12.31.2016

Excellent quote on relationships ... and Christ.

When we ask a person to do for us what only Christ can do, we place a crushing and impossible burden on them, and then judge them when they fall short.
It's vital to remember that human love is a wonderful thing - you should pursue people who love you, and you should be pursued by people because you're loving. But you will only ever find life - real, heart-changing, soul-satisfying life - in a vertical relationship with one Person.
Only Christ can be your source of spiritual vitality and strength. Only Christ can save you, change you and deliver you from you. Only Christ can give your soul what it's desperately seeking.
Could it be that the disappointment you experience in your relationships is the product of unrealistic and unattainable expectations? 

Could it be that you have unwittingly put people in God's place? 
Could it be that you ask the people to do what only Christ can do for you?
There is but one Savior, and He is yours forever. You don't need to put that burden on the person next to you. 

~ Paul Tripp

12.29.2016

Excited to pray BETTER!


We finished our book study! 
It has been a great time of learning, growth through conviction, and fellowship as the four of us studied together these past months. Thank you for doing this with me, ladies! Accountability makes a difference!
I highly recommend this treasure for your personal library. We could hardly read one page without underlining half of the sentences and then declaring to one another that each chapter was the BEST chapter. Spurgeon had a gift for creating vivid word pictures and hitting the targets of human hearts dead center with biblical truth. 
This was my second time through the pages and I still feel like I need to read the book once a month for the rest of my life!

These were my favorite quotes from the final chapter.

"When we approach nearest to the throne of grace, we still fall very short of being where and what we ought to be. We often come before God in prayer unfit to pray and spoil the action in the very outset by unpreparedness of heart. At other times, we are assailed with suspicions as to the faithfulness of God, doubts as to the success of our pleas, or else some other hallowed thought pollutes the sacrifice. How hard it is to begin, continue, and end a prayer in the Spirit! 
Our consolation lies in this, that our beloved intercessor who stands before God for us, even Christ Jesus, possesses such an abundance of precious merit that He puts fragrance into our supplications and imparts a delicious odor to our prayers. He makes our intercessions to be through His merit what they could not have been without it - acceptable before the Majesty of heaven."

"In the matter of intercession, one of the most important things is the character of the person. If I live in constant sin and then say, "Our Father, which art in heaven," surely I might feel His hand closing my mouth and hear Him say, "How can you hallow My name when you constantly defile it? How can you say, 'Thy kingdom come,' when you will not submit to My rule? How dare you mutter out before me the words, 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,' when you rebel against My will?" Such prayers are an insult to heaven instead of sweet perfume offered before the Most High.
It is certain there is nothing that so weakens prayer as sin, and that to be a man like Elijah, who can prevail with God upon Carmel, you must walk in the Lord's ways - for if you walk contrary to Him, He will walk contrary to you."

Both of these quotes convict me deeply for I do not prepare my heart often or thoroughly enough before approaching a holy God. My thoughts stray, my focus wanes, and intentions for praise and worship fail. How thankful I am that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. I need Him!

"The prayer that God accepts is offered to Him alone. He who presents it cares not one atom who likes it or who does not like it. He is talking with His God, pleading with the Majesty unseen. He is very careless of the criticism of others. His only desire is to please the Lord."

I LOVE this! The enemy thrives on fear and insecurity and pride in public prayer to KEEP people from praying together. When we focus on what everyone else "might" be thinking, we completely lose our focus on the Savior and the purpose of our conversation with Him. My favorite line, "His only desire is to please the Lord." Yes! Approval of men? Nope. Just GOD!

"What if I were to say that prayer is in itself essentially a doxology? It is an utterance of glory to God in His attributes. Do I ask Him to bless me? Then I adore His power, for I believe He can. Do I ask Him to bless me because of such and such a promise? Then I adore His faithfulness, for I evidently believe that He is truthful and will do as He has said.  Do I ask Him to bless me not according to my request but according to His own wisdom? The I adore His wisdom; I am evidently believing in His prudence and judgment. When I say to Him, "Not my will but Thine be done," I am adoring His sovereignty. When I confess that I deserve to suffer beneath His hand, I reverence His justice. When I acknowledge that He always does right, I adore His holiness. When I humbly say, "Nevertheless, deal graciously with me and blot out my transgressions," I am reverencing His grace. We do not wonder, therefore, that through Jesus Christ the prayers of the saints should be precious to God since they are an eminently practical homage to the Supreme."

Amen!

12.28.2016

Trusting and praising Him in the difficult moments.

Sometimes, when life is overwhelming and those you love are walking through intense trials and sadness, focusing on the Lord and remembering His power are the best way to respond to the suffering. We have no control, no power, no ability to fix anything, but we can lean hard on Him with confidence and trust knowing that His plans are perfect and His will is always accomplished. We might not understand it, or even like it, but He is God. And He is good.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name. I Chronicles 29

12.22.2016

Excellent quote.


There are rare Christians whose very presence incites others to be better Christians.
I want to be that rare Christian.
~ A. W. Tozer

12.18.2016

The gift of HOPE.

I so enjoy the privilege of worshipping the Lord with the body of Christ in different churches. It is refreshing to observe their music style, how the members interact with one another, and with guests, and listen to the Word of God preached by a pastor who protects his pulpit because he loves the Lord and respects the sanctity of Scripture.
This morning I attended church with my brother and CC, and it was a delightful time of worship.

