Thursday, June 28, 2012

Backseat Decisions

I would like to talking about a song titled "Shadowfeet" by Brooke Fraser. It is not a new song, yet the truth in it's message never grows old.

The lyrics start out saying "walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet toward home, a land that I've never seen." ...When we are in the midst of a trial, the goal is not perfection it is obedience. I am learning this the hard way. God's Word promises that in I Corinthians 10:13 NIV that ...when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Here's the's HIS way. I don't know about you, but my ways are not His ways, especially when it may involve pain or suffering. Imagine a war where the rank and file decide not to listen or even seek the commands and leadership of their superior officers. Do you see the chaos and defeat that would take place if that happened? It sounds ridiculous to even consider, especially since a soldier in that position would be fully aware that their life and very likely the lives of their comrades would be in jeopardy.

That same chaos can happen in our own lives if we do not consult our Chief Shepherd as described in I Peter 5:4 NIV when facing battles of our own.  Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NIV  On our "shadowfeet"  He will help us navigate through the minefield we may find ourselves in.

My husband and I used to work with the youth and I remember us telling them not to wait until they were in the backseat of a car to decide whether or not they would stay pure until marriage. Emotions (and hormones) run high when in the backseat and that is not the time to be making life altering decisions. Hopefully, if they made the decision for purity beforehand they would not even place themselves in that position, thus avoiding the temptation altogether.

Our advice to the youth were words from personal experience. I met my husband when I was 14 years old and he was 15. We ended up getting married when I was 16 and he was 17 and we were expecting our first daughter. We've not for one minute regretted the birth of all three of our beautiful daughters. We do, however regret the way in which we brought about our first pregnancy. We know firsthand what "backseat" decisions lead to.

I Peter 5:8 NIV says this:  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  It goes on to say in verse 9:  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Problem is, in reality we all find ourselves in the "backseat" at times. How does that happen? Remember our "Peter" moments? When we take our focus off of Christ and onto our circumstance, we end up in the "backseat."  When that happens, it's not too late. We still have a choice we can make. The decisions are much harder to make from the "backseat" but it is possible nonetheless. Backseat decisions are not won and lost by emotions or circumstance. They are won or lost based on what we believe and more importantly on Whom we believe. Therein lies the difficulty, if we have been in the "backseat" chances are we have not focused on God and His Word.

The lyrics in the song also stated that "When the world is falling out from under me, I'll be found in You, still standing." I've got a feeling this girl knows what it's like to have her "world fall out from under her." Yet, she has made the decision to resist the temptation to give up until she discovers His way out  and stand firm in the faith despite her circumstance.

How do we accomplish this? Ideally, it starts with a decision before you even face a trial. An example in my own life was when my marriage was in jeopardy in 1992. In January of that year I attended a Kay Arthur study on Covenant, quite frankly I wasn't sure how all that Old Testament stuff was going to relate to my life in present day, but I attended nonetheless. Immediately following that study I went through  the study "Marriage Without Regrets" by Kay Arthur. Of course my thinking at the time was that my marriage was fine. That study ended in May of 1992. My husband approached me on the first weekend of September (Labor Day weekend) that he wanted out of our marriage.

The bible studies I had just gone through played a vital role in the restoration of our marriage. My husband and I both come from broken homes. His dad has been married three times and his mother twice. My mother was married three times and my father twice.We had been handed a legacy of divorce and the enemy was intent on keeping it that way.

But God, had other plans. It is my belief that starting in January of 1992 God was preparing me for the attack that would soon take place on our family. Those two studies allowed me to figure out ahead of time what I truly believed about marriage, or better stated what God believed about marriage, regardless of what I witnessed growing up and absent of all the emotion and chaos that would follow.  His Word that was planted in my heart during those months of preparation flooded into my memory during that time, which was vital in my decision making process.

