Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I forgive you. How could three words, four syllables be so hard to say? I'm sure there are some who would tell me: You do not know the pain I have suffered, you cannot begin to fathom what they have done to me, I didn't deserve to be treated the way I was treated, they don't even care that they have hurt me, and the list goes on. How could I possibly know what you might say in your defense? Well, I'm sure I have thought the very same thoughts...my list is longer...and I'm sure yours could be too.

I struggle with forgiveness. It is especially hard to forgive someone when they never ask for it and they are not sorry for what they have done. Or when they continue to hurt you or the people you love. You are finally able to forgive and than another situation arises.

There are many instances I could share but I will go back over twenty years. I was on my internship and I was looking forward to my youngest brother graduating from highschool. I had talked to my Pastor at the beginning of my internship letting him know when it was and he told me that when the time came we would work it out.

My intership Pastor did not keep his promise and in fact he told me I would fail my internship if I went home for my brothers highschool graudation. My internship was a huge struggle and challenge...I worked with a Pastor who had a type A personality. I am the opposite. I tried to live up to his standards...and I never could. I made mistakes and I was not a perfect intern. But I did the best I could in the circumstances I found myself in. I loved the people at my church and if they would have known, what was going on...they would have been devestated.

It took me a long time to get over missing my brother's graduation. To this day when I see pictures, my eyes fill with tears.

I forgave the Pastor a long time ago. He never asked for my forgiveness and I'm sure he would tell you he made the right decision in not letting me go.

I learned a long time ago the only person you hurt when you do not forgive is yourself. You begin to sink into slimey pit of self-pity and you become stuck in the sin of your unforgiveness. God asks us to do the unthinkable from our point of view to forgive. God commands us to forgive as He has forgiven us.

We can become chained to our bitterness and anger. We get so caught up in what happened to us in the past...we miss the gifts of the present. We keep a list of the wrongs that have been done to us and it becomes so long we cannot even begin to carry the burden of it around with us anymore.

I believe God commands us to forgive for our own good. We have a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness.

I recently found an article in Focus on the Family on forgiveness. I would like to share it with you.

Clearing up common misconceptions
by Laura Petherbridge
Angela knew she needed to forgive Leslie, but she didn't know how. After all, Leslie had betrayed their friendship by sharing conversations that were meant to stay private. But Angela knew that if she didn't get rid of her anger and forgive, the bitterness might consume her.
During more than 20 years as a speaker and teacher, I've encountered a vast number of people who are struggling to forgive someone. They understand the importance of forgiveness. But few have been taught how to do it. The cycle of bitterness and revenge continues often due to an inaccurate view of forgiveness. A number of resources explain what forgiveness is, but there is little that helps a person understand what it is not. And that is often the key.
1. Forgiveness is not a feeling.
If you are waiting until the feeling to forgive comes upon you, it's unlikely to occur. Forgiveness is an act of obedience to God, stemming from gratitude for His grace. And God knows that revenge, anger and rage can destroy us spiritually, emotionally and physically. Christ paid too much for His beloved ones to have them be slaves to anything, particularly hatred. He wants His children free. And a person is never free when weighed down with bitterness. When the cold shackles of revenge are tightly clasped around our wrists, it's impossible to lift our hands in praise to Him.
2. Forgiveness is not pretending you were not hurt.
Walking around with a painted-on smile when you are seething inside is not forgiveness. In Scripture we never see Jesus pretend. When He was sad, He cried (John 11:35). When He was angry, He turned over the tables in the temple (John 2:15-16). Someone has betrayed your trust, damaged your soul or caused a loss. It is OK to recognize and feel the hurt instigated by another's behavior.
3. Forgiveness is not condoning what the person did to you.
Many people hesitate to forgive because they feel as though the wrongdoer is getting away with the offense or that forgiveness will somehow condone the offender's choices. It doesn't. Instead, forgiving releases the wrongdoer from the debt she owes you and releases you from the bitterness.
4. Forgiveness is not trusting the offender.
After a betrayal, trust is not an automatic right of the offender. Forgiveness does not mean you immediately allow the person back into your life or heart. If someone is repentant and willing to work on restoring the relationship, you might be able to trust him again eventually. However, sometimes those who wound us shouldn't be trusted again. Though forgiveness should not be contingent on the perpetrator's repentance, a truly repentant person doesn't demand forgiveness or misuse Bible verses in an attempt to make you feel guilty. He humbly accepts complete responsibility for the sin and the consequences for his actions (Psalm 51), which may include giving you time to see evidence of his trustworthiness.
I have people in my life whom I have forgiven but I no longer trust because they have chosen to continue the same negative patterns that caused the offense or hurt in the first place.
5. Forgiveness is not relieving the person of responsibility.
A person shouldn't be "off the hook" from his or her responsibilities just because you choose to forgive. For example, a wife may be forgiven for placing the family in financial ruin with debt, but she should still be responsible for paying off the debt. A former husband may be forgiven for destroying his marriage with an affair, but he should still pay child support to his former wife.
Forgiveness doesn't eradicate responsibility. It's not unloving to hold someone accountable. Often accountability is the most loving thing you can do because it could lead to repentance.

