Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harried Holidays

God I need relief, mercy, attention.

I don't know about you, but I'm in the midst of way too many responsibilities and far too much pressure. Over time I've come to understand that the Father arranges these phases that I might draw closer to Him as I recognize my own inadequacies. I am thankful for His spiritual exercises. 

God points out the danger of letting my focus waiver toward fantasy and falsehood. My heart and mind need to be intentionally and firmly focused on Him and His Truth. He reminds me that He has set me apart for Himself, and that He WILL HEAR ME when I call.

I look toward heaven as I fight the battles of flurry, frustration, and fatigue. I apply effort at turning my heart and mind upward in the midst and using even my rest time to contemplate the person of Jehovah Jireh and His relationship toward me. I am speechless!

God calls me to lay everything at His feet and to TRUST Him. The King reminds me of His plan to bless me with the basics of life as well as greater gifts, such as light and joy. 

I notice my spiritual muscles are developing. I am more able to rest in tranquility day and night as I remember and embrace the reality that God is the ONLY ONE who can and does establish me securely. 

How are you coping as the holiday season gets underway? Are you making the most of this fresh opportunity to come to know God more fully and rely on Him more completely? 

I'd enjoy hearing how you're doing.

Psalm 4

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Escape Destruction

The rulers of the earth scheme together to throw off the restraints of the Law Giver and His Judge.

The LORD mocks, rebukes, and horrifies in wrath as He announces His Son, the Ruling Reconciler.

Heed the alert, O rulers, serve The LORD, rejoice in humility, and embrace The Son to avoid destruction and enter the Blessed Shelter.

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
    and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
    and against his Anointed One.
“Let us break their chains,” they say,
    “and throw off their fetters.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father.
Ask of me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
    and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Frozen Thanks-giving

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I'm finding it pretty easy to be in a thankful mood today. My daughter bought me a pint of my very favorite ice cream to eat all by myself. It's a treat I haven't enjoyed for over a year. As you can see from the photo it's already half gone and I'm going to swallow the rest as soon as this blog is done. So this will be brief.

Besides enjoying my surprise, I am enveloped in the blessings of our family dinner table. Thanks-giving is my favorite holiday. The opportunity to tell each other the things for which we are thankful is an annual event that warms my heart. This year though my Honey isn't by my side so the joy is tempered.

You see, I'm in the USA and he's still at home in Prague.

There's another detail that's sobering my thoughts. It's the ads I've seen about extending Black Friday sales into Thanks-giving evening. I've been convicted recently about my less-than-ideal level of gratitude for all the blessings God pours down on me. The increased pressure to buy more is not a welcome visitor to my holiday.

I'm working hard to clarify the difference between the desire and the need categories. Cherry Garcia definitely qualifies as a desire rather than a need. As a matter of fact, I've been noticing that there are a lot of things around here that sit fully inside the desire category. My passport country seems to have a lot more enticement to confuse the two than my host country.

I'm thankful to be here for now because that's God's directions. I'll be thankful when I go home for the same reason. How about you? Are you thankful where you are? Tell me why.

Father, I'm grateful that you moved us to Prague. Please get me back to my Honey right on time. Thank you, in Jesus' Name. Amen

Monday, November 19, 2012

Plentiful Praises

Praise God a dozen times.

Praise Him in His sanctuary, in His mighty heavens.

Praise Him for His acts of power, for His surpassing greatness.

Praise Him with the resounding trumpet, with the harp and lyre, with tambourine and dancing, with the strings and flute, with the clash of cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise Him.

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Milk Mayhem

Milk may not be a very important topic in your life. I admit that it wasn't one in mine, that is BEFORE. When we moved to Prague last fall we had a milk dilemma and it looks like we're back into it. "What could be the problem?" you ask. "Milk is milk." Well, not really, at least not in the Czech Republic.

