Nov 12, 2012

when blossoms fade away

a personal favorite excerpt from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman:

{  not one word has failed of all  the  g o o d  promises he gave }
 1 kings 8:56 

Someday we will understand that God has a reason behind every no He gives us through the course of our lives . . . When God's people are worried and concerned that their prayers are not being answered, how often we have seen Him working to answer them in a far greater way!

"If God says 'Yes' to our prayer, dear heart,
And the sunlight is golden, the sky is blue,
While the smooth road beckons to me and you,
And the song-birds warble as on we go,
Pausing to gather the buds at our feet,
Stopping to drink of the streamlets we meet,
Happy, more happy, our journey will grow,
If God says 'Yes' to our prayer, dear heart.
"If God says 'No' to our prayer, dear heart,
And the clouds hang heavy and dull and gray;
If the rough rocks hinder and block the way,
While the sharp winds pierce us and sting with cold;
Oh, dear, there is home at the journey's end,
And these are the trials the Father doth send
To draw us as sheep to His Heavenly fold,
If God says 'No' to our prayer, dear heart."

Oh for the faith that does not make haste, but waits patiently for the Lord, waits for the explanation that shall come in the end, at the revelation of Jesus Christ! When did God take anything from a man, without giving him manifold more in return? Suppose that the return had not been made immediately manifest, what then? Is today the limit of God's working time? Has He no provinces beyond this little world? 

When the frosts are in the valley,
And the mountain tops are grey,
And the choicest buds are blighted,
And the blossoms die away,
A loving Father whispers,
"This cometh from my hand";
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.
If, after years of toiling,
Your wealth should fly away
And leave your hands all empty,
And your locks are turning grey,
Remember then your Father
Owns all the sea and land;
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.

Apr 27, 2012

do not fear, for I am with you

I have been absent on this blog for a few months intentionally because I have been walking through what C.S. Lewis' Screwtape  would call a "trough" season. God is in the business of redeeming and delivering His children. What a perfect Father. He doesn't take us out of suffering, but walks us through it, lovingly holding our hand as we tremble in the darkness. He is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and draws near to us in our suffering. In the midst of our fears and uncertainties of what is to come, He draws near. I am so blessed to have church community, roommates, and friends who are reminding me of this very important truth.

At church this Sunday, I was encouraged as I heard of the most commonly mentioned command in the Bible: Do not fear. Here are some sermon notes that correspond with the 7min clip below from the sermon that specifically focused on fear.

What should our reaction be toward fear? Should we accept it as inevitable and try to avoid it or mask it with worldly positive thinking?

"Fear is not to be accepted. Fear is not to be embraced. Fear is not to be accommodated. Fear is not to be explained. Fear is a sin to be repented of. Fear of anything other than God is a sin to be repented of because the fear (respect, honor) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

{ Four Things You Need To Know About Fear }
  1. "Fear is attempted sovereignty". We don't know it all (not even close!). 
  2. "Fear is vision without God." We are blind without Him, lost in our own worries.
  3. "Fear turns is into false prophets." We don't see the future yet we assume and grow anxious.
  4. "Fear preaches a false gospel." We warp around the gospel to a self-soothing, watered-down version that serves our needs, comforts and coddles our unrepented sin, and creates functional saviors to deal with our fear and disappointments. 
But isn't it so encouraging and exciting that almost every one of the nearly 150 "Do not fear" commands are followed with a faithful promise?  "... for I am with you". 

In the pain. In the suffering. In the confusion. In the depression. In the loneliness. In the silence. In the ugliness of our sin. 

Pastor Mike Wilkerson writes in his book, Redemption, about calling God Abba, which is translated as daddy. It doesn't appear to be the type of name to "respectfully" address God with, yet it is exactly what Jesus called His Father when He prayed (Mark 14:36) and also how we need to come to our Father amidst our worries, fears, pain, suffering:
Amidst Jesus' anguish, he pressed in even closer to the Father. "The very experiences that threaten to drive you the farthest from God are the exact experiences that bring you into closest possible fellowship with your Savior." As God's adopted children, we have the same amazing privilege as Jesus himself -- to call God Abba -- and it is often in our worse suffering that we most need to (p. 52).
He draws near to us. He walks with us. He leads us. He holds our hand as a good Daddy would if his little child is scared of an angry, barking dog or a crowded street as if to say, "Don't worry, my sweet child. I am here. Hold on tight and let's walk through this together. I won't let anything happen to you. I am your daddy and I love you". That's our Father God: The perfect Dad.

Here are the "baker's dozen" of verses that Pastor Mark mentioned. Meditate on them and allow our Father to rest your anxious heart to whatever is making it tremble. Hold His hand through it and invite Him in.

