Sorrow's Refining Influence: His Peace-filled Presence

Sorrow's Refining Influence: His Peace-filled Presence

This is scary. This is hard. But I have Jesus!

I was on my way to the hospital to pick up a CD and written report on my CT scan done several days ago.  Something suspicious had showed up in a previous test. I wanted to find out, but I didn't want to know.

Walking from the parking lot, I sensed the Holy Spirit give me my "Jesus Prayer."

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Broken Open Glory: Appreciating the Differences (Part 3)

Broken Open Glory: Appreciating the Differences (Part 3)

No two geodes are alike. In fact, to the uneducated among us, it is even hard to tell a geode from an ordinary rock. Some are large, others are small. Some are lighter than others and some "rattle." Some are from "exotic" places like Morroco and Uruguay, others are from Illinois and Arizona and places stateside.  

And no two geodes have been broken in the same way or with the same effect. Each cracked open, broken apart geode is unique, showing forth its unique glory in a unique way

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Broken Open Glory: in All Its Glory! (Part 2)

Broken Open Glory: in All Its Glory! (Part 2)

The Glorious GOD lives in ME, little ole broken me! 

... So can I spell out for us an amazing thought:

the Glorious God of Creation; 
the Arresting God of the Burning Bush; 
the Blinding God of the Desert Mountain; 
the Still, Quiet God of the "behind me" Voice; 
the Gentle God of the Judean Hillside; 
the Truth-filled God of the Living Way; 
the Compassionate God of the Overflowing Well;
the Caring God of the Secure Sheepfold; 
the Life-filling God of the Fruitful Vine; 
the Resurrecting God of my Salvation; 
the Fire-tongued God of the Holy Spirit

... lives in ME! 
and YOU too, my sister and brother, by grace through faith in the glorious Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! 

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Joy for a Suffering Soul: Just Be Held!

Eighteen years ago ... right about now, our family began to walk through the trial of our lives. Our precious son Jeremy began to have obvious issues that led to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer on February 13, 1998.jeremy My goodness, he was only 20 years old, athletic, handsome, healthy (or so we thought). As his mom, I experienced pain that I had never felt before or since. I watched my gorgeous "baby boy" walk through the trial of his life with courage and grace, despite his normal fear.

As I now look back to that time, the one thing I always say is "God carried us!" And I guess that is all I can say ... we were held and carried! And there is a bittersweet joy in that kind of deep trial ... when all there is to make it through is HIM and His loving Presence.

Willam and me, baby

So here's another song to add to our "Joy in January" series. It's a song for seeming un-joyful situations and periods in life.

So if you are going through what seems to be the "perfect storm," pause here, let go, ... and let yourself be held!

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZitK6_IMQ']

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

And now for a shameless advertisement at the request of my business manager (a.k.a. my husband John):

At the risk of appearing self-serving, I want to invite you to read my book, The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension,...not because I wrote it but because it reveals a God who is intimately and securely united with us in every possible way.The-With-ness-of-our-God-cover-temp-3-210x300

If you are struggling to feel connected to the Lord, though you may know in your head you belong to Him, please consider this little volume. In it you will receive manna for your heart, not just your head. You will find not only simple, practical instruction, but also meditation, stories for application, questions for journaling and just pondering...and more.

Or maybe you aren't struggling but just want to go deeper...this is for you too. You can dive into the deep or stay on the surface...your choice.

And the book is very accessible and affordable. You can purchase on online (see links). Locally, volumes can be purchased at BellHOP Cafe for just $14.00. And I've priced the ebook at the lowest allowed, $3.99 or even less on some on-line sites.

So please take a look and consider walking with us on this journey into The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension.

And thank you for your grace!

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDn82ujvc0']

Publisher website: www.janloyd.com

On my blog with links to Amazon etc, endorsements, outline, excerpt, pdfs of other resources and leaders guide: http://www.abranchinthevine.com/with-ness-of-our-god/

 

Two Truths to Count on in Trials

shepherd
shepherd

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my unchangeables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion:

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

"How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?"

