Tuesday, April 30, 2013

1000 gifts: learning from aftershocks

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey. I write these down on my calendar, and when I get a chance I add them here to my blog. These are all blessings from April, 2013.

609. Revelations from God at their brightest when times are the darkest
I wrote a separate post to share more details about this gift. It gives me shivers just thinking what God has shown me in the past two months, even though we've gone through some really rough times.

610. Unleashing the power of love
Not long after the revelation I wrote about in #609, God gave me yet another stunning insight. That day, my pastor preached on 1 Peter 1:22, "Since you were saved, fervently love one another"  - how we can be unbeatable in spirit when we are soaked in God's love and pouring it out on others.

Later in the evening as I was fretting over how hard it is to deal with attitude from my kids, how it brings out the worst in me and worrying about how I will ever be able to manage four girls going through the teenage attitude stage, God answered my thoughts with this: in the face of their attitude, I will pour My love through you, and you will be so full of grace it will conquer any desire to lash back at attitude; indeed it will even conquer their attitude. Instead of pushing my hurt and anger buttons, they will unleash the very love of God upon themselves. What a promise He made me that evening: I will believe that He will fulfill that promise to me!

611. Learning from aftershocks
Beginning with a terrible family blow-up at the end of the March, the next three weeks of April were one of constant emotional turmoil for B. and I. God taught me so much from it (as I've listed in gifts 609 and 610) and another blessing I've learned that when God takes the pressure off - when you sigh with relief - that the lesson isn't over yet! There are aftershocks! They come to remind you to not stop clinging to God when the pressure's off, after He's answered your prayers. This latter half of April, while my emotional turmoil was over, I found myself over-eating again, binging with relief. At first I couldn't figure out, after 3 solid months of good eating habits, life-changing new habits, I'm suddenly stumbling in this area again - not during the hard trials, but after them... but that's often when we are most vulnerable, spiritually, when we sight with relief and let our guard down.

612. Twalkers 
Blaze says "twalkers" are people who walk and text at the same time. Love it! - been guilty of it a time or two!

613. Designing Maps class
My job paid me to take a two day class on Designing Maps, since part of my work this year is making maps for a new educational atlas of Wyoming. The whole time I was taking this class I kept thinking: "I get paid to learn how to make beautiful maps? This is too cool!" My job isn't always roses, but the fact that I'm still learning new things and loving the work even after 18 years is such a blessing.

614. Shopping spree
B. took me down to Ft. Collins to buy some new clothes and take me out to dinner. I don't think he's ever offered to take me on a shopping spree before! Neither one of us are keen on shopping, but just the fact that he offered was so neat. And of course I took him up on it since I've lost 20 pounds, clothes shopping is actually fun again! I may be too old for the teen-style jeans that are covered with bling like the Miss Me brand, but I bought a pair anyway (a brand not quite as pricey as Miss Me) and I love them!

615. In-laws' 50th wedding anniversary
B.'s parents celebrated this big anniversary on April 21st, with their whole family in attendance at a beautiful lodge on Lewis & Clark Lake, South Dakota. Such a wonderful weekend! Especially so since B's mother has been fighting cancer for a year and a half now. The battle is far from over, but this weekend of celebration still felt like a victory. (Our family is on the far right, B. is the tallest handsomest one! smile! I'm wearing the orange shirt, hanging on to my twin girls, my other girls behind me with their Aunt Monica. Grandma and Grandpa are 7th and 8th from the left, back row, overwhelmed by their family!)

616. A secret place alone with God
When I went to Beth Moore's Living Proof blog on April 15 to enter my next round of verses for her scripture memory challenge, I was doubly blessed not only by the scripture but by her testimony of how God delayed her travel plans - to have an evening of undivided attention and time with her:

Our subject matter in Greensboro had revolved strongly around increasing our time in the “secret place” with Jesus. I had told them that I was exhilarated by the challenge and could not wait to get started into a deeper secrecy with Him. Let me just say, Jesus took me up on it.  Immediately. I had all evening with Him then all the next morning with Him.

