His Grace is Enough

Woman on Beach Looking at Ocean --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis There are days I am overwhelmed with this life.

All sorts of doubts plague my mind.

I am assaulted with lies and insults within.

My self talk seems bent on destroying the truth I know.

I see my weaknesses.

I understand the powerlessness of self to be different than I am.

Then I am reminded that Christ has said, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

But still I strive to be, to change and yet it is impossible apart from His grace. It is His work in me that I must surrender to. So I choose to glory in my weaknesses knowing that it is the power of Christ dwelling in me that can change me.

So I must choose to surrender to His power, His grace, for it alone is enough. It’s all I need.

“…My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Mourning Until Heaven

On Friday I was talking to a friend about the death of a parent. We have both lost our dads. He asked me how long do you mourn? I said “until heaven”.

Stuart Miles, published on 26 August 2011<br />Stock Photo - image ID: 10055137It is true that it gets easier and the missing of them gets less painful. It is true that as time goes on we adjust and learn to live without them. We will live days, weeks, and months without thinking of the loss.

It is true that there are still moments of mourning, remembering, tears, and sorrow. These moments will come unbidden and when you least expect it. I remember one day drive down the road and the tears just began to flow, then I began to sob. I missed my father.

My Father has been gone for over 40 years and it has taken me almost that time to realize that it’s okay to stop and remember, to mourn once again and then move on. It is not a sign of weakness. It is not a sign that you haven’t gotten “over it”. It’s just part of the mourning of a loved one.

When we lose someone we love deeply there will always be moments that we need to breathe in the memories of the one we have lost and as we breathe in those memories there may be a tear or two. It’s a sign of loving deeply.

So give yourself permission to remember. To mourn. In the midst of it all allow the Spirit of God to bring comfort once more.

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecc. 3:4)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3,4)

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles, at www.freedigitalphotos.net

The Truth About Forgiveness

Forgiveness can mean that you must forgive again and again.

choosing to forgiveRecently I’ve had several hurtful things come up to surface again. They were hurtful experiences of betrayal by those that were thought to be on my side. Those that I considered friends. The wound was deep and I must admit caused me to withdraw from relationships once again. My standard in the past has always been to withdraw, build the walls higher, thicker and resolve within to never let hurt come again.

This time God wouldn’t let me build my walls. Instead God came worked on tearing them down. It took a while. He was patiently faithful in helping me see the need to forgive. To forgive not just in this but in past betrayals, past hurts that have caused me to prefer isolation over community.

As I said, He is faithful and forgiveness came. With forgiveness came glorious freedom and healing.

So now as I face this same emotion, remembering the past betrayal and hurt I am faced with a choice. Do I allow the enemy to use it making me angry again and feel the hurt all over? Oh my flesh wants to cry, kick and scream! I want to go back and make this right! I was wronged and there was no apology, no setting the record straight! The emotions and hurt threatened to rise up! In this moment if I would listen to my flesh (my enemy) I would sin.

But I  choose to forgive. Again and again.

Just so you understand, I am not speaking of one who hurt me again but of allowing the memory of a hurtful experience hurt me again. Both would require the same response. That response would be to forgive.  I use to believe that if a hurtful memory came up again and again it meant that I didn’t really forgive the first time. I no longer believe that for I understand that often my enemy will take those opportunities to tempt me to sin.

So when those times of painful memories arise thank our Father for the opportunity to forgive once again.

 

See Matthew  11:25; 18:21-35

When A Heart Weeps

TearMy heart is heavy. Broken. On days like today I wish my heart didn’t feel so much. I wish it didn’t hurt so deeply. The pain, at times, is unbearable.

There is One who weeps with me when my heart weeps.

My heart aches for the mother whose child has lived the first year of his life broken. He has spent more time in the hospital than at home. She holds him tight not knowing how many more days she has with him. Her heart weeps.

There is One who weeps with her.

A family torn apart. A father leaves. Another family, another marriage falls through the cracks of the church community. No one seems to notice.

There is One who sees. One who weeps.

A discouraged woman sits in the pew. She is considering suicide. She wonders if anyone would miss her. Does anyone see her tears, her pain, her loneliness.

There is One who not only sees but feels her tears as her heart weeps.

A man comes and sits in church Sunday after Sunday looking for answers. He is in bondage. He wants to believe that he can be free. He wants to believe he is loved. No one reaches out to him. No one takes the time to know him.

There is One who knows Him. One who loves Him.

I look around my community and see those who are dying a spiritual death. I see those who need a hug, an encouraging word. I see that woman whose marriage is failing. The mother who cries each night for her wayward child. I see the one who wonders where God’s people are in the midst of suffering.

Why aren’t we being the hands and feet of the One who has called us to Preach the Gospel. My heart weeps for I know I should do more. I know I can do more. But I struggle, for I am only one and a weak one at that.

My heart weeps. It is broken for the brokenness I see in my community. There is One is weeps with me. He has promised that He will be with me. He will be my strength, my Rock, my Counselor.

My heart weeps for I know I can not help them all, I am only one. But there is One who whispers to my heart, “minister to the ones I send you, it is enough.”

