Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Thoughts on Anger

I find anger a very challenging and mysterious emotion to deal with. Culturally, especially for women, it is often not accepted, and we grow up and continue to shame ourselves when we become angry or totally dismiss the emotion, thus ending up not really dealing with it, and unfortunately, watch it grow in to either depression or bitterness.

I believe it has been said that angeris one of the stages of healing. It doesn't really feel like it, but I am trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, and allow it to knit its way in to my healing.

I have been teasing through the details of righteous anger and unrighteous anger. I am not sure if what I am thinking is entirely right, but it is where I am at right now, and I am mulling it over. Feel free to share with me your thoughts.

As far as I can tell unrighteous anger (that which is not consistent with God's will and His ways) pins me down and gets in the way of my spiritual growth and healing. Righteous anger (that which is godly and grieves over sin) helps to define more of who I am, helping me to heal and helping me to grow in righteousness.

In evaluating our anger, we are to first seek God's truth. Is the "thing" that we are angry at in accordance with what God says is wrong or contrary to what God says is right and true? In prayer and reading God's Word we can seek counsel from the Spirit and ask Him to reveal to our hearts and minds the source and reason for our anger.

If we realize that our anger is unrighteous or that we have sinned in our anger, we need to ask the Lord to forgive us, and perhaps others, as well. We lay it down at His feet and ask Him to wipe away our anger and help us to walk in ways that are obedient to Him. This is a constant act of worship and awareness as we acknowledge our sinfulness before God, and acknowledge the saving power of Jesus to make us right with God.

If we realize that it is righteous anger, we need to also acknowledge exactly what it is that we are angry about. What wrong are we abhorring and feeling such a strong emotion against? What are we coming up against that God's Word says is wrong? Is it gossip, betrayal, deceit, injustice or any number of other acts of evil? As we are able to define that which is angering us, we are better able to define who we are, created in the image of God. For instance, if we are angry because gossip is wrong, we realize that sincerity and truthfulness or confidentiality are important to us. Our anger becomes a tool that helps us to define the good and godly traits in us that God has written on our hearts. I suppose if we do not have anger against that which is evil and wrong, perhaps we do not have a true love for that which is godly and good.

Once we are able to define our anger, repent of any unrighteous aspects of it, understand its value in defining who we are, we are then able to begin to embrace it. We can begin to trust the Lord that bit by bit, in good and right time, and in His tender care that he will weave it in to the redemptive healing process that He is at work with in our lives.

These are just my thoughts for today, dear reader, as I wrestle with a growing sense of anger within my heart. I am trying to uproot any bitterness that is trying to sprout up, and trying to let God use my anger for my good as he shapes and fashions me to be more like Jesus. Somehow. Is it simple and easy? How I wish I could say that, but I am believing that God can do immeasurable more than I could hope for or ask for, even in this.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Standing on His Promises

"Well, I guess I'll just keep on riding the wave," I said to a friend on the phone, rather flippantly and fatalistically. She asked how I was doing in regards to holding up under the pressures and sorrow of my current situation. "The problem with that," I groaned "is that I seem to keep feeling as if I'm either crashing against the shore or getting sucked out to sea."

Later, the misery of my moaning gnawed away at me. What sort of truth was I embracing? What thoughts was I allowing to creep in to my heart and soul to believe that I was just being tossed around with out a purpose or being part of a plan?

I needed to re-group. Within a few days, another friend of mine shared with me that she was really working on internalizing the truth of "standing on the promises," and I realized that I needed to take that to heart, as well, and remember what I knew to be true and who God had been and was in my life. He was in control and I could stand firm on the truth of God's faithfulness and the precious promises that He has for us.

The second verse of the old hymn, Standing on the Promises by R. Kelso Carter says,
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Here is where we stand, on the promises of God, revealed to us through life and His Holy Word. We are not floating out at sea, being tossed about by the wind and waves, without purpose or care.

Hebrews 10:23 says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Dear reader, let us take hold of our Jesus who will steady us and help us to stand firm on the promises of God. We need not be tossed by the waves of fear and doubt, but can trust in the Lord and believe that He has a perfect plan for each one of us. What promises are you standing on today? Search God's Word for the wonderful words that He has for you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Suffering is Not a Sprint (No kidding!)

When I was in high school, I used to be on the track team and my events were primarily the sprint events. I did not run long distance races. Too long, too hard, and I could not see the finish line when I started. I didn't like that.

