As I am or As I should be?

Until we learn to live peacefully with what Andre Louf calls “our amazing degree of weakness”; until we learn to live with what Alan Jones calls “our own extreme psychic frailty…”  Brennan Manning

yes.  I am weak and frail.

The revolutionary thinking that God loves me as I am and not as I should be requires radical re-thinking and profound emotional readjustment…”  Brennan Manning

so – I must be thinking truthfully about things – but not despair about what I see in myself…

I concede, therefore, that it is up to CHRIST to overcome my sins, and not up to the Law, or my own efforts.”  Martin Luther

Principle:  I am weak and frail, and this is no surprise to Jesus.

Principle:  God loves me as I am and not as I should be.

Principle:  It is up to CHRIST to overcome my sins, and not up to the Law or my own efforts.

Why is this so hard to believe???

Lydia and baby chicken 2003Lydia in Guatemala 2003

Alas!  Lord, here is a little chicken hidden under the wings of Your Grace.  If it gets out of the shadow of its mother, the hawk will seize it.  Let it then live by the help and protection of the grace that brought it forth.”  St. Augustine

“In His lifetime on earth He was a great gatherer of the weaker sort,and now that He dwells in Heaven, His loving heart yearns towards the meek and contrite, the timid and feeble, the fearful and fainting here below.”  Spurgeon

The verdict is in…He loves you as you are.  Today.  This very minute.

He understands…

There is more than one kind of heart failure.

One understands this, of course.  There are times when anxiety, sadness, fear consumes us and we are not even able to look up to formulate the words for help.

David understood this.  There were O so many times in his life, especially when running from Saul, when his heart simply failed him.  I bet when Absalom was in rebellion against him he once again felt that intense anxiety of too much in his life that was rapidly spinning out of control.

My iniquities have taken such a hold on me that I am not able to look up…my heart has failed me and forsaken me.” Ps. 40:12

It is at those times that we MUST remember this Truth:

He understands.

He understands!

In a sense, it doesn’t even matter if you aren’t able to even look up due to heart failure.  Because even heart failure can’t keep Him from you.

The disciples had heart failure, went into an upper room and locked the door.  But locked doors are nothing to Him – He can, and does, come through any wall to reach us.  Even walls we have ourselves put up.

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And Hebrews 4 tells us that He understands.

NOT that He walks away.

NOT that He shakes his head at our pathetic-ness.

He understands.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a fellow feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One who has been tempted in every respect as we are.”(Hebrews 4)

NOTE:  He understands BOTH our weaknesses and our infirmities.

NOTE:  He understands our being liable, vulnerable to temptations.

NOTE:  The temptations are strong enough to be called “assaults” – a battle term.

He knew life would be just this hard.

And He breaks through even our weaknesses and infirmities and says, “O My beloved.  Come get what I am so ready to give.  Take the mercy.  Accept the help” (the Message)

“That we may receive mercy for our FAILURES and find…appropriate and WELL-TIMED help, coming just when we need it.”

You are His little one and He understands…

two little words…

Help, Lord” Psalm 12:1

Help Lord picture 1

In the whole realm of the English language, can there be two more important words than these?  There are times when prayers just won’t come, and words cannot seem to be fashioned to define a problem that is so troubling and confusing.  Take heart – these two words are sufficient.

“There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings….  The Psalmist runs straight to his God, with a well considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking and where to seek it….

“The answer to prayer is certain…the Lord’s character assures us that He will not leave His people; His relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us His aid…and His sure promise stands, “Fear not, I will help thee.”  Spurgeon

Pray always” Eph. 6:18

Two other words I have been musing over – I am afraid in our legalism we find condemnation in these two words, thinking it is to be used as a measuring rod to score you in the prayer department.  What a shame.  These two words tell us that we have a God who loves to hear us!  Always!  He never tires of hearing your prayers, dear one!  NEVER!  He always listens!  He never tires of hearing you as you come to Him, whatever state you are in!