I will go. I will do the work of weeping with those who weep for I know there is One who also weeps with us.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know that I begin each new year with a verse and a word or theme for the year. My verse came to me in looking-back-moving_thumb.jpgNovember. In so many ways I was blown away by it. It fit. It was right. It was time. But first, last year God worked in my heart to destroy some idols that had deep roots. God showed me that “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord ’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence” (Ps 24:6)

It was a hard year looking into the heart and seeing those things and people who had become more important that my relationship with God. But mostly I saw that my biggest idol was self and the need to control. So for the largest part of the year God had me study who He is. I mean what better way to destroy the idol of self then to see who God truly is. When we come face to face with the Holiness of His character we have no choice but to bow in humility and surrender all that we are.

So in November when God brought me to Is 61:7 my heart was deeply moved. Isaiah says “Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.

You see, my life verse is “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted ; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners ; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn…” (Is 61:1-2) So this verse spoke loudly. Not only because I had spent a year looking into the character of God and seeing my utter sinfulness and my enemy often tried to have a field day with pouring shame and humiliation upon my head but God had also used the study of His character to apply deeper balms of healing to my soul.

When God binds up the brokenhearted, frees the prisoner and brings good news to the afflicted we should shout for joy! Somehow I have lost the importance of joy, His joy. God has healed me of my sin, of my abuse, of my afflictions and so much more so instead of shame and humiliation there should be joy.

This is my journey for 2014, to find joy in all life’s circumstances. I was so moved by the fact that Everlasting Joy can be mine that I began a new blog titled Everlasting Joy. I believe this is the beginning of a new season. A season of finding joy in Christ alone. A season of finding joy in all of life’s circumstance because my joy is found in Him alone.

Thank you for joining me. I look forward to this walk with you. Eventually I will move Quiet Reflections over to Everlasting Joy, I think. For I am not sure I can keep up two blogs!

You will make known to me the path of life ; In Your presence is fullness of joy ; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps 16:11

 

Photo courtesy of  Stoonn at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

The Battle of Hiding and Transparency

The last few days I have been wondering why am I so content to hide. In fact I prefer to hide. It’s my safe place, my default. The truth is there are many who prefer to hide also. We’ve been hiding for a long time, ever since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. 

Maybe as women, we will always revert back to hiding. But it’s not what we were made to do. Christ came to set us free from guilt and shame. He came so that we could freely be who He created us to be. So why do we hide?

Hide - Copy (2)We hide because we are afraid. We have been wounded by others. People have sinned against us and we have sinned as well. We think that if we hide we will be safe, that somehow we will be protected. But protected from what? Another rejection? The betrayal of a friend or family member? Suffering? Pain?

We hide because we are afraid that others will see who we really are. We fear that they will see that at times we can be weak and frail. That we struggle and that sometimes we are even “needy”. Why do we feel that we must wear this mask of perfection and strength?

We feel  judged, shame and fear …so we hide.

In Staci Eldredge’s book titled Captivating she says “We become good at hiding. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing with drawls. We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe.We act in self-protected ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws. We will not do it again.” No truer words have been spoken. So often we do only offer what we think others want to know about us and we hold back the truest forms of ourselves.

I too have a real tendency to hide, to try and protect myself against more hurt or possible judgment. I believe though, that God has been calling me to be more transparent. God wants me to be honest, open and real. He wants me to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be available, trustworthy and most of all- to be a grace giver.

But I’ve tried this before. I have found that sometimes people just aren’t comfortable with our “confessions”. They are not truly open to accept the messiness in our lives. They will judge, misunderstand and your relationship may never be the same.

If I would become a grace giver to all those I meet would that not make others feel that they could be real with me? If I began to openly share my heart with those around me, regardless of what others thought, wouldn’t those around me do the same?

So what shall we do? First we need to understand that there is a balance between hiding and revealing too much. Second we must discern between those who are able to hear our weaknesses, struggles and sin with grace and those who can not.

So when and how often do we share our burden? What parts do we share? It’s kind of like getting a physical wound. If we injure our selves and begin to bleed we don’t just go around bleeding all over everyone. We bandage it up so that the healing process can begin. Sometimes the wound is too big for us to wrap ourselves and we need help, so we go to someone capable of helping. Once it’s begun to heal, we do not pick at it so that it bleeds, thus starting the process all over. No, we allow it to heal. While healing there are those who will ask about our wound so we willingly share-but only when asked. We do not run around shouting “Look at my wound!”

Our emotional wounds or life struggles are similar. When we are going through something we know those we can talk to, those who are safe and trustworthy, who will help in the healing process. So we go to them and allow them to help “bandage” us up. We do not run around shouting “my life is awful-woe is me” to anyone who will listen. One reason we do not do this is because they may not be able to understand the depth of your struggle. They may not be able to handle your burden.

On the other hand if someone notices that we are struggling and ask us about it, we certainly should share with them instead of saying “oh everything is fine.” But, again, we do not want to walk around “bleeding” all over them. We can be be open, honest and willing to share when God gives us the opportunity to do so without going into great details or making huge confessions that other may not be able to handle due to their spiritual maturity or lack of.

