In the Hand of God
Last night I poured my heart out to God and He listened to every word, but I didn’t hear Him. This morning my heart longed for more time with Him, but when you are in the middle of harvest, there isn’t time to sit in the quiet. As I foraged alone for blackberries on our farm, I decided to not listen to music, but to be quiet and invite the Holy Spirit to pick berries with me. At first, I was too discouraged about still seeing the bottom of my basket and I didn’t realize that He was there, but after I decided to just pick whatever I found, I realized that He was there with me.
As I traveled from briar to briar, I started to hear Him whisper a lesson that my heart needed to hear. I learned quickly to set the basket down and take notes on my phone in between the briars because I was there to collect more than berries. He was giving me a blog.
He started to compare a blackberry briar to my life. Last night I told Him that I felt overwhelmed right now with life and all the things that were beyond my control. Today He showed me a briar that had way more thorns than berries, yet the berries that were there were huge. Life can be just like that blackberry briar. Sometimes there are way more thorns in our lives than there are berries. Sometimes it seems like we are surrounded by circumstances that only seem to be there to pierce us and draw all the life from us. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s worth fighting the briars to get to the berries. Yet, when you push back against the briars to pick the few huge berries, you find that the goodness of even one berry was worth fighting the briars. Sometimes the best things are the ones you have to fight to get to…it’s the ones that are hidden within the briars. Just like sometimes we find that the sweetest times with God are found inside the most painful moments of our lives.
Sometimes we must reach between the thorns to find what is good. Sometimes all we can see is pain. Often it feels that He has left us when He is trying to get us to look deeper. I had turned to walk back to the golf cart when He urged me to look back. There deep within the briars and tree limbs was a branch full of huge berries. I hadn’t seen it there before, and yet when He urged me to look again, I could see it. I almost walked away and missed these huge, beautiful berries. How easy it was to miss this treasure because it was hidden among leaves. How many times in my life have I missed a blessing because I failed to look at my circumstances more closely?
As I drove along the field in the golf cart, I noticed some beautiful berries, but they were deep within an area with briars, weeds, and undergrowth. I decided to avoid these due to the fact that I was alone and might find a snake or beehive within all the entangled branches and thorns. I started to drive away, but He wouldn’t let me. I realized that I was going to have to be willing to push back the briars and walk into the midst of the mess, not knowing if there were snakes or bees beneath my feet, and only focus on the berries in front of me. As I steadied myself by holding onto the golf cart, I began to smash down the thorns and weeds carefully with my foot. He started to whisper again. This is no different than life. ‘You have to be willing to take the next step, no matter if you can’t see where your foot may land and keep your focus on Me”, He said.” You must trust that I will keep my promises, that I will work it all for your good and My glory.” That is to be our focus. We are to fix our eyes and make Him our focus. We must focus on the good while walking through the thorny bramble.
As I reached for my basket, I realized that it was almost full. I wasn’t sure at what point I had finally managed to cover the bottom, but it was almost full. All those briars that only gave me four or five berries at a time had managed to fill the basket to the brim. Again, He whispered for me to think about all the little blessings tucked within the last couple weeks. Although my heart felt empty, what would happen if I placed all those blessings within its borders. As He helped bring all the little things to memory, I found that the small handfuls of goodness quickly dispelled the emptiness and filled my heart to almost overflowing, just like the berries in my basket.
As I made one final stop to pick, I got my arm entangled with a briar. The slightest movement brought immense pain. As bad as I hated to do so, I knew that I had to remove the briar from its place in my arm, but just beneath my hand hung a briar heavy leaden with huge berries. If I could hold my arm still, it would hold the briar back and allow me to harvest these beautiful berries. So, I chose the be still and used my other hand to pick the berries from their place. Again, I heard Him. Sometimes, even if it is painful, you must firmly hold your position while the thorns pierce deep within to reach for what is good. As I picked the last berry, I sat down the basket so that I could remove the briar from its place in my arm. Sometimes letting go is hard and it hurts, but there are times when we must break free from what holds us even if we bleed.