Open wide

open wide

Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.” Ps. 81:10

A very trusting sparrow decided to build her nest in a bike helmet hanging in our carport.  We have been anxiously waiting for the babies to hatch, and we now are the proud godparents of 4 little birdies.  I never tire of going outside and watching as they hear me, thinking I am their Mommy or Daddy bringing food.  Mouths wide open, squeaking, helpless as all get out to do anything to protect or feed themselves.  Their parents don’t ever get tired of their neediness – why do we think God does?  Open wide.  Pray always.  “Help Lord ”.  Really, you need to do nothing else.

Take heart.

But when he was still a great way off, his Father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”  Luke 15:20

Our Father gave us imagination for a good reason – not to picture the depravity that a prodigal may be living in, but to imagine what the reunion will look like.  And this is a gem of a phrase that can help you do just that – this little phrase that holds such promise in it, that shows the Father and His character, especially to those prodigals of His.

July 2009 116 family hike C.R. ticksYour prodigal may be a long, long way off, and you can’t see any movement out of the sewage into the Light – but take heart!  The Father has different eyes and vision than we do – picture Him seeing His lost lamb, still a long way off, and bringing him home…

Ezekiel 37:23: “they shall not defile themselves any more with their…detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I WILL save them out of their dwelling places, and from all their backslidings in which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them.  So shall they be My people, and I WILL be their God.”

Our Father is in the business of rescuing us.  Always, always, always.  Distance is no concern to Him, for “when he was still a great way off” the Father sees and has compassion and runs to the prodigal!  Defilement is no concern for He is in the business of cleansing.  Depravity is no concern, for He Himself says he will “save them out of their dwelling places (the pig sty)”

Take hope, dear friend.  that child you are agonizing over is seen by the Father.  Even when they are still a great way off.

Break me???

April 2009 wheat and cloudsI couldn’t sing it at church last Sunday morning…those praise songs with the words “break me…break my heart…”  what are we thinking?  The past few years for Tom and I have been times of serious pruning…deep pruning.  And never, NEVER, EVER again will I ask Him to break me.  How flippant and arrogant we have become.

This past week I have been mulling over this, and looking more deeply into this to make sure I am thinking correctly: that our God is a consuming fire.  Loving – yes, of course.  But this whole idea of asking Him to break you?  Do you think He will answer that by turning up at your door with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates?

I used Strong’s Concordance to see if there ever was a prayer asking God to “break me.”  Never,  Nowhere.  Not surprisingly the word is used by Job frequently – but NEVER as a request!

Job 13:25: “Will You break (harass, frighten, dread, fear shake terribly) a poor helpless leaf driven to and fro, and will You pursue the chaff of the dry stubble?”

Do you really want that to happen to you??

or Job 19:10: He has broken me down on every side, and I am gone; my hope has He pulled up like a tree.”  Did you see the footage of the Oklahoma tornado? Trees being pulled up?  the violent, deadly, horrifying power that ripped trees from their roots?

This really does matter, I think.  I just wonder if in our current culture, we have become “too familiar” with God.  And this is dangerous on several levels.  If we don’t see Him as He truly is, we will have little appreciation or gratitude for how He “restrains Himself” when dealing with us.  His mercy will become cheapened if we have cheapened His awesome and terrifying power.

David experienced His “breaking”, after Bathsheba, and wrote about it in Ps. 51. Do you want THAT?

Aren’t you GLAD He promises “A bruised reed He will not break.”?  Isn’t His bruising enough?

A Safe Place

July clouds Costa Rica 2009“SURRENDER your poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord.  Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon…”   Thomas Merton

“Come to Me now”, Jesus says.

Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you:

A Saviour of boundless compassion,

infinite patience,

unbearable forgiveness,

and Love that keeps no score of wrongs.

Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself.  At this moment your life is a bruised reed And I Will Not Crush It, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it.  You are in a Safe Place...”                           Brennan Manning

1 Timothy 4:4  “...ever nourishing your own self on the truths of the faith.”

This is worth thinking on, isn’t it?

Weakness Triumphs!

THEN it was time for the game.

“What does the elephant say?” asked Mother.

“Triumph! Triumph!” they shouted, brandishing their arms as trunks and stamping around the bedroom.

“And what is the only thing an elephant is afraid of?” she said.

“A mousie!” they all cried together.

“And what does the mousie say?”

“Weakness! Weakness! Weakness!” they squeaked, scrabbling about with tiny steps and twitching noses…

“So who is the stronger, the elephant or the mousie?” Mother asked.

