Monday, August 25, 2014

I'VE BEEN "BOOK-CLUBBED"


Let me explain.

First of all, let me tell you that I am an avid reader – have been all of my life. I read a lot of books, and I read fast.  I've been known to read a book in less than a day!

I mostly read fiction – mystery stories are my favorite genre (after all, I earned my stripes reading Nancy Drew).  But I also like to sprinkle in some non-fiction, too – (mostly faith-related books).

And yes, I have been a participant in Book Clubs.

But that’s not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about being *clobbered* over the head by a book that stops me in my tracks.  A book whose message reaches deeper than just my thoughts – a book that speaks to my soul.

I have just finished such a book.

"Shattered Dreams" by Larry Crabb.

Perhaps it wouldn't have been a book that I would have picked on my own. After all, I'm not a fan of shattered dreams.  But a friend of my sons told me about it – had me read a short intro – and I knew it was a book that I needed to read.

This, from the back cover:

"'The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream.'
…author and counselor Larry Crabb has written a wise, hopeful, honest, and realistic examination of life's difficulties and tragedies.  He wraps insights around the bold story of Naomi in the Bible's book of Ruth…Shattered dreams have the power to change our lives for good.  Forever."


Really?

This is the question that I asked myself before I started reading the book. Now I understand what Dr. Crabb was talking about.  It seems to me that he spoke about three main premises that we subconsciously believe are true. But they are not inherently true, and there is some danger in believing so.


Here we go:


1) Life is supposed to work.

Don't we all have this underlying feeling that life is supposed to work? Isn't that the dream?  We desire to have pain-free lives.  Lives with good health, great marriages, fulfilling jobs, perfect children, and financial security.

We wiggle under the challenges of something less.

We are stressed by the reality of living in this imperfectly broken world.

The truth of the matter, if we're honest, is that we want comfort over character, ease over endurance, and self-fulfillment over faith.

However, it doesn't take much to realize that this is NOT the truth of our experience.  Life teaches us that it doesn't "work"at least in the sense that we want it to.

So, our dreams for a pain-free life are shattered.


This leads us to the next premise:


2) If life doesn't work, then God is supposed to fix it.

C'mon, you know it's true!  We really do want our Lord to be the knight in shining armor – we want Him to swoop down and correct the injustices, heal the illnesses, mend the relationships, solve the money problems, etc.

Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, or praying desperately for these things.  I believe the problem lies in our expectation of God's rescue (as we see it), and then the disappointment and disillusionment when He doesn't fix our stuff.

So, our dreams for a godly rescue, a supernatural *fix*, are shattered.


Which leads to the last premise:


3) If God doesn't fix our life, then He's supposed to "be there" with us through it.

In other words, if bad stuff happens in life, and God doesn't come to the rescue and fix it, then He will be/should be "there" with us while we are going through it we should be able to sense His tangible presence by our side.  We should be hearing His voice.

But often, just when we need Him the most, God seems especially hidden and silent.  Sometimes when we want to sense His presence the most, He seems particularly absent.

So, our dreams for the comfort of God's presence in a way that we can sense are shattered.


Now what?

Listen to this quote from the book:

"He lets us hurt and doesn't make it better.  We suffer and He stands by and does nothing to help, at least nothing that we're aware we want Him to do.  In fact, what He's doing while we suffer is leading us into the depths of our being, into the center of our soul where we feel our strongest passions.  It's there we discover our desire for God.  We begin to feel a desire to know Him that not only survives all our pain, but actually thrives in it until that desire becomes more intense than our desire for all the good things we still want…we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life." (page 4)


This is the crux of the book.

In having our lesser dreams shattered, we can be awakened to the greatest dream – the deep desire living within us for God Himself.

I believe that the most important thing that can happen to you after you've accepted Jesus as your Savior is getting in touch with how much you want to know God.  The greatest dream is discovering how much you just plain WANT God, not for what He can do, but just for Himself.

Trust me, the process isn't going to be easy.

In fact, it might hurt like hell (literally) – for the powers of hell will surely conspire to destroy you in the process.

The enemy will whisper frightful lies.  He will convince you that you have been abandoned to the hopelessness and futility of life.  He will continue to tempt you to hold on to the desire for those lesser dreams of the "good life."

But we must not lose hope.  We cannot give in to faulty premises.

This quote:

"The experience of despair is the initial movement in the rhythm of hope." (page 55)


And I believe that the one anchor that holds us through this whole process is Truth.