I am finding, especially as an “older” woman and/or a leader that women want to know about my struggles and how I walked through them. They want to know they are not alone in their struggles. They need to see the power of the gospel being lived out in the life of another. So I need to be more willing to share when asked. I need to allow others into my life, so they can ask questions. I need to be honest enough to share the work God has done in me in order to bring glory to His name.

One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness, and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.  PS 145:4, 7 NASB

Father, help me to be a grace giver. Help me to willingly open up my heart and my life so that you alone might be glorified.

Where is God in Suffering?

Today I want to share a few thoughts with you about God’s sovereignty and how I have understood it applying to my life when it comes to suffering and abuse.  I have known suffering and have walked the journey of healing from abuse. I can say today that I would not change anything that has happened in my Little Girl in Classroom 2000life, because I know that God has used it for His glory. I am often asked how I could say that knowing what I’ve been through. So this post is in response to that question. This is my response to “how can you have joy in suffering and where is God?” Before I share my thoughts just let me say that I realize that depending on what you are dealing with this could be a hard truth to accept. It was for me, it took quite some time before I could fully accept and trust in the sovereignty of God.

I do understand that no one would choose to go through tragedy or live with abuse. Unfortunately we live in a world filled with sinful man. God says that mans heart is evil and because it’s evil children are taken advantage of, they are abused. People, young and old die. God has given man a free will and sometimes there are victims of others sinful choices. Yet to say God isn’t sovereign over these areas goes against who scriptures says God is. God does not stand idly by and let things happen, He is in control, He is sovereign. Our destiny is not in our hands, or in the hands of other people. We are held in the hands of our heavenly Father, who controls everything.

One thing we need to understand is that “from the rise and fall of government to tomorrow’s weather to the exact location of every human being, the universe is under God’s control. He has the power and authority to do exactly what pleases him, anywhere he chooses to do it. God’s sovereignty is not only about power and position, but also about a plan.”(Paul D. Tripp) Scripture is pretty clear about God having a plan for this world and for each one of us. God calls us unto himself, He forms us into His likeness, and He is preparing us to live in eternity with him. To the human eye things may seem out of control, both in our individual lives and the lives of the world. But at any given time of the past, present and the future God is accomplishing His plan. His plan is being accomplished when we see “good” happening and when we see “evil” happening.

I know that there is evil in the world, and because God allows man to have a free will, and because of the evil choices of man, there are victims. Not only does bad things happen to people but evil happens to people. Evil happens to us and then we have to live in the aftermath of it. But to say that God is not sovereign over that is to not understand the God of the Bible. God is good, God is in control and God is sovereign over all things. “In God’s wisdom and sovereign will every trial in a Christian’s life is ordained from eternity past, custom-made for that believer’s eternal good, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Nothing happens by accident, not even tragedy, not even sins committed against us. Unless the Bible is wrong, nothing happens outside of God’s decree. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing pleasant, nothing tragic. Every sorrow we taste will one day prove to be the best possible thing that could have happened. We will thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials he sent to us here. Truth is clear according to Acts 9:16; Phil 1:29; 2 Cor 1:5, Acts 14:22; Rom 8:17 (and others) the Christian is called to share in Christ’s sufferings. Simply put- Christians will suffer in this world. Evil can only raise its head where God deliberately backs away – always for reasons that are specific, wise and good, but often hidden during this present life. Satan has to get permission, he operates under constraints.” 1 (Luke 22:31)

Am I saying that it’s God’s will for a child to be repeatedly raped by her step brother or a step father? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that God chooses not to intervene with the free will choices of man, even evil men. But for those who surrender to God and trust in Him He will use these evil acts in our lives for good. He will help us heal. He will use it for good, for our good and His glory. That which man does to us in order to destroy us God can use for His glory.(Gen 50:19) 2

Unfortunately we don’t always know why, and as humans we think its our “right” to know why. Trusting God must be enough. The best answer we have is “God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, spend our time wisely, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead up to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase faith, and strengthen character.”1

So it comes down to this, I choose to trust in His sovereign will for my life whether I understand it or not. I must choose to walk in what I know is true today. The past and what I’ve been through needs to be seen as part of my journey that God has used to get me where I am today. Would I choose to be sexually abused? NO! But I can accept it as part of my journey to who I am today. I can accept it as I allow God to use it in the life of other women. In a few weeks I will be meeting with a young woman whose mother sold her into prostitution and because of the suffering I experienced I will be able to relate to her.

Each of us may have that event or circumstance we’d like to change, but instead of living in the past of guilt, shame or regret we need to live a life that accepts that God wasn’t caught by surprise. He didn’t take His hands off you at that moment. Trust instead in His sovereignty, Trust that all things work together for good to those who love him. All things – both good and bad, whether we have sinned or been sinned against.

Am I joyful that I was abused? No, but I can find joy in knowing that God will not let it destroy me. I can find joy in knowing and trusting in God’s goodness. I can find joy in who He IS!

 

1 Tada, Joni Eareckson ,  Estes, Steve. When God Weeps:Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. Zondervan (October 1, 2000)

2  Story of Joseph can be found in Genesis chapters 37-50: “But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Gen 50:19-20