Finally, I came home with a basket full of berries, but I realized I had more than berries. I had reassurance that the God who created the universe had heard the cries of my heart. I didn’t have all the answers for all the requests, but I had one of them. I had asked Him if it was time to lay down my desire to write. There among the blackberries, I found a blog.
Last night Kristen text me after I had went to bed describing what she was seeing on her flight to Europe. For me, it was Monday evening. For her, it was Tuesday morning. She told me how she had watched the sun set beneath the clouds, about a star filled sky above the Atlantic, and how she was watching the sunrise as she flew over Ireland. As I laid there thinking about how blessed she was to see such beauty, I realized that she was in tomorrow.
I found myself in tears. Granted, I find myself in tears a lot right now, but this was diffferent. I’ve always heard that God is in my tomorrows, but what does that mean? I don’t know how to wrap my head around that. But there I lay in bed texting my daughter as she soared above the earth, already in tomorrow, as I lay in a dark room in my today. Suddenly I was reminded that God is always in my tomorrow. There’s nothing there that He has not already seen.
Tomorrow may catch me by surprise. It might bring wonderful news, amazing beauty, or moments of pure joy. Tomorrow May hold more sorrow than I can possibly add to my plate right now. It may hold dungeons of darkness or deep pits of pain. But whatever tomorrow holds, God is already there. The creator of the sunsets and the sunrises, the maker of the stars and the oceans, holds my tomorrow in His hand.
As I write this, Kristen is in the wee hours of tomorrow. As the morning wakes her in Germany, God is with her at the same time He is here with me in her yesterday. Although it still is a little hard to wrap my head around, He is teaching me here while she learns more there. He is showing me that this painful place I find myself in tonight is comparable to where I found myself a decade ago, but this time I have community to walk it with me. He is using the painful places in my heart as a place for the words to once again learn how to flow and heal my heart…and maybe the hearts of others.
Whatever your tomorrow holds, know that He is already there. He really does have the whole world in His hands. And in the hand of God is the best place I can think of to be.
About seven years ago, I began to hear a quiet whisper calling me into a world I knew little about. The girl I was at that point in my life, a girl who hadn't known a lot of brokenness, said yes to that quiet whisper, signed up for a writing training program, and started a blog. Over the next couple of years, I would sporadically add to my blog, especially as I encountered the most violent storms I had ever seen. Slowly I began to find my own voice and friends started coming to me asking how could I have known to write the very words that their heart needed to hear.
A couple years into the blog, a phone call would start to change everything. A girl who once had confidence in her calling and in the Voice that called her, began to listen to the voices of others. I remember driving around by myself that night after my husband had spoken to me about what had been said. I remember taking roads that I didn't really know and the truth was that I didn't really care where I wound up at. I remember lots of crying and lots of yelling at God that I didn't understand.
And then came the second in a consecutive pattern of tsunamis, and honestly I basically quit. Not only was I hurt, angry, and disappointed, but I was overwhelmed with the barrage of storms that were hitting me from all sides. Somewhere in the hidden places of my mind, I decided if God wanted words in a blog, then He could let one of His ordained men write it and I would be quiet and behave myself and stick to baking casseroles and teaching VBS.
In the meantime, my heart has ached to write. The words have spilled over onto the pages of Facebook and Instagram. The words have bounced off the concrete and metal of a maximum security jail pod and into the hearts of hundreds of women. The words have ran through my brain in the wee hours of the morning, but my hand refused to let them land on a piece of paper or on a computer screen.