Forgiveness — releasing resentment against one who has offended or hurt you — is rarely a one-time event. The pain doesn't necessarily disappear once you forgive someone. And those closest to us may hurt us repeatedly, requiring us to forgive multiple times.
The best way to step toward forgiveness is to admit that you need to forgive. Be honest with the Lord and ask Him to reveal any distorted thinking you may have about forgiveness. That often begins with discovering the difference between what forgiveness is — and what it is not.
This article first appeared in the November, 2008 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2008 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.
Laura Petherbridge speaks and writes on relationships, spiritual growth and divorce care around the world.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The other night I was tucking Jacob and Matthew into bed. Usually, Matthew is all snuggly and full of hugs and kisses. His beautiful big blue eyes, which dance with mischief and fun, were filled with sadness and the beginning of tears. I pulled him close and asked him if he was okay. With his eyes turned down, he shrugged his tiny shoulders. I knew something was bothering him and so I just held him close. Finally, his little lips quivered and he said, “Mommy, I don’t want you to die.” I gave him a big kiss and told him, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. By then both Jacob and Matthew had tears spilling down their cheeks. I asked Matthew, “Why do you think, I’m going to die.” He looked at me very seriously and said, “All of your vitamins are falling out of you.” It hit me that my perceptive little guy had heard me talking about my vitamin D levels being very low and that I needed to build them back up. He listens more than I realize and I should have explained things better to him and Jacob.

I pulled them both unto my lap and told them I wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. I also wanted to be honest and I told them, none of us know when we are going to die. I told them, Jesus is always with us and He will take care of us. Whether, I’m here on earth with them or in heaven…Jesus never leaves us.

Jacob is my little worrywart, told me he still felt yucky on the inside and didn’t want me to be sick anymore. I told him worrying makes us feel sick on the inside and it doesn’t make things better. I told him we need to give our worries to God and let Him take care of things. Jacob wanted to pray about it and so the three of us bowed our head. I prayed first and than Jacob…after Jacob was finished he looked at Matthew and said, “It is your turn to pray.” Matthew looked at him and replied, “I not worried anymore, Jesus is going to take care of it. I’m sleepy.” Jacob told me he knew Jesus was going to take care of me, but he wanted to physically give him his worries. So, I told him to pretend his worries are in his heart, take them you out, and than fling them up to heaven. So, Jacob and I flung are worries up to heaven. I told him it was very important not to try and take the worries back, just to let God take care of them. He hugged me and assured me he felt much better.

I know I have wasted many precious moments worrying, stewing, and fretting over people, situations, and life in general. I have learned the hard way, it doesn’t fix anything, and you can never get those moments back. I have made myself sick with worry and I don’t want my boys to do the same.

How many times have you tried to fix the broken things in life? How many times have you replayed the images of a situation over and over again, in your mind, thinking if only I had done it differently? Have you ever tried to control anything and quickly discovered the only thing being controlled was you?