The Truth that God loves us, He is good, and He is there with us whether we feel Him or not.

Years ago, I visited the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico with my boys.  At one point on the tour, several hundred feet below the surface, our guide turned off the lights.  Believe me, it was pitch dark.  A total absence of light.  A dark so dark you could almost feel it.

Then our guide told us to put our hands in front of our face.  I placed my hand so close that it was almost touching my nose.  I could feel my breath on my palm.  But I absolutely COULD NOT see it.  No matter how hard I tried, there was nothing.

My senses did not see my hand, could not tangibly perceive it.

But it was there – so very close.

I think about this experience when I cannot feel God, when I cannot hear His voice.  My senses belie the truth that He is there, and will never leave nor forsake me.

And somehow, this is part of the greatest dream.  Wanting God even when life doesn't work.  Wanting God even when He doesn't come to the rescue and fix everything.  Wanting God even when I don't feel Him near and can't hear His voice.  Wanting Him more than even my experience of Him.

Wanting God above all else.


About a month ago, I had a night when I just experienced a total meltdown. Nervous beyond my ability to calm down, sobbing my eyes out, feeling completely out of control – I uttered a different sort of prayer.

Instead of asking God to fix things – though I still wanted Him to – I just cried from the deepest part of my soul:

Not my usual, "Lord, where are You?"

But something deeper…

"Lord, I just want You."

As soon as I said it, something very odd happened.  I actually felt this sense of peace, a feeling that I had reached something very, very deep within myself.  And after reading this book, I feel a sort of thrill that I have actually touched something very important in my life.

I know that I have experienced the greatest dream – even just for a few moments.

I want more of it, because I want more of God.


Sure, I'm terrified of what it might take to keep in touch with the greatest dream.

But wanting God with the deepest part of your soul is something powerful.

And if you arrive at this core in your heart, you will discover that at the bottom of the engulfing quicksand of life there is solid ground – hallowed ground…

…and you will stand.


Lord, give us the courage to pray this prayer, and mean it:

May I never want the good things in life more than I want You.  May I never seek Your gifts more than You, the Giver.  May I never be so comfortable in the here and now that I don't long for the hereafter.  Give me the tremendous gift of knowing how deeply I long for You.  Grant me the gift of pain in order to know that underneath all of the rubble of my life, my grandest desire is to know You.

Don't let me settle for the lesser dream of a good life, nor want good things more than the greatest dream of the best thing.

For the best thing in life…

…is You.





And the rain fell,
and the floods came,
and the winds blew and slammed
against that house;
And yet it did not fall,
for it was founded
upon a rock.




(Needless to say, I highly recommend this book!)




"O LORD, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I am in trouble?" (Psalm 10:1, NLT)

"How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1, ESV)

"Why do You forget us forever?  Why do You forsake us so long?  Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old..." (Lamentation 5:20-21, NASB)

"You have seen, O LORD; be not silent!  O Lord, be not far from me!" 
(Psalm 35:22, ESV)

"'I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.'" (Proverbs 8:17, NASB)

"...seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

"He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:6, NIV)

"My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you." (Isaiah 26:9, ESV)

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13, ESV)

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverb 3:5-6, ESV)

"...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28, ESV)

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." (James 1:2, NLT)

"So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold...So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him.  Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy." 
(1 Peter 1:6-8, NLT)

"For God has said, 'I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.'  So we can say with confidence, 'The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear.'' 
(Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT)

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30, NIV)



How is God calling you to lay down your *shattered dreams* and seek Him, the greatest dream of all?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, SOLI DEO GLORIA, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, ALL THINGS BRIGHT & BEAUTIFUL, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, RECOMMENDATION TUESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, TELL HIS STORY, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, FAITH BARISTA, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, EVERYDAY JESUS, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, SATURDAY SOIREE, STILL SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SUNDAY STILLNESS



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?


National Geographic Magazine.

I love those three words.

My mom has had a subscription for like 120 years, and when I go visit her, I catch up on my reading.

Yes, the articles are really interesting, but it's the award-winning photos that capture my attention.

The other night my eye was caught by the picture on the cover of a recent edition – a couple of planets – and the title: "Is Anybody Out There?"

It was about the search for life on other planets.  (Some people are searching for intelligent life on other planets.  Which I think is a long shot, for it's hard to find intelligent life on THIS planet…just sayin')


Do you know that I love astronomy?

