Sunday, January 25, 2015

Photo Essay

Sometimes the week ahead looks like this.

Then it looks like this.

Before long I feel like this.

Then it's more like this.

I reach for what I think will support me.

It's not enough.

I cry out.

"Somebody rescue me!"

I feel a touch

Am I safe?

Turns out.

I was never alone.

If your week looks like any of mine, 
even if it doesn't, 
consider the promises of God.

"But now, this is what the LORD says ...
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, 
they will not sweep over you.'" Isaiah 43:1-2a

Verse 3
When through the deep waters I call thee to go, 
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;

God calls me into the deep. 
He doesn't hound me or drag me. 
His sovereign purpose is not to drown me.

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, 

and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

God commits to stick with me.
He promises blessings in the trials.
He applies my greatest pain to make me holy.

This is His work for all those who come to Him.

What does your week look like?
Do you need to remember these promises?

John Rippon wrote 'How Firm a Foundation in 1787.
Feel free to use this recording as you learn the words.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Warm Embrace for Freezing Fear

Sometimes I find life is like a lot like this picture. Maybe you do too.
Light and warmth seems to be appearing over on the horizon. I would really like to get myself over there in order to bask in the security and joy that I somehow feel is there too.

However, the pathway before me is daunting. It's dark and cold. And there is risk and danger all the way across. Even suited up with layers of warm clothes the trip is still going to be miserable. And if I fall into one of those holes I'll really be miserable. I could even get trapped. Then what? 

And so, it is with my life; the unknown freezes me with fear, unable to move forward. As long as I allow the real as well as imagined challenges to keep me back from the journey, I won't be able to find out what the light and warmth will bring me over there.

Verse 2 of the song I'm learning feeds me Truth, an excellent weapon against fear.

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

The reason I can set aside fear is the fact that God, the great I AM, is with me. I don't need to be distressed or even surprised because (For) the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-sufficient One is MY Sovereign, MY Provider, MY Protector, MY LORD. There is none other above or beyond or beside Him and He tells me I am His and He is MINE. 

"But now, this is what the LORD says - 
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.'"  Isaiah 43:1

By His very nature and character My God 'will still give me aid'. The word still right there speaks to me. Even if I'm in the midst of a seemingly impossible dilemma My God will help me. Even if I'm in a horrific situation I contributed to or caused myself, My God will help me. No matter what, My God is at the ready and will be provide everything I need according to His riches in glory. Hallelujah

"I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand -
     Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."

The kind of aid My God delivers to me is the kind that revives my courage, bolsters my commitment, and reinforces my confidence. His help is powerful and precious enough to bring me to stand erect as I face any set of trials.

HAH, but not because I I suddenly grow an invincible backbone. I'm able to make my way in this troubled world because My God supports my frame with His holy and invincible hand. 

"No, in all these [hardships] we are more than conquerors through him who loves us." Romans 8:37

My response to these powerful images are three-fold.

1) I need to suit up in the armor God has personalized for me to cross the battlefield of this fallen world. 
The armor God describes in Ephesians 6 isn't simply a generic set of equipment to be used whenever I remember it. Every single item is the right size and shape to fit me and I need to have it in place for every moment of combat.

2) I want to be more conscious to rest in God's "righteous and omnipotent hand". 
It's really not necessary for me to try to manufacture the where-with-all to make it through each day and be ready for the next and the next. All I need to do is settle into the Truth that I am securely enfolded in My God's grasp.

3) When these preparations are in place I go forth with peace and expectation.
I'm discovering that when I put on my armor and rest in Christ I'm much more able to maintain an attitude that undergirds right responses to the 'interruptions' to my plans. Besides giving me balance and fulfillment, I'm convinced they please God.

I pray for each of you to be drawn into My God's loving embrace. 
And all the more if He is Your God too. Amen

'How Firm a Foundation' was written by John Rippon way back in 1787. How cool is that!
I offer you this recording if you want to learn the words with me.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Foundation v. Fear

Last week I wrote about my look ahead into 2015I asked if any of you readers wanted to join me. I've received enough replies to know I'm not alone in my specific quest. So I've decided to include you in my growing process in order to encourage all of us.

What's your first reaction to stepping out into the unknown? Mine is fear. 