There are hours of training inside this brain and hundreds of pages of notes on how to do all the things I'm supposed to do upstairs in my sitting room. There's a book on this laptop that is waiting to be finished. The first version isn't in my voice, but I went back to change that and never finished. I've received tips and suggestions on how to finish it from acquisition editors from some of the most known Christian publishers, and yet I haven't done the things that need to be done.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an Esther. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to save my people. And here I am in the year 2021, when freedom of speech is quickly becoming a thing of the past., and I am allowing my voice to be silenced, not by censorship and the enemy, but by my own fear and choosing. Oh God, please awaken that little girl inside me who wasn't afraid to be an Esther. Please awaken that girl who boldly stepped out in the fall of 2013 with a blog. Please remind me that the only things that matter in this life are the eternal. Remind me that my time is running out. God, please stir the embers and bring back the flame.
Mordecai spoke the words to Esther in Esther 4:14, "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" God, please help me to no longer remain silent. Please help to push me to accept whatever my role is in providing relief and deliverance to my generation. Help me to find why You chose me for Your kingdom at such a time as this. Please do not allow me to miss this. Don't let me be overwhelmed by the darkness, but remind me that this little light of mine is like a star against the blackness of a vast sky or a tiny candle in a dark room. God, please bring the words back. I'm so sorry for listening to the wrong voices. Remind me that I am accountable only to an audience of One.
We were awakened from our restful sleep by the violent shaking of an earthquake. Without warning tragedy had struck while most of us lay sleeping completely unaware that our lives would soon change forever. Stephen ran to the door of our hotel room to open it and see what was going on. When he opened the door he realized that part of the hotel had broken away and was laying in waste at the foot of the hotel. The rooms right across the hall no longer existed and were now part of the rubble seven stories below on the ground. The sounds of sirens came from everywhere. By now the kids were up and were scared. Stephen instructed us all to get on our shoes, grab what we could, and prepare to escape down what was left of the hallway. A portion of the hallway was missing that would grant access to the part of the building still standing. Stephen saw a ladder leaned up against the wall that a painter had been using the night before. He decided that it would make a bridge to access the other part of the building. He went out first to make sure that it was secure enough for the rest of us to walk on. He motioned for Kristen to come behind him. She was afraid, but I encouraged her to follow her daddy. When she had safely reached the other part of the building, Chris followed behind her. Finally it was my turn. I was nervous, but I wanted to be with my family. As I reached the ladder, an aftershock caused it to fall to the ground. Stephen reached his hand out to me, but it was no use. I couldn’t reach him. I begged him to take our kids out of the building and to safety. He could send help for me later.
They were all in tears as they left me to escape the building. I eased my way back to the doorway of our room. All I can do at this point was to wait in our room and hope that it was secure. Minutes later I heard a voice call my name from outside the door. I grabbed my bag and rushed to the door and threw it open. There wasn’t anyone there. I closed the door in disappointment and I went back to sit on the bed praying for help to come soon. Only a few seconds passed before I heard my name again. This time I opened the door and looked more carefully. I still couldn’t see anybody. As I turned to re-enter my room, I heard the voice again. It was familiar. It was the way it spoke my name
I put the bag down and gripped the sides of the doorway with my hands. I cautiously leaned forward seeing only the rubble below me. No one was there. But then He spoke again and I realized who it was. It was God. In a trembling voice, I told him that I was afraid. He reassured me that he had heard me calling Him and that He had come to get me. I told him that I wanted to be with Stephen and my kids. He told me that was why He was here. As I started to pick up my bag expecting Him to take me in His hand, He told me that all I had to do was to jump. Jump? Surely He wasn’t serious. Jump from a door of a seventh story room to chaos and rubble below? That was suicide. Before I could ask any more questions, He spoke again. In a firm but gentle tone, He told me that the only way that I would survive the chaos would be to jump. Tears ran down my face. Freefall? Surely he knew I was terrified of freefall. Me, the girl who couldn’t ride anything that involves freefall at a theme park? Surely He knew that I could not possibly think of jumping. I mean who would jump from a seventh story? He calmly asked me to lean forward and look below so that I could see a single mattress directly below me on the ground. According to Him, that mattress is what would catch me. With a flood of tears streaming down my face, I begged Him for another way. He gently reassured me that He knew I was afraid, but this was the only way and I had to make a choice. As I stood there in the doorway, knuckles white from clenching the frame, my soul could feel Him pulling me towards Him. It wanted to jump. My heart ached to be with my family. Once again He spoke gently telling me that there was no other way except for me to choose to jump. White knuckled clenched fists holding the frame of a doorway showed that I did not want to jump. Pictures of times when He had shown up before flashed in front of me. Had I not always found Him to be faithful? And so in a trembling voice, I whispered the words that I was ready to jump. A gentle quiet voice whispered back that He would catch me. After falling for what seemed like an eternity, I did not land on a mattress, but in the palm of the hand of the Almighty God. And then I woke up. It was only a dream, but my life would never be the same again.