I am very concerned about my health…more about the impact that it could have upon my family. But I have discovered, I cannot fix anything, even my best attempts have failed miserably. I will continue to rest in the knowledge Jesus loves me and my family more than I can possibly imagine. He will walk with me as He always has and give me the peace and the strength to deal with whatever happens on a daily basis. “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Psalm 62:1

I have always loved the song, “Turn your eyes upon, Jesus”. I pray it will be a blessing to you and it will fill you with the peace that can only come from Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm sorry I have not posted as much as I wanted too. It has become more difficult for me to find the time. With my illness it is challenging to do the things that I need to get done on a daily basis with my boys. Homeschooling comes first and trying to keep up with the daily task of keeping house. I'm posting something from Max Lucado. It is one my favorite pieces that I have received through his devotions he sends out. I want to do a few writings on forgiveness over the next couple of weeks. I thought this would be a good way to start it out. We often get caught up in holding grudges against people...and some times we might even have a good reason. But if you let it control your life...you are missing out on the joy of daily life. It is my prayer as you read this reading...that you do not think about how you really know someone who should read this...focus on yourself. Let God speak to you through this writing. We all have relationships we struggle with...we live in a broken and sinful world. May God continue to bless you on your Lenten Journey.

He Can Heal the Hurt
by Max Lucado

Grudge is one of those words that defines itself. Its very sound betrays its meaning.

Say it slowly: “Grr-uuuud-ge.”

It starts with a growl. “Grr …” Like a bear with bad breath coming out of hibernation or a mangy mongrel defending his bone in an alley. “Grrr …”

Remove a GR from the word grudge and replace it with SL and you have the junk that grudge bearers trudge through. Sludge. Black, thick, ankle-deep resentment that steals the bounce from the step. No joyful skips through the meadows. No healthy hikes up the mountain. Just day after day of walking into the storm, shoulders bent against the wind, and feet dragging through all the muck life has delivered.

Is this the way you are coping with your hurts? Are you allowing your hurts to turn into hates? If so, ask yourself: Is it working? Has your hatred done you any good? Has your resentment brought you any relief, any peace? Has it granted you any joy?

Let’s say you get even. Let’s say you get him back. Let’s say she gets what she deserves. Let’s say your fantasy of fury runs its ferocious course and you return all your pain with interest. Imagine yourself standing over the corpse of the one you have hated. Will you now be free?

The writer of the following letter thought she would be. She thought her revenge would bring release. But she learned otherwise.

I caught my husband making love to another woman. He swore it would never happen again. He begged me to forgive him, but I could not—would not. I was so bitter and so incapable of swallowing my pride that I could think of nothing but revenge. I was going to make him pay and pay dearly. I’d have my pound of flesh.

I filed for divorce, even though my children begged me not to.

Even after the divorce, my husband tried for two years to win me back. I refused to have anything to do with him. He had struck first; now I was striking back. All I wanted was to make him pay.

Finally he gave up and married a lovely young widow with a couple of small children. He began rebuilding his life—without me.

I see them occasionally, and he looks so happy. They all do. And here I am—a lonely, old, miserable woman who allowed her selfish pride and foolish stubbornness to ruin her life.

Unfaithfulness is wrong. Revenge is bad. But the worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that is left.

The state of your heart dictates whether you harbor a grudge or give grace, seek self-pity or seek Christ, drink human misery or taste God’s mercy.

No wonder, then, the wise man begs, “Above all else, guard your heart.”

David’s prayer should be ours: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”

The Applause of Heaven
© (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999) Max Lucado

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do you ever long to have your life tied up into a neat and tidy package? Have any of you accomplished this feat? If you have, wanna share your secret?

Maybe my life is the only one that gets really messy and at times makes no earthly sense...although I have friends and we often compare notes...and they wish their lives were more orderly too.

Do you ever wonder if God could use your help? Or possibly you might have a better idea on how things might work out more to your advantage. You have a plan and you would rather it not include pain and suffering...and did I mention you would rather not deal with messy.