Genesis 3:10  Adam says "I was afraid" and God is near.
Genesis 15:1 "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield."
Genesis 26:24 To Isaac: "... do not be afraid for I am with you"
Genesis 28:15 To Jacob: "I am with you ..."
Exodus 33:14  To Moses: "My presence will go with you ..."
2 Kings 1:15 To Elijah: "Do not be afraid ..."
Psalms 23:4  David to God: "I will fear no evil for You are with me."
2 Chronicles 20:17 To King Jehosephat: "Do not be afraid or discouraged ... for the LORD is with you."
Isaiah 41:15 To Israel: "Do not be afraid Israel, for I am with you"
Jeremiah 1:8 "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you."
Daniel 10:12 "Do not be afraid, Daniel. I have come"
Haggai 2:4-5 "Be strong, be strong, be strong for I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty"
Matthew 28:10 Jesus says "I am with you always until the end of the age."

"Do not be afraid. Persevere in Jesus. Worship Jesus. Serve Jesus' Church. Give to Jesus' Church . . . Our lives are not tribulation-free but tribulation-proof."

In the Father's loving hands,

Feb 19, 2012

nothing in the house

Thy servant, Lord, hath nothing in the house,
Not even one small pot of common oil; 
For he who never cometh but to spoil 
Hath raided my poor house again, again,
That ruthless strong man armed, whom men call Pain.

I thought that I had courage in the house,
And patience to be quiet and endure,
And sometimes happy songs; now I am sure
Thy servant truly hath not anything,
And see, my song-bird hath a broken wing.
. . . .
My servant, I have come into the house---
I who know Pain's extremity so well
That there can never be the need to tell
His power to make the flesh and spirit quail:
Have I not felt the scourge, the thorn, the nail?

And I, his Conqueror, am in the house,
Let not your heart be troubled: do not fear:
Why shouldst thou, child of Mine, if I am here?
My touch will heal thy song-bird's broken wing,
And he shall have a braver song to sing ♥

{this beautiful poem is by Amy Carmichael, and is based on the story of the
destitute widow of Zerephath in 1 Kings 17:15-16}.

How beautiful that we have a God who we can put all our trust in! Jesus felt the "scourge, the thorn, the nail" for us. He felt unthinkable pain for us. And He defeated Death for us

May we all have a "braver song to sing" as we dwell on God's unfailing love, faithfulness, and undeniable power above that thief "that men call Pain". 

  19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,    the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them,    and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind    and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,    for his compassions never fail23 They are new every morning;    great is your faithfulness24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;    therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,    to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly    for the salvation of the LORD. { Lamentations 3 }

Feb 9, 2012

{ waiting well }

I have been trying to keep a daily Bible journal to jot down different passages that pop out at me and lessons I feel the Holy Spirit is teaching me. So today, I did my usual routine and read a psalm while eating breakfast. I later read it again because I felt there was something my heart needed to remember. So here is the lesson I learned; from one heart to another.

 { Text: Psalms 40 }

heart lesson for today: what to do while waiting

If this psalm were an essay, I believe verse 1 would be the "topic sentence":

"I waited patiently on the Lord to help me, 
and He turned to me and heard my cry"

As I was reading this psalm the second time, I recognized seven things that King David mentioned in the seventeen verses that can be done while we are waiting on the Lord. I don't think I am alone when I say that waiting is hard. I tend to revert to my default modes: Doubt and Anxiety. But this is not God's plan for me {or you!} during these waiting time when we feel the Heaven is silence regarding our prayer request. 

So, without further ado, here are seven things that Psalm 40 teaches us to do while waiting:
  1. be patient for God's help {v.1 - "I waited patiently for                                                                      the LORD . . . "
  2. trust, trust, trust! {v. 4 - "Oh, the joys of those who                                                                        trust the LORD . . ."}
  3. continue to do what God has called you to do today                                                                     {v.8 - "I take joy in doing Your will . . . ]
  4. study + obey His Word {v.8 - " . . . Your instructions                                                                      are written on my heart"}
  5. share the Good News of Jesus {v. 9-10 - "I have talked about                                                      Your faithfulness and saving power"}
  6. pray honest prayers {v. 11-15 - "My sins pile up so high I can’t                                                        see my way out"}
  7. worship God for all He has done {v. 5, 16-17 - "You are my helper                                               and my savior"}
In The Treasury of David (a Bible study of Psalms), Charles H. Spurgeon describes how Jesus is the perfect teacher of patiently waiting on God the Father:

Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. Impatience never lingered in his heart, much less escaped his lips. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God's patient Lamb; he waited and waited on; was patient, and patient to perfection, far excelling all others who have according to their measure glorified God in the fires. Job on the dunghill does not equal Jesus on the cross. The Christ of God wears the imperial crown among the patient. Did the Only Begotten wait, and shall we be petulant and rebellious? "And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry". Neither Jesus the Head, nor any one of the members of his body, shall ever wait upon the Lord in vain. Mark the figure of inclining, as though the suppliant cried out of the lowest depression, and condescending love stooped to hear his feeble moans. What a marvel is it that our Lord Jesus should have to cry as we do, and wait as we do, and should receive the Father's help after the same process of faith and pleading as must be gone through by ourselves! The Saviour's prayers among the midnight mountains and in Gethsemane expound this verse. The Son of David was brought very low, but he rose to victory; and here he teaches us how to conduct our conflicts so as to succeed after the same glorious pattern of triumph. Let us arm ourselves with the same mind; and panoplied in patience, armed with prayer, and girt with faith. 
{from exposition of Psalm 40:1}.
 Whatever you are waiting for, may you wait in a way that brings glory to God. Model your waiting after Jesus and you will experience the joy of being under His care. And one day, you will join King David in praying the God who answers:

 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
      out of the mud and the mire.
   He set my feet on solid ground
      and steadied me as I walked along.
 3 He has given me a new song to sing,
      a hymn of praise to our God.
   Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
      They will put their trust in the LORD

found this in my Bible at the perfect time! 

Feb 4, 2012

here comes the sun . . .

Shine forth, O Sun of boundless love,
The night within our souls remove;
Be Thou our Light; be Thou our Guide,
O'er ev'ry thought and step preside.
- Simon Browne (1680-1732)

"Our lives have meaning "under the sun" only because of Him who dwells above the sun and beyond the stars - our transcendent Lord Jesus who alone gives us eternal significance" - R.J. Morgan in My All in All.

Today was the first sunny day in a long time. It was a beautiful glimpse of the warm, delightful days of spring and summer in a few short months. But more importantly, it was a sweet reminder of the joy and peace of knowing that my Lord is the "Sun" that drives away the darkness within my soul.

Let the Son shine!

{a beautiful Mexican Riviera sunset from my trip in 2010}

Jan 31, 2012

flowers or the crown

I recently came across this George Macdonald poem from a friend on Facebook, and wanted to share it. 

"I said: 'Let me walk in the field; '
God said: 'Nay, walk in the town; '
I said: 'There are no flowers there;'
He said: 'No flowers, but a crown.'"
"I said: 'But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din; '
But He wept as He sent me back, 
'There is more,' He said, 'there is sin.'"
"I said: 'But the air is thick,
and fogs are veiling the sun; '
He answered: 'Yet souls are sick,
 and souls in the dark undone.'"
"I said: 'I shall miss the light,
 and friends will miss me they say; '
He answered me, 'Choose tonight,
 If I am to miss you, or they.'"
"I pleaded for time to be given; 
He said: 'Is it hard to decide? 
It will not seem hard in Heaven,
 to have followed the steps of your Guide.'"
"I cast one look at the fields,
 then set my face to the town; 
He said: 'My child, do you yield? 
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?'"
"Then into His hand went mine,
 and into my heart came He; 
And I walk in a light Divine,
 the path I had feared to see."
May we trust in our Heavenly Father as we walk through dark valleys devoid of flowers or beauty, knowing that He holds us though it all. May we go wherever He leads, knowing that He is faithful and full of love for us, even when we don't understand the whys and what ifs

For me, this was a reminder that my city is my mission field. I often hope and wonder when I will fly to an impoverished country and be able to be a missionary. I seem to forget that it's not a question of when will I be a missionary; I am a missionary . . . right here in my city. I should constantly have the attitude and prayer: "Here I am, Lord. Send me" {Isaiah 6:8}. 

Will you leave the flowers for the crown?

Jan 22, 2012

b e t h e l

I was reading Genesis 35 and came across the name Bethel. I had seen the name so many times in the Bible {Gen. 13, 35; Judges 20, 1 Sam. 7} but this time, I stopped.

b e t h e l ,
                h o u s e   of   G o d .

Instead of merely reading the name of an ancient landmark on a map, the Holy Spirit seemed to speak to my heart: 

 is my heart a "bethel"? 
     is my mind a "bethel"?
         is my body a "bethel"?
             is my soul a "bethel"?

My heart was stirred, for I knew too well what the answers were.

Many times I cannot call my heart, mind, or body a house of the Living God. Instead, it is often a house of my will; a residence filled to the brim with my plans; a home with nearly every room occupied with my own needs, worries, and doubts.

Help me, Jesus, to have a bethel in every part of my being. 