When I was a little girl, I was absolutely fascinated by anything to do with outer space.

My mom bought me a fold-out map of our solar system, with colorful renderings of the planets, and interesting facts about them.  I looked at that map until it was in tatters.

Now, of course, it's seriously out-of-date.  For instance, in 2006 poor old Pluto was *de-planeted* – stripped of its claim to the 9th planetary position in our solar system.

Ah, but wait.  Seems that the jury is still out.  Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we've learned that Pluto has at least five moons and an atmosphere which is pretty impressive for something that's supposedly not a planet.  One year from now, NASA will fly its first spacecraft past Pluto, and we will have all sorts of new information.


Other cool space facts?

Did you know the earth is 93 million miles away from the Sun?

Did you know that one light year = the distance something would travel in one year at the speed of light (which is 186,000 miles per SECOND?!) – and the nearest star (besides the Sun) is 4.22 light years away from Earth?

Did you know that this nearest star is called Proxima Centauri?  And, by traveling at a speed of approximately 37,300 mph – (the speed of the spacecraft that will fly by Pluto) – it would take about 78,000 years to reach it?

Did you know that our galaxy, The Milky Way, is about 99,000 light years across – and it contains about 200 billion other stars?

And did you know that the Milky Way is just one of about 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the universe, each of which has hundreds of billions of stars?


Yup, my mind is boggled.

But I digress!

The most interesting thing to me about this article was the persistent quest for life beyond planet Earth.

For millennia, man has looked to the skies and been fascinated about what he sees.  The mysteries of the universe, though some have been discovered, continue to mystify and perplex humans.

I'm not surprised actually.

For I believe that there is something else underlying this desire to understand the universe.

I believe it is the desire to know and touch the hand of God.

Now, sure, many scientists would deny this.  Many people probably would, too. They would claim that it stems from man's search for knowledge and his place in the universe.

Which is at least partially true.

But I disagree that this is the only motive.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, we're all searching for our Creator.

"They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God." (Romans 1:19-20, NLT)

Really, then, the contemplation of the universe is really the heart of the creature longing to know the unknowable heart of God.


I am all for exploration.

The quest for knowledge, and the desire to understand mysteries, is just fine.

I believe that it is God-honoring to develop and use the mind to its fullest potential.

After all, I am fascinated with the study of many things – astronomy, anatomy, psychology, zoology, geology – just to name a few.  I'm as curious as the next person.

But I find that each new piece of knowledge that I learn always leads me to one conclusion – I am more and more awed at the Creator.

It is a rather amazing thing to know that the unknowable God chooses to let Himself be revealed.  His universe is uniquely made to be explored and understood.

He is not diminished by this.

Rather, by beginning to understand the intricacies of what He has created, His glory and majesty are expanded.


So, the search for life in the universe?

I say, go for it.

For all paths truly lead home…

…and that home is a Person.

The very real and mysterious and almighty and unfathomable God.

The Master Creator.

The One who chose to inhabit this particular planet at one point in human history – so that He might take on flesh and blood and be known.

I say if there's any intelligent life on THIS planet, we would be wise to seek out this GodGod in the fleshand get to know Him.

And then, launch out into the awe-inspiring search for Him in the rest of the universe.

From the vastness of nebulae to the minuteness of quarks – from the complexity of a snowflake to the simplicity of a drop of water – from the power of an atom to the gentleness of a whaleHe is fascinating!!

And as much as I want to learn about His universe, as much knowledge as I seek about His creation…

I want to know HIM more.





And God said, "Let there be light,"
and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good.
And God separated the light from darkness.



"But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul." 
(Deuteronomy 4:12, ESV)

"For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.  If you seek him, you will find him." (1 Chronicles 28:19, NLT)

"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God." 
(1 Chronicles 22:19, NIV)

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7, ESV)

"'You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.'" (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV)

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT)


***This is a long passage, but it is worth the reading!***

"Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind…

'Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
…Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
I said, 'This far and no farther will you come.
Here your proud waves must stop!'
Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth…
As the light approaches,
the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;
it is robed in brilliant colors.
…Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
Have you explored their depths?
Do you know where the gates of death are located?
Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
Do you realize the extent of the earth?
…Where does light come from,
and where does darkness go?
Can you take each to its home?
Do you know how to get there?
…Have you visited the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of hail?
…Where is the path to the source of light?
Where is the home of the east wind?
Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
Who laid out the path for the lightning?
Who makes the rain fall on barren land,
in a desert where no one lives?
Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
and make the tender grass spring up?
Does the rain have a father?
Who gives birth to the dew?
Who is the mother of the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
For the water turns to ice as hard as rock,
and the surface of the water freezes.
Can you direct the movement of the stars—
binding the cluster of the Pleiades
or loosening the cords of Orion?
Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
Do you know the laws of the universe?
Can you use them to regulate the earth?
Can you shout to the clouds
and make it rain?
Can you make lightning appear
and cause it to strike as you direct?
Who gives intuition to the heart
and instinct to the mind?
Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
when the parched ground is dry
and the soil has hardened into clods?"