So many times in my life, I have thought I knew how things would work out for the best for me...and when they did not work out I was really disappointed...at first. But then I begin to realize God is always working through my life...He doesn't cause the upheaval, pain, or suffering...but He can bring good out of any situation.

God can take the broken pieces of our lives and bring healing in ways we could have never imagined.

Some of you may know I have been dealing with some health issues. I will eventually have surgery but it has been put on hold for awhile. I cannot even begin to tell you how discouraged I feel... You see my illness causes extreme exhaustion, depression, heart racing, and just a genuine overall feeling of living in a fog. Thankfully there are some good days...and I take advantage of those moments. I have two amazing reasons to get up of bed each morning....their sweet little faces...telling me good morning and greeting me with hugs and kisses. God has blessed me with an amazing husband who loves me through the ups and downs of our daily lives.

During this challenging time in my life God has surrounded me with His love through my family and friends. I have felt His peace and I know most days I move on the strength that He has given me. I often wish I didn't have to go through all of this....but never have a questioned God's love for me. I need to clarify, I don't think God caused me to be sick, but I know He can bring good out of it.

I don't pretend to understand all I can do is trust each day to the One who loves me more than I can comprehend. Jesus is with me in all of my moments...the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

As I reflect on all that God has done for me...this beautiful hymn comes to mind. I pray the words will minister to your heart and you will know God's peace today and always.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Olive Wyon, in her book Consider Him, quotes a story from the letters St. Francis of Sales. St. Francis has ntoiced a custom of the country districts in which he lived. He had often noticed a farm servant going across a framyard to draw water at the well; he also noticed that, before she lifted the brimming pail, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day he went out to the girl and asked her, "Why do you do that? " She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course, "Why? to keep the water from spilling...to keep it steady!" Writing to a friend later on, the bishop told this story and added: So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady!" In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from the Cross bring peace and serenity and calm.

As we walk the road to Calvary, with Jesus, during this Lenten season. Remember Jesus already walked this road before you. He carried all of your burdens, sorrows, sins, and pain. Let His peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding fill your heart on mind today and always.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Psalm 118
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let Israel say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,
"His steadfast love endures forever."

5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
9It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.

14The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
"The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18The LORD has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!

28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Friday, March 13, 2009

King David wrote Psalm 51 after he was confronted with all of his sins in regards to Bathsheeba: adultry, murder, lies, deception....

Psalm 51

Create in me a clean heart

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I gave up worry for Lent. For those who know me best, you will think, that didn't last long. The anxious thoughts have tried to creep in and capture my mind. I will be honest I've lapsed into moments were I've allowed my thoughts to race towards gloom and despair. And at those moments I begin to pray, sing, read God's word, or talk to Troy to help me sort through my thoughts.

I also want to try and fix things to make it better. I have quickly discovered there are many things I cannot fix: cancer, sickness, depression, gossip, broken families, lies told in order to destroy, sin, and the list goes on. I am a visual person and so during my prayers I envision myself placing all of my worries and problems into the Lords' hands. His hands are far more capable than mine. Than I rest in the knowledge He will work it out.

“Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:5-7

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A lone tear escapes and trails down your cheek and soon afterwards another falls until they are like an army marching forward into battle. You are blinded by your grief and you are too weary to care anymore. You know the Lord walks with you but you are so tired and you are wondering why it has to be so hard. You close your eyes to pray and you are unable to form a coherent thought let alone express your deepest of sorrows. You wonder for a brief moment if you have lost your faith but you know God is there with you in the midst of your pain. You take comfort in knowing the Lord knows your heart and your thoughts. The Holy Spirit will intercede on your behalf when you are unable to pray.

You feel lighter like a great burden has been lifted from your shoulders. In the quiet of the moment you feel a sense of peace. Once again you are reminded you do not need to rely upon your own strength it was never enough, but the Lord will give what you need for each moment.

May you always know God's peace and comfort. I pray you will be renewed and refreshed by God's word today and always.

Psalm 42

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"
4These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?"
10As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

How often do you feel at peace? With yourself, others, God? Where are you looking for peace? Family, Friends, Food, Alcohol, Drugs? If you have chosen any of those how it working for you? I'm not asking you that question in judgement...I'm asking because I understand.