Most milk comes in cartons and is sold unrefrigerated on shelves or stacked in a grocery store aisle. You can see what I mean in the picture above. 'Mléko' on the carton is the Czech word for milk. It's one of the first words we learned because it's part of the necessary shopping vocabulary. 

I am holding a carton of Meggle Mléko, the brand we much prefer. The reason it's our favorite is because it has a small screw-on cap. Now that may sound odd to you, but here's the reason. Milk cartons most often appear with a dotted line to guide the use of scissors to cut and create a spout of sorts in opening it.

If you look closely at this picture you'll see that we ignore those instructions. We cut across the dotted lines because when we follow their directions we end up with dribbles and spills. Our cutting style means we have to squeeze the box a little bit when we want to pour - a skill we've acquired. The question you want to ask now is, "So why do you have that kind of carton?"

As happened last fall, we haven't been able to find Meggle Mléko for a while. I'm telling you it's a dilemma . . . a serious dilemma. Of course this time around it's a bit easier to handle. We know our favorite will appear again. It's just a matter of time.  
God sure knows how to keep sanctifying us.

Monday, November 12, 2012

on Psalm 124

Because God is on my side . . .

I have not been swallowed alive.
I have not been engulfed by the flood.
I have not been swept over by the torrent.
I have not been swept away by raging waters.
I have not been torn by 'their' teeth.

I have escaped like a bird from a snare.
I have escaped!

My HELP = the Name of the LORD.
My HELP = the Maker of heaven and earth.

I am not abandoned.
My Protector is but a breath away as I speak His Name.
My Defender is The Creator of ALL things.
My God, The God, is ALL-sufficient.

Psalm 124

A song of ascents. Of David.

If the LORD had not been on our side - let Israel say -
if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us,
when their anger flared against us,
they would have swallowed us alive;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters would have swept us away.

Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare;
the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Tunnel

God is really marvelous, you know. He is perfect in every aspect of His character and attributes, activities and interactions. He was all of these things before time, is every one of them in total completion today, and will be each one securely forever. Since He is the very definition of Truth and cannot lie, His promises are more reliable than bedrock. I'm glad you're joining me as I rediscover and affirm these divine facts in my inner woman.

On October 3, 2012 I began to chronicle my Abyss-Cave-Tunnel journey as a modern day testament to God's self-defining faithfulness and never-ending love. I've spent the last 30 days wandering through the Tunnel in spurts and stops. As I was fumbling along I received a message from a friend in the midst of a severe trial. I did my best to offer her the treasures I was unearthing in my own explorations wherever I felt they might encourage her heart. As is so often the case, the Spirit was talking to both of us.

reaching out to my friend: 
I ache for you even as I too am experiencing some of the deepest and darkest days of my Christian walk. I am thankful that you've read 'Faith' Fails [the October 3 post] and pray that it means that you are not looking to me as the older woman who has life all figured out. That simply is not so. I, like you and the woman of Luke 8, must fall prostrate at the Savior's feet and reach out to touch the hem of His garment for healing. I can not answer every question nor solve every problem. Rather I am very aware of all that I do not know. I relate easily to your comment, "I do not get it." 

The confusion of my experience in the Tunnel exhausted me. I groped around in terror unable to cope with the harshness that surrounded me nor the despair of ever finding an exit. It was a massive relief when I was granted simple up and down orientation, and then the reminder that God was with me. I had been able to locate a few basic Truths that acted like trail markers, but I was making only minimal progress. As I searched the Scriptures to encourage my friend, the tiny light I'd been moving toward grew brighter.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

God was reminding me/us. He is the Shepherd who calls and cares. He is the Sovereign who reigns and loves. He is the Alpha and the Omega who judges and redeems. The passage reminded me of my relationship with Him. The mercy and faith He bestowed on me is secure for it comes by His grace. He set the plan for my reconciliation and He carries it through to completion. I can be sidetracked for His purposes, but I can NOT be sidelined. I started to realize that God was using the isolation of my incarceration to grant me further insights into my embattled mind.

