There is nothing-no circumstance, no trouble, no-testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a GREAT PURPOSE, which I may not understand at the moment. As I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will ever cause me to fret-for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is- that is the rest of VICTORY!!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Compassion for the World.....

There sitting hunched over on the couches located at the edge of the cafe sat a man. As soon as I walked into the room I whispered to one of the women “who is that?” With sunken eyes, messy hair, tattered clothes and dirty skin he immediately caught my eye. Embarrassed to admit it my initial thoughts were immediately focused on the fact that this guy didn’t “fit in.” With profanity across his hat surely he wasn’t there for the conference. Located in the Worship Center across the hall were hundreds of men gathering to hear about Jesus and how to be Godly men. Although the men were being spiritually fed there sitting on the couch was a man starving for life’s basic necessities and to know that he too matters to Jesus. As a group of women flocked around this gentleman named Duane they realized he was homeless which was what initially brought him in because a group of women handling the parking outside had invited him in for doughnuts. After a series of “God events” because there was no way it could have been coincidence he was sitting in our cafe eating doughnuts and talking with women who were serving. Through conversation they realized Duane had a bad injury on his leg and needed immediate medical attention. It was apparent the wound on his leg had been there for a long time and it took some persuasion but 2 women offered to get this man to the hospital for medical attention. After seeing the Doctor it was apparent Duane needed serious medical attention and was transferred to a Columbus Hospital for IV antibiotics, which will save him from losing his leg and maybe even his life. At one point in conversation sitting at the hospital the women asked Duane if he believed in God and his response was “no why would I believe in God?” I have to think that for Duane it’s a little hard to believe in God when he is homeless, starving and hurting physically and emotionally and it seems like he has been forgotten. To Duane he has been beat up by the world over and over and his present circumstances seem overwhelming. 

However, the conversation didn’t stop there because the women explained about how purposeful God is and how through a serious of “God events” they were there with him. Thinking about each detail of that day I am overwhelmed with amazement. Duane was merely walking through the church parking lot when a group of women were outside directing parking for a men’s conference that’s only once a year. He was hungry and they invited him in to be fed, he was thirsty and they invited him in for a drink, he was tired and they invited him in to rest on the couch. He was physically injured and there was a nurse nearby to assess his wound. He needed a social worker and we were able to locate a woman from our church who is one within minutes. He needed medical attention and he was given a ride to the hospital. The nurse who assessed Duane in Triage at the hospital happened to be another woman from our church and the doctor was compassionate and understanding. . All of that to me is clearly an act of God and beyond a simple COINCIDENCE. Above all though, Duane was able to hear that God loves him. Matthew 25:35 to 36 (NIV) “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

I have to wonder honestly how many other Duane’s there are in the world. Like the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” how many times have I looked at the outside and failed to see the heart and soul underneath? How many times have I failed to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those in the world that don’t “fit in” to my comfort zone? Along with the women I was there to serve the men but Duane is a man as well and he too deserved to be served. "Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." ~Saint Teresa of Avila


I don’t doubt for one second that God changed hearts that day during the men’s conference but Duane didn’t even hear one single speaker but may have needed the conference the most and God orchestrated a beautiful series of events and Duane was served and those around him gave meaning to what it means to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus.

As we sat down to eat with family on Thursday and the table was overflowing with food I thought of Duane. I wondered how he was doing and if he was still in the hospital or back out on the streets. Was he able to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving or was his belly hungry and empty? So often we complain about the simple chaos of everyday life. Our circumstances aren’t always easy and things happen that knock us off our feet but it’s always a matter of perspective. I may grumble about waiting in a long line at the grocery store but then remember that I am blessed to be standing in line because that means we are blessed with money to buy food. I may grumble at the inconvenience of medical supplies overtaking our house but then be reminded that I am getting the medical attention I need. I can grumble about stepping on a Lego Macie left on the floor and then I am reminded that God has blessed me with a child who brings joys and laughter into our lives and home every day. “[Spiritual Fullness in Christ] So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Looking at my kitchen table my heart smiles at our “Blessing Tree” sitting in the middle. At the beginning of November we get out our tree and it’s bare and not so pretty. Each day we write something we are thankful for and hang it on our tree. Around Thanksgiving we look at our tree and it’s no longer bare and ugly but beautiful and full. It’s a reminder to me that on our own we are empty but because of God’s continued blessings and hand in our lives we are overflowing with beauty and fullness. But before the tree comes down this year I have to add one more…………


Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm a lil tea cup...........

