Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Other Words--No Matter What???

Throughout the history of God's people as given to us in the Bible, we see that life is a test. We have before us the option to trust God 'no matter what,' or to walk away from Him. To walk away from God is to leave the fragments of our dreams in pieces on the floor, but to trust Him is to let God pick up the pieces and make s whole again. When we choose to let Him make us whole again, He will make our lives more beautiful than before."
~ "What I Learned from God While Quilting" by Ruth McHaney Danner & Cristine Bolley~

This is a quote that I really wish I knew more of the context. I probably agree with the spirit of the quote, but it is not sitting totally easy with me. It almost appears to be an equation that can be overly simplified to "trust God=beautiful life, walk away=broken life" and I don't agree with that. Yes, it allows for the coming back after a period of not trusting, but what about when you are totally trusting and your dreams still seem to be shattered fragments on the floor?

One of my favorite Bible characters is Caleb. When we are first introduced to Caleb as one of the twelve spies that scouted out the Promised Land.

So at the LORD's command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. These are their names: ... from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;

(Numbers 13:3-4a and 6a)

The spies came back with a choice--to trust God 'no matter what' or to walk away from the promise. Ten walked away and as a result the dream of entering the Promised Land, not only for themselves but also for the people they led in disbelief, shattered into fragments in the sand. But two chose to trust 'no matter what.' They attempted to get the people to trust 'no matter what,' but the people were too frightened by the ten.

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

(Numbers 13:30)

And God rewarded them for trusting Him.

But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

(Numbers 14:24)

In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.

(Numbers 14:29-31)

But it took over 40 years to see the reward. I often wonder if during those years of wandering in the desert if Caleb and Joshua ever wondered if they would see their dreams come to fruition. Did they have moments of frustration that they were made to wait and suffer because of the sins of others? Yes, they were trusting for the bigger dream--but this route to get there could not have seemed easy at all!

So often when we choose to 'trust God no matter what' the immediate result seems so much worse. Walking away is often the easy choice. Staying, and facing the circumstances in God's strength, can seem so difficult. Giving up begins to look like a good option. But, often, it is in the trial of trusting that the true beauty emerges.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

(James 1:2-4)

Did you get that? Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature. We often think that trusting God means that we get to an easy answer. But often it is just the beginning of the trial that will lead us to maturity. And there is joy in that, although difficult to accept at the time. The joy of knowing that maturity is coming is what can spur us along as we 'trust no matter what.'

What about Caleb? Well even if he ever doubted it in the desert (don't you wish we knew more about his desert journey) he was still trusting God 'no matter what' at the end!

Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him
back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.' "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

(Joshua 14:6-14)

God, help me today to be a Caleb. Help me to trust you "no matter what," even if the fruition of that trust is not for a far off future--or even eternity like the saints of Hebrews 11. Whether they are shattered by my own rebellion or by my expectations that are not aligned with your plan, help me to place the fragments of my dreams into your hands. I want to trust. In the Good Shepherd's care and name I pray, Amen.

Our hostess this week is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures. Please join us there and be blessed by the reflections on this quote.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let Us Celebrate


Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Other Words--All By Myself

Apparently I am what you call a "typical" female---I like to chat over my problems with my friends. I like to have someone else's input into a situation, to see if there are sides to the problem I have not thought about, and to get another's stamp of approval on my plans. Conversation and validation are not just desires, they really are needs. And they are needs for most women. Many men, on the other hand, are much better at sorting problems on their own without chatting it over with anyone else.

The last couple of years have been somewhat of a struggle for me. Being "typical" I need to talk with friends. But the friends that I have shared the deepest parts of my heart with have all moved away. I've fought a deep lonliness of "needing" to share but not having anyone in physical proximity with whom to share (except German who is oh-so-grateful when I share with girlfriends and not him!).

