Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Heavenly Rearguard

I had a marvelous time last weekend at the New England Christian Writers Retreat. The accomplished faculty as well as the talented attendees poured into my life in amazing ways. Early morning prayer gatherings and worship song sessions along with quiet work and devotional opportunities contributed to the richness of my experience. I came away with a treasure trove of insights and excitement, dreams and goals. 

Can you guess what happened after that?

Oh yes, it was a blessing to come home and share with my Honey. I detailed my personal highlights Sunday evening and have been going through my notes with him ever since. As we discussed the information and ideas we created categories and lists. The first blush of all of that was mutual excitement and inspiration.

Until . . . Wednesday.

That's the day my Honey was stuck in bed with a sore back. Our first serious ministry powwow that morning didn't happen. I had to let him to rest while I tried to figure out what I could do on my own. The progress balloon lost its helium and my face hit the dust. 

What now, Lord? Did You bring me way up high just to let me crash?

Some of you may be thinking I'm pretty dense. After all, it often happens that when a child of God enjoys an especially meaningful or productive season in His presence the unseen world reacts. There's a sort of backlash from the enemy to engulf the newly acquired energy and enthusiasm in flames. It didn't take me long to realize that scenario was likely what was going on, but the smoke-filled funk continued. 

It was as if there were a firestorm going on inside my mind and body. I couldn't think straight and caught myself simply wasting valuable time. My heart kept trying to convince me to give up and go back to bed. I slumped around in my bathrobe for hours making superficial attempts to get something ... anything ... done. 

I was feeling sorry for myself and getting nowhere fast. 

By mid-afternoon I finally gave up and did what I needed to do. I called out to the One who understands my confusing plight. He knows what it's like to press forward in the Father's call amidst the realities of this fallen world. I pleaded for help from the One whose compassion and power are endless and ever-available.

And He heard me.

"The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them."  Psalms 145:17-19

I told the Shepherd I was lost and couldn't find my way. A common sense strategy came back to me. When you're lost, go back to the last place you knew where you were. I took my heart and mind back to the retreat where I'd enjoyed a special closeness with my Abba Father.

Gradually my spirit revived. I sat at the keyboard and developed the first draft of my personal agenda, coming out of the responses to the survey many of you provided.

I am a writer, speaker, Naomi.
I inspire women to take on the realities of life with confidence, conviction, and courage as we move forward toward balance, fulfillment, and joy.

That might not seem like much for a full day's work, but those statements represent a huge step forward in the vision God is building into my Honey and me. I am grateful beyond the moon.

I continue to ponder God's intervention that day. I know it came to me not because I was experiencing victory, not even because I was fighting with vigor. God reached out and rescued me because He is the Rescuer. He chose me before He even spoke the words, "Let there be light." He knows all about me and my life and has stationed a rearguard to help me when the spiritual battle rages. 

A rearguard is the soldiers positioned at the back of a body of troops to protect their comrades from attack either as they advance or retreat. The rearguard provides whatever support is necessary. Wikipedia says rearguard tactics include "blocking, defending, delaying, or interfering with advancing enemy forces in order to gain time for the remainder to regroup and reorganize." 

That's exactly what happened. My heavenly rearguard stepped in and gave me time to remember what I know is True. They blocked the enemy's messages so I could re-tune my ears and heart to the Father's words. Then they interfered with the feelings of discouragement and brought clarity to my mind. I revel in the faithfulness His promises.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you.
and the glory of the LORD will be your rearguard.  Isaiah 58:8  NIV1984

I'm beginning to think a rearguard is a standard provision to those who love God. Have you ever met yours? When was the last time they revived you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ever Wonder Why?

I'm not talking about why the morning alarm didn't go off. I'm not even thinking about when it rains on the day I plan a picnic. 

I'm wondering about why God records certain details in Scripture. 

My Honey and I are working through Numbers in our morning devotions. (And it's not boring!) A particular point in Chapter 3 caught my attention yesterday and I've been pondering it ever since. 