(From Job 38, NLT)



What is something that you find fascinating about God's creation? What does it teach you about Him?



Linked today with:


SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WOMEN HELPING WOMEN, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYSWHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, TELL HIS STORY, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, EVERYDAY JESUS, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, THE FRIDAY FIVE, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, STILL SATURDAY, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, WEEKEND BREW, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

DRACULA MOON


Monsters.

I sorta like to be scared by them.

Back in the day (my day that is!), there was a rash of monster movies. Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Phantom of the Opera, Creature from the Black Lagoon, to name a few.  In my humble (and correct) opinion, these were *true* monster movies.  (I am not a fan of re-makes).

And, in a pre-special effects world, a world without computer-generated creatures, these movies were classics of makeup and lighting and cinematography.  I think the fact that they were filmed in black and white made them even scarier.  Properly creepy, they scared the wits out of me.

Especially Dracula.

For weeks I was unable to close my eyes at night without feeling his warm, batty breath on my neck!

Somehow in my mind, he was the one monster who could actually be real.

And so, to this day, I am still a little spooked by what I call a "Dracula Moon."

A "Dracula Moon" is a full moon surrounded by wispy clouds, or fog, or a halo of moist air.  (Check out my photo below and you'll see what I mean).

A regular full moon is also a bit eerie, as it brings the risk of a random Wolf Man appearance.

But at least you can see well by the light of a silvery moon.

A "Dracula Moon" is not a bright moon.  It is a shadowy harbinger of ominous monster-lurking (or flying).

Part of the reason I still look up in the sky and feel a tingle along my spine is because of one true fact…

I am still afraid of the dark.

Yup, I admit it.

I am a nighttime sissy.

And you know what?  It is really, really freaky up here in the mountains!  There are no neighbors next door, no streetlights, no neon-lit main street, no fancy backyard lighting.

Just an inky sky…

…and whatever else is lingering nearby just waiting to jump out at me!

I've mentioned before that our house is located at the top of a winding, switchback road.  And I hate when I have to drive home after dark.  It doesn't happen often (on purpose) – but occasionally I have to do it.

Let me tell you, there is no way that I can drive fast. 

And so, when I go slowly, and especially when I have to slow down around the curves, all I can see is what is lit up by my headlights (on high-beam, of course).

I am surrounded by trees and boulders and ravines and things that go bump in the night.

My hands get a little sweaty, my heart beats faster, and my mind races to all sorts of things.  Beasts that will jump out at me, or scary robbers trying to hijack my car, or monsters looking for an unwary and hapless victim.

And, if I am ever unfortunate enough to drive home on a night lit up by a "Dracula Moon"let me tell you, I am looking for wings.

Silly, huh?

A little, maybe.

But fear of the dark is real.  And fear of monsters is instinctual in a way, don't you think?

Found this on the web:  Fear of the dark is usually not fear of the darkness itself, but fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness.  It's linked to a fear of the unknown.


Yes, that is it exactly.

But, where does this fear come from?

I think it comes from something that the enemy places in our hearts and minds.

The prince of darkness reigns on this earth, and fear is one of his most effective tactics.

He moves in darkness, and hates the light.

And he delights in scaring the children of God.

Trust me, I know.  For I am a worrier, a fretter, a stewpot of *what-if* thinking…and I get scared very easily.

It's my thorn.

And the enemy knows how to poke at and stir up and wound me at my most vulnerable spot.

F reaking out
E ndless anxiety
A ngst-ridden thoughts
R unning away


He is a monster.

But truly, I don't really need to be afraid of him.

For I have the Light of the World with me.

I have found that if I turn on a Christian radio station while driving up the road, I'm not afraid.

If I pray while I'm driving, I'm not afraid.  (Eyes open, of course!)

If I sing while I'm driving, I'm not afraid.