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues."

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV


Two Truths to Count on in Trials

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my unchangeables:

GOD IS GOOD The LORD is good...

I AM LOVED ...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with his lies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion:

"How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?"

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues."

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnetYx_9450']

 

My Weakness, His Strength...nothing wasted!

Have you ever wondered what the key to life is? How do I live this life called "Christianity"? I know I'm saved by grace through faith so heaven is in the bag, so to speak. But what do I do in the meantime...just try my best with a bit of God's help? And what about all that suffering? What's that about?

I don't know about you but my trying and His help added in (if I pray correctly and don't mess up in the meantime...a.k.a. "sin") have never really worked for me.  There is no joy, no peace, no abundance, no rest...all that Jesus promised, right?

This is what I know: it's His strength in my weakness! His resurrection Life in my humanness! And it's in the deepest of trials, that we need to know this deeply and truly.

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"Never more than I can bear"-- Oh, really?

"God never gives us more than we can bear!" For some reason, I've been hearing that a lot lately, have you?

I don't know about you, but in my experience, it has been the opposite! God regularly gives me more than I can bear...and I'll tell you what I think is the reason.

As I now like to say, "I'm a tough nut to crack."  I'm a pretty strong personality! So for a lot of my Christian life, I've believed that it's my strength and know-how and abilities and wisdom, coupled with the blessing and help from Above, that will get the job done...successfully...even in the spiritual realm. I've eaten over and over again from the "Tree of knowledge of Good & Evil" thinking that was God's will and way!

But now I know differently. His way is His strength in my weakness! Not His help in my weakness! HIM doing it and being it!

Tears-300x198
Tears-300x198

Little by little I have been learning this, not just through Scripture, but through life experience. And the crowning lesson in it all wasn't my own mysterious anaphylactic reactions that lasted years, not the sudden deaths or disabilities of our parents within a 8 month period, not the everyday pressures of mothering, homeschooling, and Bible study teaching. No! It was the cancer of my beloved son and the health crisis of my darling daughter all within months of each other that truly brought me to the end of thinking I had anything to add to life.

When someone marveled at how we made it through, I replied, "The Lord carried us!"

And so little by little over the years, the truth of what I have been seeing in the Word has come to life:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Gal 2:20 NLT

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit.  2 Cor 3:5-6a NLT

But we have this treasure [the indwelling Christ] in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.  2 Cor 4:7-12 NASB

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 1 Cor 15:10 NLT

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5 NLT

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor 12:8-10 NLT

My weakness, His strength 2Cor 12
My weakness, His strength 2Cor 12

Even the following verse, which comes pretty close to our cliche, still says to me that it's not about my strength with His help.  The "way of escape" is HIM...otherwise I could never endure it:

No temptation [trial, testing] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried, tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial, testing] will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Cor 10:13 NLT

What about you, dear friend?

Just when you start feeling like you have the parenting thing tied up, has a new phase begun that knocks you for a loop?

After doing all the healthy stuff for your family, even more than what others do for themselves and their kids...Bam! Does a serious diagnosis enter your lives?

Or what about just the everyday stuff -- frustrations, noise, dirty diapers, crying, calling for mama? Pressures from schedules, deadlines? Difficult relationships...irregular people in your life?

Or what about your own human weakness, lacks, frailness, handicaps? Do you continually fall into the trap of thinking you can handle it with some help from God?

Oh really?  How has that been working for you?

O suffering child of God, turn from your own will and your own way and surrender to HIM, your Way of Escape, the One who will carry you through, so that you can endure even the unendurable, the unthinkable:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:1-2 NLT


trials
trials

Surprised by the Voice that I long to hear...in the hard

My sheep hear My voice...

This week I'm in New Jersey, caring for my 91 year old mom so that my care-giver sister can get a much needed break.