Toward the end of the song "Shadowfeet" the lyrics say "He makes all things new." I am here to testify that this is truth. In I Corinthians 5:11-21 NIV God's Word speaks to the fact that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Through God's reconciling Himself to us, He has given all believers the ministry of reconciliation. What these verses meant to me was that my past, my childhood was no excuse for behavior that did not line up with the Word of God. I learned that I have no control over anyone else's behavior including my husband. I did not know if my marriage would be reconciled or not, but that did not relieve me from being obedient to what I believed God's Word was telling me.

I also learned that obedience to our God has it's own reward. In the beginning of my marriage crisis, all I wanted was my marriage to be restored. In the end, all I wanted was a more intimate relationship with God. If that meant my marriage would be reconciled great, if not I was fine with that too. Relinquishing my husband over to God was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was made harder because he had become an idol in my life.  It's funny how we think we own anything, even people we love...when all along it's His to begin with. God was gracious in returning my husband to me, but only after I placed the Lord on the throne where He belonged. God is good all the time and even if we have been in the "backseat" for a time, He can make all things new and we can stand firm in Him.

I'll conclude with this "song" written by Paul to the Ephesians as a prayer of gratitude for us all:  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AmenEphesians 3:14-21  NKJ   When time and space are through, we'll be found in You. Amen.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reasons for Joy

Yea! It's official! It's the first day of summer! Like I need an "official" day to start the summer season. As soon as the temp goes above 60 degrees (oh, to be warm again)!, I am on fast forward to all things summer. Ahhh, the memories...spending Fourth of July at the "Seaside Inn" in Rockport, TX is one of my happiest from childhood, and Sprite floats filled to the rim with rainbow sherbet (food always sneaks in there somewhere), the beach has got to be a piece of heaven on earth, and as a child NO SCHOOL was synonymous with FREEDOM! Flip flops, sundresses, the smell of coconut sunscreen and fun in the sun...oh, yeah!

As wonderful as summer is though, it seems that God chose each season for just the right length of time here in Texas. To me, there is so much to look forward to for each one, but close to the end of it, I'm ready for the next! In Fall, one of the best things about it is the weather turning cooler. Huh? Didn't I just rave about summer and how nice it is to feel WARM again? I start out that way, but by the end of August, all I can think about is if I have enough socks (my feet don't see the light of day for months come fall), or which 'lil jacket I might wear with what when it finally gets cooler! Not to mention the shoes...oh, my do you really want me to go there?! BOOTS...that's all I'll say about that!

Next comes the Thanksgiving holiday! Giving thanks to God for all that He has given us and feasting with family and friends (food again)! Then, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, everything becomes a blur because the end of fall and the beginning of winter means Christmas is on the way, and we get to celebrate the birth of our feast with family and friends, AGAIN! Then comes the colder weather and the longing for our "normal" schedule that went out the window during the holidays (and maybe focus on losing a few of the pounds we may have acquired while feasting). That's when the fall and winter seasons seem to wane for me.

The end of winter in Texas is when we get our coldest weather...usually. Our weather here can be unpredictable at times, and no one weather pattern seems to stay put for very long (except maybe HOT in the Summertime). That used to bother me more...until we visited Poland in December of 2008. Their cold stays cold for days on end, without much variation in temperature until spring...which comes later than our spring. Since we returned home in January of 2008 I have not complained as much about our cold weather, all I have to do is think of Krakow in winter and in comparison it doesn't seem so bad. Like they say, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes (and it will change)."  True dat, here in Texas!

Then comes spring as a metaphor for the resurrection of our Lord as we witness all of creation coming back to life. "Spring showers bring May flowers" as they say, because water brings forth life. John 4:1-42  is the story of the Samaritan woman's encounter with Jesus at Jacob's well. In verses 7-10, God's Word says this;  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift from God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."  John 4:7-10 NKJ 

Jesus goes on to describe Himself in this way to her;  Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  John 4:13 NKJ  He still offers living water and everlasting life to those who are willing to accept that gift. It's not too late.

If you read the whole encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42, you will find that she might seem an unlikely prospect for a holy God. Gives me hope! Maybe I'm not so bad after all. Maybe He can take somebody who has turned their back on Him time and time again and gone their own way and actually make them whole in Him. We are all just one choice away from never thirsting again and spending eternity with the One who made it possible. He makes it possible for all of us through His living water to become in Him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. Now that is something to "sing" about!