The thing with the sprint events is that they are quick and you can always see the finish line. You have to expend alot of energy to get out of the blocks, but being able to see where the destination is makes a big difference. When we cross the finish line, we can look back and see where we started, and even the wind may be knocked out of us, the recovery time is shorter and the reward for our accomplishment, quicker.

I guess I am a better sprinter when it comes to life's trials, as well. I can get out there, rally the troups or myself, and with a burst of energy and the finish line in view, I can do it! I am definitely significantly more challenged when it comes to the long distance race; here is where we have to pace ourselves, aware of our energy levels at any given moment and despite the fact that we can't see the finish line, persevere believing that we will cross the line.

Dear reader, perhaps you are aware of what I speak of. We can "survive" the intense but short crises of life, but it is the long, stretched out sufferings that can take their toll on us. If we could only see the finish line. I do not necessarily mean the finish line of heaven, although that may be the case, but even what appears to be the finish line just for this event. How will this particular "event" end? What is God's redemptive finale and what will our story look like?

I find myself breathless and weary -- "hitting the wall" as they say. No sign of the finish line, and in need of energy and replenishment, and yet determined to finish the race, strong because of He who strengthens me.

Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to run the race that marked out for us with perseverance! God marks out the race, where the finish line is and how long it will take us to get there; we really don't need to see the end point to run the race. He knows each step of the way, what we need for replenishment, what the end of this "event" looks like.

Let us, like the Apostle Paul be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). It does take alot of faith along the way. Hebrews 2:2 goes on to say, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." Persevere and run the race, not growing weary. Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, will show us the way to the finish line and we will rejoice with Him there!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Through Thick and Thin Thankfulness

Over the past couple of days I have been keenly aware of the value of trying to attain or maintain a thankful heart. Somehow, I think that we can find the peace of God there as we bask in an awareness of that which He has given us, even amidst great pain and difficulty, and offer that back to Him on the pillow of thanksgiving.

So, today, I quite simply want to express my gratitude to God for the friends that He has given me, and all that they have done for me. As I look back over the last several years and even more so months, I can see how God has used each friend in a unique way to build me up, hold me together or let me fall a part in a safe place.

I am thankful for meals, cards(I have saved every one) and phone calls. I am thankful for friends who offer up prayers for me and my family. You have stormed the gates of heaven for us, and I am confident that God is using them. I am thankful for the friends who come over to my house, even when I want to just hide and cry, and thankful for the ones who give me space when I need it. I am thankful for friends who encourage me with God's Word. You will never know how it cuts straight to my soul and nourishes me when I need it most. I am thankful for the people who take a risk and care for me, even when they do not know what to say; I feel the Lord's presence when they took the time. I am thankful for friends who stand on truth and do not tolerate sin. I am thankful for friends who take time for my children, giving them attention and showing them what it means to be the family of God. I am thankful for the wisdom and discernment that friends share with me, not fearing man, but fearing God only, in all that they say. I am thankful for friends who sit with me late in to the night and hear my pain, and then do something silly to make me laugh. I am thankful for my friends who believe in me, even when I do not believe in myself, and encourage me to be all that I can be. I am thankful for their words of encouragement about Who God is who I am and about what I write.

Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times." Like the card above sent by a friend says, a friend does love Through Thick and Thin. In addition, Through Thick and Thin we are to cultivate a heart of thankfulness. So, thank you to the Lord and thank you to my dear friends. They show me the love of God and hold out the Light to light my path when the darkness feels too dark for me to see. I have learned of the love and peace of God through all of them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slow Down and Heal

Courage, my puppy, is growing. I try to take him for a walk twice a day. He has alot of energy and needs alot of training. One of the things that I am trying to teach him is how to heel, and quite frankly, I am having a difficult time doing so. I walk along, saying firmly to him, "Heel, Courage! Heel!" I must say it 100 times (and I am not exaggerating) each time I take him out for a walk.

But in the last couple of days when I said "Heel!" I heard something else. The cry of my heart, not just my mouth, was yelling to myself "Heal!" -- at least 100 times.

I have been desiring healing for my broken, hurting heart. In the last couple of days, when I said "Heel!" to the dog, I heard something else -- the cry of my heart was yelling out, "Heal!" And I realized how desperately I was wanting for healing to occur.

Then I believe the Lord was nudging my heart to hear "In order to heal, Andrea, you need to do for me just what you'd like this dog to do for you. You need to slow down and walk in step with me."

Even though the words are entirely different (other than how they sound) I began to see alot of similarities in "healing." Courage often wants to run ahead. So do I. Sometimes he is difficult and keeps his head down, instead of walking with it upright, looking forward. So do I. He often wants to do go wherever he wants to go. So do I. Heeling doesn't seem to come naturally to him, and healing doesn't seem to come naturally to me.

