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: http://theologigal.files.wordpress.com

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}

Jan 17, 2012

the little things . . .

The city has been covered by fresh snow these past few days with anticipated snow storms to continue this week. And through this sudden change in weather, God has reminded me of His faithfulness in the little things . . .

I often come to the foot of the Cross with {what seems to me to be} big prayers. Right now in this ever-worrisome economy,  these "big" prayers include finding a new house or apartment to live in and finding a job as a pediatric nurse practitioner once I graduate my master's program in two months.  

God has been so loving towards me these last few days in calming my anxious heart about these big issues by answering two "little" prayers within hours of being prayed. I wanted to briefly share these answered "little" prayers and hopefully encourage others to trust in the faithful God of big as well as little things.

I woke up Sunday morning in anticipation for going to church. I opened the blinds and looked out my window to see that the majority of my view was covered in white. I immediately worried about how I'd get to church; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in my apartment. I knew I couldn't drive my small car on the icy roads, so I looked up bus schedules. After some difficulty, I found that I could make it to a closer campus of Mars Hill that I had visited before with only one bus {as opposed to the three bus transfers to get me to my home church,  Mars Hill | Ballard}. I made it on the bus and suddenly realized I had not given any thought to how I would get home. I found out it would take me over an hour and three bus transfers to get home due the buses being on snow routes. I immediately said a silent prayer: "God, please put it on someone's heart at church today to offer to drive me home without me asking anyone".  I ended up walking in slippery snow for almost a mile from where the bus dropped me off, but I finally arrived to church. We were all invited to greet one another and I met a lady near me who was sweet and, after I quickly mentioned my adventure of getting to church, offered to drive me to my bus stop after church so I would not have to walk a mile. I was so grateful. The sermon started, during which another woman came and sat next to me. After the service, she overheard the first woman and I talking about the bus stop, and asked me where I live. She then proceeded to offer me a ride all the way home! To top it off, she knew exactly what area I lived at {which was great for me since I didn't know the area or how to get home without a GPS}. We chatted during the drive about our lives, encouraged one another, and even prayed for each other before I stepped out of the car. What a blessing! It brought me to tears as I realized that God answered my prayer for a ride home. And to top it off, like a cherry on top of a delicious cake, He even blessed both of us with a sweet conversation and encouraging prayer for one another.

The second answered prayer just occurred minutes ago. The snow has not gone away; in fact, even more snow  has come, and more is anticipated tomorrow. I took the day off from school today and thought about what I would do about work tomorrow. I work as a home care nurse and Wednesdays I drive 30 miles from home to work with a child with special health needs.  I worried about the commute at 5am with all of this talk of snow storms. I text messaged another nurse who works with the same child about the weather down there and how the conditions where. Long story short, conditions are bad. I did not want to leave the child without a nurse tomorrow, so I said another quick prayer: "Jesus, please make it possible for me not to have to work tomorrow and for someone to cover the shift". I asked the nurse, and she originally said no due to other plans for tomorrow . . . and then, within five minutes, she texted me back and said that she cancelled the other plans and was willing to cover my shift! This may seem small, but to me it was an awesome answered prayer because the last thing I wanted to do tomorrow was get stuck in a city an 45 minutes away with no way to get to my apartment.

These quickly-answered prayers where such a sweet reminder that Jesus is faithful! He answers some prayers quickly, as in these two instances, while other answers may take months or years. But in all, He is worthy of being trusted with all our needs. 
Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered.
Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock;
Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,
Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,
And cries, "It shall be done" -- sometime, somewhere.
-- Miss Ophelia G. Browning
"Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempests of despair? Do you not know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope then! Hope ever! For God fails you not." {C. H. Spurgeon} 
"Oh remember this: There is never a time when we may not hope in God. Whatever our necessities, however great our difficulties, and though to all appearances help is impossible, yet our business is to hope in God, and it will be found that it is not in vain. In the Lord's own time help will come." {George Mueller}   
"When I cannot understand my Father's leading,
And it seems to be hard and cruel fate,
Still I hear that gentle whisper ever pleading,
God is working, God is faithful. Only wait.
-- Streams in the Desert

Jan 5, 2012

worry is like a rocking chair . . .

I would love to share some beautiful words from Linda Dillow's book/Bible study, Calm My Anxious Heart. A beautiful excerpt from an earlier chapter was added on Dec. 7th titled "teacup theology" that I also recommend.  My oft worried heart and mind have learned a lot about letting go of anxieties and finding contentment that comes from trusting God through this book. 

So, without further ado, here are quotes + small excerpts from the chapter focused on that horrible 5-letter word: worry.

Chapter Eight: Worry is Like A Rocking Chair 

". . . it will give you something to do but won't get you anywhere"

"The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." - George Mueller.

"All our fret and worry are caused by calculating without God"

"When we worry, we're saying, 'God can't'. If we are walking in anxiety, we are not walking in faith" (p 116).

A working definition    

The word worry comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word which literally means "to strangle or choke". Linda notes that "the stranglehold of worry keeps a woman from enjoying a life of contentment and peace. Anxiety is that which divides and distracts the soul, that which diverts us from present duty to weary calculations of how to meet conditions that may never arrive . . . Worry has more to do with perspective than with circumstances. In similar situations, one woman may be anxious another peaceful . . . The French philosopher Montaigne said, "My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened."  When we spend precious time worrying about what might happen, anxiety becomes negative baggage that weighs us down, saps our energy, and leaves us ineffective"(p.120)  

Worry is destructive 

"Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength" (p 121). Not only does worry and stress cause weakened physical wellness (research has shown increased vulnerability to infections, GI problems, heart attacks, strokes, etc) but also cause disastrous effects to mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 

Is anxiety a sin? 

Jesus spoke about anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically in Matt. 6:25-34. Jesus commanded us not to worry five times in the ten verses. I think it is pretty clear what His thoughts are.

"Worry says: 'I don't trust God, I don't believe in His ability to handle my child, my marriage, my health, my job, or my loneliness.' Oswald Chambers called worry infidelity: 'It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think God can look after the details of our lives" (p 123). 
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast {unload, hurl, throw} all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7. 
We often hear the second part of this verse, but not the starting of it. We must humble ourselves before God's mighty hand. This means "surrender of our total being -- intellect, emotion, will, plans, and judgements. It is relinquishing everything . . . yielding to God as the Blessed Controller of whatever situation or person is causing me anxiety" (p 124)

Our tomorrows 

George MacDonald: "It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It's when tomorrow's burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear. Never load yourselves so, my friends. If you find yourselves so loaded, remember this: it is your own doing, not God's. He begs you to leave the future to Him and mind the present."

F.B. Meyer: "This is the blessed life -- not anxious to see far in front, nor eager to choose the path, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time. The Shepherd was always out in front of the sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him in account. Now God is down in front. He is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills us with dread; God is there already. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us."

Wow. Read those two quotes again. What amazing truth!

freedom from worry is a process

Lastly, Linda Dillow explains how to start this process:

  1. Acknowledge that anxiety is a sin and confess it as such to God.
  2. Yield to God's sovereignty. Thank Him that He is the Blessed Controller of your problems.
  3. Choose to cast your anxiety on God.
  4. Choose to trust God with your tomorrows and life for today.

There are so many more books and quotes that deal with worry. Calm My Anxious Heart is just one of many (although I believe, a great one!)  I'd love to learn from anyone who'd like to share what has helped them on their journey to freedom from anxiety. 

P.S. this book can be found here for only $5! 

P.P.S the post dearly beloved from last April fits in with the theme of this post. It is a beautiful excerpt from David Wilkerson's book by the same title. 

In His everlasting arms,