We're in the early part of the book where God is directing Moses to count and organize the Israelites. Throughout the process it's clear that the clan of Levi is in a different position than all the other clans. For one thing the Levites were not included in the census. For another they were the only ones allowed to transport, maintain or even touch the tabernacle of the Testimony. They were even given a specific place to camp in order to protect the Israelites from God's wrath.

The LORD further declares that the Levites and their livestock are to be set aside to redeem the firstborn of Israel and their livestock. I recognize and am moved by this early blueprint for the coming redemption of Christ. The sinless life He lived and the sacrificial death He survived means eternal life for those given Him by the Father. 

The part I don't understand is why the exchange isn't a complete one-for-one. 

The numbers are off. There are more firstborn Israelites than there are Levites. Thankfully God arranges a way for the 273 'extras' to be redeemed. He directs Moses to collect a specific amount of silver for each one. The total turns out to be 35 pounds of "redemption money".  (Numbers 3:40-51) 

Now THAT confuses me. 

God knows all things and was certainly aware of exactly how many Israelites and Levites there were. God is sovereign and could easily have perfectly lined up the numbers. So why the difference? 

God does not make mistakes which means the unequal totals were part of His plan. God loves actively which means the 273 were valuable. So why the exchange of cold silver for precious lives?

I've checked a few sources to find an explanation. None satisfy me. And so I continue to wonder. Thankfully such Wondering Points don't disrupt the foundation of Truth. God knows all things and is sovereign over every detail, He doesn't make mistakes and He cherishes His chosen ones. 

These things are all True whether I understand the reason behind every word the Father has had recorded or not. Hallelujah.

Maybe this isn't your Wondering Point. After all I'm a firstborn so maybe it jumps out at me for that reason. I'd like to know what details in Scripture cause you to ponder. Share with me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chickens Cross Roads

In my last post I announced that I'm a chicken. It was merely the truth of my life in Christ; an insecure little chick shivering under His feathery-soft and steely-strong wings. 

Well, that poor little chick woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn't fall back to sleep. The various issues, tasks, and concerns that fill my days looped through my brain - packing today to visit with friends in another state, preparations for a retreat next weekend, the upcoming furnace replacement, relationship struggles, a new roof, our financial crunch, pulling the boats and dock in from the lake, the removal of several old pine trees too close to the house, . . .

You get the picture.

And on top of all of that, my Honey and I are locked into the search to discover what God has for us in the next phase of our lives. He brought us back from the European life we were loving in Prague. We lived out of suitcases for seven months while we tended my Honey's life-threatening health issues. My mobility problems received attention, and I travelled and spoke in a few venues. Finally in July we got a new well set for water so we could return to our Maine house. 

Where to from here? That is the question.

Our desire is to return to Europe, but does our Lord want us to stay here? We want to continue to provide encouragement to families, but does He have a different plan? We know that it makes no sense to move forward until we have some sense of His leading. "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain."  Psalm 27:1   

I repeated my petition to the One who knows all things. 

Dear Father, please grant insight into Your will for me ... for us. I love You and want to honor You with my whole life. I am anxious to bring glory to Your Name through the way You've made me, and are nurturing and discipling me. I look forward to the close fellowship I will have with You in heaven and want to prepare for it by growing closer to you and pleasing you here and now. Dear Abba, I live in the fallen world where You've placed me. I often feel nearly consumed by the pressures and peril. I believe You are all-sufficient for me to rest in peace and confidence as I make my way. Please show me what and how. Amen

And in the quiet of our inky-dark bedroom the Spirit approached. My mind began to whirr with ideas. My thoughts went back over some material I'd read. My view slowly became more clear as when the headlights of a car illuminate the next few feet. I got up and jotted a few notes, smiling in gratitude at the hint of a path.

Then fear struck.

How will you accomplish it? You have no understanding of all of that.
Who's going to want to hear what you have to say? After all, you've got gray hair.
What makes you think you'll be successful? You've been playing with this for years.