The pastor preached from a familiar Christmas passage, Luke 2. "Hope Revealed in Humility."
Not only was Jesus born in the most humble of circumstances - poverty, a barn filled with animals, a filthy manger in which to lay His head - the first people to hear of the birth of the long-awaited Messiah were lowly shepherds. Everything about Jesus' entry into the world was wrapped in humility. And with that humility came HOPE.

I cannot possibly write out the details of the sermon, so I will insert the main points into the text and let the Holy Spirit do the rest! 
I pray someone will be encouraged as they read the details of this amazing night. 
The night a Savior was born.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 
- The gift of unceasing JOY.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
- The gift of an unwavering SAVIOR.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
- The gift of unbelievable SIGHT.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
- The gift of unceasing PEACE.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 
- The gift of unapologetic PASSION.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart
- The gift of unashamed ADORATION.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
- The gift of unceasing WORSHIP.

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of worshipping with the body of Christ. Though we may shake hands and introduce ourselves for the first time, we are not strangers, but family. Your children, saved by grace because the cradle crashed into the Cross, Jesus claimed victory over death, and we worship together - at the feet of the Savior. All because YOU first loved US.

12.11.2016

True Success.

Have you ever known someone who pours out words of wisdom like water from a faucet? Every time you talk to her, whether a three-minute conversation in the parking lot or an entire evening of interaction, you walk away feeling edified and refreshed?
The Lord has blessed me with such a woman, and what I love most about her is that she is not aware of her own brilliance. She loves the Lord, drowns herself in His Word, and then lives her life obeying Him and loving others. No matter what you talk about, what counsel you seek, or what prayer request you offer, she responds with Scripture and phrases her thoughts in such a unique way that you cannot forget them.

I sent her a prayer request recently, and her response lingered in my thoughts for days. As usual!

Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. 
Obey, and then let the Holy Spirit do His job!

I spent much of my life seeking to please people rather than pleasing God.
Fear of rejection was the motivating factor. Will she be mad? Is he disappointed? What will they think? If I tell her how I feel, she will be upset. If I say "no" she will think I'm a bad friend. And on and on it went. I spent much time, energy, effort, and emotion trying to make others happy instead of seeking the Lord and loving Him with my whole heart, mind, and strength. And it was exhausting - because it is impossible to please everyone.
We are called to love, serve, encourage, pray for, rejoice and weep with, accept, show compassion to, forgive, be at peace with, and bear with one another. But never once in Scripture are we commanded to make people "happy." We can fully obey the "one another's of Scripture" and still find people unhappy or angry with us because we didn't fulfill the commands the way they expected or desired.

Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. 

She is absolutely right - because she drew this thought from Scripture.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44


When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

Learning to please God rather than man has been a long and difficult life-lesson for me. Like a mother who keeps calling her child's name and grabbing his chin to get him to pay attention, the Lord has spent too much time grabbing my chin saying, "Michelle! Stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking, or how they feel about you. Fix your eyes on My face, and obey Me. My approval, My thoughts, and My acceptance are all you need, and when you understand this, you will be content and at peace because you will see yourself through My eyes rather than the eyes of others. Look at Me, daughter. Fear Me, not man. Follow where I lead, and then - trust me to do My will, My way, and for My glory."

Oh, Lord, how thankful I am that You are a long-suffering Father because I know how often I try Your patience when I continue to look around instead of looking UP. Forgive me for spending so many years seeking the approval of man instead of seeking You. Forgive me for putting the preferences of people above Your desires for me. Forgive me for measuring my value by human standards rather than Your own. My only purpose is to glorify You, so teach me to do so without shame, with full abandon, and with an unquenchable desire to follow wherever You lead so people will see YOU when they look at me.

12.10.2016

Faithful and fulfilled PROMISES.

We are in chapter eleven of our book study on prayer. During my reading this morning, I found this gem tucked inside the pages.
I pray it will encourage anyone who is struggling with anxiety, worry, or fear, and most of all, that it will bring comfort knowing that the Lord is a rock and a refuge - a very PRESENT help in times of trouble. He never leaves us or forsakes us ... even on our darkest day.

An anxiety-filled heart keeps us from seeing anything clearly.
If we were calm, quiet, self-possessed, we should do the right thing.
That man may expect to have presence of mind who has the presence of God.
Think of that man of God who, on the morning he was to be burned, was so soundly asleep that they had to shake him to wake him. He had to get up to be burned, and yet knowing that it was to be so, he had such confidence in God that he slept sweetly.
This is the "peace of God that passes all understanding."
- C. H. Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life

Lord, use Your Word to encourage us and remind us to run to You, and You alone, when we are weary and heavy-laden. No one can give us the rest, the comfort, or the peace we crave. Nothing else will fill the gaps or heal the hurts. Only Your love, Your forgiveness, Your grace, and Your mercy will provide the peace that passes all human understanding; and make us lie down in green pastures beside still waters while Your rod and staff comfort us. Thank You, Lord, for Your promises, and for being a faithful God who fulfills each one.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3 
 
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22-23

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27  

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. 
Isaiah 26:3 

12.08.2016

What matters most.