It's not the kind of teeny, tiny, brush-away-the-fly kind of fear. It's generally out and out terror. That's why I need to go slowly. And I want to go forward with my eyes wide open so I can see God's hand at work on my behalf. 

This first step together is a powerful and very personal one. The Lord delivered it to me in an odd way, through a song. But the biblical message is pure Truth.

"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  NIV1984

This is how my mind and heart responded to the first verse when God delivered it to me.

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

For some reason the words grabbed my full attention. Is was as if God were speaking directly to me, Sandra Allen Lovelace. Maybe it was because the song was being addressed to the saints of the Lord and I recognize myself in the term saints. It's not because I'm super-duper or sin-free. It's a term God uses for all those who have trusted Christ.

I was overwhelmed as I was reminded about the firmness, the reliability, the security of God's Word. It is indeed excellent. And it's the very basis upon which my faith is built. It's not something I cooked up in my imagination. God's Word is Truth. Truth is the foundation of my faith. I realized afresh that my faith is unshakeable. Hallelujah!

What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who to Jesus for refuge have fled?

YES, I never thought about it that way. What more could God possibly say to mankind, to me, to you than He has already said in His Word? Everything I need to know about God, the world, myself, or my relationships has already been recorded by the Spirit of God and protected through the ages. The Word is not just one true statement. The Word is not even just the Gospel. The Word communicates what God wants me to know from beginning to end. I am speechless when I consider the expanse of the Word.

And then comes the clincher.
to you who to Jesus for refuge have fled

That's me and that's what I did more than 40 years ago. I ran to Jesus. I needed peace in the midst of chaos. I was confused and harried and hopeless. I had nowhere else to go and I knew it. The song says it correctly. I fled, to the only place I knew I could find refuge. Jesus took me in His arms, the heavenly sanctuary.

I relived that day in my memory. 
Do you remember your salvation day? 

Were you as desperate as I was? 
Can you remember the feeling of relief?

All the concepts of the verse washed over me:
     the firm foundation
     laid for my faith
     His excellent Word
     what more can He say?
     to me who fled to Jesus

I decided almost immediately that I needed to embed these words and this message in my heart and mind. I printed off a copy of the lyrics and I'm learning them verse by verse. Sometimes I make it along just fine. Other times I'm overcome with emotion and have to pause. When I'm singing it's as if my soul is in deep communication with the Holy Spirit. It's something I don't think I've ever experienced before.

I pray I've been able to give you a sense of the conversation God was having with me through these lyrics. Perhaps even now you too can hear Him speaking to your heart of these wondrous things. Hmmm, maybe you'd like to learn the hymn along with me. 

Believe it or not, 'How Firm a Foundation' was written by John Rippon way back in 1787. Here's a recording to help us on our way.

If you know anyone else who could use a firm foundation to head into 2015, share this post with them. They will be grateful.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Manifesto Schmanifesto

In case you're wondering, I used the word Manifesto because it's a $5 word that might grab your attention. 

In case you're wondering further, a manifesto is simply a mission statement. 

I'm excited to offer you my thoughts on the changing of the calendar.

This year I noticed a lot of folks talking about their 'word for the year'. I never heard of that concept before and I've lived 46 years since qualifying as a legal adult. I was trying to figure out where the idea came from and whether or not I might find it helpful to me when I realized the LORD had already given me my word. Clarity

1) I'm asking God to grant me clarity about myself, my life, and my world so that I might bask in His grace and bring glory to His Name.

There are some people who choose a specific theme for their year. I've been concentrating on getting to know the character of God the Father. Should I change that focus? When I first came to the Truth of the atoning work of Christ I was consumed with my Savior, but that was a while ago and I could probably benefit from refreshing that relationship. Jesus.

2) I'm approaching Jesus as my Older Brother to receive the power and wisdom, compassion and courage, humility and surrender He has to offer.

Then there are those who take a look backward in order to plan ahead. I've done that and struggle to make sense out of my 2014. In many ways I lived closer to God than I ever have and yet a dark shadow obscures any sort of meaning or direction from the varied and dramatic events that filled the year, and prevents any real understanding

3) I'm entreating the Holy Spirit to guide me throughout 2015 that I might experience balance, fulfillment, and joy.

Anybody wanna join me on the adventure for clarity through Jesus toward balance, fulfillment, and joy?