Summer warmth, fall festivities, winter celebrations and new life in springtime brought forth by a living, loving God. Each season gives us reasons to rejoice. No matter our circumstance, if we look to creation and more importantly to our Creator, we will be able to glorify Him through it all. We can choose to return to the source of our joy and that is my prayer and my "song" for us all!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Seeking Normal"

I've been pondering the meaning of "normal" the past couple of days. My interest was peaked while watching Good Morning America on Monday morning. Robin Roberts made the announcement that she is battling a rare blood disease caused by the cancer treatment she received five years ago.

During Robin's conversation with her co-anchors, Lara Spencer asked what could they do for her, what did she need? Robin started by saying the reason she hesitated telling everyone about her illness was that you crave normalcy, so much in your life is not normal anymore so you don't want to tell anybody because you don't want to be treated any differently. She said, "...I need you to be who you are and what you are."

Her answer sank into my soul. I think it hit home for me so much because I have been asked that same question by some very caring and loving people regarding my health. Truth is, I crave "normalcy".

Once I realized that, I immediately started feeling guilty and even questioned if striving to feel "normal" is a good thing or a bad thing. Thus, my pondering. Normal seems to be so subjective. What is normal for one person, or even one culture may seem totally "abnormal" to someone else. Why do we seem to seek it so fervently then?

Normalcy by definition means:  conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model, or pattern;  esp., corresponding to the median or average of a large group in type, appearance, achievement, function, development, etc.; natural; usual; standard; regular.

After reading the definition of normal, I'm not sure why I crave it! It sounds compromising, dull, boring, unoriginal, common, predictable, average etc., etc.. Who wants that?!? Average? Boo!... I do! Thing is, I've always seen myself as striving for something beyond that though. Normal just always seemed in my mind to be "settling" for less.Yet deep down inside, I apparently crave it nonetheless. WHY?

Maybe God placed that need inside of each of us. If He did, why did He? Maybe it has to do with acceptance. Maybe it has to do with the feeling of belonging. Maybe it has to do with recognizing that we really do need Him and each other. And maybe we are "settling" for less if we don't explore the possibility that God is speaking to us through our need to feel this way. Maybe it is so that we learn to seek fervently after Him and His normal because He knows better than we do what we truly need.

As a child of God, He may well ask us to do something that seems abnormal even to us, let alone those around us. I don't think God's normal is my normal and it may never be. It's not necessarily normal to quit working when it cuts your income almost in half so that you can be a stay at home mom, or to love a spouse through an adulterous relationship or to feel honored and humbled to be allowed to be living with chronic health issues and all that that entails (btw all of the above seem almost too trivial to mention in comparison to Christ and His example)...yet they are my experiences and for His glory I feel compelled to share them. They have become "my" normal. Regrets? Not one, only "songs" of praise!

We can spend a lifetime trying to fit in and be normal as defined by those around us or we can choose to spend our lives seeking God and His normal instead. God's normal has given me quite an adventurous life. The only times I have"settled" is when I have chosen "my" normal over His. My prayer for you and for me is that we seek fervently God's normal and then hold on tight to Him when He answers us, "singing" His praises all the while!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The "S" Word

Ever been afraid? Me too! In fact, fear used to consume my life. But God (I gotta say it)!...Love that phrase! But God, in His infinite wisdom sometimes allows us to be put in positions of having to face our biggest fears. Why would He do that? I'm glad you asked!

One of the truths revealed to me during the time of my marriage crisis was that I had a deep fear of abandonment. This fear was deeply rooted from childhood. Experts can say what they want about what the greatest need is for men and women in a marriage. I personally believe what God says as he addresses this subject in Ephesians 5:33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. NIV 

It's a funny thing though, our husbands can't and sometimes even won't attempt to love us wives in this manner. What then? Not only that ,but as wives, do we really respect our husbands? If our husbands are not loving us the way we think he should, are we still to respect him? I'm glad you asked! 