I went to bed the night of March 17, 2013 just like any other night. I hadn’t watched anything on TV or read anything that would cause me to dream. But that night I would have a dream that would change the rest of my life. I don’t remember the girl who went to bed that night. I do remember that she thought that she had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. I remember that she thought she had grown close to God in her 41 years. But that night, that dream was her invitation to enter into a free-fall relying on him who is faithful to catch her. A week later she would find herself writing her grandfather’s eulogy, preparing to speak in front of a crowd which terrified her, waiting on results to see if her daughter had bone cancer, and more than anything facing an uncertain future. It was only the beginning. The next seven years would be a continuous training session of being asked to jump when she was afraid, to swim in deep dark waters, and to climb blindly out of the blackest of pits. She would learn that His hand always found her before she hit the ground, that He too swims in the deep never leaving her alone, and that after climbing her way up part of the pit wall she would always find His hand reaching to pull her to safety.
So on this day seven years later, may I say that I have never found myself alone. He has been faithful in the darkest of waters. He has been unshakable when I find myself shaking. There has never been a pit so deep that His love was not deeper still. So in a time when our world seems in chaos, may I reassure you that the one who made the stars, formed the universe, and made our very beings, He isn’t taken by surprise. He is still in control. Empty grocery shelves are nothing for the One who feeds the sparrow.The Bible is filled with verses telling us not to be afraid. If you belong to God, your heart should rest in peace that passes all understanding. Nothing can touch us unless he allows it to pass through His fingers to get to us. And if you don’t know Him, please allow me to introduce you to the One who is waiting for you. He who can still the ocean waves can calm your worried soul. This girl has learned that it’s okay to jump because the hand that will catch you holds it all.
Dear SBC Leaders,
There are words that I would love to speak to you, however perhaps they should wait. Perhaps you do not understand the magnitude of the decisions that lie before you. Perhaps you only see the numbers, the statistics, and the urgency of addressing the media. Maybe you don't see them as people. Perhaps you fail to remember that these victims are image bearers of God. Perhaps it would be different if you placed their photos on the wall and looked into their eyes. Maybe if you could see them as children. Perhaps you are like me and have never suffered sexual abuse at the hands of another person, particularly one considered to be a Christian role model. Maybe you have never loved someone who was abused. Maybe some of you truly want to understand but you don't know the questions to ask the victims. From where I stand it doesn't seem that this has been important to you to investigate, but maybe you didn’t understand the gravity of what had occurred.
Maybe if you only knew the questions to ask the victims, perhaps then you would be better prepared to make a responsible decision. In case that is the case, here are some questions you might try to ask.
• Did the abuse cause them to be behavior problems in school?
• What hindrances did the abuse cause in their development?
• Did they grow up having nightmares with flashbacks of the abuse?
• Did they try to tell someone in an attempt to get help but no one believed them because it was somebody at church?
• Did they act out at home and other places only to be punished rather than anyone to question why?
• Did they avoid sports because of the locker rooms because they feared someone could tell that they had been abused when they changed clothes?
• Has it been hard for them to form friendships and other relationships?
• Were their teenage years clouded by confusion about their sexual identity?