Isaiah 64:8 "And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand."

"There was a time when I was red and I was clay. My master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and I yelled out. 'Let me alone.' But he only smiled, 'Not yet.' "Then I was placed on a spinning wheel," the teacup said, "and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting dizzy' I screamed. But the master only nodded and said 'Not yet.' "Then he put me in the oven. I'd never felt such heat! I wondered why he wanted to burn me. I yelled! I knocked at the door. I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head, 'Not yet.' "Finally the door opened, he put me on the shelf and I began to cool. 'There that's better,' I said. Then he brushed me and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag 'Stop it! Stop it' I cried. He only nodded, 'Not yet.'

Then suddenly he put me back into the oven, not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. All the time I could see him through the opening nodding his head saying, 'Not yet.'" "Then I knew there wasn't any hope. I would never make it. I was ready to give up. But the door opened and he took me out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later, he handed me a mirror and said, 'Look at yourself,' and I did, and I said, 'That's not me, that couldn't be me, it's beautiful. I'm beautiful!' "

I want you to remember then, 'he said, 'I know it hurt to be rolled and patted,  but if I just left you, you'd have dried up." "I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled." "I know it hurt and it was hot and uncomfortable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked." "I know the fumes were bad and when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life, and if I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldnt survive for very long because the hardness would not have held." "Now you are a finished product. You are what I had in mind when I first began with you."

Sitting towards the back uncomfortably and out of place in a little Church my eyes focused on the beautiful teenage girl with long dark hair singing in the front. I had no idea the impact then that moment would have on my life someday. See at the time I didn't know Jesus, I didn't even want a relationship with  him and was super annoyed when those around me would continually talk about God and hint around about me coming to church. In fact the only reason I was siting in that pew was because the beautiful girl singing was my little sister Stephanie. I was so proud of both of my sisters and wanted to be supportive as much as I could with the things they were doing. This moment wasn't any different and I sat proudly listening to her angelic voice with my body covered in goosebumps. It was probably 12 years or so ago but I can still remember the words she sang so beautifully. The part that has forever stood out in my heart were the words "Cause I'm not who I was when I took my first step and I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet. So if all of these trials bring me closer to You, then I will go through the fire if You want me to."

Since that day 12 years ago life has taken all of us down many twists and turns. Even though it hasn't always been easy along the journey I found Jesus. I found love, forgiveness, grace and redemption and what it means to long for a real relationship with Him. I no longer dread hearing about church but delight in what it means to me and the safety and security it holds for me and my family. I didn't realize the impact the words of the song my sister sang and the value that they held though until I gave my life to Christ. I understand what it feels like to be the little tea cup. Right now the pain and circumstances of my life are difficult, I feel like I'm stuck in the fiery furnace banging on the door and pleading to God "please stop, are you finished yet?" In those moments I see Him look at me with the most compassionate eyes and say "not yet my precious daughter, not yet." I may not understand it all but what I'm realizing is that God isn't putting me through the tests and fire to punish me but instead to refine me and continue the transformation to beauty that He has planned for my life.

I don't know what your facing today. I don't know how long you have been stuck in the pain and trials of today but I do know He is there. He hasn't left you and He promises to "work all things together for His children" Romans 8:28. In the moments where I feel desperate and don't think I can take one more second of the heat I hear His whispers in my ear "if all of these trials bring me closer to You, then I WILL GO THROUGH THE FIRE if You want me to."

*Teacup Story- Author Unknown

Monday, November 5, 2012

Holding on....