“The mousie!” they shouted again.

“And the elephant trumpets triumph, but the mousei sayd – “

“Weakness! Weakness! Weakness!” until they fell about laughing…

Mother said they needed to learn while they were still young that the two words belonged together…”

From The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy

 

 

And when it seems no chance nor change

From grief can set me free,

Hope finds its strength in helplessness,

And patient waits on thee…”

Spurgeon

“THE TRUTH IS that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success…Rejoice in your insufficiency…”

Jesus Calling

I don’t think I have ever been so aware of my inadequacies apart from the Lord.  It’s as if He has hand-crafted my particular trials to force me into an attitude of minute by minute dependence.  Truly, I can do nothing on my own.

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This is a patch of dirt which we have been vainly trying to turn into grass.  And despite Tom researching seed, tilling with borrowed tiller, laboring to spread seed freely and evenly, we can do nothing to make it grow.  In fact, each time I look out the window it mocks me, reminding me that God is the giver of growth, and not man.  And so we pray.  With growing grass, we pray and ask the Grower to do His thing and grow grass.  We can’t even make grass grow…

And the word picture He has so graciously given me reminds me that this is the case with my own life as well.  And can I just say it?  I don’t like being dependent.  And can I say it even more truthfully?  I don’t like being dependent upon Him.  I guess there still is sufficient arrogance to think that I could do fairly well independently of Him – otherwise, wouldn’t I welcome dependence?

window box pansies

Panises.  Grown by God elsewhere,  that I bought on clearance at Lowe’s and plunked into our windowboxes.  This is how I want to be!  Vibrant, joy faces straining upwards giving thanks to their Giver of Life!

Well, no temptation is uncommon.  I wonder what is your area of weakness?  do you think it possible that He could in His grace bring us to the place where we thank Him for our particular weaknesses, realizing that weakness can and will triumph?

close up pansies

Grief is never the final word…

Lydia's Birthday Party-Forest-Kody 209“You will grieve but your grief WILL turn to joy (John 16:20)

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5)

“He is faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6)

“He hath said” (Heb. 13:5)

He WILL NOT leave your life undone.  He can not.  All His words are true, and He is not a man that He could lie.

It is the nature of grief to raise raw feelings to such a level that it feels and even looks impossible for joy to follow the particular messes that you are aware of, grieving over….

Beware of trusting your feelings over His Word. Feelings ebb and flow and can be 100% lying to you, even as you’re 100% certain they’re accurate.

You can not make Him abandon his purposes; He is staying His course and will continue to do so.  He says rejoicing follows weeping.  HE SAYS IT.  Hold tight and corral all your imaginative abilities into picturing the joy that is certain to follow.

Grief is never the final word.  But joy is.

Show Up for the Game

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)

I have been so struck with just this: Richard is on a not very good basketball team (by the world’s standards) – a close game for them is when they lose by 20 points.  But over and over throughout the game, as Richard grabs the ball and drives to make a shot, we all hold our breath, willing, willing, willing that ball to go through the hoop.  And we audibly moan when the ball hits the rim and bounces off.

Richard has made one basket.  One.  In 3 games.  And he is my hero.  I just love that skinny lanky boy racing up and down the court, playing till his side aches.

Here’s the thing: When he misses a shot, I don’t mutter under my breath “Well, what do you expect when you don’t practice?”  I don’t greet him after the game with “Honey, THAT’S why you better start practicing.”  No!  Instead I put my arm around his sweaty shoulders saying, “That one outside shot was SO close!  And you were AMAZING under the boards!”.  and I am just beside myself with pride that he tried so hard.

Why is this?  Do you think it is because of my mother’s heart?  I am absolutely convinced this is not it…it is because I have my Father’s heart.  And He watches every attempt we make and cheers us on, and rejoices when we make one basket every three games.

And I can even prove it to you.