• Were they promiscuous as teenagers and as adults?
• In those churches where abuse occurred, how many committed suicide? How many considered it?
• How many of the victims struggle with their view of God and church?
• How many of them have trust issues?
• How many of the victims have or currently identify themselves as homosexual? Bisexual?
• How many struggle with addictions? Alcoholism? Drugs? Pornography?
• How many of their marriages have ended in divorce?
• How many of their marriages suffer because their spouse cannot understand the depth of their pain?
• How many of their spouses were first given a clue into the depth of that pain because they ended up holding them in their arms as they cried on their honeymoon?
• Do they still cry in their sleep because of the flashbacks?
• Do they harbor hate? Shame?
• Do they overwork themselves because they have to stay busy to keep the memories at bay?
• Do they have children of their own now and is the fear to protect them so overwhelming that they are almost paralyzed by it?
I've been told that as a convention that you have done great things to advance the kingdom of Christ. I'm sure that this is true, however by allowing these things to happen and to continue to happen for decades, what have you done to hurt the witness of the Church? What have you done to hinder the cause of Christ? When God looks at the Southern Baptist Convention does He see your good works as far exceeding the current situation or does He see their faces as He watched them suffer at the hands of the very ones who claimed to be His? How does He feel about where we are? Does He understand that there must be deliberations as to what must be done next or does he remind you that He has already spoken to that point when He pointed out that it would be better to have a millstone hung about the neck and be drowned rather than hurt one of His little ones?
My prayer is that you search the heart of God as you make plans for the future. I pray that as you consider not only registries, but that you also consider sources of support for all abuse victims within the church. I pray that you see a need to educate our churches to understand sign of abuse, to teach their children what abuse is and provide a channel where they can report it, and to provide support for abuse victims and their families.
Your Concerned Sister in Christ
It's time. He's been whispering that in my ear for awhile now, but I push it away pretending that I don't hear. But here I am in the first week of February, and He is singing over me. He is reminding me that it is our anniversary...and that it is time. Every excuse I gave Him that day, He has met with an answer...with preparation...with grace.
The day was February 5, 2014. It was a Wednesday That morning started like any other morning had started for the past several months. I awoke more tired that when I had went to bed. I dreaded my day. I dreaded life. I had went to the doctor on Monday after school with extremely high blood pressure. I was put on bed rest the next day and told that I was headed for a stroke. If I still felt bad on Wednesday, I was to stay home from work. Knowing the pressures at my workplace and the demand for a doctor's note. my doctor made my excuse for both days in case I needed it, but clarified that it was only if I needed it. I felt like going that morning so I did, but only for about ten minutes before I was ordered to leave. I gathered my stuff and was ushered out the door being told that someone was coming in for me.
I cried all the way home. I don't know what my blood pressure was that morning, but I do know that I was having chest pains as I went upstairs to change and text to let my husband know the events of the morning. He told me to rest, but I cried for a couple of hours occasionally begging God to just let me have a stroke and die. Things were really hard at work, at home, and at church. Other than my kids and my grandmother, I really didn't see a reason to stick around and live life like that every day. I spent my whole existence wishing to be somewhere else...somebody else. I had given up my Sunday School class that I had taught over a decade and the role of organizer of our church's nativity. Those were my gifts to God, my worship, my ministry. I had been raised to believe that women were not made to lead and so therefore my role was to support my husband in his roles within the church, but now he no longer had roles...he no longer wanted roles. I wasn't sure where that left me. We were at a new church warming a pew. That wasn't who we were. At work I had just received my fourth write-up in less than six months. The conference of concern was scheduled for the next week and although I knew the policy numbers applied to my offense, I truly had no idea what I had done this time. Our marriage was in a rough place which comes with being uprooted from your church and facing new conditions at work and just life. I didn't have a place where I felt safe and my body was feeling it.
