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This past weekend I went to a Living Proof Live conference in Toronto with “the girls. ” It was fantastic. We’ve spent some quality time together in recent years completing some of Beth Moore‘s Bible studies on DVD (including Believing God, Stepping Up, Esther, and Daniel). We talk about Beth almost like she’s one of us, so it was kind of special to get the chance to see and hear her live.

Me and the girls at Living Proof Live

Beth is a spunky Texan who is completely in love with Jesus and has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible.  She herself declares that she can be obnoxious, but I find her to be incredibly inspiring. Her passion is catching and as spirited as she can be, she is also one of the most humble people I’ve had the opportunity to…hmmm…I want to say meet, but I haven’t actually “met” her…she came within 5 feet of me on Saturday, does that count? In any case I highly recommend her studies (each one I’ve done has been a profound experience for me and I’ve learned so much), and/or taking the opportunity to hear her live if you get the chance.

The theme for the conference – “God is up to something new!”

As I started a new job about a month ago, and recently learned that I’m moving to the other side of the globe in July (although the latter is not related to the former), the concept of newness was not a stretch. Things are changing all around me! Even so the teaching spoke to me on many levels. Beth’s main points and some of my gleanings as taken/adapted from my notes:

1. God is up to something new. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Ezekiel 36:26)

It’s time to leave the past behind and move on . There are definitely ways in which I need to do this. So many things, even good things, lay behind, but I don’t want to miss the new thing because I’m focused on the old. I can easily see some of the new things around me, but I need to be made new in the midst of all this. Also I need to be alert and present in the moment so I don’t miss what God is speaking/doing NOW because I’m so fixed on what’s ahead.

2. God rarely does a new thing the old way. (compare Isaiah 43:16 and 19).

It’s so easy to form expectations for the future based on the past. I do it all the time. Especially the good things – I replay them in my mind and hope for repeats.  As Beth said, “God is far more creative than to just give a repeat performance of what he’s already done.” I don’t want to miss the new thing because I’m anticipating the “old way.”

3. God can do something new in an old place.

Despite the new and wonderful changes ahead, there are some “old things” in my life that definitely need a breath of fresh air.  Relationships and places I return to, and value, but somehow (and not surprisingly) I’ve become stuck in them.  In these too I need to be made new. Another Beth quote, “It would make that old place completely different if we were new right in the middle of it.”

4. Just patching up the old won’t result in something new. (Luke 5:36)

5. We, too, must be up to something new.

I need to come along side God in this new thing He is doing and receive the newness He brings. It’s up to me to be an active participant. How can I be intentional about this?

6. God grants new mercies for each new day. (Lamentations 3:19-23)

God’s grace will always be sufficient for our need – new mercies and compassions are stacked up each day according to our need. To wake each morning declaring confidently, “God, you have everything I need for this day!” What an encouraging beginning!

7. One day we’ll go from a new thing to a new EVERYTHING. (Revelation 21:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Until the new everything comes, I get to be the new creation. 😉

Check out the Living Proof blog (including posts from Beth) here.

Sweet dreams

Psalm 4:8 –  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Whenever I feel anxious at bedtime these words roll off my tongue. Most of the time a tangible peace follows in their wake, settling in the silence around me. Occasionally I have to choose to believe them, but even then they are not without effect.

Sometimes, when my anxieties have centered around the safety of my loved ones, I’ve taken the verse a step further…I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make [my daughter, husband, mom, etc.] dwell in safety.

But a few nights ago something new occurred to me. If I believe that the Lord alone makes me dwell in safety, surely that has broader relevance. So I started to apply it to other cares and concerns…

I will _______________ (in peace), for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

and

I will _______________ (in peace), for you alone, O Lord, make __________ dwell in safety.

I suppose I didn’t strictly adhere to the wording I’ve listed above, but you get the idea. Listing my fears in this way, great and small, peace rushed and swirled around me, putting things in proper perspective. The anxieties that seemed so big only moments before became as nothing.

What are you afraid of? What gnaws away at your peace and settles uncomfortably in your stomach, making it hard to breathe?

Or maybe it’s nothing so dramatic as all that. Maybe it’s just a nagging concern that’s difficult to put to rest. What troubles you?

Arise and greet the morning in peace, walk and live and breathe in peace, lie down and sleep in peace, for it is God who makes you…and all those you love…dwell in safety.

Sweet dreams!

I just LOVE diving into scripture and discovering depths I never knew existed. This morning I was flipping through the Psalms. When a verse caught my attention I decided to check out KJV with Strong’s to see if there was more to the words than met my eye. For general reading I like the NIV translation but so often it doesn’t come close to capturing the meaning of the original text. What follows is my cut and pasted rendition of Psalm 65 – NIV, KJV, and a bit of my own paraphrasing as well. It doesn’t read so smoothly, but hopefully it gives the opportunity to dwell on some phrases and revel in their richness.