I admit I panicked for a few minutes as I sat in my little chick self. 

Then it dawned on me. I wasn't alone. The future isn't something I orchestrate by myself. There's a plan for me and the One who set is calling me to follow Him. And my Captain promises to be with me always. He repeats His marching orders again and again to inspire me to 'cross the road'.

"Be strong and courageous.  Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:7, 31:23; Joshua 1:6, 1:9, 10:25; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 2 Chronicles 32:7

"Be strong and very courageous."  Joshua 1:7

"Only be strong and courageous."  Joshua 1:18

"Be strong and courageous, and do the work."  1 Chronicles 28:20

I have no doubt the road will be bumpy with wins and losses. But I'm committed to build an authentic life of fulfillment. 

And I think I'll take you, my Faithful Readers, along with me.

How about you? Care to share the pressure point where you need to be brave? I'll be privileged to pray with you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Okay, so I'm a chicken.

My Honey and I are reading and praying our way through Galatians. There's nothing quite like starting the day with a deeper look into God's Holy Word.

This week one verse sent me on a hunt that took me to a treasure trove of Truth.

We talked a bit about the two categories Paul outlined in chapter 4: those under the law (slaves) and those redeemed by the Son (sons); those enslaved by the ways of the world and those enriched by the inheritance of heaven. The power and significance of Christ's work washed over me as I considered how He has moved my life from abject slavery to being His co-heir.

I paused.

Then a small phrase teased my mind forward.

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."  Galatians 4:4

Paul points out to his readers that the details of Christ's birth unfolded at the appropriate time, when all necessary preparations were complete. Jesus grew in Mary's womb and was delivered in the stable in the pre-arranged sequence. The timing was perfect.

My memory flashed back to the first hint of Christ's coming. 

"And I [God] will put enmity 
between you [the serpent] and the woman, 
and between your offspring [rebels] and hers [redeemed];
he [the offspring of a woman, Jesus the Christ] will crush your head,
and you [the enemy] will strike his heel."  Genesis 3:15

God's account of creation explains the brokenness we see and the promise of Relief from the curse that's been affecting the world since the Fall. And, since the fulfillment of that promise is at a future date, a testament follows (in two portions) that is full of evidence of the Promise-Maker's 100% success rate. 

An example pops into my head.  

"God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."  Genesis 17:15-16

As a woman who enjoyed our children's childhood I want Abraham and Sarah to be consumed with joy at this promise. I want them to live each day in an abandon of expectation of its fulfillment. 

As a woman past retirement age I understand their reasonable struggle to accept even the possibility that THIS highly desired outcome could ever happen. Thankfully the Divine Historian only waits four chapters to report the results.

"Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him."  Genesis 21:2

The seemingly impossible promise is fulfilled "at the very time God had promised". Historic events confirm the trustworthiness of His character, evicting the doubt that numbs.

I am sobered in my inner man. 

My own heart has been thrashing about and aching for a while with questions about God's ability or desire or intention to rescue me from seemingly impossible circumstances. Again and again the Spirit dragged me back to the Word to rebuild the basics of the faith; who God is and how He loves. The connection remained delicate until this reminder about His intimate intervention, flawless integrity, and omnipotent ability to act into the lives of His people with perfection. 

My mind thaws and I recall that the Scriptures overflow with similar examples of specific promises being given and fulfilled according to the Father's perfect will. I wonder why that memory has been fading in and out for way more than a year. My heart races over the secure foundation of Truth that's been hiding me as a chick under the wings mentioned in Luke 13:34.

Are you struggling today?

What doubts are numbing your heart or mind?

How is your energy being diverted toward things of this world?

Please let me encourage you as a fellow pilgrim. Turn your eyes and ears, heart and mind toward the great I AM. 

He is all He says He is. He loves you. He knows. He care. He's at work on your behalf.

His promises are true. Each one will be fulfilled at just the right time. Hallelujah!

I'd be privileged to hear how I might offer a praise or petition to the Lord for you.

Let's stand together.