It is not a perfect analogy and breaks down after that, but I do know that I have some things to learn. I want to run ahead and hurry up the process of healing, but God says slow down. Sometimes, I have my head down when I need to be keeping my chin up and keeping my eyes focused on the Lord. Sometimes, I want to do what I want to do, but God wants me to walk in step with Him, along side of Him, and trust Him in the process. He knows how I should walk and where I should go. In that, comes the healing. I can not heal myself, only God can. It is all a part of His grace in my life, not a product of something I do naturally.

In the New Testament we read of the great Healer, Jesus. The Psalmist speaks of Him, as well. "He heals up the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love" (Psalm 147:3,10-11).

And so God whispers to me in my daily life, even the walking of the dog. "Slow down, dear one whom I love with an unfailing love. Walk by me. I will show you the way, and will heal your wounds. Just walk with me." May you know this to be true for you, too, as you desire God to heal the wounds in your life, dear reader. Healing can not be hurried and it is not controlled by our strength or our ability. Only the One True Healer can change our hearts and make them whole again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

From Impassable to Unbelievable

My mind was moved to think about Moses today and the parting of the Red Sea. I'm not sure if it was because of the fierce winds outside today, or the fact that I have been feeling pressed between my past, my present and concerns of the future, but regardless, I believe that God brought it to my mind, and so I spent some time in Exodus 14 and 15 this evening.

You may want to read through it, but I will paraphrase. Try to imagine what it would have been like to be an Israelite at the very moment of coming up to the edge of the Red Sea. They were brought out of the slavery of Egypt finding themselves up against another insurmountable obstacle. They would have looked over their shoulders to see the armed Egyptians with their horses and chariots kicking up all sorts of dust and making quite an impression of power, and looked in front of them seeing and feeling the large mass of water.

Even though they had the visible presence of the Lord in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, I wonder how many stood there, pressed in by a force that seemed to have the advantage, and thought, "This is it. We are done for!"

Could they even dream of what God was going to do? Were the experiencing doubt and fear, and maybe even anger? What did they think when the east wind began to kick up? "Are we going to get blown into the sea?" Can you imagine the "shock and awe" that they experienced when the walls of water began to form? The noise? The smells? The confusion? Did they fear that they would drown?

And yet, they stepped out in faith, and walked on dry ground. God created a miracle, provided a way, and their feet and belongings never even got muddy!

God delivered them safely and He took care of the enemy. When they Israelites were safe, the waters closed up again, and all the Egyptians who were pursuing them, were dead. In response, the Israelites feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and they sang a hymn to the Lord, celebrating God's spectacular victory.

This is the God who I desire to put my trust in, too. When we are pressed in from behind by circumstances that look more powerful and numerous that we are and facing the seas of discouragement and fear and sorrow, God can take what appears to be "impassable" and do the unbelievable.

Who knows what the mighty, loving hand of God will do when we choose to trust and obey Him. The song of praise following the deliverance of the Israelites calls out to the Lord, "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed" (Exodus 15:13), and we can cry out to Him in full assurance that He will do this for us to, when we choose to love Him.

Be at peace, dear reader, for you are unfailingly loved. Whatever your circumstances are in your past, present or future, our God is incredible and He is writing a redemptive story for you. Your enemies, whether from with out or with in, have no power over you. God will provide a way for you, beyond your wildest imagination. Trust God.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Packed Down Like Ice

This is what is on my mind, and although not as lovely as some of the things I have written, it is what I feel that God has put before me today. I hope that somehow it helps you in your journey of seeking God.

The temperatures rose in to the fifties and a strong south wind whirled around and through every space that it could find. With the warming air and the wind, the piles of snow began to melt. It is an odd time of year. There is hope of Spring, and yet, there is the realization of the wear and tear of winter as the blanket of white melts and evaporates leaving behind the remnants of the long hard season. Branches, trash, piles of sand and grass, grotesque ice sculptures formed from the scraping of roads and driveways, and the bumpy build up of ice everywhere, now revealed.

One begins to notice the packed down ice more as the snow dissipates. Thick fields of it lay on driveways and roadways. We try and sprinkle some salt and hope that the addition of the sun will help to take care of the problem, but it usually is not enough. One must take out the sharp chisel and shovel and get to work at it. My driveway this year was notorious for the amount of ice that had formed on it. In some places, due to snow and rain build up, worsened by the fact that I drove over it and over it before ever shoveling it, it was 6 inches thick. To remove the ice took energy and time. I realized more and more that if I had dealt with the "causes of the problem" early on, I would not be working so hard.

