Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Power of an Indestructible Life

Here's a free bookmark from me over on Jenn's Blogiversary Bash!

bookmark

I remember the first time this verse in Hebrews 7:16 really stood out to me--that Christ is our priest by the power of an indestructible life. A priest forever; the "better hope" as it says in verse 19, through which we draw near to God. At a time when I felt very broken and used up, God nourished my soul with tender words, soul-strengthening words, powerful words--about his ministry to us and for us and in us, forever. Everlasting.

I needed a "better hope" that day. Life seemed hopeless and futile--and I even had fleeting thoughts about ending it. Thoughts that terrified me. I felt trapped--it seemed there was no way out. But there's always a way out or a way through, and we are never alone. He has put his name on us, we are his, forever. And life in his hands is never futile.

From Invisible Illness, Visible God, Day 65:

I was blown away because I realized that since Jesus is in me, then this power of an indestructible life is in me, and I could rest in that power. Something more powerful than my emotions, peace that passes understanding! And since we are in Christ—this peace is a sure refuge. I began praying that God would fill me with the power of an indestructible life so that I wouldn't want to destroy mine.

Strength. Surety. Life. His love sustains and feeds our souls.

Imagine—Jesus never, ever stops interceding for you, his beloved, his delight. He uses the greatest, most extraordinary power that exists on our behalf, to be our priest, our intercessor, our guarantee, our hope. He could condemn us and instead betroths us and unites us with him.

Indestructible life. Forever. That is the surety, the rock, of his covenant with us.

His mighty power encouraged me in my darkest days, and I pray that you also will draw strength from his power.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Win Invisible Illness, Visible God, and other books!

Jenn at Busy Being Blessed is having a "Blogiversary Bash" to celebrate her 12 years of blogging! She has some amazing giveaways and freebies planned, including a copy of Invisible Illness, Visible God! Check out "A Reader's Dream" for some of the books you could win:

BusyBeingBlessed-Bash-Reade

There are also homeschooling and homemaking giveaways, health and beauty items, and daily freebies! Check her site each day for the latest freebie--it looks like she has several each day. Feel free to share this with your friends!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Faithful Bloggers Festival

If you're a blogger, this looks like a great opportunity to learn how to be more effective. The sessions will also be recorded if you can't make it at the scheduled times--June 3, 4, 5 at 1pm Eastern. The link below has more info.


Faithful Bloggers Festival: One

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Reception Celebration!

Two weeks ago, a dear friend of mine hosted a book reception for me at a local coffee shop.


 She made a beautiful display of my awards and books...


and got another very talented friend to make this incredible cake! I hated to cut into it!


But of course we did! We had about 20-30 people there, and I had an absolutely lovely time talking with friends and meeting a few new people as well.


I'm so thankful for good friends, church, and family. No one writes a book alone, and especially not a rubber-meets-the-road, how-will-God-carry-us-through? kind of book. I was so blessed to be able to share the scriptures that have been food for my soul over the past 14 years, the questions and heartaches, and the ways that my husband, even in his pain, has encouraged and enabled me to stay steadfast in my faith.  Thank you all, dear friends. (and this is the only "people" picture my kids happened to capture, so if others have pictures, send them my way!) It was a joy to celebrate my book with you, but even more, God's goodness to us all.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Do People Suffer? Is Pain Meaningless?

Most of us have asked the question, why do people suffer?  Why would God take Dave away from being a pastor and helping others, why do any of us go through suffering?

We all know the Sunday School answers, and they’re good and true answers. God is refining our character, or God is going to use it for good, or God is teaching us or training us. But it’s hard to really be satisfied with those answers because we can’t see the outcome like God can—we can’t evaluate that it’s worth it.  As if a servant should evaluate his master’s plans.

Why isn’t it enough for us to know that God is sovereign, he is good, he loves us, he’s in control? We think we know God…until trials come.  Then we realize, maybe we don’t know him as well as we thought.  If we knew Him, we would trust Him, draw near to Him, rely on Him.  We push Him away, but we think He turns away from us.


When we go through suffering, it’s usually not by choice—but Christ chose to endure great pain on our behalf. In suffering, we have the gift of seeing more deeply how much Jesus loves us. This God who sought us and gave up so much for us, won’t abandon us now.


Michael Card has a beautiful quote: 
“The great promise of Psalm 23 is not that we will be saved from the dark valley, but that the Lord, who is our Shepherd, will remain close beside us even though the darkness might obscure Him from our view.”


I think we have the mistaken perception that God is going to save us from trouble, but over and over again, that’s not what the word says. He does of course sometimes. But Isaiah 43:2 says

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

If you are going through the fire, it’s not because God has abandoned you—he is WITH you in the fire!

Ken Gire shares a story in his book, The North Face of God. A man named David and his wife couldn’t have children, so they adopted a beautiful 4-day-old baby. They were filled with hopes and dreams for this child, but soon found something was wrong. The baby would stiffen whenever they held him. As he grew, he was diagnosed with learning disabilities and psychiatric problems. One doctor told them, when the boy was about 11, that he’d be dead or behind bars by the time he was 18. The parents refused to believe it, and continued to pour heart and soul into loving and discipling this boy, determined to find help and avoid that outcome, they spent years crying out to God…but the son got into drugs and did end up in prison.

David had a friend who also had a son in trouble, and they talked often. Exciting things were happening at his friend’s church—God’s hand was moving, and people were coming to know Christ—and finally even his friend’s son was turning back to God. But nothing changed for David. And he told his friend he couldn’t stand to hear one more miracle of Jesus story. It was too painful.

So then, a group of people from church decided to meet with David and pray with him, and they prayed together every week for a year and a half. They became his lifeline.

