Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 2)

Well, friends, we have come to the end of our class called "Running the Race of Faith" at Patterson Park Church this fall. Some of you have joined us and followed along. Since we have taken some detours along the way at "A Branch in the Vine," click here for Part 1.

Now enjoy the remainder...and keep on running!

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3  (The Message)

Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 2)

Well, friends, we have come to the end of our class called "Running the Race of Faith" at Patterson Park Church this fall. Some of you have joined us and followed along. Since we have taken some detours along the way at "A Branch in the Vine," click here for Part 1.

Now enjoy the remainder...and keep on running!

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3  (The Message)

The Father's Sandpaper

Tears-150x150-1
Tears-150x150-1

It's a precious relationship...but why is it so hard...and painful? We keep "missing" each other!  Maybe we don't "get" each other?

I keep trying to respect boundaries and be "circumspect" in what I say and do...and then it comes:  stuff from the past, mistakes in the present...at times, I am responsible...other times, I feel like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Not the sweetness and light I keep hoping for!

Lord, why?  Why is it so hard?  How do I navigate this relationship?

Then comes His still, small voice:

This relationship is Sandpaper in My Hands to shine you up...to get those rough places smooth!

sandpaper
sandpaper

Now how can I argue with that?  Thank you, Lord!

It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects[actually, beats to a pulp!]... At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain.Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:7,11 Message

Many of you are going through difficulties of every kind...excruciating, even life threatening health problems, mental and emotional heartache, relational stresses, and the list goes on. We have no idea what the Father is doing in His sovereignty.

But one thing we can count on is that He is shining us up more and more to look like His glorious Son Who indwells us.

So let's embrace Him and our life and believe with all our hearts that nothing is wasted in His almighty, loving Fatherly Hands.

nothing is wasted, jason gray
nothing is wasted, jason gray

PLEASE click on this link to view an awesome video of this song: Nothing is wasted -- Jason Gray

The hurt that broke your heart And left you trembling in the dark Feeling lost and alone Will tell you hope's a lie But what if every tear you cry Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

It's from the deepest wounds That beauty finds a place to bloom And you will see before the end That every broken piece is Gathered in the heart of Jesus And what's lost will be found again

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

nothing wasted
nothing wasted

You might also like to look at "In Pain...two Things I Know"

The Father's Sandpaper

It's a precious relationship...but why is it so hard...and painful? We keep "missing" each other!  Maybe we don't "get" each other?

I keep trying to respect boundaries and be "circumspect" in what I say and do...and then it comes:  stuff from the past, mistakes in the present...at times, I am responsible...other times, I feel like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Not the sweetness and light I keep hoping for!

Lord, why?  Why is it so hard?  How do I navigate this relationship?

Then comes His still, small voice:

This relationship is Sandpaper in My Hands to shine you up...to get those rough places smooth!

Now how can I argue with that?  Thank you, Lord!

It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects [actually, beats to a pulp!]... At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:7,11 Message

Many of you are going through difficulties of every kind...excruciating, even life threatening health problems, mental and emotional heartache, relational stresses, and the list goes on. We have no idea what the Father is doing in His sovereignty.

But one thing we can count on is that He is shining us up more and more to look like His glorious Son Who indwells us.

So let's embrace Him and our life and believe with all our hearts that nothing is wasted in His almighty, loving Fatherly Hands.

PLEASE click on this link to view an awesome video of this song: Nothing is wasted -- Jason Gray

The hurt that broke your heart And left you trembling in the dark Feeling lost and alone Will tell you hope's a lie But what if every tear you cry Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

It's from the deepest wounds That beauty finds a place to bloom And you will see before the end That every broken piece is Gathered in the heart of Jesus And what's lost will be found again

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

You might also like to look at "In Pain...two Things I Know"

Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 1)

running the race of faith
running the race of faith

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus  Hebrews 12: 1-2

God calls us to own our lives...to hug them to our breasts and to live them with all our hearts!  No place do we see this truth more clearly than in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12.

Using the imagery of running, God says that now it's...

...our turn to run our lap in the race of faith! 

And as we run, we each need to remember these truths:

1.  I’m part of something bigger than myself.

Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us... Heb 11:1 - 12:1a

See the  Hebrews 11 blog to meditate on this truth.