Some time ago, the Lord provided a wise and gracious woman to counsel, encourage, correct, rebuke, and challenge me. Our conversation was both profitable and fruitful. She spoke truth with grace, listened with the intent to understand, and supported everything she said with Scripture. It was exactly what I needed - and I was grateful.
I sent her a note the next day, thanking her for investing in me, and this was her response:

I encourage you not to focus on circumstances, but to focus on being Spirit led, and confident in who you are in Christ.
Nothing should guide your thinking, your feelings, or your actions - except Christ.
He is our example.
-And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 8:2
-And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, He must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23
-I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

You are called to bear His image - not your own. So my prayer for you, my friend, is that you will bear it well.

Isn't that fanTAStic?

It's been quite some time since I reviewed my "Who I am in Christ" notes, so I pulled them out, read each one, and looked up the Scriptures that support them. What an encouragement to be reminded how God sees me!

Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word and faithful women who use it to guide their thinking, actions, and counsel. Too often I allow myself to be defined by what others want me to be, or who I think I 'should be' rather than seeing myself through Your eyes. My focus has to be on You and You alone. If I keep it there, I can give all of my thought, time, energy, and passion to what You have called me to do because I won't be distracted by what is happening around me. Forgive me for losing sight of this. Scripture paints such a clear picture of how You view us through Christ, and when I read these truths I am in awe of how good You are to a sinner like me. Remind me of these truths every day, because Your thoughts toward me are the ones that matter most.

Who I Am In Christ

I AM GOD’S… 
· possession Genesis 17:8 / 1 Corinthians 6:20
· child John 1:12
· workmanship Ephesians 2:10
· friend James 2:23 / John 15:14,15
· chosen Ephesians 1:4
· beloved Romans 1:7 / 2 Thess 2:13
· precious jewel Malachi 3:17

I HAVE BEEN… 
· redeemed by the blood Revelation 5:9
· set free from sin/condemnation Romans 8:1-2
· forgiven of all my trespasses Colossians 2:13
· given a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7
· adopted into God’s family Romans 8:15
· justified freely by His grace Romans 3:24
· given great and precious promises 2 Peter 1:4

I AM…
· complete in Him Colossians 2:10
· sanctified 1 Corinthians 6:11
· eternally kept in the palm of His hand John 10:29
· light in the darkness Matthew 5:14
· His sheep Psalm 23 / Psalm 100:3 / John 10:14
· protected from the evil one 1 John 5:18
· secure in Christ John 10:28-29
· sheltered under His wing Psalm 91:4

I HAVE…
· access to the Father Romans 5:2 / Ephesians 3:12
· a home in heaven waiting for me John 14:1-2
· a living hope 1 Peter 1:3
· an anchor to my soul Hebrews 6:19
· peace with God Romans 5:1

I CAN…
· do all things through Christ Philippians 4:13
· find mercy and grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:16
· come boldly to the throne of grace Hebrews 4:16
· pray always and everywhere Luke 21:36

I CANNOT…
· be separated from God’s love Romans 8:35-39
· be moved Psalm 16:8
· be taken out of my Father’s hand John 10:29
· be charged or accused Romans 8:33
· be condemned 1 Corinthians 11:32

12.07.2016

Parenting Advice.

While cleaning out my files I stumbled across somes notes taken from a Mom's Night back in 2012. The speaker was a seasoned mother who wanted to encourage and support young moms as they began their journey of raising their children in the fear of the Lord. Though I had already been a parent for 12 years, I was challenged by her entire message, and after reading the notes again tonight I am just as convicted to apply these nuggets of wisdom to my parenting now as I was then.
I hope you will find these as encouraging as I did!
  • Don't burden your children with your own ego.
  • Discipline your children with love - not your pride.
  • Train for, require, and expect first time obedience. If you do not, you are giving your children a chance to sin ... one, two, three more times. Do not cause them to stumble.
  • Do not tolerate mean teasing or picking on one another. Create a home where everyone feels safe, secure, and appreciated.
  • Discipline in private.
  • Give clear standards for behavior and the consequence for disobedience before you go somewhere with your children. A football player knows the rules before he steps on the field. Your children should know the expectations you have for them before they are put into any given setting. Behavior standards at a wedding or a dinner party are much different than those at a park. Set them up for success, not failure.
  • Do not allow whining!
  • Let your Yes be YES and your No be NO. Do not let crying, whining, or begging change your mind when you have made a decision. Children need to be as content with the word 'no' as they are with the word 'yes.'
  • Learn to say No to social events. Your child will not be less successful or inept because she did not attend 14 birthday and skate parties each month.
  • Foster the feeling that HOME is as satisfying as going out. Let your home be enough.
  • Discipline for attitudes - not mistakes.
  • BE THERE. (Deuteronomy 6:6) We cannot train our children in the ways of the Lord when we are not with our children. Your presence is what provides security, comfort, and consistency in your child's life.
  • Discipline does not always have to be harsh. Create natural consequences for sinful actions. The child leaves dirty clothes all over their floor? Take the clothes and put them in a bag. When she has no clean clothes, she will understand. She won't brush and floss her teeth? Let her pay for the filling. She will not speak to you respectfully? She does not get to have time with her friends. Your children keep arguing and fighting with one another? Have them walk around the backyard holding hands until they are kind. 
  • Overlook childish mistakes.
  • Discipline with confidence - not disgust.
  • Discipline a toddler quickly and move on with your day. Stop everything to talk to your child/teen.
  • Teenagers need as much attention and affection as a toddler. Do not miss the opportunity to pour into them! 
  • SMILE at your children. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Play. "Your smile should be the regular landscape of your child's life."
The behavior of our children is seen by everyone. Your family, your parenting, your children ... they are a living testimony of your walk with the Lord. Do not underestimate this truth! 

Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. 
Proverbs 20:11

12.06.2016

Silence really is golden - Scripture says so!

Today was interesting because I woke up without a voice!
I caught the head cold that has made itself at home here in the Eastman house for the past two weeks and went to bed with a sore throat. After a sleepless night of coughing and discomfort, I woke up to find that my mouth could not express what my mind wanted to say.
As the day wore on, I was able to accomplish voicing about three words out of ten, but by evening - nothing but a whisper.

Spending an entire day in (almost) silence made me wonder what Scripture has to say about the subject. Turns out - it says quite a bit and is almost always connected to self-control. This is not an exhaustive list, just the verses that impacted me most.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:28

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Proverbs 11:12

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God
James 1:19

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11

Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

When words are many, sin is not absent, but whoever restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19  


I think the most interesting thing about these verses is how the Lord strings silence to wisdom.
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is found when we speak less and listen more, then this verse needs to be my daily prayer.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

Convicting QUOTE.


If any occupation or amusement or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things - then it must be abandoned. 
Whatever I cannot do for God's glory - must be avoided! 
~ Arthur Pink

12.03.2016

The right question.


A cheerful heart has a continual feast! Proverbs 15:15

Dennis brought these bright, beautiful flowers home for me to enjoy last week, and every time I looked at them, I felt happy. Not only do I love the color pink, I love when the color is reflected in nature - a work of God's own hands. What is it about stems and petals that can bring such joy? The first word that came to mind was CHEERFUL!

cheer·ful
adjective
- noticeably happy and optimistic
synonyms: happy, jolly, merry, bright, glad, sunny, joyful, joyous, lighthearted, in good spirits, in high spirits, sparkling, bubbly, exuberant, buoyant, ebullient, elated, gleeful
- causing happiness by its nature or appearance
synonyms: pleasant, attractive, agreeable, cheering, bright, sunny, happy, friendly, welcoming

What a terrific definition!
And a worthy pursuit.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means it comes directly from God and fills us up when we are fully yielded to Him. If we are filled with joy on the inside, it will be evident on the outside.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful ... Proverbs 15:13

If our facial expressions, attitude, and demeanor exhibit cheerfulness and joy, it will cause others to wonder ...  "Why are you always smiling?" "What makes you so happy?" "How come you are able to find joy in difficult situations?"
And then we can smile even more broadly and answer,
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy
and with my song I praise Him. Psalm 28:7

Thank You, Lord, for using something as simple and beautiful as a flower to remind me that a cheerful heart can draw others to You because it is YOU who shines through the countenance of the believer. We are commanded to "always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us," and a cheerful face and a joyful spirit will be the catalyst for others to ask the question in the first place. Teach me to always choose JOY - because it reflects YOU.

11.28.2016

It's perfect.

This has been a long month. Much emotion and struggle, within and without.
And life doesn't grind to a halt just because we need an extra moment to breathe. The sun rises, the hours roll by, and the sun sets whether the day has been filled with joyous moments, sorrow, or a combination of the two.
Days wrapped in joy are a blessing, without a doubt, but they rarely push us to the feet of the Savior like a day wrapped in frustration, disappointment, and heartache. Those days make me crave my Bible. Even if I don't have the energy to read it, I want to touch it - just to know it's there. Without reading a word, I know what's inside. Wisdom, grace, forgiveness, mercy, love, promises ... truth. Every single thing I need for life.
I do not want to live in Job's world, but if I am honest, I seek Christ and desire Him more when circumstances are beyond my control and I can barely keep my head above water. And even better, those are the times He holds a spotless mirror before my face and shows me my sin. When life is good and everything is rosy, I don't feel the urgency to seek Him, let alone sit still long enough to look into a mirror.
I love the good days.
But I need the bad days.

These two verses have been consuming my thoughts the past few days. I've also been singing them because they were made into a worship song when I was in high school. Sometimes I just think about the words, and other times I am begging the Lord to remove every last bit of filth and ugliness and sin from my heart.
I decided to look up different versions to see how the words changed, and I was glad I did. Though not a drastic difference, the word choices change the tone of the verses, and I like having all of them before my eyes.

Psalm 139: 23, 24 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting. NKJV

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way. NASB


Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting! ESV

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting. NIV


Search me.
Know me.
Try me.
See me.
Lead me.
What a perfect way to pray!

Good days and bad, Lord, please never stop searching my heart and mind so You can continually remove the wicked, hurtful, grievous, and offensive ways that are found within. I would rather feel the poke of the shovel to scoop away a small weed of sin than the sting of the axe as it cuts through roots that have grown thick and deep. Though I don't want Job's life, I do want to be a woman who cries, "Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?" And then readily submits to Your will, with joy.

11.22.2016

Mine will end ... theirs does not.


This was my view today.