Don’t you on occasion find it slack-jawing astonishing that this same Jesus seeks us out and wants to be with us? It’s happened to you just like it’s happened to me. If you’ve known Him long, you’ve unexpectedly found yourself alone and lonely only to realize that He has temporarily isolated you just to be with you. And you realize you’ve never been less alone in your life.

“He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us.” James 4:5

....Sister, Jesus is hemming you in. If He’s backed you into a corner, it’s not to isolate you but to freshly exhilarate you. He loves you. He’s seeking you out. Slow down and let yourself be caught by this holy jealous-for-you love that will not let you go. We are not just tolerated. We didn’t make it in by the skin of our teeth. We have been planned for and pursued. We are the deep desire of Someone’s heart.
 Oh yes God certainly has backed up into a corner last month, and this month too... but it's been worth it. It really has. My memory verses this month:

Isaiah 40: 28-31
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

617. Lyrics from Cannons, by Phil Wickham
We sang this at church and my heart was so full of joy and worship. Sometimes when I raise my hands Blaze will raise her hand and we hold hands together, high, for the Lord.

 It's falling from the clouds, a strange and lovely sound
I hear it in the thunder and rain
It's ringign in the skies, like cannons in the night
The music of the universe plays

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars, declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are

Beautiful and free, song of galaxies
Reaching far beyond the Milky Way
[love this!]
Let's join in with the sound, c'mon lets sing it out
As the music of the universe plays

Singing You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars, declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of You

All glory, honor, power is Yours, Amen
All glory, honor, power is Yours, Amen
All glory, honor, power is Yours, forever Amen

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars, declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of You

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars, declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Revelations in the midst of trials

Beautiful things come out of storms
 This is directly from my journal, written April 9, 2013, after a huge blow up between two people in my family that hit me especially hard, since I love them both.

God has used the book of Job in very profound ways (it's how He showed Himself to me, when I was an unbeliever), and He continues to show me stunning things from this ancient story:

Job begged for God to answer him and defend him, and to know why these awful things had happened to him even though he had always served God faithfully.

When God finally did answer, he didn't answer any of Job's questions. He revealed Himself to Job in three chapters of the most intense and vivid revelations, in His own words, in the entire Bible. Job chapters 38-41 is the longest speech ever shared by God directly to mankind. 

He didn't explain why but  He answered with even more wondrous revelations.

And so it is with this trial: I am asking God to bring healing; and He isn't. But what is He bringing instead? Intense and vivid revelations of Himself, drawing into greater, stunning knoweldge of Him: moment of His presence that fill me wonder.

It's worth it! This trial is worth it.

The emotional turmoil is still there, endlessly nipping at my heels, but it's worth it.

Job 42:1-5  Job replied to the Lord: I know that ou can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked "Who is this who obscures my plans without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; things too wonderful for me to know .... my ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Seven words to change your family

I have been reading so many good books lately, and they deserve some attention here on my blog. Last fall I encountered my first James MacDonald book, "Lord Change My Attitude" through my womens' Bible study, and then this spring we read two more of his, "Seven Words to Change Your Family" and "Gripped by the Greatness of God."

I want to write about all three of them but I'll start with "Seven Words to Change Your Family." I actually finished reading this in February, but this month we ran smack into a big family upheaval, so I figured it would be good to go back and review this and write down some important principles.

There are three healing words: forgiveness, blessing, honor; three building words:  truth, church, commitment  and one transforming word, love.

MacDonald has the gift for getting right to the heart of the matter; and his Bible study is both incisive and yet accessible. Some of his words, like forgiveness and love are obvious; but he pointed out some things about the process of forgiveness that I hadn't realized - it really is an ongoing process, not just a one time event. 

Some of his other words I hadn't really thought about before, like what it means to as an adult to honor our parents, or what it means to bless our children. 

