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Rediscovering the proper place for praise

I began keeping a journal of my Bible time when I started college as a way for me to process what I was reading. From time to time I find myself looking back on those entries. I recently began reading through a journal I started in 2010 while working through a change in a ministry I was part of. I had no idea then that the things God was speaking into my heart would end up being precisely the words I would need to hear four years later after my entire world crumbled. I’ve chosen to share some of those reflections here in hopes that they may somehow encourage someone else who is going through their own time of heartbreak or upheaval.

Eph1-3

The apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Ephesus by showing us the direction of genuine praise: at the Lord’s feet, and why we can place it there. Unlike any time from the garden to the Crucifixion, we have direct access to the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, and through Christ we have received every spiritual (eternal) blessing that can be bestowed, meaning we have a gift that cannot be taken from us regardless of what the circumstances in our lives may seem to indicate. And yet how often is my focus limited to the struggle of the here and now? I’ve been so frustrated by fighting to gain and hold onto things that continually slip through my grip, and I get angry when I don’t see the fruit from my efforts. It’s becoming clear that it’s time to redirect my gaze. It’s been too self-centered and I’m tired of feeling empty regardless of the things people say about me.

Lord,

It’s hard for me to see the full picture, to comprehend what it is You have in store for my life. I know that Your only desire for me is to seek You and know You. To find my happiness in You, not in the things I think will please You. This is what You designed me for and I continually forget that in the midst of the busyness that is my life.

I’ve been worn out for a while now, but You are offering me a rest that I’ve been ignoring. Help me today to find my security in Your gifts, not in my efforts; to rest knowing You have a plan that You will continue to reveal as the time is right.

Jen

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Life, Spirituality

 

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God honors fear-stained faith

Fear-Stained Faith

This was the main point my sister’s pastor was trying to make last Sunday and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since. Not only that, it’s served as a healing balm for a very weary soul.

I’ve often wondered how much my fear negates my faith. While I’m sure it limits its power and how clearly I see God—and I have no doubt it’s a direct result of my earthly nature—I haven’t been sure one way or another if it counts me out of the running for certain tasks or opportunities. It’s an issue that has greatly concerned me of late and I’ve been desperately searching for answers.

Jesus wasn’t making up a pithy saying when he said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8) He was speaking an incredible truth, and God has used the last several days to prove it to me.

In his message, Pastor Hanke focused on the story of Gideon (Judges 6-8) to illustrate that God will in fact use someone who is completely tangled in the chains of fear, and that He will in fact do great things through someone who has never stood up to a member of his family let alone an entire army, in order to show just how much He cares for his people. God never brushes aside someone who is genuinely seeking to know Him and His will. No matter what their emotional state.

The trouble with fear, I’ve discovered, is that it clouds everything. It’s like trying to drive down a familiar road in a thick winter fog.

I know the road is there, I know there are twists and curves ahead, and I know following that little bit of visible asphalt will eventually bring me to my destination. What I don’t know is if the dark spot off to the side of the road is a mailbox or a large animal about to dart in front of me. As all the possible scenarios of mishap and havoc play out in my mind, my hands grip the wheel more tightly and, as a result, I’m more likely to overreact at the slightest hint of trouble and end up in the very predicament I fear.

But then — O glorious moment! — I come to an incline and the gray is filled with a fiery orange that grows brighter and brighter until I burst through the fog and into blinding sun and clear blue skies.

I may only be on top of that hill for a brief span before the road takes me back down into the obscured valley, but for those few seconds my entire being relaxes in the warmth coming through the glass, and even as the fog begins to envelope me again, the fresh awareness of sun and sky above the darkness is more than enough to combat the melancholy of the mist below.

I’ve come to realize during the past few days just how much time I spend in that spiritual fog, especially of late. Fortunately, this week has been one of sunlight and rest. I didn’t realize just how much I needed it until now.