See, the truth of the matter is this – if I focus on the Lord, I AM NOT AFRAID.

This is Truth that can, and must, be applied to all aspects of my life.

Fear is really just the devil taunting me, and tempting me to look at all my inadequacies, my inabilities, my lack of control over anything.

And this is the root of fear.

It stems from that old prideful desire to be our own gods.  To run our lives.  To do what we think is best.  To rule and reign and make life into our own image.

And when we come face-to-face with the fearsome reality that we are not in control, well, we can crumble.

I have battled an onslaught of anxiety since my dad died in January.  It's been overwhelming at times.

And yet…

AND. YET.

I am also finding out how much I am loved.

Loved by a sovereign God who loves me perfectly.

"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…" (1 John 4:18, NIV)

He is the One who controls my future.  He is the One who battles the darkness of fear.  He is the One who overcomes the powers that taunt and tempt.

Yes, the enemy may say, "Boo!"

But the Lord says, "Be gone!"


Truth be told, I'll probably always be a little afraid of the dark and monsters – (I still jump into my bed from about 2 feet out – nobody’s grabbing me from underneath the bed!)

And I'll probably always have to battle my tendency to worry.

And I'm sure I'll always have a "control" issue!

But, I do not need to fear…

For the light of the moon, even a "Dracula Moon," is still just a reflection of the sun…

…and even on the darkest night, the Son is still shining!





Fear not!
I am with you always,
even to the end of the world.



"I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you...[and will] release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." (Isaiah 42:6-7, NIV)

"For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6, NLT)

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves..." (Colossians 1:13, NIV)

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people...As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9, NLT)

"For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.  So live as people of light!" (Ephesians 5:8, NLT)

"'Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.'" 
(Acts 26:17-18, NLT)

"In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5, ESV)

"'I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.'" (John 12:46, NASB)

"'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 1:12, NIV)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

"Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The LORD will be a light to me." (Micah 7:8, NKJV)



What are you afraid of?  And how does God help you overcome your fears?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, UNITE, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WOMEN HELPING WOMEN, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAYS, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, EVERYDAY JESUS, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, FRIDAY FIVE, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, WEEKEND BREW, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

THE "STUFF" OF DREAMS


I literally had a dream about *stuff* the other night.

MY stuff.

So, wanna hear it?  (Say yes, or stop reading now 'cuz I’m gonna tell it…)

OK, the dream starts out with "The Hub" and I walking along a beach.  It's a long stretch of coastline, the weather's good, and we're having our best time.  Then, in the distance, I see something that looks like a long, plastic barrier of some sort.  Curious, I run up to see what it is.

Well, it's this long "chute-like" thing, and it's full of stuff.  All kinds of stuff. I'm getting excited about this, because I just love going to antique stores and swap meets and garage sales.  I am immediately thinking, "Treasure Hunt!"

Well, after a few minutes of going through things, and not finding anything I want, I start digging down deeper.  For some reason – don't ask me why, dreams are weird I am now using a shovel to push and prod and pull the stuff apart.

All of a sudden I push aside a pillow.  A fleeting thought crosses my mind, "Huh.  That pattern looks kinda familiar."  I push a few more things aside, and slowly my mind starts to click in…"That looks familiar, too.  And that, and that, and…"

Then it hits me.

All this stuff is MY stuff.

Stuff that I had given away or thrown away in the past.  I've gone through two major "purges" in my lifetime.  One was in 2008, when we remodeled our house down the hill.  The other was in 2012, when we moved up the hill (after 29 years of pack-ratting fun).

Actually, all of those above-mentioned "I's" should really be "we's" – for I could not (and maybe would not) have done any of this without "The Hub's" help.


OK, so back to the dream.

I'm starting to look at this stuff – my stuff – and feeling increasingly anxious.  You see, it's hard enough for me to get rid of anything in the first place.  I get really attached to thingsmostly for sentimental reasons – and it is very difficult to *downsize.*  Without "The Hub," I just might be a hoarder.

So, in my dream, my heart rate is increasing, I'm starting to breathe a little faster…

I look at "The Hub" and say, "What are they going to do with all of this?"

He points out to the ocean and says, "Somewhere out there, I guess they're going to bury it all."

This makes me more anxious.

I glance back up the length of the "chute" and I see more and more of my stuff.  My eyes land on some old toys, and I start to tear up. "Why did I give those away?" I think.  Now it's like seeing my sons sitting on a trash heap.

