we try and start it ten times without success. Many prayers go up. But the points clear—the car won’t start, the battery is dead, and we’re on the interstate 30 minutes from home, and over an hour from the nearest reasonable size town.
After about an hour, a wrecker is on the way to take the car to the auto repair for the week, meanwhile father calls every rental company he can think of in Flagstaff. They all answer the same way. "We can give you a full size car, but not an SUV." Just try putting four personal suitcases, a lever harp, a full size cello, and all the sound and video equipment in a little car! It didn’t even fit in our Tahoe without a pod and rack on the back. J
I try to ignore the battle in my mind. I want to get to camp so much. I don’t want this to interfere with our plans. I don’t want to be stranded in Flagstaff with no way to leave.
But another voice penetrates my thoughts… Trust me. You have been praying for trials to help you grow.. Now you need to trust that I will work this out.
I put my computer away and forget about book writing at this point. I have the distinct thought to go read my daily devotional for the day. I almost know before I get there that it will be just for me. But I never dreamed how much.
Let the words sink in. They weren’t just for me…
“That ye may know what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Thou knowest what is best; And who but Thee, O God, hath power to know? In Thy great will my trusting heart shall rest; beneath that will my humble head shall bow.
To those who are His, all things are not only easy to be born, but even to be gladly chosen. Their will is united to that will which moves heaven and earth, (thinking… then He can move our car if He wants to, right?) which gives laws to angels, and rules the courses of the world. It is a wonderful gift of God to man…To be at the center of that motion, where is everlasting rest; to be sheltered in the peace of God; even now to dwell in heaven, where all hearts are stayed, and all hopes fulfilled. ‘Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace because his mind is stayed on Thee.”
Study to follow His will in all, to have no will but His. This is thy duty, and thy wisdom. Nothing is gained by spurning and struggling but to hurt and vex thyself; (that one really hits me hard) but by complying all is gained—sweet peace. It is the very secret, the mystery of solid peace within, to resign all to His will, to be disposed of at His pleasure, without the least contrary thought.
Oh Jesus, You are so good.
I read that over and over. I have full confidence that His heart understands the desires of my heart, and will do what is best. The peace I find on the side of the interstate is even sweeter than the peace I have when we’re breezing along at seventy. Peace in the storm is always sweeter than peace in the calm.
After trying almost every imaginable option, father finds a Suburban in Flagstaff, and as soon as the car is dropped off at the auto repair, father and I head to the airport in the cab of the wrecker to pick up the car.
“We’ve come to pick up the Suburban we booked through the 800 number.”
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have a Suburban here. The 800 number doesn’t really know what we have here. I can give you a full sized car.”
Sigh. We rent a compact, go pick up the rest of the clan, and head to the hotel for the night.
Before we go to bed father has another Suburban booked from another rental company. We’re a little dubious.
Another phone call Monday morning reveals the same answer as night before. No Suburban.
Oh Jesus, help me trust. I've read that devotional again and again in the last few hours.
Finally, father found a car that will fit our stuff—hopefully. After an hour of moving everything between cars, we’re on the road.
We’re a bit behind schedule, but I’m grateful. He knew I needed that wake up call to trust Him with my plans. The devil is not happy about this year of family camps, or the beginning of another writing journey for me. But if God be for us, who can be against us?
Jesus, thank You for being trustworthy. Thank You for teaching me to trust, even if it’s on the side of interstate 40.
It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the ones where there’s not time to take a breath before you’re on to the next thing, and then the next, and then the next. In fact it’s been one of those months. Life has been crazy for me with trying to get months of school done in much less time than normal. I had a goal—finish school completely this year.
And I’ve been determined, really determined. Ask my family :)
But Somebody else has a goal too. And He is determined. But I’ve been so engrossed in my goal that I’ve not been paying full attention to Him.
I’ve been realizing that my connection with Him was not as strong as it should be. And I’ve been asking Him to break through to me. He has. He always does. He’s done it in many ways: quotes, thoughts from friends, experiences, and His still small voice.
Because is anything really in it’s right place if it comes before Him?
And are my deadlines really a good excuse for not memorizing or spending quality time with Him at noon?
Are my goals more important than His goals?
It seems so clear when I think of it this way. Nothing is more important than Him. Our priority is ultimately Him, isn’t it? The other day I heard a saying that really hit me. When we come to the end of our lives “first priorities become only priorities.” And aren’t we told to live everyday like our last?
We were talking with some friends the other day, and one of them shared a thought with us that has really stuck in my mind this week. We often use God as a tool to achieve our goals, but isn’t He supposed to use us as tools to achieve His goals? We ask Him to help us do this and that, but shouldn’t we be asking Him how we can best be used by Him?
After a strenuous morning yesterday of trying to get two weeks of biology done in a day, I sat down at my desk with a prayer forming in my heart.
Lord, it doesn’t matter about my goal. I give it up. I will finish school whenever You want me to. I’m not going to use You as my tool any longer. Use me. Fulfill Your goals in me. Make me Your tool. And if that means I finish school next year, that's okay.
And you know there’s joy in sacrifice when it’s for Jesus. I think the joy of giving far outweighs the joy of achieving.
Jesus, teach us to never use You as a tool for accomplishing our goals—even if they're good. Teach us-- teach me-- to be Your tool; and let us accomplish Your goals—they are infinitely better than our own.
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.