The tension that threatened to undo me in spite of the progress I was making became more clear. I seemed to be chronically caught between what I wanted to do to please God and the overload of everything else in my life. Every moment felt as if I were confronted by physical, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual boundaries and limitations, distractions and disruptions that trapped me in disobedience. Even if I were able to do the 'right thing' there was always the possibility that it was accomplished with the wrong motivation. Peace evaded me.

Somehow Paul came to mind as I pondered the dismal corridor around me. I seemed to remember that he addressed something like this in his great epistle to the Church in Rome.

"I do not undersand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Romans 7:15-24

Sure enough, Paul understood the conflict. His description expresses the turmoil and strife I know and brings it into focus. The Law of God is in hand-to-hand combat with the law of sin. The delight for God's ways in my inner being is in direct opposition to the craving for sin in the members of my body. I piggyback on Paul's conclusion, "What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this Tunnel?"

Hallelujah, I am not crazy. There is a real war being waged within me. The inner clashing I feel is reasonable. It's not my selfish desires railing against the world around me and the people in it that simply will not accede to my wishes. It's the effects of the Fall and the expansion of sin that irritate my spirit. I praise God that His Word doesn't stop there. Paul continues with the inspired assessment of the battlefield and the rescue plan the Father has divinely set in place.

"Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." Romans 7:25.

I will reverse the order of the phrases for clarity for myself.

"Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, in my sinful nature I [Sandra] am a slave to the law of sin, I myself [Sandra] in my mind am a slave to God's law." 

I pray that you, my friend, can grab onto the deep, internal, intimate, life-changing value of these Truths with me. Yes, there is a battle raging, but it's not against outside forces. There no sense in taking them on as adversaries to conquer. Rather since the 'mind' of the redeemed is enslaved to God's law that is the target to bombard with Truth to drive the enemy from having any foothold. Oh Hallelujah! I get it. That's why Paul urges us on with a specific strategy.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world [with my sin-yearning body], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [which is bonded to God's law]." Romans 12:2

It is true that we are waging war. It feels like that because we are locked in battle, but it's not against our parents or our mates or our children or our neighbors or objects or circumstances or anything we can see around us.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

Sin, the very thing that the enemy used to poison the relationship between God and Man and Man and Woman in Eden is the real enemy. Sin is the specific object of God's wrath, HOWEVER, that consequence is nullified on behalf of all those we who are hid in Christ. We are not open to the full force of the Father's wrath because we are hid in His sinless life and substitutionary death. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1  
Thank you, Jesus.

In the meantime, though I'm relieved of ultimate accountability, I am still engaged in the war. It is not at all the kind of campaign I thought I was fighting. It's as if I had my weapons aimed in the wrong direction. I am not battling the people and circumstances around me. It's a completely different kind of war that calls for different weapons and spiritual strategies.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine powers to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

We, you and I, need to be intentional about putting on the Ephesians 6 armor. We need to be conscious to pray without ceasing. We need to be ever-submitting our wills to the Father in loving gratitude. We need to pay attention to the 'billboards' that God gives to declare His Truth.

The war is real.

You are combatants.

I have secured the victory.

I AM with you and will be with you from now through ALL ETERNITY!

God is granting me a glimpse of the Tunnel as a kind of specialized training ground to purify my faith. I'm understanding more keenly that it is the LORD Himself who orchestrates even these confusing, sense-depriving circumstances in my life. Since He is the ultimate and proper authority and He loves me perfectly, that's fine by me. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be refined that I might more fully reflect His image and bring glory to His Name.

back to my friend: I close this heart-pouring-out message with much prayer that God will, as He has done and prayerfully will continue to do for me, meet you at your greatest point of need, hold you close and reassure you of His great, unbiased love for you, and then cause you to lie down in green pastures, lead you beside quiet waters, restore your soul, and guide you in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. [from Psalm 23]   AMEN