A(nother) day with a fever and aches so, everything happened here ... on my bed.
Prayer, reading, games, a science video, snacks, and rest.
Moms do not have the luxury of hiding under the covers when they are ill, as much as we would like to do so. The house chores can be left unattended, but the people cannot. (My people, at least!) Because of this truth, we have to get creative. I'm not sure how other moms do it, but I find that bringing them all into the same small space reduces the ability for complete anarchy.
Today, I organized each activity and then curled up in a ball to rest until they needed me again.
I was proud of them! They knew how poorly I felt, so they did their best to work together and
"be kind" as Isaiah had prayed earlier.

Thankfully, Micah was home until the late morning, so he took Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie on a long walk which ended with a treat of hot chocolate at a local coffee house.
How precious were those 90 minutes!
Thank you, Micah!

In the late afternoon, I asked Josiah to grab my camera so I could snap this photo.
I wanted to remember this day.
Every time I looked at my children, I thought of my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses. I had a conversation with one of them just last week discussing what daily life looks like for a mom who is in constant pain. While they can accomplish many things, they cannot accomplish everything, and they hate it. Guilt plagues them as they watch their husbands and children "pick up the slack," while they are equally grateful for the support.

I feel like the Lord allowed me to understand a little bit of their struggle this week.
Four days of canceled events, unprepared meals, older children helping care for the younger ones, school lessons directed from a pillow, and little interaction happening between me and Dennis because I am in pain or sleeping when he gets home left me feeling like I am disappointing everyone. 
The thing is, I know my illness will come to an end. Before long, our house and our family life will be functioning as usual.
My friends, however, never know from one day to the next if it will be a 'good day' or 
a 'manage-the-house-from-bed day.'

They say we can never understand someone until we walk a mile in her shoes.
Today, I felt like I laced up my sneakers and took my first steps.
I am thankful that pain and fatigue and discomfort are not my 'normal,' but I am grieved with the knowledge that for many, many women - it is.

Lord, thank You for letting me experience a very small piece of what my friends suffer on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. It is clear that Your grace alone is what sustains them when they are at their weakest ... just as You promise when you say, "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you." Thank You for being such a faithful God who meets our needs, even in the silly ways and the strange. A meal here, a gift card there, a friend who invites their children to play, and husbands who willingly choose to serve their wives when their wives are not able to serve them. Burden my heart to pray for these friends when they need it most, and remind me of this week, so I can offer encouragement based on understanding. And if I may be so bold, as You invite us to do in Scripture when we come before Your throne ... HEAL them, Father! Remove the illnesses, the diseases, the pain, and the suffering. Make them whole. I ask this with personal desire, but according to Your will. Heal them, or use their continued suffering for Your glory and their sanctification. They are Your daughters, and they love You. Thank You for loving them first.

11.19.2016

He meets our needs.

Yesterday, the Lord provided a tremendous source of encouragement for my weary heart.
After sitting in a coffee shop for an hour, I stood up to refill my drink and discovered our Pastor's wife sitting across the room. We were so far from home it surprised each of us to see one another! We laughed, explained why we were there, and then engaged in a brief conversation. I had no intention of burdening her with my struggles, but just as we were about to say good-bye I blurted out, "Please pray for me!" I gave a thirty-second explanation, she spoke some words of encouragement, and then reached into her bag and pulled out a well-worn book - Streams in the Desert. She opened to the page she had read earlier that morning and read it to me, right there in the middle of the room, and the words refreshed me like cold water in the dry throat of a thirsty man.
A Divine appointment - with a willing participant and an incredibly grateful recipient.

As I drove home, I remembered that we own the same book, so I pulled it off the shelf as soon as I walked into the house. I did not have time to read it until this afternoon, and after flipping through a few pages I found an entry that made me smile because it described our coffee shop interaction perfectly.

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
II Corinthians 1:6,7

Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. 
But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. 
The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others.
Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.
                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank You, Lord, for meeting my need so perfectly through the encouraging words and comfort of a sister in Christ.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

11.17.2016

Quote. On PRIDE.


Remember that pride is the worst viper in the heart - and the greatest disturber of the soul's peace and sweet communion with Christ. 
Pride was the first sin that ever was. 
Pride is the most difficult sin to root out. 
It is the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts. 
It often insensibly creeps into the midst of religion, and sometimes under the disguise of humility! 
~ Jonathan Edwards

11.14.2016

Orphan Care is a Spiritual Battle - and WORTH THE FIGHT!

Yesterday we celebrated our first Orphan Care Sunday with our church body.
What a day!

Our goal for the day was AWARENESS.
Very few were aware of the Orphan Care ministry when they entered the sanctuary, but everyone was aware when they left!
As someone once said, "Ignorance is bliss, but once you are aware - you are accountable." I love that!
One of the quotes in the fost/adopt world is, "You can't unhear what you've heard, and you can't unsee what you've seen."
Yesterday, people heard facts, statistics, and the truth about foster care and adoption ... none of which can be unheard. Four of our families painted a beautifully realistic picture of what life looks like as fost/adopt parents by sharing their personal testimonies. They did not make it look glamorous. They made it look REAL. Even with the heartache, the frustrations, and having to fight for their children every.single.day, they do it willingly and passionately because they know these children have no voice, so they MUST speak for them.
I was proud of our families. They were vulnerable, and because of their transparency, hearts were touched, and seeds were planted. Now, we pray the Holy Spirit will do the watering so the Lord can produce the fruit!