And it dawned on me, so it is with my sin, our sin. Let me take anger for an example. Reality is that as sinners we are going to get angry. I am speaking of the unrighteous anger that brews in the sinful crevices of our hearts. It may start out small, a by product of an injustice that occurs, a rejection, a hurt, or due to a wrong that was perpetrated against us. If we let it build up and do not deal with it, it grows. It grows thick and cold and destructive. It starts out thin, and we think that we will have the time or strength to deal with it later. However, the more we pack it down (or allow others to drive over it and pack it down) the worse it becomes.

Sometimes, especially in my pain, I can feel my sin of resentment or anger grow. Today I am reminded of how ugly it looks and how much work it takes to rid of it. Sometimes, I don't like to look at my own sin. I'd rather look away and think to myself that I can deal with it another day, when perhaps I have more strength and energy.

But I know that if I deal with it early on and repent of it -- asking God for forgiveness and genuinely turning the other way and in the power of the Holy Spirit, seek change -- my struggle with that particular sin may begin to clear out of the way. I ask God to forgive me and change me and help me to deal with the issues that are creating this hardness within me, before it can build up and be a monumental task to remove.

I will choose to seek, God, though, even in the midst of my suffering, and ask Him to show me my own heart. Psalm 51 is David's humble prayer for forgiveness. We are reminded how God in His mercy, in His unfailing love for us, sent Jesus who has and continues to remove our sins and make us clean. He will chip away at what we bring to Him, and He will make our paths straight and strong again. This is what we can offer to Him, a broken and contrite heart, that has areas that have become cold and packed down, like ice, but are broken up and offered back to Him.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Assuredly Special? Ask God.

"How do you spell "SPECIAL?" my five year old daughter leaned over to ask me, in church this morning. Letter by letter, I whispered the answer in to her ear. She then proceeded to ask for the remaining words and wrote on the back of the bulletin. "Anna is special because God made her."

That short sentence has been on my mind all day. What confidence a child has about who they are. Simply put, she is assured of her specialness because God made her.

I lose sight of this for myself. I begin to believe that I am not special and wonder what value I have in God's eyes. Do you, dear reader, perhaps, too, fall in to believing that you are not special? Is it because of our troubles and trials? Or have we been told for too long that we are the problem or that we do not matter? Has life sent deep and different messages that have carved their way in to our hearts, leaving a mark that is so crooked that we are not able to even take hold of the truth? Do we feel lonely? Abandoned? Insignificant? Unloved?

Psalm 139:13 the Psalmist says "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." He is confident of the Creator God's love for him, just like my dear little five year old daughter. God's works are wonderful, and we are one of those works.

The enemy of our souls and the experiences of our lives shout all sorts of lies to us. We have old tapes that play in our heads trying to convince us that we are other than who we really are. However, the truth is that we are special and loved and cherished; we are a wonderful work, made by Him -- that is why we are special. Take time to read in the Psalms this week and see what God has to say to you about who He made you to be and how very much He loves you. He has tender words that are just for you, and He will meet you right where you are and show you the truth about how special you are.

In Zephaniah 3:17 it says "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing." That is how special you are to Him. He takes delight in you, who He has created. Rest confidently in His quiet love and listen closely for your Creator's voice. You may just hear the love song that you need to hear Him softly singing to you today.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nothing is Impossible With God

The sun was shining, but all I seemed to be able to see where piles of dirt encased snow on the sides of the road and the outline of leafless branches reaching high up in to the sky. It was cold. The cars were covered in coats of flaked on salt. Bright outside, but frigid and dead looking all around.

Suddenly, this picture on the left flashed in to my mind. I had to hunt through my photos to find it, and was surprised to see that it had been almost 5 years since I had discovered this little flower.

One spring day, I was walking in my backyard and looked down to find one small purplish blue flower thriving amidst the patio of bricks. I was struck by the contrast of its delicate beauty against the harsh, flat hardness of its surroundings. Clearly, a seed had been wedged between the bricks, where it began to take root and grow. It survived rains and winds and the tromping of feet that had ran in the place where it was growing. It survived assaults and a cold winter and despite adversity and perhaps, even more so, its beauty blossomed. Somehow, the right amount of sun and water and soil had nurtured the sweet little flower, and it grew. Now it reflected the glory of God, to me.