Mommy & Me on the boardwalk in Belmar

Mom has a number of health issues that have caused her to slowly, very slowly, deteriorate. Someone has called this period of life that many of us "baby boomers" face as we care for our aged parents, "The long good-bye." And it certainly is...and it's hard...very hard...and for a number of reasons.

First, of course, is the fact that our beloved one is declining and suffering in the process. That's hard to watch.

And my precious Mommy (as we sibs still call her) is developing backwards, so to speak.  She is declining back through the stages of human development, and that's hard! Hard to witness and hard to adjust to, especially relationship-wise.

The child becomes the parent, and the parent becomes the child.

mom, sibs, & me Aug 2012It's also hard because of the physical energy and personal sacrifice involved in the care-giving.

It's a privilege in so many ways to be able to "give back" to one who has sacrificed all for us. But for those of us who aren't naturally gifted in the care-giving, serving gifts, it can also be particularly difficult...even humanly speaking, distasteful!  For instance,  the need to wash and toilet the person goes against most sensibilities, to be perfectly honest!

Well, this week the Lord met me in the hard-ness of the serving.  As I was helping my precious mom in her embarrassing needs in the restroom, as my back was hurting and the smells and required care were overwelming, as everything within me was yelling, "This is hard," the Voice that I always long to hear broke through.

You are doing this for Me! I am in your mom! So you are serving ME!

Oh wow, Lord! Of course! You said,

As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers [or sisters], you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40 ESV)

You are doing all this to ME!

I was serving HIM! Yes, the King, the Lord, the Master! Wow, what a privilege... not only to serve my darling mama, but in the serving, to be ministering to my Jesus!

As my heart took this all in, I remembered another time, years ago, when I sacrificially served. It was joyful and hard...very hard...in the same way.  But the thing that was especially hard was that I wasn't thanked in any way, though others were.

As I was sitting outside on my porch, "licking my emotional wounds," enjoying the weird "delight" of self-pity ("I can't believe that they didn't even thank me!"), the Voice that I always long to hear broke through,

Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:23 ESV)

Oh my! I was undone!

HIS "Well Done"  was worth it all! Much better than all of the thank you's and recognition on this earth!

So dear friends, members of the sandwich generation caring for beloved aged ones and moms and dads pouring it out for the beloved young ones and everyone else in between, hear this from the Voice that in reality you too always long to hear,

...as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your master.

Amen!

Waiting...patiently, hopefully, expectantly!

After John & I graduated from the University of Arizona (Go, Wildcats!), we married and moved to McKeesport, PA.  John took a job as an engineer at Westinghouse, and I taught remedial reading in Duquesne, PA...and we tried to learn God's pattern for marriage. The dear believers at our first church together as a married couple, First Evangelical Free Church of McKeesport, PA, helped us grow as a married couple and as Christ's disciples.

Well, after two years, the Lord led us to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  As we left our dear friends at First Evangelical Free, they presented us with a little treasure of a devotional book, Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, as we went on our way.Streams In Desert

I read through the little volume day by day in the year or two that followed.  It was lovely and inspiring to me on some level. Then I forgot about this kind gift. I don't really think I got it totally because I hadn't "suffered enough."

Years have passed, and I have picked this treasure back up (thanks to my friend Kitty's encouragement). Now I get it and am encouraged day by day.

I discovered this poem in my daily reading just the other day. I shared it in my last post, but I want to park here for a while.  This inspiring piece really grabs me because of the time of waiting I am stuck in.

Are you waiting too, dear friend?  Wait with me here, and let's find encouragement as we wait:

Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting! Till next steps made plain shall be; To hear, with the inner hearing, The Voice that will call for me.

Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting! With hope that need not grow dim; The Master is pledged to guide me, And my eyes are unto Him.

Waiting! Expectantly waiting! Perhaps it may be today The Master will quickly open The gate to my future way.open gate

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting! I know, though I’ve waited long, That, while He withholds His purpose, His waiting cannot be wrong.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting! The Master will not be late: He knoweth that I am waiting For Him to unlatch the gate.

by J. Danson Smithunlocked gate

*Feel free to share your "waiting time." You will be prayed for!