He did a 40 day fast and sought the Lord in every way he knew how, but his only answer was silence.

One day David decided to go to the prayer room at church and stay there until he heard from God. He was broken and at the very end of his rope, he was desperate. He waited for 5 hours, and then he finally heard God speak. And this is what God said:

“If I never heal your son, If I never speak to you the way you want…can I still be your God? Will you still love me, still honor me, still serve me?”

So often we believe the lie that God must not really love me, or He would change this circumstance in my life. Sometimes, that’s not in God’s plan, and we may not get to know why. We may not even be able to understand why. 

Can he still be your God?

I could easily be consumed by asking Why? It’s a good question, we should ask it, but we don’t always get to know why. The lack of answers can leave us feeling bitter and defeated and unloved. Instead, my very wise husband Dave has encouraged me to ask two other questions:

Who is God? And, how will I respond?

God doesn’t change when we suffer. He is still all-powerful, all-loving, just, merciful, holy—and he still cares deeply for us. He doesn’t abandon us—he is walking with us. In fact, he’s closer than most of us ever imagine.

Remember the story Jesus told about how he’ll separate the sheep and the goats at the end of the age? And he tells the sheep that they visited him when he was sick and in prison, that they brought him food and drink when he was in need—and the sheep were confused.  “Lord, when did we do this?”

His answer shows that God doesn't merely see our pain; He says that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt 25:40). That means…He is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, along with us. When He says "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you," He means to impart a depth of love and grace and unity with our spirits that if we truly understood it, would take our breath away.

If that’s who God is…how will we respond? Isn’t he worthy of our all, even our suffering?

When I was younger, I used to think about how I was willing to live my life for God and give my all—never dreaming what might be required. He has come, asking for my all, asking for things dear to me like my husband’s health, and simple pleasures like going to church together. Good things, things I took for granted and never expected to give up—so how will I respond? I can kick and scream and throw a good ol-fashioned 2 year-old tantrum—and I’ve done that! Or I can lay down my life, like Romans 12:1-2 says, as a living sacrifice. God you are worthy.  


Romans 12:1 says, 
“I urge you, brothers, sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.”
The pain in our lives is never meaningless. We may not know why, but we can ask God to be glorified in our lives. We can remember that Christ thought we were worth suffering for, when we go through our dark nights. He is certainly worthy of our suffering. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Olympic Dream (Two-Man Bob-a-Luge)

 So there I was at the Olympic reunion party, when I suddenly realized, “Hey, I’m an Olympian!”  Yup, I won a bronze medal in the two-man luge.  Well, actually it was a combination of luge and bob-sled as I remember it.

You see, I just happened to be at the Olympics (because, you know, people just show up there without reason), when this big burly guy comes up to me.  I think I knew him; he seemed familiar.  Apparently, something had happened to his buddy at the last minute, and he was in desperate need of a new partner if he was to compete.  Being the happy-go-lucky person that I am, I naturally said, “Sure!”  Hey, I've been sledding before, why not?  Two-man bob-a-luge?  Bring it on!

“You don’t have to do anything,” he said as we worked our way to the top of the slide, “You sit and I’ll do the running.”  So I curled up on the back of the sled while he grabbed the bar and ran, then hopped on, bob-sled formation on the luge-style sled.  We won the bronze!  It was a proud moment.

This was my dream the other night.  I wouldn't have made much of it (other than to note I’m probably watching too much Bob Costas—a fact easily confirmed every day in school when our kids break out in another rendition of the Olympic theme song!), but someone jokingly suggested I analyze it.  This time I didn't slide down the ice-covered track so quickly, but it came to me later that God is very like that big burly guy.  He’s familiar.  He sometimes asks us to do crazy things like the bob-a-luge.  He has the plan, the course is slick and sometimes dangerous with lots of twists and turns—but He’ll be in charge.  He provides the speed and energy, the steering, and the sled.  And since my face is buried in His back, I might not always know what’s ahead.

God doesn’t say that we must be the best, that we must win—He says, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24)  He’s looking for our faithfulness: that we run with perseverance; that we don’t give up.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  I Cor. 9:25

The muscle we strengthen, train, race with, is faith.

 “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope…You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:5, 7

The truth, the supporting ligament-thoughts are critical to our faith, just as they are to an Olympian.  What is this truth we must cling to, that gets clipped by lies when Satan storms in like a soon-to-be-disqualified short-track speed-skater and sends us sprawling into the boards on our backs?  Righteousness comes through the Spirit, and not by human effort (Gal. 3:3)

Sometimes we doubt the surety of God’s faithfulness, of His never-failing loving-kindness, that He truly doesn’t count our sins against us.  We unwittingly fill our minds with a guilt that condemns—sometimes we lay sprawled on the ice, convinced of our own inadequacy and not accepting the hand up God offers.

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”  Col 1:22-23

This is our race, to firmly trust in the hope held out in the Gospel.  I think all of life requires Olympic level training for our faith—but chronic illness is surely an event that brings the necessity of that training to the forefront.

When I consider how my light is spent*
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts' who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
—John Milton

God doesn’t look at us as excess baggage when we ride with Him—He delights in us, and amazingly He shares the glory with us.  They also serve who only stand and wait.

“…The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 1 Samual 30:24b. 

We finish the race, together.  And someday you’ll find yourself at that Great Reunion in the sky, and say with surprise, “Hey, I’m an Olympian!”

Still Running the Race, Merry


* Milton went totally blind in 1651 & wrote this ca. 1652.  By the way, the "one talent which is death to hide" is a reference to the parable of the talents & the servant who buried his talent instead of using it. What a struggle to want to use that talent instead, but be restricted. Also, "fondly" then meant foolishly, which makes more sense! (I fondly ask = I foolishly ask).


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