With tear stained cheeks, scratched knees, calloused hands and bleeding fingers I picture a frail woman desperately crawling through the muck and the mud to reach Him. Her body in agony from the debilitating disease she has battled for 12 years but even more discouraging than that is the wounded cries of her heart, the isolation, and unanswered prayers.  Her mind is swimming with confusion and frustrations and the only fuel pushing her past exhaustion is the desperation for something different, anything other than the prison she has physically and emotionally been held captive too. A record player keeps playing the words "why me" over and over in her mind. The barrage of emotions change from day to do and minute by minute. Just when she thinks she has found a breakthrough a curve-ball is thrown and the wind knocked straight from her sails. There have been moments of frustration, anger, sadness, and fear which have cycled countless times. My heart breaks for this woman but I get it also because..... I am that woman. 

After 20 years of fighting this incurable disease and watching it take a toll physically and emotionally I have come to that point of desperation. I have asked the questions "why me" I have cried and grieved the dreams I have had to give up, the moments I have missed with my family and a life very different than what I imagined. As I lay my head on the bedside table in a small infusion clinic room praying the solution running through my veins will fix the clotted off iv line which sustains my life each day I wonder "how in the world did I get here." For so long I have just kept crawling through the dirt in search of Him that it doesn't even seem real anymore. Its become so normal for our family that at times I think we have detached ourselves from the reality that this is not "normal." 

Last week was difficult for me especially, I reached a point where I just felt done, empty, poured out and used up. I felt like I had done everything I could to keep crawling through the trenches but no matter how muddy I got I never saw a finish line ahead. Like a mirage in a dry and desolate desert I see wholeness ahead but I can't seem to reach it. I wonder "what am I doing wrong, what are you trying to show me that I just can't seem to get?" In the midst of my questions I hear His voice saying "my precious daughter you haven't done anything to deserve this pain and my heart breaks for you. I catch the very tears that fall from your eyes and weep when you weep but that's just it, I never intended for you to bear this burden. I never intended the heartache to become "normal" and instead of trying to fight for wholeness I want you to let go in the midst of your brokenness and allow me to restore you." Luke 8: He said to her, Daughter, your faith (your confidence and trust in Me) has made you well! Go (enter) into peace (untroubled, undisturbed well-being)."

See for so long I have tried to keep going in the midst of the heartache but Jesus died on the cross for me so that I could be free in Him, not stuck in the bondage of my circumstances. He doesn't want me to become ok with the pain and to deal with it but to desperately cry out for change. He doesn't want me to keep crawling through the trenches but to instead take His hand, cry out and say to the enemy "this is not ok, God has so much more for me than just surviving." 

The lady from Luke with the bleeding could have just survived, she could have detached herself and allowed the pain to be her "normal" she could have thrown up her hands and said "doctors can't help me this is just the way it is." Instead she said "I will not settle for this, I will not be ok with a life less than what God has promised me and that is a life of freedom, blessings, joy, and hope. During this time it was unheard of for a woman to present herself before the people and rulers let alone a woman who was considered "unclean and tainted" because of her infirmities. She could have been killed, ridiculed, or even ignored but she was willing to risk it all, she was desperate for change. Worn out and tired she pushed on, she didn't take no for an answer, she didn't become ok with the pain but she fought tirelessly stopping at nothing less than complete healing and restoration. Today my heart is moved by this story and I'm reminded that when I have no answers, Doctors have no treatments, Medications can't fix the problem and I'm worn out that He has not forgot about me, He is still there, He is still powerful and He can still restore all of the things that have been lost. The dreams I have let go of the memories I have missed out on and the pain I have suffered will not go unused. He can dream even bigger dreams than I could ever plan for myself and make more memories possible that far outweigh those I have missed out on."I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is ALWAYS by my side. The one who reigns forever he is a friend of mine, the God of angel armies is ALWAYS by my side. Nothing formed against me shall stand, You hold the whole world in Your hands. I'm holding on to the Your promises. YOU ARE FAITHFUL, JESUS SO FAITHFUL!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Politics Is Hell...

Post Written by: Kevin DeYoung 

Imagine your life were an open book.
Every conversation recorded. Every errant word written down. Every gaffe broadcast before all.
What if everything you ever did was fair game?
What if every action and every decision were held up to the severest scrutiny?
What if all your last minute apologies failed to satisfy?
How would you feel to realize someone knew everything about your past? And someone was chronicling everything about your present?
How would you like to face a barrage of questions for every inconsistency in your life?
What a fearful proposition: anything you ever say or ever do can, and often will, be held against you. If an adversary so desired, he could paint an ugly picture of any of us. And without resorting to lies.
It’s a scary thought to think that your whole life could be an open book. With defenses that do not hold, and sorry’s that do not stick, and excuses which only make things worse.
That’s politics.
And that’s the day of judgment without the blood of Christ.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not for a moment.....