Waiting...on Whom?

Are you "playing the game" that's no fun at all?  The WAITING game?Unknown-1 Are you waiting for a goal to be accomplished?

Are you waiting for your kids (or one child in particular) to "get it"? Or maybe another family member or friend to "get it." (Whatever the "it" may be)

Are you waiting to lose those last 5 or 10 pounds...season after bathing suit season?

Are you waiting for the pain to go away...whether emotional or physical?

Are you waiting to "get your act together" so God will love you more and really use you?

Are you waiting through the "long good-bye" for a loved one to be taken home to Jesus and be relieved of their suffering?

Waiting! Waiting! Waiting!  We are all waiting for something.  And it seems that God knows that waiting is very profitable for us!

But maybe in the waiting, we are asking the wrong questions:

...not WHAT? What is happening? ...not WHY? Why is this happening...and to me? ...not HOW? How can I get this moving again? ...not WHEN? When will the waiting ever end? ...not WHERE? Where can I run to get away from it all?

No!  Not what, why, how, when, where!  Rather WHO!  Yes, WHO! Who is the One upon whom we wait?

WHO is the One in control of this seeming mess! WHO is at work even when I can't see it? WHO meets us in the chaos, in even a more tangible way than in the control?

Yes, GOD! Father, Son, Holy Spirit! Triune! Almighty! Infinitely Loving!Unknown-2

The Father who is very fond of His sons and daughters...His kids...unconditionally! The Son who paid our way into His kingdom, sits enthroned and interceding, and now indwells each of His own! The Spirit who birthed us into His family and empowers us to live by His indwelling life...and even to wait!

So what are you waiting for this day, this month, this year?* Might the better question be, "WHO are you waiting on?"*

Wait on the Lord, dear friend!

Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting! Till next steps made plain shall be; To hear, with the inner hearing, The Voice that will call for me.

Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting! With hope that need not grow dim; The Master is pledged to guide me, And my eyes are unto Him.

Waiting! Expectantly waiting! Perhaps it may be today The Master will quickly open The gate to my future way.open gate

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting! I know, though I’ve waited long, That, while He withholds His purpose, His waiting cannot be wrong.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting! The Master will not be late: He knoweth that I am waiting For Him to unlatch the gate.

by J. Danson Smithunlocked gate

*Feel free to share your "waiting" insights and struggles.  You will be prayed for!

Daily Dying for Daily Living

dying to live

dying to live

I'm dying...little by little...not just physically (aren't we all because we are aging?), but also in many  and various ways. Everyday I die in some way, emotionally, volitionally, relationally, physically, occupationally or... My dreams may die.  My goals may crash to the ground and take me with them.  Right now, I'm going through a bit of that with the death of a vision.

Are you dying too, dear friend?

If you are living on this sin cursed earth, you too are dying every day.

But there's company...and there's hope.  Let's talk about it...

We are in good company.  The apostle Paul died every day.  Listen to his words from Holy Writ:

I die daily...

...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus...

...we are afflicted in every way,...perplexed,...persecuted,...struck down,...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus...For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake...So death works in us..." ...that I may know...the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death... (1 Cor 15:14; 2 cor 4:10, 7-11: Phil 3:10 NASB)

And Jesus Himself said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone... (John 12:24 NASB)

What is dying?  Death means separation. Physical death is separation of the body from the spirit.

But there are other separations, aren't there?  In the sense we are talking about, there is separation from our our dreams, our desires, our self-life...our self-will, our self-determination, our self-effort, our self-absorption...You get the idea!

death & resurrection

death & resurrection

Our self-determined dreams and visions and projects need to die.  And even the God-given ones must be placed on the altar.  Why? So that the Living God can resurrect HIS Life from the deadness of our flesh-tainted existence apart from Him!

And that's our hope. And a great hope it is!