It’s easy to think that because my life has not gone according to plan that I’m doing everything all wrong. But Pastor Mark reminded me of something I am doing right: Fearful or not I have not stopped seeking the Lord, and that labor itself has not and will not be overlooked by my God.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Life, Spirituality

 

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An Inextinguishable Hope

Image courtesy of stock.xchange ©2014 BeverlyLR

Image courtesy of stock.xchange ©2014 BeverlyLR

I find it difficult to write anything of late. One hardship after another has sapped much of my desire and most days I question what my purpose is in attempting to put pen to paper. I believe every individual is born with an acute desire to make a mark in his or her world, to be able to look back over their lives and say, “I am leaving a better place than I found.” I believe we were specifically designed that way.

However, when faced with seemingly greater and insurmountable challenges, when bombarded with messages of helplessness and hopelessness, and when at last one comes to a place where one feels completely cut off from the promises we’re raised to believe, it becomes easier to understand why for some it becomes impossible to resist the temptation to say, “I give up. The world is better without me.”

My family recently put to rest one of our own who decided just that. I still don’t understand every thought that led to that final decision, but I do know that Ryan’s* wasn’t always a life without hope.

Ryan was bright. He was funny. And he loved deeply. He gave of himself for his country and for his family, but he came home from those battles wounded more than just physically. Harder still, he returned and found no real place for him. I know he isn’t alone in those feelings.

Who of any of us can truly comprehend the nightmares and demons that plague every waking and sleeping moment of a soldier who has seen combat, or who must now live with chronic pain? What father doesn’t want to provide for his young children or wouldn’t condemn himself when it seemed more and more apparent to him that he couldn’t do just that? Who of us wouldn’t be willing to try anything to escape that existence, even if only for a moment?

Of all the battles in all the wars in all the world, I can’t think of one more grueling, more bloody, and more devastating than the war that takes place in our own hearts and minds.

It’s a war we all face regardless of our vocations and it is a war none of us can say we’ve come away from unscathed. We all carry specific wounds into our daily lives — abuse, betrayal, conflict, desperation, persecution, self-loathing…the list is endless. It saps our energy and clouds our perception.

But it doesn’t have to remain that way. For those who have placed their lives in Christ we have this hope in the midst of our darkest moments that there is no longer any condemnation because through Christ the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1). Sometimes that hope seems impossibly faint, but it remains just the same.

I believe this promise remains true regardless of any choices we make after we come to the cross. It is to that belief that I am clinging harder than ever right now. Some may call it sentimental; some may declare it absolute foolishness. I call it faith and trust that my God, who has experienced every spectrum of life’s highs and lows himself, will honor His word when He declares He will never abandon his own.

*Name changed out of courtesy to the family

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Life, Spirituality

 

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Weekend Reflection: A Silent Reminder

©2013 jelindsay

©2013 jelindsay

“This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.” — President Woodrow Wilson

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Life

 

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The Prayer of a Creative Copy Cat

bigstock-Foot-Prints-379122r

Image used with permission from BigStock Images.

In the beginning, God created… Gen 1:1 (NIV)

Lord,

Those five simple words say so much about who you are and what you enjoy. They thrill my heart and humble me at the same time. They’re also a reminder that everything I do is a mere copy of what You have already done. Where You spoke life into being, I reflect that creation through words and ideas.

You molded the heavens and the earth for Your pleasure foreknowing that heartache, sickness, destruction, and grief would spout up like noxious weeds. You completed Your work all the same.

Help me remember when I’m struggling that You did not shy away from pain and suffering Yourself, but willingly sacrificed all for my benefit. As I work today, I pray that all I do would be an honest reflection of who You are and what You have accomplished simply out of Love.

Signed,

A child following in daddy’s footsteps

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Creativity, Life, Spirituality

 

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Weekend Reflection: What would I do if it were impossible to fail?

My favorite mentor's Sunday blog post not only challenged my writing this week, but how I approach everything I do. What task or venture would you undertake if it were impossible to fail?

My favorite mentor’s Sunday blog post not only challenged my writing this week, but how I approach everything I do. What task or venture would you undertake if it were impossible to fail?

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Creativity, Life

 

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Weekend Reflection: What is my chief priority?

Francine Rivers

Came across this line while re-reading the foreword of “Writing for the Soul” by Jerry B. Jenkins. I’ve been mulling it over ever since.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in Creativity, Life

 

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