My heart breaks for the burdens of this world. My heart breaks for the circumstances our family has had to endure. My heart breaks with confusion and exhaustion for the journey I have been on physically and emotionally. It's always easier to look at our circumstances as if they were planned and there is an exact purpose or design for them, that God has a reason behind the pain. As I try to wrap my mind around the complexity of this concept I find it to be an oxymoron. You know when two things are placed together that are opposite like "act naturally" or "seriously funny." I fell in love 10 years ago with the most gentle, gracious, loving God who cradles me against His Chest tenderly when my heart breaks but yet I'm also supposed to believe He allows or even causes pain and trials for a purpose? That too me is an oxymoron at it's peak. I'm supposed to be comfortable with the idea that God allows Cancer, Murder, Rape, Human Trafficking, car accidents, the death of a soldier or amputation, school shootings, dying children? 

Everything I have ever been taught about God is of His goodness and Sovereignty so to justify the deep wounds this world inflicts upon us as being for a purpose doesn't sit well with me. "Bad things that happen to us in our lives do not have a meaning when they happen to us. They do not happen for any reason that would cause us to accept them willingly. But we can give them a meaning. We can redeem these tragedies from senselessness by imposing meaning on them. The questions we should be asking is not, "Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?" That is really and unanswerable, pointless question. A better question would be "Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?" 

I'm sure for some this seems devastating because like me I want to believe my illness has happened for this amazing purpose God has ordained but really I just think life hands us difficulties. It's not fair to think God has chosen me to have the privilege of battling this disease for a larger purpose than someone else who He loves just as much. It's not comforting to a parent who has lost a child to hear there was a purpose because they still have empty arms, its not ok to tell someone dying from Cancer that "there is a reason." There isn't a huge reason and plan initially for the devastation that strikes us but regardless there is a God who is constant, faithful, loving and redeeming. Instead of looking at the burdens we face as a plan God allows I will hold tight to the fact that He is ALWAYS GOOD. God never causes pain or despair but always takes our broken pieces and mends them back together gently for something beautiful. 

Wilder offers us the image of a beautiful tapestry. Looked at from the right side, it is an intricately woven work of art, drawing together threads of different lengths and colors to make up and inspiring picture. But turn the tapestry over, and you will see a hodgepodge of many threads, some short and some long, some smooth and some cut and knotted, going off in different directions. Wilder offers this as his explanation of why good people have to suffer in this life. God has a pattern into which all of our lives fit. His pattern requires that some lives be twisted, knotted, or cut short while others extend to impressive lengths, not because one thread is more deserving than another, but simply because the pattern requires it. Looked at from underneath, from our vantage point in life, God's pattern of rewards and punishment seems arbitrary and without design, like the underside of a tapestry. But looked at from outside this life, from God's vantage point, every twist and know is seen to have its place in a great design that adds up to a work of art" (Harold Kushner. Romans 8:28 "We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him."

As I was driving in my car this morning one of my favorite songs came on the radio and the words to that song reminded me that "Even in the dark, even when its hard He will never leave me." Life is hard, we are faced with trials that seem impossible and unfair but it's comforting to know that in the midst of the storms God is still constant, powerful, loving, gracious and gentle. When there aren't answers to why it's in those moments that He picks me up and cradles me against His beating heart rocking me back and forth. 

"We do not love God because He is perfect. We do not love Him because He protects us from all harm and keeps evil things from happening to us. We do not love Him because we are afraid of Him, or because He will hurt us if we turn our back on Him. We love Him because He is God, because He is the author of all the beauty and the order around us, the source of our strength and the hope and courage within us, and of other people's strength and hope and courage with which we are helped in our time of need. We love Him because He is the best part of ourselves and of our world. That is what it means to love. Love is not the admiration of perfection, but the acceptance of an imperfect person with all his imperfections, because loving and accepting him makes us better and stronger" Harold Kushner.