So it is with a heart that is torn by being lonely and wanting a friend to hear my heart that I read this week's quote:
"No matter how many good friends I had, there were aspects of my life I needed to deal with alone-heart issues and attitudes that could not be wrestled with in a Bible study...They had to be confronted by the Holy Spirit in the privacy of my own soul."
~ "A Glimpse of Grace" by Mary Forsythe (with Beth Clark) ~

*sigh* It is true. Although I have struggled in a dearth of close companions, I have grown in an intimacy with God over the past two years that would not have happened in the presence of others. He has been the only One I could go to with my tears, cares and fears. He has graciously and persistently sought to break down the barriers that were keeping me from a deeper relationship with Him. He has exposed the ugliness of my heart that a friend would never have pointed out (at least not so undeniably) and then He has taken that ugliness and dealt with it. Sometimes it is in aloneness that we confront the most. I can't say that I like that reality, but I am grateful for the results of it in my life.

Lord, God, help me to see the seasons of aloneness to be a gift from you. Give me wisdom to use those times to grow in my relationship with you. May I find the trust and the companionship that I seek in Your arms. Amen.

Michelle at Because I Love You is the hostess this week for In Other Words. Please visit her site and be blessed. If you would like to write your own thoughts on the quote, please leave your link at Michelle's site so others can find you!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Spending some time with my family. Back to blogging in a week. Blessings!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

In Other Words--The Need of a Vision

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."
~ Helen Keller ~

Vision. It is a word that I've been thinking on a lot lately. My church recently had a "Vision Day" where we came together to focus on where the individuals in the church saw our ministry paths taking us. We met to pray, fellowship, worship and brainstorm. Literally hundreds of ministry ideas were suggested. The post-it notes were accumulated with all their ideas and entered into a spreadsheet. Now the leadership is sorting through them, grouping similar ideas together and praying for priorities. Parts of the vision may take a long time to see fruition--major renovations to our church building to make it more program-friendly. Other things were easier to identify and move forward. There was a myriad of suggestions for use of our drama team, our puppet team and doing things for the kids in the church. All-age worship was conceived and will have its first service Palm Sunday. They will be services built around a theme using drama, puppets and children's songs and will be interactive with the whole church. It sounds exciting. But it didn't just "happen." The vision was put forth by members of the church, one couple in the church "caught" that vision and allowed God to grow it. Now there is a team of a dozen people ready to move. Vision brings activity and movement.

Vision is also a clear indicator that the Spirit of God is moving, whether it is in a church setting or an individual believer's life. Joel 2:27-29 tells us:

"Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days." (emphasis mine)

I know in my own life, when I am in the Word and growing in my relationship with God is when I "dream dreams" of what God can do. I see Him at work more actively and want to see even more of Him. Admittedly, not all the dreams I dream come to fruition. I don't believe that is the point. Dreams and visions energize me. They give me hope. And they make me more aware of what God is already doing. When my vision is enlarged and attuned to seeing God at work, then I am more willing and able to allow the Spirit to change me. I believe that is what is meant in Proverbs 29:18:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

or in the translation of The Message:

If people can't see what God is doing,
they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
they are most blessed.

When I "attend" to what He reveals, He changes me. My faith is vibrant. I am able to be a conduit of His glory. When I have no vision--when I see the world through worldly eyes and not heavenly ones--my faith becomes stagnant and stale. And a stagnant faith is a perishing faith. If the only sight I have is to see the troubles of this world, I might as well be blind. Vision, God's vision, is what enables me to see the world with hope. And that is truly a gift from God!

Father God, today I pray the words of that ancient Irish hymn:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Give me vision to see the world as You see it and enable me to be a bearer of hope to it. In Jesus' Holy and life-giving name, Amen.

Today's In Other Words is hosted by Heather at Mommy Monk. Please join us there for other reflections on this quote by Helen Keller. I know that you will be blessed.

photo is courtesy of www.morguefile.com and the photographer is Andrew/MindExpansi0n.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Marriage Monday---Divorce

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis
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The topic of discussion for this month's Marriage Monday is this: "Is Divorce Ever Right?" I'll invite you right now to go to Chrysalis' site to find much more thought out, well reasoned and articulated posts than this one will be. There are some really amazing women who participate in this monthly meme and I am sure will be much more insightful than I am.