Here's the rest of the story:

...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11 NASB)

...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor 4:10 NASB)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the lifeof Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-11 NASB)

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. (John 12:24-25 NASB)

Knowing Christ! Touching HIM! That is Life indeed!

Join me, O dying friend, in this prayer of relinquishment:

Dear Lord,  we gladly (though painfully) die, even to our current projects and dreams...that we may know You, Whom to know is life eternal...this day and every day!  We freely turn from our self-determination and self-absorption and joyfully give...

Glory to You Steve Green

What do I possess That You did not give to me? What mysteries are clear to me That You did not explain? When did I share truth I had not received from You? What good works have I performed That You did not ordain?

Chorus Any strength I have Any good I do Comes from the life I found in You So in all I am And in all I do I give the glory to You

How do I express My love and may gratitude? For all I am and ever will be All depends on You Where in the world would I be Had You not reached out to me? All the good I have in life Can all be traced to You

(Chorus)

From the strength to obey Your Word when I hear it To reaching out in love It’s all a gift of the Holy Spirit, Coming from above

(Chorus)

I give the glory to You


Death works in us...Life in you!

LORD, Is it necessary for someone to die in order for another to live?

You should know!  Remember the Cross?

...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. Heb 12:2

Is the joy that another might live?

Is that why as moms we come to "death's door" to birth life into this world?

And is that just a picture of a deeper spiritual reality?

Is that why we need to admit our failures? own our mistakes?  grieve our inabilities?  release our expectations?

And even "take the blows" when misunderstood? mistaken? misjudged?

But You know all that too!  Remember the trials and beating?

 “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him... Matthew 26:62-63,67

But it's so hard to die so that another might live!  So hard to chose love over self-protection and self-justification!

And You know that too, don't You?  Remember Gethsemane?  Remember the Father's will?

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” ...He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:39, 42

Is it so that the healing life of your Risen Self can do its life-giving work in another?

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation... Heb 5:7-9

Now it's my turn, isn't it?  Is that what Paul meant when he said,

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church...to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:22,27

May it ever be so in my life also, O my sacrificial, crucified, risen, obedient Savior...only through Your indwelling LIFE!

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2Cor4:6-12

You may also like In Pain...Two Things I Know

 

 

 

HE KNOWS...in Every Devastation, Every Stress, Every Loss...

He Knows
He Knows

If you are suffering today, pause here...He Knows, He has suffered too,  and His promise is comfort...

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.He comforts us in all our troubles... 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a NLT

Take the truth of God's knowledge and watch-care over you deep into your soul.

You are not alone! 

He Knows...

*Thank you, dear Kitty, for sharing this moving song!

What to do when the days are dark and there's no consolation...

Have you played the "waiting game"? Barely a month after our son's cancer surgery, while we were starting to breathe again and recover, our daughter came to me with a suspicious area in her body.  We went to Jeremy's cancer surgeon and, sure enough, a tumor...actually 2 tumors!

Since she was so young at the time and so as to not put her through what could be needless surgery, we played the "waiting game."  We waited to see if the tumors would shrink on their own, thus indicating them to be benign.

Those were a hard two months...waiting, dark, not knowing.

As I was struggling with the the horrific possibility of having two kids with cancer, I asked the Lord one dark, early morning,

"I know you are doing something, Lord, and I don't have to understand it all. But how, as Mom, do I make it through?"

Clear as a bell in the darkness of pre-dawn, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart,

Go to the place where you and I live together and nothing can touch.

That's the place of immunity..the place of peace and safety...though it seems all hell may be breaking loose all around.

It was months later, after Beth's surgery, that the Lord reminded me that there was another Gospel story that speaks to this "waiting game" we all eventually play.

So when your days of dark trial drag on...and there's no comfort...and the heavens are as brass...you've invited Jesus into "your boat" in prayer and so have your brothers and sisters...remember...there's another boat story...yes, there really is...

Another Boat Story

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”

So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed).