So, I start doing the intelligent thing…

I start re-looking through my stuff.  And re-evaluating, and even re-acquiring some of it.  I can remember distinctly a large, silver trophy cup.  And on the front of it were engraved pictures of moose, and bison, and bears. I mutter under my breath, "Why is this here?  This would be perfect for our new mountain home."

At this point, one glance at "The Hub" shows his utter dismay that we will now be adding to the pile at home – (which includes some still-unpacked boxes) – but I am in total panic mode…and sad.

The thought of my old possessions ending up buried beneath the waters of the Pacific Ocean is very unsettling.  And then I wonder, "Why didn't someone else want this stuff?"

And then, I wake up.

My heart was racing, my breath was ragged, and my nerves were on edge.

If I was an armchair psychologist, I could probably analyze the *wazoo* out of this dream.  But, I am not.  However, since I am currently sitting on a couch, I'm going to give it a try!

I know in real life, as I mentioned before, it's really hard for me to get rid of things.  Really, really hard.  Because so many things have some emotional meaning attached to them.  Clothes are like memories, toys are like babies, knick-knacks are vacations, etc.  I am a sentimental fool.

When I finally am able to screw up my nerve to actually fill a box or two for Goodwill, I almost always don't want to go with "The Hub" and drop it off.  It's just way too hard to see the stuff leave the car and enter an impersonal warehouse.

(I know, I'm weird).

And then, my very worst real-life nightmare would be going to a local thrift shop or garage sale and actually seeing some of my old stuff.

So, there are some conscious feelings attached to this unusual nightmare.

But what causes those feelings?  And why now?


It occurs to me that it has something to do with staying with my mom at her house.  Since my father's death in January, we've had to have people look at our stuff, and value our stuff, and we've begun the discussion about distributing stuff – (at Mom's prompting, mind you).

And it's all rather difficult.  Things are things, yes, but for me they're things with memories.  And perhaps, nowhere else are there more memories attached than with the things that belong to my parents.

And then, another possible reason for this dream is that July 17th was the one-year anniversary of the day we got evacuated for a raging wildfire that threatened our home and our town.  I will never forget the fear of leaving our home with two cars packed with just the *important* stuff.  Very scary, very unnerving.  

(Add to that some extra-anxious moments when we were hit by two lightning-caused fires close by our home over the weekend...)

So, perhaps fear and loss are issues that are close to the surface right now.


And yet, I realize that I must reflect on this.

I have asked the Lord to forgive me if I have an *over-attachment* to my things.  I know He understands that the things we choose to surround ourselves with are important.  For they give our homes a certain *feel* that we enjoy.  I wouldn't trade our bear carvings, or our paintings, or our multiple pictures of buffalo and wolves, or our bed and furniture made out of Aspen tree logs – or any of the other *treasures* that we have in our home.

For these are the things that give "The Hub" and I that cozy, rustic, nostalgic feel of the Old West that we so love.  And now, finally, the outside of where we live is a perfect *fit* for the things that we have so thoughtfully and lovingly collected to surround us inside.

I think God understands this.

But, though my heart can love the things, it must never put weight to the *soul importance* of them.

And this is probably where God has some work to do in me.

Last year, with the fire, I dealt with these feelings.  Not once and for all, maybe, but certainly for the most serious time ever.  And I did realize some important facts:

I learned that people are WAY more important than things.

I learned that earthly things are fun, but they're finite.  What really matters are those heavenly treasures.

I learned that our possessions can be enjoyed, but they must never be our focus.

I learned that we enter the world with nothing, and we leave it the same way. ALL that counts is what we decide about Jesus.


So, beyond some of the armchair couch psychological analyzing of my dream, on further reflection I realize that God is reminding me of the great Truth that He wants me to hear…yet again.

HE is all that matters.





Stuff is just stuff,
and it won't last
forever.
And guess what?!
Someday I'm trading it all in
for a crown!