I've been struggling with this post for a couple of weeks. Thoughts and images that have come to my mind include:
*As a product of divorced parents I find myself torn. My parents waited to separate and divorce until the kids left the house, then when we were gone after 23 years of marriage it ended. But the fact was, the marriage had ended long before that and the kids they were "protecting" knew it. So I look at the wasted time and the added hurt they (and we) encountered. There were none of the *big* reasons for divorce there--they were mismatched from the begining with different agendas and different goals. I doubt that they ever achieved the *oneness* of marriage. But does being mismatched allow for divorce? (I say this with trepidation knowing that my step-Mom at least, and maybe my Dad, reads this, so please don't be offended...).
*As a social worker and a counselor I encountered more than one family where there was real danger to remain in the marriage. The physical danger was real and showed in the bruises and broken bones (not to mention broken spirits) of the family members. Staying was not an option until changes took place for safety. But was dissolution of the marriage the only option?
*I remember as a young teen a friend's mom telling me that she knew that there was sin involved in her first marriage but that she believed her sin was in "marrying someone she knew that God was saying run away from, not from getting away from the danger when she finally woke up." The quote stayed with me. It reminded me that marrying the right person was just as important as staying with them. But what should one do when they have married the *wrong* person?
*I have a few friends who had little choice in the matter of an actual divorce--their spouse walked away, refused any steps toward reconciliation, and filed. Whether or not they wanted to be, they found themselves divorced. Where is their responsibility in it all?

We live in a society that makes it easy to justify sin. We justify overindulgence, materialism, greed, selfishness, etc. Justifying divorce is just as easy. I was appalled as a youth worker by the number of kids who felt like "well if it doesn't work we can always divorce" when discussing how they should choose a future mate. *Irreconciliable differences* has made the divorce question seem so easy. But it is not that easy.

Micah 2:15-16 reminds us "Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD
Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. '

Jesus says that the law of Moses "permitted" divorce because their hearts were hard. (Mt 19) It was never considered to be the *best* or what God intended. But it was happening, so rather than women being abandoned without anything, rules of divorce were introduced. When Jesus says "except in the case of marital Unfaithfulness" (Mt. 5:32), he is acknowledging a reason why divorce may seem reasonable. But He never said that it was the best or what should be pursued. I have seen marriages restored from even the worst of circumstances when both person actively pursued God and allowed Him to transform their marriage. I'm not suggesting that it is easy--it is far from it. Our most intimate relationships highlight the worst of the sin that lurks in each of our hearts. We must constantly fight for the purity and the integrity in the relationship.

A final influence goes through my mind. My lovely Christian friend is married to an unbeliever. They have been married thirty years now. He has had numerous affairs during the course of their marriage, which she learned about fifteen years ago. He is unrepentant. She has been advised over and over that this is a *permissable* reason to leave. She has chosen to stay. She said to me once that she could not describe the pain in the decision of staying, but that she was not going to be the one to leave. If he ever filed for divorce, she said she would not contest it, but she would not sin by walking away from her commitment to God to be married to him. She then said, "he never made a commitment to God to stay with me because he did not acknowledge God and that without commitment to God no marriage is safe from infidelity." She has taught me more by staying in this marriage than I could learn from any book or classroom.

Is divorce ever right? I don't believe so. Not because there are never justifiable reasons to not be with a person--but because the commitment to marriage is not just between a man and woman, it is between that man or woman and God. In cases of abusive behavior, separation from the danger is definitely right. Counseling, retraining of actions, anger management and lots of prayer are necessary. But dissolution of a marriage, breaking of a covenant made with and before God, is not right.

But, just as with any other commitment before God that we break, His loving mercy is always there for restoration. He never leaves us in our brokenness if we seek Him. Whether it is the brokenness of a relationship, the brokenness of falling to a temptation yet again, or even willful prideful rebellion--when we repent and seek Him we can always find Him. Praise God for that!

The thoughts expressed in this article are mine brought forth from my own experience and reading of the Scripture. I realize that others may not agree with me. I respect your right to your opinion and ask for that same respect. Blessings on your day!