The chest pains were increasing as was my desperation. The thought of facing another day was more than I could handle. It hurt to breathe. And on top of all of it, I was failing God. It had been almost a year since The Dream. I didn't understand it at first and I had misread what it held for me, but I was starting to understand it. God had a plan for me still and it wasn't like anything I had known before. The days of holding a Lifeway quarterly with notes scribbled on the sides were over. He was asking for more. He was asking me for what I felt was impossible. He was asking me to write...to speak...and to lead women in ministry. I didn't know how to do that. I just used a teacher's edition of the quarterly to teach a small Sunday School class. I was afraid to speak in front of a group. But I had tried to walk in the direction I felt He was leading me to...at least a little. I had started a blog and enrolled in a writing course. I wasn't exactly being totally disobedient, but I couldn't understand why He was asking me to charter waters I had no knowledge of journeying. I didn't know how to publish a blog...how to write a book...how to speak to a group...how to organize a women's event...how to lead...how to do an online Bible study. How was I supposed to do these things that I knew nothing about?
The events of the morning...the pain of my chest...the feeling of failing God...I found myself so very desperate. I had felt desperation before this moment, but today was different. I just could not go on like this anymore. It was just me there with Him, and so I made my way to my bed and knelt on my knees. If you know me, you know that my knees haven't been strong since a wreck we had several years ago and to kneel can be excruciating within minutes.. But today it didn't matter how bad my knees hurt. My heart needed God to see me there pleading with Him for answers, for strength, and mostly for grace. I'm pretty sure all I did was cry. I don't remember any words for a really long time...just loud sobbing and a lot of tears. Finally I just asked Him to hear whatever the Holy Spirit spoke on my behalf and I went to my sitting room to sit down.
In less than thirty minutes, my phone rang with a Kentucky number. I wasn't going to answer it but something told me that I was supposed to and so I did. It was the husband of Christian author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs. He had ran across my name and number from a question that I had asked earlier and felt that he was supposed to just give me a call. He spent almost the next hour educating me on the world of Christian speaking, organizing a women's event, how to publish, and women's ministry in general. He even told me that he felt he would hear my name again someday and to organize a couple of women's events and then give Liz a call. Absolutely nothing was different in my life. The problems were still there. The fear of the unknown still lurked beyond the corner where I couldn't see. But I was different because the God who I begged to help me understand how this was to be had asked a complete stranger to call my cell and give me an introduction to the world of Christian women's ministry. And not just any stranger but the husband of one of my favorite Christian speakers and authors. God wanted me to know that He was there...He would equip...and He heard my heart.
So here I am five years later in a very different situation. That very same week I would get an appointment to speak to someone and my situation at work would change. The thing that I thought would kill me was used to move me to a new job with new friends. Those new friends would lead me to a new church and one of those friends would invite me into a women's jail ministry alongside her. Five years later I have experienced training in how to write, how to speak, how to lead, and how to wait. I now understand more about blogging, have met with acquisition editors from major Christian publishing companies and have learned a great deal about publishing. I have learned about how to monetize a blog, create an online Bible study, organize women's events, and lead women in ministry opportunities. The girl who knelt sobbing by her bed has not been unnoticed by her God.
So as I approach this week, I feel the need to remove my shoes for the ground I walk on in my mind this week is holy. It is a Bethel of sorts. It is where I met with God. As I write this partial list of the training and experiences that He has allowed these last five years, I am in awe. To know that I know. To know that no matter what has happened or been said, regardless of what will happen or be said...I have been called and He is equipping me. I don't pretend to understand why and I don't really know how or when He will use it, but it is real. Just remembering the confusion and the pain of that day and now to realize what He has made come to pass...it is beyond words.
God, on this fifth anniversary...let it be said that Your grace is truly sufficient...Your power is truly made perfect in my weakness...and may the power of Your Son work through me to accomplish what it is that You would have me accomplish...whenever...wherever...anything. As long as You are with me...that's all I need.