I think the highlight of the morning services was hearing people share their stories with us at the ministry table. We met men and women who had fostered and adopted children and wanted to share the joys and successes of what their children are doing now. We met people who are passionate about orphan care and want to support young families as they begin the long journey of finding the child God has prepared for them. We met couples who have a passion for adoption but don't know where to start. I met a woman who was part of the foster system as a child who wanted to thank us for what we are doing because after being bounced from home to home, she was placed with a minister and his wife - and found Jesus. And THAT is the heart of orphan care. The Gospel!
Children need a home, safety, security, and love. But more than anything - they need a Savior.

In the evening service, we had a small panel of our fost/adopt families answer questions about the day to day realities of caring for foster children, and once again they were honest and forthcoming about the difficulties and the joys. They don't want to be called saints, they don't want to be put on pedestals. Every one of them would tell you, "There is nothing special about us!" Their stories are different, the details are unique, but there is one thing they have in common: each one responded in obedience when God said, "Go rescue that child!" They laid aside their comfort and their plans and followed God wherever He led them. They have sacrificed much and suffered apathy, rejection, and neglect by those around them, but they keep plowing ahead to rescue one child after another because that is what God has called them to do. And because they obey - He blesses their families. What a delight and privilege it is to be invited to walk beside them. I have learned what 'compassion in action' looks like, and what it means to be the 'hands and feet of Jesus' by observing these families. Their calling is intense, their days are difficult, and the spiritual battle is fierce - but they dismiss all of it because they know they are putting Jesus before the hearts and minds of these children every day - and that truth makes every battle, every fight, and the entire war WORTH IT.

Father, thank You for such a wonderful day!
You orchestrated every detail, and Your truth about the church's responsibility for "visiting orphans in their distress" will not return void. You have drawn these orphan care families to our church body with purpose, and You have a plan for them - and for us. Show us what it is, Lord, and may we be faithful to walk forward in obedience as we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Your heart for children is incredibly large, and filled with compassion and grace. Please, make our hearts look like Yours. 

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3, 4

11.10.2016

Encouraging and challenging AFFIRMATION.

How fitting that this would arrive in my inbox today, barely 12 hours after my Last Post describing my desire to be a "fierce lover of God" in which I wrote: It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.
I love when the Lord does this! As if His instruction and conviction are not enough in the original delivery, He affirms His orders to drive the point home even further. (And, probably to make sure we are listening!)

                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus - He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience, that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other believers do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful, may push themselves up to be admired, and scheme to carry out their plans - but you cannot. If you attempt it - you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes - but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so - He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or in having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries - but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold - a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward - while keeping you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit in you, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great - but He will keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit - but He will make you work and toil without others knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done. This to teach you the message of the Cross and humility.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time - which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own - and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

If you absolutely give yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other Christian people say and do many things which you cannot.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life - then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven, the high calling of God.


(George Watson, 1845-1924)

11.09.2016

I want to be like her.

A woman recently requested our hand-written miscarriage notes for her best friend, and in her request, she included a paragraph giving details of the miscarriage, and a beautiful description of her friend. I smiled as I read it, praising God for providing someone who desired to minister to this hurting woman in a way that mattered.
There was one line that grabbed my attention and has been dominating my thoughts for days.
She wrote, "She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

A fierce lover of the Lord.

How does someone earn such a title?

Her speech,
attitude,
actions,
responses,
self-control,
biblical obedience,
faith and trust in God,
ability to forgive wrongdoing,
ability to love her enemies,
compassion for the hurting,
passion for the unsaved,
sincerity of worship,
godly humility ...
each of these character qualities must be a tangible reflection of her Savior and so consume her that people cannot tell where she ends - and He begins.

How did she become such a woman?
There is only one way.
And He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

If we love the Lord with ALL of our heart/soul/mind/strength - we are totally incapable of loving ourselves. Looks, race, intelligence, our 'rights', bank accounts, accomplishments, ideologies, opinions, preferences, and personal desires have no space available on the throne of our hearts when it is filled with the presence of the Savior.

John Calvin said, "Man's heart, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols!"
He also said, "The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood works, and is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy - that it often dupes itself!"
And he's right.
Idol-crushing must be a daily discipline in the life of a believer.
We cannot love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength when we are busy loving ourselves first, and best.

"She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.

Oh, Lord, how much I have to learn and how much I need to grow. Transform me and renew my mind so any desire for Self will disappear, and be forever replaced with a desire for only YOU.

11.04.2016

Excellent quote - and a COMFORT.


A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears. 
~ Charles Spurgeon

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:3,4

11.01.2016

Psalm 23 - in a unique way - and it's WONDERFUL!

The Lord is my Shepherd - that's relationship!
I shall not be in want - that's supply!
He makes me lie down in green pastures - that's rest!
He leads me beside quiet waters - that's refreshment!
He restores my soul - that's healing!
He guides me in the paths of righteousness - that's guidance!
For His name's sake - that's purpose!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death - that's testing!
I will fear no evil - that's protection!
For You are with me - that's faithfulness!
Your rod and the staff, they comfort me - that's discipline!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies - that's hope!
You anoint my head with oil - that's consecration!
My cup overflows - that's abundance!
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life - that's blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord - that's security!
Forever - that's eternity!

~Author Unknown

10.31.2016

Dennis - Micah - DYSLEXIA.

