Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Socked In

Staying on an island off the coast of Florida, we arose early and went to ocean front windows to take in the view.

But there wasn’t a view.

Thick fog hovered along the ocean surface and invaded the beach.

We were socked in.



So where did the term “socked in” come from?

According to this source, it dates back to 1944. “It’s basically derived from pilots and traffic control workers. The thought is, while looking across the airport runway to check out the “windsock” to see which way the wind is blowing, if you can NOT see the windsock, you are “socked in” with clouds and have no business flying!”

And sometimes, spiritually speaking, it feels like we’re socked in. We can’t see the windsock or the water or how in the world God is going to do what he said He would do.

So what then?

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45). An angel had announced to the virgin Mary she would give birth to a baby, the Son of God. What's a teenage girl to think about that? But Mary believed it and these words spoken by Elizabeth affirm Mary’s belief that what God had told her would happen despite the seeming impossibility of it all.

At times, as I’ve stared into the fog of a circumstance, I’ve found myself often quoting the father with a spirit-possessed child in Mark 9:24, “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”

Jesus met his frank admission with compassion and delivered the child.

Priscilla Shirer says that God doesn’t call us to do hard things, He calls us to do impossible things. So often, when we're socked in, impossible seems like the only word to describe the circumstances.

One of my heroes in the faith is George Muller. In one of my favorite stories about him told in Streams in the Desert, he found himself socked in on a boat off Newfoundland traveling from England to Canada. After spending twenty-four hours on the bridge trying to navigate the tremendous fog, the captain told Muller that he would miss his appointment on Saturday in Quebec, that it was impossible to reach the coast in time. Here’s what happened next.

“'Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chart-room and pray.'"

“I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, 'What lunatic asylum can that man have come from? . . .' 'Mr. Muller,' I said, 'do you know how dense this fog is?'

 'No,' he replied, 'my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.'"

"He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. 'First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I BELIEVE HE HAS, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it. . . Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.' I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon, George Muller was in Quebec for his engagement."

So, that’s the kind of faith I want. You probably do, too. So, together, let’s stop looking at the fog and put on our eyes on God “who controls every circumstance” of our lives. Lord, help our unbelief.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

If you're looking for something brand-new

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” (Isaiah 43:19-21 The Message).

For some weeks now, God has been speaking through various means that he is going to do a new thing in my life, yet I don’t know what that new thing might be. In answer to the prophet’s question, I don’t see it. Not yet, anyway.
I just shared with church folks in the last few days that when we know God has something for us, we don’t care what it is, because if it’s of God, we want it no matter what. We know we won’t find fulfillment in any other path. It’s as if God allows us to get so weary of the status quo that we are willing to go anywhere with Him.

Then I read in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest yesterday, “Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing―it makes no difference. It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready.”
To this I say, I believe Lord, but help my unbelief. It’s easy to lapse into recalling what we hoped God would do and didn’t. We rehearse disappointments. I suppose this would fall into the category of “old history.”
God called me to write, and I have tried to be faithful to that call. I’ve sent out projects, which I could today find that they’re going forward. Over the past year, I’ve also produced a fair amount of paintings. So if I had to put my finger on a facet of my life I think God might be stirring in, I’d say it was writing or painting, because that’s where He’s been leading, and He might be taking me to a totally new place in these endeavors.

But, the new thing could be something else entirely. I just don’t know.

I do believe that in his time, He’ll make His purposes known. Meanwhile, I heed words also spoken by Oswald Chambers; I do the “next thing.” The duty that lies nearest.

As I write today, I wonder whether some of you might be getting or have gotten a “something brand-new” word, as well. If so, I’d love to hear from you as we traverse this path together.

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!(Romans 5:3-5 The Message).

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When it's time to rip it out

We recently made a visit to the state botanical gardens.

Such beauty.


While there, we ran up on a class meeting in the atrium―women sitting at desks with some sort of handwork in front of them. I had no idea what they were doing.

Turns out they were making bobbin lace.

“May I take a picture of your hands?” I asked one of the workers.

“Sure,” she said and then laughed. “But right now, I’m doing something called ripping out.”

I nodded. “I’ve done enough sewing to know exactly what that means.”