Psalm 65

Praise awaits {or “waiteth for”} you, O God, in Zion {The word translated “awaits” means “silence, still, repose, still waiting.” Think of the pregnant hush in the music hall before the first note sounds, an electric silence, something beautiful ready and waiting to begin.}; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer {The word translated “hear” means “to hear, listen to, obey, to hear with attention or interest, understand, give heed, consent, agree, to grant request, yield to, to be regarded, summon, to cause to be heard.” Our prayers “summon” the ear of God. Not only does he hear but he gives us his attention, is interested in and understands us. Moreover he responds – heeds, consents, agrees, grants, yields, regards…obviously God is sovereign and doesn’t just give us everything we ask for, but there is a connotation of responsive action inherent in this word “hear.”} , to you all men {or “flesh” – all living things!} will come.

Iniquities {perversity, depravity, guilt, consequence of or punishment for iniquity} prevail {are strong, powerful, mighty} against me : as for our transgressions, you will purge them away {to cover over, make atonement for, make reconciliation}.

Blessed is the man {or woman 😉 } you choose and cause to approach {come near to, enter into, draw near to} you, that he may dwell {settle down, abide, establish, fix} in your courts {putting that together you could say, “cause to enter into you and be established in your courts”}: we will be satisfied {sated, fulfilled, surfeited, have in excess, enrich – not just filled, but over and above what is needed} with the goodness of your house, of your holy temple.

You answer us with awesome {to fear, revere, honor, respect, be afraid, terrify, to cause astonishment and awe, be dreadful – I think sometimes the word “awesome” in our culture doesn’t quite capture the depth of meaning} deeds of righteousness, O God of our salvation, who are the confidence {or “hope,” trust, refuge, security – but I particularly like that word confidence, it sounds so strong and sure} of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are far off upon the sea.

Who by your strength set fast {set up, be firm, stable, firmly established, fixed, be enduring} the mountains; being armed {encompassed, equipped, clothed – not just as one carrying a weapon, but completely surrounded by it} with power {or strength}. Who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult {murmur, rush, roar, confusion} of the people {or nations}.

Even those who dwell in the uttermost parts {end, border, boundary}, are afraid at your tokens {distinguishing marks, miraculous signs, omen, warning, proof}: you make the outgoings {act or place of going out or forth, issue, rising, place of departure} of the morning and evening to rejoice {be overcome, cry out, shout for joy, to cause to ring or sing out}. {I LOVE this last phrase – actually the NIV states it beautifully – “where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy” – but it hardly captures the full meaning. The rejoicing is not only at sunrise, when night fades away, but at sunset AND sunrise – morning AND evening.}

You care for the earth and water {give abundance to} it. You greatly {exceedingly} enrich it with the river of God, which is full of water: you prepare {establish, make firm, make ready, provide for} them grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench {saturate, cause to be intoxicated} its ridges and settle {go down, press down} the furrows {furrows, cuttings}. {This last bit probably carries a bit more meaning for the farmers out there. After a little searching online I discovered that press wheels are used in modern-day farming to “pack the sloping sides of a deep furrow and assure accurate control of both planting depth and proper soil coverage over the seeds” and that use of press wheels significantly increases crop yield.}

You soften {cause to melt} it with showers {copious showers, as bringing fertility, of prophetic influence} and bless its crops.  You crown the year with your bounty {goodness, prosperity}, and thy paths drop fatness {of fertility, of blessing}. {I LOVE that part! So different from the NIV, although “your carts overflow with abundance” is nice too. “Thy paths drop fatness”…it’s like “your ways drip with blessing and are expansively fruitful.”}

They drip upon the pastures of the wilderness {or NIV “the grasslands of the desert overflow” – it’s like the African savannas when the rainy season comes and literally causes the desert to overflow, bringing life and abundance and turning the wasteland into rich green grassland – prime for grazing}: and the hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks {also like the African savannas after the rains come}; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

Upon a basement flood

“It’s times like this when you realize most things are replaceable.”

A little before 4:00am this past Monday we awoke to the sound of the dryer buzzer alerting us, as we discovered, that our basement was flooding. Melting snow and rain from the sewer drain gushed into our basement through a hole in the floor resulting in 2-12 inches of water (the floor slants). Apparently others in town had up to 4 feet, so we were fortunate.

As soon as I saw the water something clicked inside and I sprang into action. I grabbed my rain boots and got to work moving things upstairs while my husband tried to stem the tide so the sump pump could catch up with the backflow. The above phrase started running through my head as I traipsed up and down the basement steps, water leaking from boxes and dripping on to my pajamas. Needless to say my week has not gone entirely as planned.

