Thursday, May 23, 2019

Little Steps

Little steps could very well represent major crossroads in our lives.

Anna took her first steps at six years old (with the aide of a walker). Alan, I and several friends witness the event with tears and cheers.

Some time after that event, I saw a beautiful word picture expressing the importance of these little steps. I saw people in the gym who saw a 6 year old that looked normal, doing something that showed to them a little girl with great need.

Those who knew Anna, and how far she had come from saw the same steps taken, as great strives, and the beginning of more progress to come.

I saw my self holding tight to my walker taking the next step that my Father was telling me to take, hearing Him cheering me on, 

“YES, daughter, that's it!”

It was then, I realized how I lose something very precious, when I stand like those who look on from the outside without understanding, at how very significant these steps are.

Whether I find myself behind the walker straining to take the next step, or on the side lines, cheering others on, may I never lose sight, that obeying my Father's call is the key to reaching His mission for my life, however small that step may appear.

"We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." Hebrews 3:14

Above: Anna with my Dad...around the time period she began to start walking on her own.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Sleeping in the Storms

And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!’” Matt. 8:24-27

There is a faith we can have that allows us to meet each storm in our lives with a confidence and calm that expresses itself in a life of spiritual REST. But like the disciples who cry out to Jesus (as he slept) “Lord save us: we perish”, we too hear from our waking savior, not words of comfort, but rebuke, “Oh Ye of little Faith.”

The very One who created life, nature, and man, was close enough to touch, so why this reaction to the storm? Why the panic? What is it about trials, sorrows, and storms that draw out these reactions even though we know God is in control? I’ve observed this in many of my peers and I’ve seen this in myself that this lack of living in the REST of God is often commonly summoned up in three simple words; “Don’t you care?” However, the root issue has more to do with saving self, than trusting God. Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter. He saw through the “Don’t you love us, Lord” issue, to ways we are hindered from going on in our spiritual lives. There are three areas of lack I’ve discovered (from my own falling and finding out:) that point to hindrances of walking by faith.

PRIDE takes on all kinds of forms, but in conflict it can dress itself in depression or defeat. In some ways, those who live in these attributes of pride might very well be sleeping right along with Jesus in the boat, because they have checked out. “A storm? Wake me up when it’s over!” They don’t care, and this form of SELF-PERSERVATION calls out for God to make their world better. Often in conflict and struggles this is the first area that our Heavenly Father touches. J.I. Packer expresses it this way, “ Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God's holiness and sovereignty... acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.”
Denying SELF, is the first step to understanding true life and freedom in Christ. SAVING SELF was much more on the disciple’s minds than riding out the storm. Corrie Ten Boon says “If a bird is flying for pleasure, it flies with the wind, but if it meets danger it turns and faces the wind, in order that it may fly higher.” Resentment of conflicts will eventually cause the very things you fear the most to destroy you in the end. The bird knows to use the same winds that beat against its chest, to rise above the danger. These storms are designed to take us to His higher, safer destinations.

CONTROL is another chief contributor to our lack of REST. Its expressions are often anxiousness and fretting. No one is allowed to sleep when we are operating in this spirit. We deceive ourselves into believing we need or want something enough that we must wake up our Lord to inform Him. This type of control is similar to the waves of the sea. It reflects a life of one who has continual up and down experiences. They think that what they want is answers, but their true motives are merely peace without conflict. If they can’t command the storm to stop, they look to manipulate the one who can. C.S. Lewis describes it in this way, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” Their self-serving prayers are aimed to be delivered from the discomfort instead of learning endurance in the conflict. This is so foundational in how our own children learn to approach life and understand the love of God. Jesus stopped the storm, not for their comfort, but to expose their unbelief. Many families wonder why their older children do not have more depth, while failing to see that following Christ always has a cost. Do we want our children to be happy, or to take up their cross? Those who grow in faith will allow the conflicts to draw them closer to a deeper understanding of the love of God and His purposes: which are to conform us into Christ’s image.

LACK OF VISION is another reason we rage at the coming waves. We are too prone to trust in our feelings and eyesight. Our emotions become our reality and we fail to see that goodness and mercy are always following close behind. This place of REST (seen in a believer’s life) is a marvel to the world. How can this man sleep, in such a storm? People who lack vision only go as far as they see naturally. Their lives are limited, and you are more apt to see them isolated, safe on the shore, and going nowhere. They have been on that boat, and because they blame others for their own lack of progress, they are not getting on that boat again! Faith was needed to continue, but all they remember is the rough ride. At this juncture, the Father proved their heart, as He did his disciples: it was about them, not HIM. Oswald Chambers sums up the disciples dilemma of faith in this way;
Our trust is in God up to a certain point, then we go back to the elementary panic prayers of those who do not know God. We get to our wits' end, showing that we have not the slightest confidence in Him and His government of the world; He seems to be asleep, and we see nothing but breakers ahead. "0 ye of little faith!" What a pang must have shot through the disciples - 'Missed it again!' And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced down right joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.
In His presence is fullest of joy. The original meaning of joy here is calm delight. It’s a trust that is mature and settled in heart. It is not shaken by what may seem like chaos in the world. It stands firm, and allows the waves to wash over rather than knock down, knowing that all things work together for them who love God and are called according to His purpose. Those who have come to know this calm delight, have been with Jesus, and are not threatened when He seems silent. They have learned to put their confidence in “things (Him) not seen, but eternal!”
"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, But through."
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest
--Annie Johnson Flint
Pictured above Wind Torn

Friday, April 5, 2019

What Follows Close Behind?

Follow Your Shepherd, not your feelings.  I pulled up an older poem of Alan's that speaks to the importance of trust, and learning to not open the door of fear...surely His goodness and mercy shall follow, as we allow Him to lead us down His paths of righteousness, for His name sake. (Ps. 23)

What Follows Close Behind?

I was walking as the shadows grew, 
the light was fading fast

My thoughts were troubled as I 
mused reflecting on my past

To make it worse I thought I heard 
the sound of steps behind

I wasn’t sure someone was there 
but fear tempted my mind

So just in case I changed my gait
 spurred on by inner fear

But much to my alarm the sounds 
of steps behind grew near

This walk now far from pleasant 
more a nightmare had become

Not helped at all by memories 
of the trouble I’d come from

What would I use for my defense 
should there be an attack

The fear unknown much more had grown 
the threat behind my back

To quell the fear I made the choice 
to stop and stand my ground

With muscles tense I turned to pounce 
and this is what I found

No one was there, no sound of steps, 
I stood still all alone

The only sound now on my ear 
was my own desperate moan

I turned again a bit confused 
and started off once more

And wondered why when fear did knock 
I opened up the door

No sooner had the question formed 
the answer quickly came

The fear of man becomes a snare – 
my own heart was to blame

More conscious of what men might know 
and think or say of me

I fled when none pursued 
at all for I lost sight of Thee

A lesson from this parable 
I offer as a friend

There is a way to close the door 
and bring fear to an end

Don’t flee the past, don’t troubled be, 
don’t fret within your mind

The sound you hear is goodness all 
and mercy near behind

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”