I haven't really tried the alcohol and drug option but I would imagine they would only provid temporary relief. I'm guessing because I often turn to chocolate to solve my problems. But I have quickly discovered my problems are still there and nothing has been solved. I love my family and friends and they have been there in countless ways to give encouragement and love to me. But they cannot provide me with true peace.

All of us face problems on a daily basis. I would like to focus on the sorrows in life to which no matter how hard you try they do not change.

A loved one suffering from cancer.
Health issues
Being separated by distance from friends and loved ones
Broken relationships, you have tried to repair them, but they remain broken
Job loss

I'm sure this list could be much longer. We each have our own crosses to bear. Please know that you are not alone. Jesus has given us grace and peace in abundance. Some you might be thinking, yes that is true, but how does that solve my problems. It may not solve your problems but we can find comfort in knowing the Lord walks with us and we are never alone.

May you find comfort in God's word.

1 Peter 1:2-9
May grace and peace be yours in abundance.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Wonderful, merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and Friend
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men
Oh you rescue the souls of men

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost the way
Oh, we hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

Almighty, infinite Father
Faithfully loving Your own
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne
Oh, we're falling before Your throne

Friday, March 06, 2009

I had hoped to be able to write a post for each day during Lent. But I have found I do not always have the time to write one for each day. So, I'm hoping to post at least 4 times a week. May God continue to bless each of you on your Lenten Journey.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Come to the Quiet
Our lives are so busy and hectic. When is the last time you were able to "Be Still" before the Lord. To sit in the quiet and talk to Him, or better yet, let Him talk to you. I'm not asking you these questions to make you feel guilty. I'm extending you an invitation for these next few minutes to have some time of reflection and prayer. Just to sit and be in the presence of our Lord, who loves you more than you can possibly imagine.
Come and bring your troubles, your heartaches, disappointments, hurts, broken dreams and plans, and He will take your burdens from you and fill you with a peace which surpasses all human understanding.
During your time with Him you will have an opportunity to reflect upon Psalm 139 and to listen to two different pieces of Taize music. Taize is a special form of prayer and worship.
Psalm 139
Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.4Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!20They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain!21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?22I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

As a young girl my family would attend Lenten services. At the close of each service, the light would dim until only the cross in front of the church would be illuminated. We would stand and sing "Abide With Me". As the darkness would envelop our small church the familiar notes of the beloved hymn would fill the air and our voices would lift up in praise.

Abide means to remain constant and steadfast. My parents always taught us the Lord would always walk with us, not only in words but by the way they lived their lives. The words of the hymn further instilled this teaching.

I know there are times in life when the hurt we feel encompasses our daily life. It pushes out the peace and leaves us feeling empty and abandoned. When we get caught up in the storms of life we forget our Lord is right there in the midst of the suffering. He didn't cause the suffering, but He understands it. I pray you will find comfort and encouragment in God's word and in the hymn.

Psalm 27
The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation

1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
6And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me,and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!8You have said, "Seek my face."My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." 9 Hide not your face from me.Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help.Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!10For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
13I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

My heart was trembling in agony and I was sobbing so hard that I could hardly talk. I was standing in the Minneapolis airport getting ready to say good-bye to my younger sister Sheila. It was the summer of 1993 and communism had recently fallen in Russia and my precious baby sister was flying over to Moscow to become a missionary. Even though Sheila is younger; her wisdom is far greater than mine. Sheila looked at me and told me that I needed to stop crying and pull myself together. She asked me what is the worst thing that could happen to me over in Moscow? I told her that she could die over there and than what would I do!

I will never forget her response to my fears. “Michelle, whether I live or I die, I will be with God. What more could you ask for?” I was humbled and I felt ashamed that I had not put my trust in God. I remembered the little pin that I was going to give Sheila as a farewell gift. It was a picture of God’s hand and resting in His palm was a young girl. It goes along with Scripture passage from Isaiah 49, “I will never forget you my people, I have carved you on the Palm of my hand. I will never forget you, I will not leave you orphaned, for you are my own. Would a mother forget her baby? Or a woman a child within her womb? Even if these forget I will not forget you because you are my own.” I had bought pins for myself and our other sister Jimella, to wear close to our hearts while Sheila was in Russia.