We recently studied the book of Judges and I was dumbfounded – really, I was – at the lack of spiritual and moral character that each judge showed.  And some of the worst ones are then listed in Hebrews 11, God’s Hall of Fame???  Samson made God’s All Star team?  Surely you remember Samson:  The spoiled brat who ordered his parents “get her for me NOW” – her being a Philistine girl living in the land of the Philistines, Israel’s mortal enemy.  Did he learn from the disaster that happened with her? No.  Years later we find him returning to the land of the Philistines, and after his being with a prostitute meets Delilah, another time bomb.  The last scene of his life shows him with both eyes taken out by the Philistines, chained up, at one of their feasts where they are praising their god for being stronger than Samson’s God (it certainly looked that way).

Reading and studying Samson’s story, I find that out of 4 chapters devoted to his life, there is only 1 verse where he does ANYTHING that has ANY merit in it.  One verse out of 4 chapters of muck: Judges 16:28 “Then Samson called to the Lord, saying “O Lord God – remember me I pray!  Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance  on the Philistines for my two eyes!”

It is as if God’s eyes are upon us, not to catch up when one hand is in the cookie jar, but to catch us when we do one thing semi-right.  Like suiting up for the game and trying for a lay up even when we haven’t practiced all week long.

I find this especially comforting today.  It was hard coming to the LORD this morning.  Yesterday we had a houseful of kids over and I thought I’d bake them some banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  But instead of the kids eating them, I did.

I am sure God was watching me  with my hand repeatedly in the cookie jar.  After I’d said to myself, “o.k. – NO MORE”.    “Repeatedly” is the key word here.

Yet this morning, as I felt dull and stuffed, and couldn’t see how I could come to God, full of cookies but empty of passion and faith, feeling the familiar Saturday “I’m sick of Saturday chores” within myself, feeling the plodding of day to day life and wondering where my passion for Christ went, I come to Him and hear Him whisper, “Good job Debbie!  You showed up for the game!   I’m putting you on my All-Star team and am surrounding you with clouds of witnesses who will cheer you on.  I’m so proud of you for coming to Me – you’ve got your red team uniform on, the “covered by the blood team”.  You almost made a basket yesterday – did you hear Me cheering?”

And I realize – God is not troubled or distressed by my eating too many cookies last night.  He’s simply pleased that I showed up today, so He could put me in the game.  That’s the one thing I did that was semi-right: I came to Him.  Believing that He IS a Rewarder of those who seek Him.  I came.

O, go to Him, now, today!! He is rooting you on!  He is waiting to catch you do one thing semi-right!  He’s dressed you in His colors!  He is FOR you!!

adjusting expectations…

Comments 0hammockJuneJuly 2009 001front porch in Costa Rica, 2009

“Trying harder to be happy or content will not make you happy and content; trying harder to rest in God and depend upon His grace will.  It is a spiritual issue, not a practical one.  Contentedness will not come from being more organized, sleeping longer, being a better wife…having more time to yourself….  Contentment is learned in the process of daily accepting life as God gives it to you, and adjusting your expectations to life’s limitations.”

Sally Clarkson

We all have limitations, don’t we?  Some are physical, others are relational, emotional, or circumstantial.  We don’t like to  think about limitations…especially not during the beginning of the year when we are encouraged to dream big and go for it.

I really like that last sentence: “adjusting your expectations to life’s  limitations.”  With Menieres, I am forced to adjust, but I am sorry to say I more often than not do it kicking and screaming.  My girlfriend who has many more physical limitations than I do, reminds me that it is easier when you hit a limitation, to say “Well, of course it would be this way, since I have __________.  That is normal with ________.”  I have been trying this and it has helped.  Limitations aren’t a sin, although it sometimes feels like it is!

Many of you come to mind and I see such limitations in your relationships – with grown kids and their boundaries they put on their relationship with you, with husbands who may be very limited in their scope of relating in a way you’d  enjoy…  so  much of life is out of our control, isn’t it?

I am praying I am learning contentment – adjusting my expectations, accepting my limitations with grace, TRUSTING it is from His hand and He knows what He is doing.

Did any of you read “Jesus Calling” today?  I had never connected “storing up your treasures in heaven” with saying to Jesus, “I trust You right Now, right Here, with these exact limitations”.  She made the point that each time we tell Jesus “I trust You” we are laying up treasure in heaven!  So I am trying to simply tell Him throughout the day, “I trust You.”  It’s  back to practicing His presence, isn’t it?  Do we keep coming back to these same signposts?