On Saturday, our entire family was up and dressed and climbing into our van at 7:30 in the morning to attend the "Help Me Understand: Walking a Mile in the Shoes of a Student with Special Needs" presentation given by our fearless leader.
We arrived to find tables set up with real linens, a continental breakfast buffet prepared, and a group of cheerful people ready to learn what it is like to live with learning needs 24 hours a day.
What a great way to begin an event!

I knew Dennis would deliver a fantastic presentation because he is an excellent speaker and teacher, and he exceeded my expectation! Even better, he asked Micah to share his personal testimony about living with learning needs. Two perspectives. That of an educator, and that of a student. A perfect combination.
My heart was full, and I was reminded how purposeful the Lord was in placing us together as a family. I do not understand their world, though I have studied and researched and tried to see life through their lens. Until you LIVE it, you cannot fully understand it. But Dennis and Micah get it - they understand the struggles and the frustrations - they speak the same language, and the Lord knew they needed each other.
And He knew they needed me.
I still have much to learn, and more empathy to gain, but I am trying. And I will never stop.

I asked Micah if I could share his testimony so other parents/students might find encouragement through his story, and he said, "Yes! Of course you can, Mom!"
So - here it is.
We had no idea what Micah needed when he was little, but the Lord opened our eyes exactly when we needed to see ... and He has been faithful to teach, prepare, encourage, rebuke, and support us ever since. There have been difficult days, regrets, sorrow, and days we felt like we failed him in every way, but the Lord reminds us time and again that He created Micah "fearfully and wonderfully," He is the one who fills in the gaps we leave behind, and He will never stop working on our son until He has completed His work in him. Micah's future is secure because He belongs to an amazing God who has Kingdom plans for his life.
Praise the Lord for such a promise!

                                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greetings one and all. My name is Micah Eastman and I have dyslexia and mild A.D.H.D.

I remember there was once a time that I dreaded to pick up a pencil. There was a time when I felt I would never amount to anything in life because I thought everyone else was brighter than I was. Even today, a single math problem might as well be an attack on Bunker hill.

When I was around the age of 7, I spent the week with some friends when my mom was sick. They were still in the midst of their school year so I went to their private school for the equivalent of a week, and to this day I still consider it one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.

I was placed in the third-grade class where they were discussing things I had not learned yet. In my mind, they might as well have been splitting the atom. I blankly stared at the worksheet pages as tears of frustration welled in my eyes. Accepting the fact that I could not do the homework, I would sit and bounce my knees to the timing of the very annoying ticking clock above the door. They handed me a Sonic the Hedgehog video game from McDonald's and told me to just sit off to the side and listen to their interactive conversations. In fact, it was that moment that my self-confidence began to drop.

Reading was no easier. I would sit for an hour reading a “See Tom Run” book while my mom patiently waited for me to finish, and I would begin to cry during every writing assignment because I could not connect the pen to my brain. My mom continued to push me to be proficient in reading and math, while in the back of her mind she was probably wondering “What in the world could be wrong?” My speech was quite loquacious, leading my mom to believe that I was being lazy.

Starting at the age of six, my only outlet was music. My dad owned an extensive collection of music ranging from the early 60's till the late 80's and quite frankly I could not get enough of it. While holding a Leap pad Learning System, I hummed along to “Help” by the Beatles and “Won’t get Fooled Again” by the Who. I am grateful that my dad forgot to put away his CDs that day because if he had, I have a feeling I would not be the musician I am today. My love for music grew as I learned how to play guitar and drums, giving me a chance to thrive on my creativity as it was the one thing that I was naturally good at. When I play drums, it is the only time I feel free. There is no criticism, no shame. Later in my teens, I discovered the fantastic lyrical art of rapping and hip hop which allowed me to encase my emotion into poetic banter.

When I was 9, my brother Caleb was tested for severe dyslexia and we discovered why I was struggling. I was diagnosed with dyslexia as well. Actually, five of the six of us children are dyslexic, which is not surprising since it is genetic.

I always excelled in anything historical but my educational prowess ended there. It was during my U.S. history class, taught by my enthusiastic father, that I discovered a small enjoyment for writing. I also took a creative IEW class that discussed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and one of my assignments was to portray a child trying to survive the London Air Raids. It was at that moment I realized I could finally make something of this thing called writing. The assignment was supposed to be four pages long, but I created what I thought was a nine-page masterpiece instead. As I continued to write music and get my thoughts on paper, the more I fell in love with writing, even though as a child I would have rather eaten liver than write one sentence.

From then on I began not only to write my own music, but movies, stories, and sports stories that mimicked that of Sports Illustrated. Now I am currently chasing the dream of being a professional musician or sports columnist.

The Lord has used my dyslexia for good even though I used to think of it as a curse. School is still very hard for me. What takes an hour for one student takes me two or three hours, but he Lord is teaching me patience and perseverance through dyslexia, and I’ve come to consider it a privilege.

Thank you for letting me share with you.

10.25.2016

Little book. Big impact.

I finally finished this little book.
It did not take so long because it is a difficult read, but because it deserves focused attention.

143 pages of truth - reality - and encouragement for the heart and mind desperately looking for peace.

The last chapter is the perfect capstone to the book.
I share some of it here.
(Every quote was written or spoken by Charles Spurgeon.)
                 
             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 12: The Benefits of Sorrow
"To be cast down is often the best thing that could happen to us."