I know the damage we’ve experienced is minimal compared to earthquakes, floods, fires, and other more serious natural disasters, but it was enough to get me thinking. Nothing new or surprising, but reminders of timeless truths. Really, ultimately, most of my stuff is replaceable, or disposable, or washable, or whatever. I’d have preferred if my photo collection remained above the water level (all but a very few pictures survived, and not all of them even got wet), but even that I could live without if necessary. “Is not life more important” than all these things (Matthew 6:25)?

Driving to the store for cleaning supplies I began to reflect upon Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal [and floods and earthquakes and other things claim all your stuff when you least expect it]. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Treasure.

Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? Am I building my treasure here or there? What am I actively doing to build my treasure in heaven? I make trips to the store, building my earthly treasure often enough. Am I spreading love and peace with the same fervor? Indeed, with a greater purpose and intensity than that with which my physical possessions are increased?

Resolutions

I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, think there is something to be said for being intentional. Deliberate, focused, purposeful steps taken toward a desired goal.

I came across the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards yesterday. Edwards was an 18th century theologian famous, among other things, for a “fire and brimstone” sermon he delivered in 1741 entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (I haven’t read it in its entirety, but I can’t say at a glance that I would recommend it).

In 1722-1723 he composed a list of resolutions to which he strove to adhere. Most of them embody typical ideals of self-improvement, some are redundant, and a few seem unnecessarily strict. But some I found thought-provoking and worth consideration…

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

Do my actions bring glory to God? If they are less than glorifying, how can they be improved? If they are more than that which is glorifying, are they necessary or beneficial in some way? Would my time be better spent elsewhere?

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). I love the breakdown of the Greek word translated as “more abundantly,” “abundant,” or “full.” Those words don’t seem to capture it. Try this: “over and above, more than is necessary, superadded, exceedingly abundantly, supremely, much more than all, superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon” (see KJV with Strong’s, look up the passage and follow the link for the word “abundantly”). Am I experiencing life in its fullness? In as far as it depends on me, am I living with all my might?

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

It’s all very well to be generous when need presents itself – a friend asks for a favor, a charity asks for a contribution, donating clothes to the local thrift store when closet space is at a premium…but am I seeking out opportunities to be generous? I love the New King James translation of Isaiah 32:8 – “But a generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.” Also the New Living translation – “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

I love this one. It might be my favorite. To frequently, deliberately, choose to do something “which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God.” To step in faith! How often are our actions guided by our own abilities? Of course, there is something to be said for practicality, but I think the idea of endeavoring, on a regular basis, to undertake the “impossible” is fantastic (no really, and not just in the fanciful, imaginary, impractical sort of way, although that seems to highlight the point)!

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

Speaking as someone who believes, unequivocally, in the love God has for me, I think this is quite profound. I believe in God’s love because I have experienced it, and it is a beautiful and all-encompassing thing. To steal a line from Ingrid Michaelson and take it entirely out of context, it’s “the sort of” [love] “that waters me, and makes me grow tall and strong and proud, and flattens me.” Does anything cause me to doubt this thing I know to be true? Stand in the way of my receiving the fullness of it? Of being filled, healed and empowered by it?

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s…

Am I living selfishly or sacrificially?

Be still

Monday night found me sitting (well, pacing most of the time, but in a relaxed sort of way) at God’s feet. Of late much of my time spent with him has been fairly one-sided – “God, I’m sorry I keep doing this, and I know I’ve not been here often enough, but please help me with this, and this, and this”…God is gracious, and I know He wants me to cast my cares on him, but I’d finally had enough of myself and decided I wanted something more.

The scene was set. My daughter was asleep in bed. My husband wasn’t home yet. I had space and time all to myself. I determined that I was going to wait. No questions, no expectations, no strings. Just me and him. If he wanted to speak, fine, if he didn’t, fine. This was not about agendas, this was about being together. Snuggling up. Holding hands.

I put my cares in a box and shoved them at his feet. And then I waited. I could feel his presence in the room around me, and for the first time in a while I felt still. Able and content to just be. I lifted my hands, I sang, I prayed in tongues, I slowly paced around the room, I knelt. The silence was filled with a heavy calm.

Eventually I heard his voice, “Be still and know that I am God.” After a bit more quiet I decided to go and look the verse up.

Over the past 7 or 8 years God has freed me from some serious fear issues, but in the past couple of months old and new fears have been rising up and trying to reclaim a place in my life. I opened up to Psalm 46 and as I went back to the beginning the words leaped off the page. I started to pace the room again, chewing on them, waving my sword around for the first time in ages.

Excerpts from Psalm 46 (adapted)

God is MY refuge. God is MY strength. God is an EVER-PRESENT help in trouble. God IS my REFUGE. God IS my STRENGTH. God is an ever-present HELP in trouble. Therefore I WILL NOT FEAR…God is within [me – the place where the Most High dwells], I will not fall; God will help [me] at break of day. Nations are in uproar, KINGDOMS fall (but I will not); he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with ME; the God of Jacob is MY fortress…He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”