But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

Let's stop here for a moment.  Jesus was asleep at the stern (back) of the boat...now we are talking not down below, but at the surface of the boat...head on a cushion...sleeping as sound as could be...with a storm (a.k.a. windy, wild, dangerous) all around! The disciples are panicked and desperate!

Equally are we shocked and desperate when we are in the midst of the darkest of dark in our lives, and our Lord Christ is silent...asleep, as it were, to our panic and desperation...despite repeated cryings and prayers.

So we too join in,

Lord, don't you care that I'm drowning?

We might ask ourselves, how could Jesus, the man, sleep when all storm-hell was breaking loose all around Him?

Jesus lived in oneness with the Father, and He knew His Father was in control of all things.   So He could rest! He could live from His place of immunity...the place where He lived in union with His Father...and nothing and no one could touch!

And we can too...we can rest in the oneness we have in Christ our Lord.

That being said, let's go back to our story.  Let's see this One in whom we dwell and Who dwells in us...

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”

Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

A great calm! Peace!  What we need for our souls, is it not?  Did you notice what He did to bring everything to that state?  He rebuked the wind,

"Quit it, wind!"

And the wind stopped...

Then He said to the waves,

"Hush! Be quiet!"

Then the sea became as glass...

Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Mark 4:35-41 NLT

And we too often respond the same way, don't we?  As if we are unbelievers!  Where is our faith (Luke 8:25)?  Don't we have any?

Jesus had said just a mustard seed-size faith.

Why? Because it isn't about the size or strength of  our faith.  Rather it's about the Awesome Person, the divine Christ, Lord of heaven and earth and everything in between!

So join me in saying over and over...even out loud...

I rest in You, Jesus!  I rest in You! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Lord!

I can cling to Him, cocoon IN Him, rest down in Him who dwells at total peace in me.

As long as He is in the boat, there is Peace, because He Himself is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,


Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,


What matters beating wind and tossing billow

If only we are in the boat with Thee?

Hold us quiet through the age-long minute


While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill

Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it;

and the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

Amy Carmichael

Our Today, a preparation for our Tomorrow? a back-story...

Our TODAY is important...our right here, right now. Why? Because it is the place where we encounter God...right here, right now, in our Today!  And none of us is promised another Today...

BUT...

...if we are, by God's grace, given other Todays, our Today may be a preparation for another Today...and another...and another...

And they may form the back-story of some of our most difficult days, weeks, months, even years.

Let me illustrate...

After 1998, the infamous year of crises with our children's health -- Jeremy's cancer and Beth's cancer scare -- I started to realize that the Lord had taken me through some experiences with Him that were lessons I would need, not just for my Today, but for the days of trial that, unbeknownst to me (but of course known to HIM), were up ahead.  One such experience I call my Supper Story, or better, my Breakfast Story, and you'll see why.

Back in spring 1997, I was teaching through the Gospel of John in a Precept study.  One particular week, I was preparing a lesson in the familiar passage in John, chapter 13, the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet.

That week I also happened to have a breakfast date with a dear friend of mine who lives out on a farm in New Carlisle, OH.  Our usual breakfast place was a fun, local-color place called Sam & Ethels up in Tipp City.

So that lovely spring morning, as I was driving north through the country roads to pick up her up, I was meditating on John 13 (and perhaps listening to it on CD in my car-- I can't remember).  But as I reflected on the story, I began to notice, as if for the first time,  Christ's interaction with the apostle Peter...how I love that brother!  He is so out there...in this passage, even refusing to let Jesus wash his feet, yow!  What is that about?

Well, just see for yourself..

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean...

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them,

“Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.

If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them...

Now here was the clincher for me...

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Wait a minute...if I don't wash you, you have no part with Me...whomever I send receives Me...and Him who sent Me!

The Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart,

Jan, you need to not only wash your bothers' and sisters' feet, but you also need to graciously let them wash YOUR feet.  Otherwise, you may be missing what I want to do for you through your brother or sister.