(Two of my favorite *stuffed* buddies)








"Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them." (Psalm 49:16-17, NIV)

"No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24, NIV)

"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10, NLT)

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail..." (Luke 12:33, ESV)

"'Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.'" (Matthew 6:19-21, NLT)


"'So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?'  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.'" (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT)

"'[For] what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?'" (Matthew 16:26, NLT)

"'You say, 'I am rich.  I have everything I want.  I don't need a thing!'  And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.  I advise you to buy gold from me - gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich.  And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness.  And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.'" (Revelation 3:17-19, NLT)

"For we must all stand before Christ to be judged.  We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body." (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT)

"For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return." 
(Genesis 3:19, NLT)

"...people are like the grass.  Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.  The grass withers and the flowers fade...And so it is with people.  The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:6-8, NLT)



"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him." (Philippians 3:7-9, NLT)



Do you find it hard to get rid of *stuff*, or are you good at cleaning house?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, SOLI DEO GLORIA, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEYA LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, WOMEN HELPING WOMEN, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAYS, TELL HIS STORY, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAYTHRIVING THURSDAY, FAITH BARISTA, EVERYDAY JESUS, GRACE AT HOME, HEARTS FOR HOME, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, MAKE MY SATURDAYS SWEET, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, STILL SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, GIVE ME GRACE, SUNDAY STILLNESS



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, July 28, 2014

JUST CALL ME JACOB


Jacob is an interesting character.

One meaning for his name is "leg puller."

Of course this doesn't mean that Jacob was a practical joker.

Although, he and his mom pulled a pretty good *switcheroo* on good ol' Isaac.  (Which seemed like a terrible thing to do to an old blind man, right?!)

And do I even need to mention the whole fiasco where Esau traded his birthright for a yummy bowl of stew?  (Though I think Esau takes the blame on this one).

Maybe Jacob wasn't a practical joker, but he was rather sneaky, don't you think?

However, I do love how the Bible doesn't pull any punches when writing about some of our beloved characters.

This is the family tree from which the Messiah will be born??

God is outrageous, if nothing else!!


So, Jacob.

The above facts are interesting indeed.

But the reason I like Jacob is for another reason.

He wrestled.

You know, the whole scene with Jacob's nighttime wrestling match is a bit mysterious.  And yet, every time I read the account, I strangely feel this inner sense of excitement, of anticipation.  Almost unwillingly, a smile sneaks to my face.

Why, I wonder?

Part of it is definitely because I feel that my faith journey is this sort of wrestling match.  A match in which my faith battles my feelings, in which I strive to hold on to it in spite of life's adverse circumstances.

But, there's something else.

It's this – the whole scene is rather intimate.

One-on-one with God

(Or the pre-incarnate Jesus, or an angel, or at the very least, a God-ordained emissary sent with a purpose.  Commentaries vary on this opinion – and in the end, to my thoughts, it doesn't perhaps matter…)

I like the idea of a wrestling faith, for it fits the way I am.

But this year, the Year of JOY, I am finding that the struggle is evolving into something different.

Instead of struggling against God, I am actually striving to find Him.


So, let's discuss this – and I'm going to talk about it in two parts.  For this is what I see – the fight and the aftermath.


The Fight:

The word struggle implies making great physical effort to fight.  To make a valiant effort to overcome difficulties.  To writhe to escape.  To thrash about.

Yup, that describes what this faith wrestling has felt like.

In the Biblical account of Jacob's story, we can see our own struggles against fears, darkness, loneliness, inadequacy, vulnerability.  We can identify with Jacob's empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

But when we strive in our own might, our own power fails.

I can't tell you how much I have wanted to escape the turmoil that this year has brought.  I am tired of troubles, and wearied by contending for a good "faith attitude" in the midst of them.

I honestly feel like my spirit has been in a *winner-take-all* tussle with God.

Do I want to win?

Well, yeah, sometimes I think I do – IF it means having a restful respite from all the tough stuff for a while.  (Writhing to escape?  Yes, a perfect description…)

But if it means losing something from God, then no…

And that is where the pivot point is happening for me.


In my mind, there's two kinds of surrender.  There's lying on the wrestling mat, pinned underneath the overpowering hand of God and crying out, "OK, OK, 'Uncle,' you win!" – which is a begrudging *giving up* concession to the greater power of His might.

And then there's the other kind.  The kind that says, "Lord, I cannot fight You and win.  I don't want the fight anymore, I want You."

Frederick Buechner, one of the most read authors by Christian audiences, characterizes Jacob's divine encounter as the "magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God."

Yes, that's it.

When Jacob fought God in his own strength, he was only able to forestall God's intended purpose towards him.

But if God had chosen to unleash His full power, Jacob would have been crushed.  So, somewhere in the early hours of the morning, something changes in Jacob.

This is where the second part begins.


The Aftermath:

Somewhere along the line, Jacob's life and character moves from reliance on self to reliance on God – the One who moves from "divine Antagonist to Friend."