And, being the faithful God that He is, this is what He helped me write tonight. The two Bible verses below the poem came to mind while writing {oh, how sweet the Holy Spirit is in reminding us of the most perfect Scripture passages at the perfect time!} May it be my constant prayer, and I hope, yours too.

"house of God"

May this mind be a Bethel to You,
Every thought held captive that is not honorable or true
For what we think, we eventually do.
Purify these thoughts; make clean; renew.

May my heart be Your dwelling place;
Help me earnestly seek Your face.
My own plans and desires erase,
That of my own will there be not a trace

May my body be a Temple for Your Spirit today,
A living gift at the foot of the cross I lay.
Strengthen me to honor You in every way,
With every deed that's done; with every word I say.

May my soul be a home that invites You in,
That there may not be a hidden place left with sin,
For by Your redeeming blood, I can say that I win
Every day, in Your grace I start again

* * *

"Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul
all your strength, and all your mind."
{Luke 10:27}

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
{1 Corinthians 16:19-20}

picture credit:

Jan 18, 2012

in His steps

". . . but when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." {1 Peter 2:20b, 21}

It is quite unusual for me to write another post so soon, but being stuck in an apartment due to a snowstorm has allowed me to think, I suppose. So, as I sit in a nearby coffee shop, sipping on my chai tea and looking out at the white covered streets and freshly falling flakes, I want to share a small reminder that God allowed me to see this morning.

I ventured outside this morning for a walk. Growing up in the northwest, I rarely have need for snow shoes, so I wore the only waterproof shoes I own: a pair of low-wedge boots. Not particularly the best shoes for the snow, but all I had. As I made my way down the steep driveway, I slipped and nearly fell more times than I would want to admit. My shaky walk continued uneventfully and I soon made my way back up the steep driveway to get to my studio. Gravity was not on my side, so it was clearly harder to go up than it had been to come down. I slipped several times again, and comically slid back down the hill, losing all the steps that I had gained. 

Then I saw them: boot prints. Large boot prints of someone with sturdy steps in the snow. I stepped into the much-larger boot prints and was able to walk up the steep driveway by following the steps of my unknown hero with the big boots. I made it up to my studio and realized, Isn't this the life of the disciple of Jesus? To follow in His steps?

Just as Peter noted in the aforementioned verse, Jesus suffered. We too, when we choose to follow in His steps, will experience trials and suffering. But how wonderful that we have an "example, that [we] should follow in His steps" {v.21}. Jesus lived the perfect life and now we can live our lives pursuing to follow His trustworthy steps. 

Just as my boot prints fit in the much-larger boot prints of the one who climbed up that steep driveway before me and I was able to climb up the slippery hill, my spiritual "feet" can fit in the larger-than-life footsteps of the One who walked before me when I surrender my own plans and paths to follow where His steps lead. That is the trustworthy path. Yes, often the harder path, but peace comes from following where He leads us. This has been my constant lesson as I often try to make my own way through slippery paths, losing my balance and stumbling in my own struggle.  But, oh, the peace and rest of following behind the steps of Jesus. 

The beautiful feet of Jesus stepped on many dirt-covered roads, giving hope where there had been only hopelessness; joy where there was sorrow; life where there had only been death  . . . 

His steps led Him to reach down to the woman caught in adultery 
      and bring forgiveness + redemption to a broken life {John 8}
His steps led Him to heal the blind -- 
      both physically and spiritually {John 9}
His steps led Him to enter a boat where He revealed His divinity by 
       calming the stormy gale with the words, "Be still" {Luke 8}
His steps led Him to the wilderness, feeding 5,000 hungry people who 
       hungered for the Truth even more than a meal {Luke 9}
His steps led Him to restore healing + worth to men, women, and children 
       who the world labeled as worthless and hopeless {Luke 9, 14, 17, 18}
His steps led Him to the hill of Calvary, where He shed His blood for my 
       sins and made it possible for me to walk in His steps {Luke 23}

May we pursue a life that is centered on walking in Jesus' footsteps, which may mean bringing the Good News to those caught in destructive sin, bringing "sight"to the spiritually blind who have lost all hope, speaking words of encouragement in the lives of those traveling through their own "stormy gale" of suffering, feeding the hungry {physically and spiritually}, and going wherever His steps lead. 

Some wise words that have helped me remember this lesson in the past:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You"
{2 Chronicles 21:12 ESV}

Being in doubt I say,
"Lord, make it plain;
Which is the true, safe way?
Which would be gain?
I am not wise to know,
Nor sure of foot to go;
What is so clear to Thee,
Lord, make it clear to me!"

"Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it'" {Isaiah 30:21}

"He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way;
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts, and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o'er clouded days;
We know His will is done
And still He leads us on"
[Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760]

{taken during my morning walk}