Oh my!  That was a lesson I needed, because I had a tendency to always be doing the giving...maybe it was having been in leadership, maybe it's my type A personality, maybe it's pride. But the Lord was telling me to let my feet be washed  and graciously receive it as HIM!

So I continued driving, picked up my friend and arrived at Sam & Ethel's.  As we sat in that quaint little restaurant and opened our menus, my friend said to me,

Today, I'm paying the bill!

Now I have to tell you that this precious sister does not have much extra cash. And so when she said that, I began to think of how she was probably using some birthday money or such at great sacrifice to herself.  I was ready to protest, when the Lord said to me,

Don't be like Peter...receive this as a gift from Me!  Let her wash your feet!

And so I did!

And this wonderful experience of the Serving Christ, that spring day in 1997, prepared me to receive in multitudinous ways from brothers and sisters in our time of suffering, just 9 months later.  I was able to receive Christ's washing in the form of meals, notes, scriptures, advice (yes, even unsolicited advice), house cleaning, the presence of "strangers," and of course, prayer, prayer, and more prayer!

And so, dear brothers and sisters, siblings in the family of God, could you too be missing out on Christ meeting you and ministering to you in your specific need in your today by not being willing to let your feet be washed?  Think about it!

On other side, has the Lord been moving you to wash someone's feet in a specific way, but you've been holding back thinking it's not a big deal?  It IS a big deal...Jesus wants to serve your brother or sister through YOU!  Yield to Him and just do it!

Because...

We are His Hands

We are His hands We are His feet We are His people Children of the Lord We share the hope We share the dream Believers in Jesus Children of the King His Spirit lives within us Flowing like a river Filling us with strength So that we can reach out for our brother Help one another Some of us build, some are teachers Some can sing like angels But all of us can love Like He loved, pure and simple So warm and gentle

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em-Qzmo19t8']

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You might also like to look at the "one another" verses

And the fun back-story at Am I my Brothers' Keeper?  Stories about the crazy boys at right, my darling grandsons...

The Surprise of Suffering

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through,as if something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 NLT

Well, surprised is an understatement when it comes to what we all experienced in our family when our then 20 year old son was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Our Jeremy had always been athletic, healthy, happy, strong! How could this be happening to him? ...to us?

And as every mom, I began the usual Examining of the Mom Conscience:

How did I not protect him from this? I've been doing more than most in keeping our environment clean of toxic chemicals.

I should have been more perfect with our food.

Have I delved too deeply into alternative medicine?  Punishment?

And on and on...ad infinitum, ad nauseum... To the point of agony.

Then the precious words of our Lord,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT

In Him, peace...on earth, trials and sorrows.

So the question is not Why me, why my son? but rather why NOT me, why not my son?

Over the succeeding months, as we walked out that terrible/glorious year, the Lord reminded me of what He had said through the apostle Paul,

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters... Romans 8:18-27 NLT

Did you notice all the groanings?  That's right, all creation, we believers (actually all humans also), and hold on...the HOLY SPIRIT...Eternal God, indwelling us, praying for us and in us according to the will of God...deep, deep! Oh glory!  What comfort!  Why?

Our situation is not a surprise to our indwelling God.  In fact, the Son of God entered our groaning world and became a Groaning One along with us, so...

Our suffering is not a surprise to HIM...listen to His groaning the night before He died:

While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity... he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. Hebrews 5:7-10 MSG

And so no matter what we are going through, our Jesus, through His indwelling Spirit, groans it out with us.  And because He is God Almighty, He can take hold of us (Hebrews 2:16) when we run to Him in our darkness of darkness.  He's been through it all:

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help [run to the cry of] us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:17-18 NLT

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPXapfFfesA']

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To read about Jeremy, 15 years cancer free in 2013 by the grace of God, click here.

The Gift of Pain? {two Non-negotiables}

Tears
Tears

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my "Unchangeables," my non-negotiables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion: "How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?" 

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those

God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues." 

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

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Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

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