God is reminding me that even though I may look around and all seems dark and cold and lifeless, not just in my physical surroundings of winter, but in the current reality of my life circumstances, that there is hope.

Luke 1:37 says, "For nothing is impossible with God." He can take the bleakest, hardest, most harsh of circumstances, and place His seed of love and grace amidst that, and grow a beautiful flower. And this is what He does for us. He plants us between the crags of our despair and our pain and creates beauty beyond description. We may not see it now, but we are growing, and with the proper amount of tears and Sonlight and Living Water, out will sprout the evidence of His glory in our lives, and we, in turn, will bring beauty to our surroundings.

So, dear reader, think about this little flower. It's seed endured a long winter and then it grew, not in a garden where the soil was well tilled and sun light was abundant, but in an unlikely spot where it was tight and dark and lonely. Take hope in the fact that it may seem impossible to us that a seed could grow in such a circumstance, but as with this seed, so is it with our lives, nothing is impossible with God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are we Home or Guest?

I sat on the firm wooden bleacher, wrapped up in my winter coat. Listening and watching the shuffle of the feet of 9 year old boys hustling down the basketball court and the rhythmic beat of the basketball, I snuggled in with my children and watched the game. It was an indoor game but in the northern states, early morning basketball games still mean wearing your winter coat while the cold gym warms up for another day of activity. It's cold.

The red letters on the score board jumped out from against the drab background. "Home 15, Guest 16."

"Are we home or guest, mom?" one of my daughters asked. We were Home.

Her question did get me thinking. How do we live? As if we are Home or Guest? In times of prosperity or times of trial, where do we claim our home to be? God's Word tells us that this is not our home. We are guests. Heaven is our home.

Now, basketball can be challenging (especially when you are 9 years old), but life can be really hard (regardless of your age, 9 or 90.) Life, like a basketball game, has its high times (like making a basket), its mundane times (like shuffling up and down the court) and its low times (like fouling or being fouled, or even being put out of the game). Sometimes it feels like in this place we are down by one point (or more), more frequently, than not. We need to remember, though, that we are guests. But life is not a game; life is fragile and requires a great amount of long-suffering and faith, to name a few things.

Jesus provides us comfort, though. He says in John 14, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going" (verses 1-4).

Jesus is the way and He tells us that in being so, He also goes before us and prepares a place for us. He will come back some day and take us to that beautiful place, where we will live in our heavenly home, with Him, forever. We are guests here, traveling on the paths that God has asked us to walk on. We struggle, but sing; hurt, but hope; trial, but trust.

This gives me great encouragement tonite to look toward a special place that Jesus has prepared just for me; just for you. Dear reader, take heart, do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in Jesus.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our Hiding Place, Too

This weekend I checked out, from the library, the movie The Hiding Place. There is something about visually watching this story that was very poignant to me. If you are not familiar with the story, which was originally a book, it is about a Dutch family, the ten Boom family. During WWII Nazi invasion of Holland they helped to save Jewish families from persecution and were then arrested and sent to a concentration camp. We are given a glimpse of their dehumanizing time in the concentration camp and their powerful story of how the love of Christ can even illuminate the darkest places.

It is a beautiful story and if you have not read it, or watched it, I would encourage you to take time to do so. I want to share with you some quotes that I jotted down while watching the movie. They are vibrant reminders to me of the truth that is found in Jesus, that is made clearer in times of suffering.

"No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still. They will believe us because we have been here" Betsy ten Boom (Corrie's sister) while lying ill and trying to encourage Corrie to cling to Jesus.

"Suffering does not mean that God does not love us. Sometimes we have to accept things we do not understand" Corrie ten Boom.

"Some questions remained but they are not to be feared. Our Heavenly Father holds all things in His hand even our questions" Corrie ten Boom.

"It is not easy thing to stand in the palm of God's Hand" Father ten Boom.

"With Jesus, even in our darkest moments the best remains, and the very best yet to be" Corrie ten Boom.

Dear reader, God is our Hiding Place. In Psalm 32:7 it says, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."

Corrie ten Boom was released from prison due to a clerical error (although we certainly know better that there are no errors in God's economy). She traveled the world and told her powerful story -- God's powerful story -- of the deep love of Jesus and powerful possibility of forgiveness to millions of people in over 60 countries.

God worked in and through Corrie's life, and He is working in and through ours, as well. Step in to His love and be covered protected in Him as your Hiding Place. Who knows what God has in store for you, someday, in sharing the story that He has given you, uniquely, to reach a hurting world with the life changing love of Jesus?
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