It was not until God placed me in a situation where I had to choose what I believed over what my circumstances were that He revealed to me that it was possible to respect a husband that was not displaying his love for me. God is so wise, and I am so "not"!

God reminded me during those days (and still does at times) of David in regard to respect for my husband. David was anointed by God to become the King of Israel. In the years leading up to David becoming king, the current king was becoming more and more jealous of him. King Saul's jealousy grew toward David as time went on to the extent that King Saul set out to have David killed.

During those days, David had opportunity to kill King Saul, not once, but twice and he refrained from doing so. These accounts are found in I Samuel 24 & 26. I Samuel 24:6 NIV says..."He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD'S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." NIV  A similar account can be found in I Samuel 26:9-11.

It was the position in which God placed King Saul in David's life that required respect. It is the position in which God places our husbands that requires us to respect them. Ouch! God's truth can indeed be sharper than a "two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). It is not always a pain free path we lead when choosing to obey God.

When my marriage was in crisis it was painful. Any choice I seemed to have available would be painful. As I searched God's word during those first dark days, I came across I Peter 4:15-19 NIV "If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us; what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

God was in the process of cleaning house, our house. I could either join Him or hinder Him. I had that choice. I chose to join Him, even though I hindered Him many times in the process! To say it was easy would be a lie. It was one of the hardest choices I've ever made. I set out to seek His way of escape as He has promised us (I Corinthians 10:13). I loved my husband and my girls very deeply, lack of love was not the issue. In fact, my love for my family is what kept me going many times. But, that love was flawed.

It was me dying to self, that was what made it so difficult.We think we don't place much value on ourselves until we are put into a position of placing another person's interests ahead of our own. God has commanded us to do so nonetheless (Philippians 2:3 &4). BTW, that is pretty much the definition of submission.

In order for God to clean our house, He needed me to get off His throne and He also needed me to take my husband off His throne. Idol worship plain and simple.When I submitted to God's will and stopped trying to control my situation is when the miracles started to take place. I released my husband into God's hands and fell into them myself.

During one of my darkest hours I was just about ready to give up, but God (gotta' love it)! Sorry, I'll continue...He led me to Isaiah 54. He got my attention starting in verse 5 -7 "For your Maker is your husband-the LORD Almighty is his name-the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-a wife who married young, only to be rejected." says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. NIV The rest of the chapter leads to promise after promise and it was based on God's promises that enabled me to continue on.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knows me better than I know myself. He had just described me in His Word written thousands of years ago. He knew that from the time I had memory that I had a deep fear inside of me. He loved me too much to leave me in that condition. He used my love for my husband and for my girls to coax me out of that bondage and release it to Him.Wow. I did not ever have to be afraid of being abandoned again. God is my husband. He will never leave me, nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

God kept reminding me of 1 John 4:18 when my marriage crisis initially started, which says: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." NIV  I believe He was not only telling me what He was doing, but encouraging me to carry through with what He was wanting to do in my life during that time.

There is freedom in God's truth. Like they say though, freedom is not free. Sometimes, we have to fight for it. We have to be willing to sacrifice and submit to God's will in order for that freedom to come to fruition. When it does we realize it was worth it. Worth it all because it comes from a loving God who "...has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 1 Timothy 1:7  NKJ 

The power that fear held in my life ironically was broken when I myself became broken and submitted to God and His will over mine. I stand in awe of how our God operates. We tend to look at submission as a dirty word ( the "s" word), why is that?  My family was being torn apart, the stakes were made pretty high. They evidently had to be in order for God to get my attention. I had to face the fear I dreaded most as a possible reality. I have since come to realize that having my way just doesn't seem as important as it used to, not when I have seen firsthand the repercussions it would have left in it's wake.

But, God (yeah God)! But, God had other plans. I have learned that submission is not necessarily giving up that thing, or person, etc. that you want to hold on to. It is sometimes just the act of  being willing to release it to Him if He requires it of you. This is my prayer for us and this is my "song":  “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ― Corrie Ten Boom