In blessing our children, the author uses the example of Isaac and Jacob blessing their sons, and from other biblical examples he shows how to speak words of affection, words of reconciliation, words of vision "you're going to make a difference in this world", and words of security.
We need to be pouring a spiritual vision into our children. We don't want them to just get by; we want them to be the super conquerors that Christ Jesus has created them to be. A spiritual vision. "You are going to walk with God. You're going to be a godly man or woman. God is going to use your life."

...When the blessing is given, a child emerges into adulthood able to answer to the three most important questions in life: 1. Who am I? (a question of identity) 2. Why am I here? (a question of security) 3. Where am I going? (a question of confidence)

Matt 3:16-17 tells us that the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Isn't that great? God the Father Himself modeled the importance of affirmation.
Another part that really struck me; this is from the chapter on truth.
We only get so many words in our families. The older our kids get, the fewer words we have with them. What are you going to spend your words on? "clean up your room!" "I asked you five times to take out the garbage!" Is that how you are going to spend your words? Like that's going to have a big impact! I fear we're wasting our words on issues of little value, and then we're too exhausted to pour into our families the kind of truth that can be fountain of life to them. Instead, let's choose words of truth that build and guide and that establish a foundation of wisdom.

Lord, keep me from wasting my words with my kids! Right now they will listen to me when I talk about You - when I talk about anything. When they are older, I know they won't listen or if they do they won't value what I say as much. This something we're we're facing right now:
Then there's the opposition of emotional distance. Perhaps you have teenagers who call you uncool and unloving, and they won't see for many years the values of the truths on which you are building your family and refusing to compromise. I plead with you not to back down, no matter ho many hurtful words they say or rolled eyes you must endure. In the major things, do what's right even if it sets off a war in your home. Draw the line. When your kids become adults and are raising their own kids, they will know that you did what was best for them
Here's a principle I really want to teach my kids:
Every time God says "Don't" - as in "Don't harbor unforgiveness" what He's saying is "Don't hurt yourself." In other words, when you choose to sin, you choose to suffer.

...My capacity to forgive is directly related to my comprehension of how much God loves me. When my concept of God is very small, my capacity to love others is very small as well.... so often I see that the Lord's people need to have a breakthrough in their understanding. God doesn't love like our parents. God doesn't love according to our human experiences. God loves fully and unconditionally. That's what we're after.

...Periodically, I will invite the perfect people in our church to stand, and thus far we have found none. We are all fallen people, not just in principle but in practice (James 3:2 "We all stumble in many ways"
Another thing I want to do in my family, create a poster that hangs in a prominent place in our house, like the author's house,  that displays our 5 most important family principles:

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind (Matt 22:38)

2) Love your neighbor as yourself  (Matt 22:39) and your closest neighbors are your family. "We are together in this, and we'll get through this together"

3) Work hard, without complaining for the glory of God (Philippians 2:14 and Colossian 3:17)

4) Always tell the truth and seek to learn God's truth (2 Tim 3:16,17)

5) Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

The section on honoring our parents was unexpectedly heartbreaking. The author shared several letters that brought tears to my eyes, first of callous and neglectful treatment of aging parents by their adult children, and one by a man who took the time to thank his parents and spend extra time with them, and was so thankful he did because his mother died unexpectedly shortly afterward. The book also includes a tribute that James wrote himself to his parents. 

Some more quotes:

You are not standing for the truth unless you are doing so at the specific point where the truth is being resisted.... you can be standing for the truth in fifteen different places, but if you are conceding at the very point of oppositon, you are not building your home on truth. 

...God's Word has never been tried and found lacking. Never! However, it has often been found difficult and therefore not tried. 

... It is absolutely vital for us to understand that truth is most powerfully taught in the context of relationship.

One last excellent thing, this from the chapter on commitment:

Commitment is the defining characteristic of a person's life...there are people who keep their commitments and there are people who don't. It's the watershed issue. Which person are you?