Can you imagine what it would be like if God fought against us with all of His might?

(Don't – it's scary!)

But, just as He did with Jacob, God mercifully restrains His hand.  His way of overcoming us is through love.  Some have said that the only way we can "defeat" God is to reject Him.

Well, though not a defeat in the true sense of the word, it is a way to thwart Him.

God, our perfect God of perfect love, wants to win us by our choosing to yield to Him.

This is what the wrestling is about.  We must be weaned from our dependence on self.  It must be broken, hobbled, and defeated.  Only then, when we accurately perceive our weakness – only then, can we grab onto the Hand that will infuse us with His mighty strength and power.


This is what I am learning about my wrestling.

Though I desperately want the *bad* to stop – it isn't worth it to me to lose the blessing in order to achieve it.

And what's the blessing?

Knowing God – in an ever more intimate way.

This is where my turning point has come – I am moving from wrestling to wanting more of God.

This is the turning point for Jacob, too.  I find this passage startling in its account:

"But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
'What is your name?' the man asked.
He replied, 'Jacob.'
…'Please tell me your name,' Jacob said.
'Why do you want to know my name?' the man replied.
Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means "face of God"), for he said, 'I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.'"  (From Genesis 32, NLT)


It was at this point that Jacob was finally capable of receiving the full blessing from God.  Emptied of himself, weak in his exhaustion, awash in his own powerlessness, he finally recognizes God.

A God who has lovingly allowed the wrestling until Jacob yielded.


A commentary I read said it this way:

"…he needed to have his heart thus cleansed and softened, and then opened wide by panting desire for the presence and benediction of God; he needed to be made conscious of his new standing, and of the higher life budding within him; he needed to experience the yearning for a closer vision of the face, a deeper knowledge of the name – and then it was possible to pour into his heart a tenderness and fullness of blessing which before there had been no room to receive, and which now answered in sweetest fashion the else unanswered desire, 'Tell me, I pray thee, Thy name.'"

(Alexander MacLaren, commentary)


"…panting desire for the presence and benediction of God…"

Do you love this phrase as much as I do?!

Yes, it describes it exactly – I pant for Him, thirst for Him, hunger for Him, feel like I will literally die if I can't feel Him close.

I so need Him.

And it is this desire that is the goal of God all along.  He desires that we desire Himwith "all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind."

We can be filled with God only when we are emptied of ourselves.  For this is when we are finally capable of longing for Him fully, a desire that God cannot help but satisfy, for we were made for Him.


God blessed Jacob only after Jacob asked to know His Name.

This has become the deep cry of my heart, too:

"Bless me, Lord, for I would know You."

As Charles Wesley put it, in his grand hymn on this incident ("Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown"):

"Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair…
Wrestling I will not let Thee go Till I Thy name, Thy nature know…

My strength is gone, my nature dies, I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive…and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know."


What beauty there is in our refrain, "I will not let You go."

Our lives were never meant to be easy.  And this is especially true when we attempt to "do life" in our own strength.

But despite our trials and tribulations, we are never without God's presence. 

His blessing ever follows the messy and chaotic struggle.


Wrestling matches lead to intimate encounters.

And when we cling to Him, the victory belongs to Him...and to us.





I will lift up my eyes to the mountains,
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip,
The LORD is your keeper.
He will keep your soul.
He will guard your going out
and your coming in,
From this time forth
and forever.

























"Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won.  He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.  There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him – the LORD God of Heaven's Armies, the LORD is his name!" (Hosea 12:4, NLT) 

"Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day has broken.'  But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" (Genesis 32:26, ESV)


"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

...Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you...

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me...

I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?'  My bones suffer mortal agony...

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." 
(From Psalm 42, NIV)


"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1, ESV)

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2, NIV)

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you." (Isaiah 26:9, NIV)

"I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land...Answer me quickly, O LORD!  My spirit fails!  Hide not your face from me..." (Psalm 143:6-7, ESV)

"'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'" (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." (Psalm 107:9, ESV)

"'For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.'" (Jeremiah 31:25, ESV)

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power." (Isaiah 40:29, NASB)

"...he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.   For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12, ESV)



How do you identify with Jacob?  What are you learning in the wrestling?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAY, FAITH BARISTA, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, EVERYDAY JESUS, GRACE AT HOMEHEARTS AT HOME, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, WEEKEND BREW, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SUNDAY STILLNESS



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"