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

2.  There are hindrances to my running.

...let us also lay aside every encumbrance [weight], and the sin which so easily entangles us... Heb 12: 1b

spider web photo July 2011
spider web photo July 2011

See Caught in the Web.

3.  My lap is uniquely mine.

    ...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Heb 12: 1c

For encouragement to be who God made you to be and stop comparing yourself to others or letting others deter you by their own insecurity, see: The Green-Eyed Monster and other Fruit Killers

eric liddell
eric liddell

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We’re pilgrims on the journey Of the narrow road And those who’ve gone before us line the way Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses Let us run the race not only for the prize But as those who’ve gone before us Let us leave to those behind us The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Chorus Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful May the fire of our devotion light their way May the footprints that we leave Lead them to believe And the lives we live inspire them to obey Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone And our children sift through all we’ve left behind May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Stripped Bare? Why me?

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked a few years ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting at the time.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and my blog.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 30 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

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

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then the Lord said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, or even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

 

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11

Hebrews 12: the Father's Sandpaper

It's a precious relationship...but why is it so hard...and painful?  We keep "missing" each other!  Maybe we don't "get" each other? I keep trying to respect boundaries and be "circumspect" in what I say and do...and then it comes:  stuff from the past, mistakes in the present...at times, I am responsible...other times, I feel like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Not the sweetness and light I keep hoping for!

Lord, why?  Why is it so hard?  How do I navigate this relationship?

Then comes His still, small voice:

This relationship is Sandpaper in My Hands to shine you up...to get those rough places smooth!

 

 

Now how can I argue with that?  Thank you, Lord!

It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects [actually, beats to a pulp!]... At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:7,11 Message

Many of you are going through difficulties of every kind...excruciating, even life threatening health problems, mental and emotional heartache, relational stresses, and the list goes on.  We have no idea what the Father is doing in His sovereignty.  But one thing we can count on is that He is shining us up more and more to look like His glorious Son Who indwells us.  So let's embrace Him and our life and believe with all our hearts that nothing is wasted in His almighty, loving Fatherly Hands.

PLEASE click on this link to view an awesome video of this song: Nothing is wasted -- Jason Gray

The hurt that broke your heart And left you trembling in the dark Feeling lost and alone Will tell you hope's a lie But what if every tear you cry Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

It's from the deepest wounds That beauty finds a place to bloom And you will see before the end That every broken piece is Gathered in the heart of Jesus And what's lost will be found again

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

You might also like to look at "In Pain...two Things I Know"

Hebrews 12: Our Turn to Run!

running the race of faith
running the race of faith

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus  Hebrews 12: 1-2

God calls us to own our lives...to hug them to our breasts and to live them with all our hearts!  No place do we see this truth more clearly than in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12.

Using the imagery of running, God says that now it's...

...our turn to run our lap in the race of faith! 

And as we run, we each need to remember these truths:

1.  I’m part of something bigger than myself.

Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us... Heb 11:1 - 12:1a

See the  Hebrews 11 blog to meditate on this truth.

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

2.  There are hindrances to my running.

...let us also lay aside every encumbrance [weight], and the sin which so easily entangles us... Heb 12: 1b

spider web photo July 2011
spider web photo July 2011

See Caught in the Web.

3.  My lap is uniquely mine.

    ...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Heb 12: 1c

For encouragement to be who God made you to be and stop comparing yourself to others or letting others deter you by their own insecurity, see: The Green-Eyed Monster and other Fruit Killers

eric liddell
eric liddell

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

fix eyes on Jesus
fix eyes on Jesus

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

Father's discipline
Father's discipline

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

A Pruned Branch in the Vine 138_5713
A Pruned Branch in the Vine 138_5713

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

fruitful vine
fruitful vine

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

finish lines
finish lines

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3(The Message)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We’re pilgrims on the journey Of the narrow road And those who’ve gone before us line the way Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses Let us run the race not only for the prize But as those who’ve gone before us Let us leave to those behind us The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Chorus Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful May the fire of our devotion light their way May the footprints that we leave Lead them to believe And the lives we live inspire them to obey Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone And our children sift through all we’ve left behind May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Class notes:  MY TURN TO RUN -- Hebrews 12

Homework: Read Hebrews 12:25-13:25 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 203-205 Read chapter 10 & Conclusion,  Hoping…

The Father's Pruning

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked just a few weeks ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and this new website.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 25 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

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

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then He said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11