I watched as she moved the bobbins back and forth to remove the portion of lace she’d just done.

She had blocked out everything except what she was working on right then, but for me, she removed the blocking and showed me the pattern she was aiming towards―a large intricate bird design. I wondered how long it might take her to finish.

She didn’t seem too concerned about it.

I walked away thinking it’s amazing what God gives us the patience for―such tedious work and the progress so incremental.

But I kept going back to that ripping out business.

Honestly, when I’m sewing, I’d almost rather start all over than tear out a large portion of what I’ve done and redo it. So tedious.

Yet that’s exactly what I ask God to do for me.

In The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer writes, “Being a believer doesn’t give you immunity from the assaults of the enemy, but it does give you access to the power of the Father―His power to defend you as well as reverse what’s been done to you.”

God’s making lace out of our lives, an intricate, lovely pattern, but the enemy is all about throwing in everything he can to cause a snarl.

But when that happens, we can call out to God, and He doesn’t throw us in the rag box, he patiently unravels the mess and continues to weave his work in our lives. When He rips something out, he doesn't jerk us around, but is tender and loving. Amazingly, he can even use the mess for his Glory. And when we can’t go back to where we started, somehow God meets us right where we are to work with the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

For sure, His time table is oh, so different than ours. We want it done now. His eyes are on eternity.

The trip to the botanical garden gave me not only a front row seat to the beauty of nature, but insight into the beauty he can work in my own life, as well.

So as Priscilla says, let's "flip the script." Pray with me.  God, go ahead, rip it out.

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21 The Message).


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When you need a billboard or a bluebird

A time crunch hit me this week as several things happened in addition to trying to get another book proposal ready to go out the door. Finally pressed send yesterday. So, I'm reaching into the archives this morning, and I thought this post about perseverance might be helpful. I know it's a message I need to hear often. Hope it helps you, too, friends.
Early in the morning, I sat down at my dining room table to read.

Through the window, the bluebirds nesting in the box fluttered in and out taking care of their brood. I ignorantly put up a bluebird box in the front and back yard not realizing until later the size of this property only supports one box (the birds can fight over territory in too small a space), but I have nesters back and front. I guess their need for a home has overshadowed their lack of neighborliness.
As I picked up a devotional to read, I felt weary. Circumstances had continued to mount and added to an unrelenting attack from that voice that brings discouragement.

Sometimes we allow the negative voice to become the loudest one in our heads.

I had let my guard down, and hated to admit it, but I was starting to believe that voice a bit.

I read the verses from Isaiah 40 listed for the day. The theme for the week was “Our weakness and God’s strength.” I sure related to the weakness part.

“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.”

I experienced what’s often call a God moment. A rhema word—it was persevere.

I turned to another devotion.

The verse?

“Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed” (Heb 12:12-13). 

Again a word about God bringing healing to the weak and faltering.

I flipped to a guide I’d been using as a resource in praying for others to find Christ. 

The theme continued, and I don’t know if I could have intentionally strung together verses and readings, which spoke more directly to my circumstances, but this one even included the sentence, “Lord, help me persevere.”

I pondered the words as the bluebirds sat on a utility line a short distance from the house. One thing I’ve come to observe about them is how fiercely they carry out their duties. I’ve seen them repeatedly attack squirrels to divert them from the nest. They do not flag in their zeal, often raising two broods in a season.

Finally, I removed the bookmark from this book, and read again the story of persistence about the paralytic being lowered through the roof to see Jesus. Osteen says, “You are closest to your victory when you face the greatest opposition.

The words from James that I'd been memorizing came to mind, "Let perseverance finish its work . . ."

It’s as if God had rented a billboard, put my name on it, and said, “Don’t’ miss this. PERSEVERE.” 

More flapping outside, and I’m not sure, but a Bluebird may have winked at me.

If you’ve found yourselves in a firestorm in some endeavor, I don’t know what victory would look like for you, but please remember, victory is coming.

Here's your billboard: "Persevere. Persevere. Persevere."

As you do, don’t be surprised at an approving flash of blue in the wind.

Laura Hilton reviews Home to Currahee on her blog. Click here to read. Many thanks to Laura for taking the time to review.

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