I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review the new Thomas Nelson NKJV Study Bible Full-Color Edition from the Blythe Daniel Agency, The box containing the Bible was very eye-catching and two of the first things I noticed was the color and print size stated clearly on the box top, both of which are very important to me.
Upon opening the box and seeing the Bible itself, I quickly noticed its rich cranberry color with beautiful artistic design. It could easily be held in one hand comfortably, which is important to me as a women's Bible study teacher. The text is clear and easily readable with a 9-point Comfort Print. This is important to me as my vision has changed over the years making some texts difficult to read.
Each book of the Bible begins with colorful stunning photography and a history of the book including its author, timeline, purpose, and other interesting details. The Bible contains verse-by-verse study notes, notes about cultural history, word studies, timelines, tables, maps, and cross referencing.
I am looking forward to adding this study Bible to my daily Bible reading and study, as well as in preparation to teach. You can check it out for yourself and learn more by watching the video at the link below.
Change. That's what the focus of a new year is all about...change. Some regard change as necessary...something to be desired. Others see change as bad and wish that things could always remain the same regardless if that means that one's life remain stagnant and unfulfilled.
Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves to make changes in our lives, whether those changes be physical, spiritual, or part of our daily routine. All too often we break these promises to ourselves and then struggle with the fact that we feel as though we have failed. Not only do we give up on reaching our goals, but we also tend to stop setting additional goals, excusing ourselves because we see it only as a source of more opportunities to fail.
There are so many goals I set for myself last year that I failed to meet. Rather than give up, I have determined to continue those same goals for this year hoping that I can redeem myself from where I failed in the past year and to celebrate the smallest steps of progress this year.
For me the hardest part in reflecting back on the past year was seeing the ways I broke promises to God. Breaking promises I made to myself are more easily excused than promises that I make to God and fail to follow through with. But every time I start going over the list of ways I have failed Him, He reminds me of the ways that He has supported me and forgiven me. There's one area in particular that I have failed Him in tremendously. For me that is my foothold...my sin area...the place that I let Satan creep into and whisper things to my heart that it should refuse to hear. He has mastered using the voices of others here too, and I listen because their voices carry some measure of weight. This year above all years I must determine to live only for an audience of One. That is hard to do. It means rejecting those other voices. It means measuring everything against the life of Christ rather than the world's measuring sticks.
The weight of such a decision is so heavy and cumbersome, and yet,so freeing. It is so hard to live for Him....I mean to truly try to follow all His commandments and to deny yourself and what you want to do and say in the flesh. There have been so many times this year that I was completely justified by not only the world's standards, but those of the Bible, and yet the Holy Spirit urged me to be still and wait. Even now I have so many finely sharpened arrows tucked safely within my quiver waiting at a moment's notice to come to my defense, and yet the God of the Universe beckons me not to trust in what is within my own strength and resources, but rather to wholly trust in Him to fight my battles.
And so on this first day of 2018, I commit myself to live for an audience of One....to live out the word JOY...and to write. Yes, I said it. I have failed. I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. He reminds me gently and for some reason He lingers and patiently waits for me to draw from His strength...to trust in His call....and to be authentic no matter the cost, for the cost is high, but when I survey the cost He paid for me, it is as nothing.
August 21, 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse visible to a great portion of the United States. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is close enough to the earth that it appears to be as big as the sun, and as the moon passes between the earth and sun it will temporarily block the sun making the earth dark as if it were night. This is a rare occurrence and is being widely discussed and celebrated.
Sadly eclipses of the heart and soul are not as rare. They tend to occur all too frequently. Sometimes trials or problems in our lives appear to be bigger than the Son. Although in our heads we know that He is above all things, we become blinded to the light of the Son. Sometimes life is hard and when trials come that overtake us, they tend to appear much larger than they truly are simply because of how close they are to important things in our lives. The sheer proximity of a trial can block our view of the Son, leaving us in darkness, void of God's light in our lives. We lose our reality knowing that there is nothing He cannot handle, and yet during these eclipses we find that we have lost focus on the Son because all we can see is the trial upon us.