The time had come for our final hug and although the tears were streaming down my cheeks and dripping off the end of my nose; I felt a peace from deep within. It was not a peace that could come from me, it was the peace that passes all human understand, the peace that can only come from God. My heart ached as I knew it would be almost a year before we would see each other again; and this was long before e-mail and cheap phone rates. I was excited for Sheila and all of the people that I knew she would touch with God love and to be able to share His precious word with them.

Sheila had been in Moscow for a few months and it was the beginning of October. That week-end I decided to go home to visit my parents. That night we were watching the news we saw the horror that was happening in Moscow; they were in a midst of a Civil War. We sat there in shock and disbelief; and we watched the events unfold right before our very eyes. The phone begin to ring with family and friends calling from all around the world asking if we had heard from Sheila. We had no way of getting a hold of her and so all we could do was pray and ask others to do the same. After the phone had quieted I shared with my parents the talk that I had with Sheila at the airport. I had given my mom a little statue of a little girl carved in God’s hand. We talked about how we knew that Sheila was with God no matter what happened and that He was holding her close to Him right now. We found comfort that Sheila was living with a Russian family and she had quickly become their adopted daughter and they were very protective of her.

As I went to sleep that night I held onto to two thoughts: Sheila is with God and He has her in the Palm of His hand. I awoke many times and I could feel God’s peace surrounding me and I prayed that it would surround and enfold Sheila and also my parents.

The next morning the phone rang; I’m not a track star but I made record time in running down the steps to get to the phone, we knew it had to be about Sheila. Hearing her voice on the other end of the phone brought tears and hearts that were grateful to hear her beautiful voice. She said she knew she had to call because we would all be worried sick; she shared that while it was bad it was not as terrible as the news stations were sharing with us. Her Russian family had forbidden her to go out and would not do so until it was once again safe in the streets of Moscow.

It's hard to let go of our loved ones. I weep everytime I say goodbye to parents after visiting them, because deep in my heart I know I will never be ready to say a final good-bye to them here on earth. I know someday my boys will grow up and I will need to let them venture out on their own. It is a part of life.

I have the privilege of having friends all over the world and I long to have them all close by. I know the Lord holds them all in the palm of His hand.

Whenever I think about heaven one of the things I like to think about is how I will never have to say good-bye to anyone there. Because we will have all of eternity to spend together.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Great is Thy Faithfulness
Over the past couple of months I have known people who have been involved in heart wrenching situations. Real-life nightmares that do not go away when they wake up...it just begans another day of wondering what will happen next.
I'm sure we all have experienced those moments which take your breath away. You begin to wonder how will I make it through the next hour, day, or week.
The Lord walks with us through each of these moments. I love this portion of scripture in Lamentations 3:19-24
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
20My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone
Today I would like to share with you my favorite Psalm. All of God's word brings me comfort and peace, but this Psalm is never far from my mind. When things in life are troubled or hard, I remember the words of finding rest in God alone.
I held onto this Psalm when I went into surgery six years ago not knowing if they would find cancer or not. When we discovered my beloved Grandmother had pancreatic cancer and there was nothing the doctors could do. I remember walking into the hospital room to tell her good-bye for the final time here on earth. How do you say goodbye to someone you love so much? How do you break away from the that final hug? How do you leave the room knowing this will be the last time your eyes will look upon the face who had always been there for you? How do you go in the room with grace and dignity and not cry hysterically? How do you let go when your heart is breaking into a million pieces? I was able to do this because the Lord walked with me..He gave me a peace and comfort I have never found in any other place.
There have been so many other times I have remembered the words and I will share some of them with you over the next few weeks.
May God fill your heart and mind with perfect peace today and always.
1For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.2 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?4They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood.They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah
5For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.7On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion;in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.10Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:that power belongs to God, 12and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.For you will render to a man according to his work.