Just as special eyewear is available to safely view the eclipse, we too have been given a lens through which we are to view eclipses of the heart. We are to cover our lives with scripture in order to protect our vision during an eclipse of the heart. If we are equipped to look at trials through the lens of God's Word, then we can maintain our focus on the Son and not find ourselves surrounded by darkness, but be able to find the light of His amazing love.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14-13-14 NIV
Standing still. It seems like such a passive direction, and yet it is anything but passive. In fact it may quite possibly be the hardest thing to do. In 2 Chronicles 20:17, God instructed the Children of Israel as follows, " You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” What an odd battle strategy. To be instructed to go into the battlefield not to fight, but to merely stand still. One would think that it would make more sense to be given a command to take up your weapon, to put on your armor, and yet the command is to stand still. Having read and studied Ephesians 6, I would think that it is assumed that you enter the battlefield fully dressed in the armor of God. I feel that it is an unspoken assumption that any time we are awaiting commands for the battle, that we are already fully dressed in all our armor and that our weapons and shield are in place merely awaiting the call from the Commander of the army. But even in full armor complete with a sword and a shield, these instructions seem out of place.
Standing still. To stand requires the body to work together in order to have all its parts united in the effort to keep it upright and maintaining its balanced weight to hold the position. To stand takes work and is not passive as sitting or lying down would be. There is nothing passive about the command to stand. To be still on a battlefield is everything but passive as well. The normal response to impending battle would be to seek shelter, to hide, to defend oneself with weapons. But the command is to remain still. To simply wait and take no action to protect oneself. Standing still is difficult and goes against what we want in order to make ourselves feel more relaxed and secure.
I had a dream once. I was alone in a large field with only tall grass around me with the exception of a two story barn up ahead. The barn's second floor had a door that was open revealing what appeared to be an empty hayloft. As I walked along taking in the sights of the beautiful grassy field moving in the direction of the barn, I was suddenly hit with an arrow in my left shoulder. Shocked, I reached to pull the arrow loose from where it was lodged and as I did I was hit with another arrow in my chest. More and more arrows seemed to come at me first from the direction of the barn, and then from all directions. I was bloody and in pain and wanted so much to lay down in the grass, hoping that if I did so that the arrows would stop. Suddenly there was an angel standing beside me instructing me to stay standing and to be still. As more and more arrows struck me all over my body, I began to beg the angel to let me lay down. He told me no, that I must stand and I must be still. It seemed like the arrows continued to come more quickly and with more force, and I soon found that I could no longer keep them pulled out as fast as they were hitting me. Most of them stayed in my skin. Blood covered every inch of my body and the pain was almost unbearable. My legs quivered, weak, begging to rest. Finally reinforcements appeared and the angel told me that I could lay down. I was so exhausted, nor from fighting, but from standing still.
Exodus 14:13-14 commands us to not be afraid, to stand firm, and to see what God will do. What will God do? He will fight for us. There are so many verses in the Bible that speak about how God will fight for us, how He will help us, how He will bring us through. It is amazing that God Himself cares about us so much that He tells us just to concentrate on standing and being still, and He will do the rest. In Ephesians 6, when Paul is describing the individual pieces to our spiritual armor, he states in verse 13 to "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." He asks us to be fully clothed in the armor that He provides, to be ready to walk onto the battlefield, and then to stand still and watch our Daddy do the rest. How empowering it is to a girl who isn't a great fighter, who sometimes finds her armor too heavy to wear, much less fight in. What amazing grace to know that your Heavenly Daddy merely wants you to be willing to fight, and He promises that if you show up ready and willing that He will fight for you. It doesn't matter that you are smaller than your opponent, that you don't understand the rules of engagement, or that you aren't a great fighter. It only matters to Him that you show up wearing what He has provided you, and then He smiles, tells you to stand still, and He destroys the enemy for you.