Six years prior to his death, as he looked back over his life, he startles us with his perspective regarding the use of suffering to do good in life.
"I am sure that I have run more swiftly with a lame leg than I ever did with a sound one. I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than I ever saw in the light, - more stars, most certainly, - more things in heaven if fewer things on earth. The anvil, the fire, and the hammer, are the making of us; we do not get fashioned much by anything else. That heavy hammer falling on us helps to shape us; therefore let affliction and trouble and trial come."

Sorrows enable us to better receive blessings. 
"This very casting down in the dust sometimes enables the Christian to bear a blessing from God which he could not have carried if he had been standing upright."

Sorrows shed our pretenses.
"When this downcasting comes, it gets us to work at self-realization ... When your house has been made to shake, it has caused you to see whether it was founded upon a rock."

Sorrow exposes and roots out our pride.
"We are very apt to grow too big. It is a good thing for us to be taken down a notch or two. We sometimes rise too high, in our own estimation, that unless the Lord took away some of our joy, we should be utterly destroyed by pride."

Sorrow teaches us empathy for one another.
"If we had never been in trouble ourselves, we should be very poor comforters of others ..."

Sorrows allow small kindnesses to loom large.
"You know, dear brothers and sisters, how a little act of kindness will lift us when we are very low in spirit ... even a tender look from a child will help to remove our depression."

"It may be, that you suffer from a mental sickness in the form of depression of spirit. Things look very dark, and your heart is very heavy ... When life is like a foggy day - when providence is cloudy and stormy, and you are caught in a hurricane ... When your soul is exceedingly sorrowful, and you are bruised as a cluster trodden in the wine-press, yet cling close to God, and never let go of your reverent fear of Him. However exceptional and unusual may be your trial, yet, with Job whisper these words, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."

                           ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love the last line of the book.
The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a Savior.

What a beautiful truth.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows; ... Isaiah 53

Thank You, Father, that no matter how low we fall, You are there to lift us up over and over again as many times as we need You because You PROMISE You will never leave us or forsake us. What a precious, precious truth we can cling to when it feels like the light will never break through the darkness. But the light always breaks through, because YOU are the light of the world. You understand our grief, You have felt our pain and experienced our sorrows. And You love us. Oh, how much You LOVE US! Thank You, Father. You are so good to us. And You are all we need.

10.24.2016

Now what?

Have you ever sat in church feeling like the entire message was written for you?
The topic, the passage of Scripture, the keywords of the outline, the illustrations ... each one hitting the target drawn on your heart?
Yesterday was that day for me.
We had a guest pastor filling our pulpit while our shepherd was away.
He is a tender, thoughtful, godly man who possesses a superb ability to craft sentences and create word pictures that draw you into the center of his message in a tangible way. You feel like you are THERE - standing next to Jesus as He heals a blind man, raises a child from the dead, and gives new life to a woman who has been suffering from sickness and isolation for twelve years.
I had no idea what the Lord had planned for me when I walked into the sanctuary Sunday morning. I entered with a light heart, and I left with a tear-stained face and sense of wonder at the incredible timing of a God who knows what we need long before we do.

It has been a long time since I wept silently through a sermon. I did not even try to stop the tears. I let them roll freely down my cheeks because - I needed to feel. I needed to embrace the truth that was pouring into my heart and mind through the words of a man who so clearly loves God, and people.

His passage: Mark 5:21-34
The story of the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years and followed Jesus just so she could touch His robe - and find healing.

Friends!
I have read this passage and heard this sermon a dozen times or more, but never like this.
Never have I wept for this woman. Never have I felt her pain. Her sorrow. Her loneliness and isolation. Never have I noticed the tenderness of Jesus' words when He speaks to her. I never saw HER.
Until yesterday.

I am going to pause in my personal reflection for a moment and insert my notes from the sermon.

                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Woman:
- separated from everyone because she was "unclean" according to Levitical law
- she cannot worship in the temple with God's people
- everyone knows of her ailment because she is 'unclean' and, because of the type of sickness, assumptions are made, gossip is spread, shame cloaks her
CAN YOU SEE HER?
- 12 years of isolation
- 12 years of bleeding, most likely anemic, exhausted, shamed, rejected, never touched - forgotten and ignored
CAN YOU SEE HER?

But then ---> She hears of this man - Jesus of Nazareth
He has healed a demon-possessed man. He has healed a leper - another untouchable - just like her.
Maybe he can heal her too? No one else could help her, but maybe this man would be different.
She went after Him - pressed in with the crowd surrounding Him - seeking only to touch His robe. (She was willing to put all of her hope in a piece of cloth!!!!!!!)
She touches Him and INSTANTLY her body is healed.
Jesus felt His power leave His body - stops - asks, "Who touched me?"
The beauty of this question: He knew who touched Him. Jesus SAW HER. He knew her suffering. And He called her "daughter." Affectionate, personal - intimate. How long had she waited for such tenderness?

Why do you do what you do?
Why do you invest in others?

-------> Because of people like her - and a Savior like HIM. <--------

Hopeless - Hurting - Helpless people need to know they MATTER. To the Lord. And to us.

We give our all to others - because God gives His all to us.

Jesus
- there was a lot of need
- He was surrounded by a multitude ... hundreds, if not thousands of people

BUT ---> the woman was not lost to Him! HE SAW HER!!!
Jesus is Savior to ALL - and He notices, serves, and ministers, to the ONE.
She was "no one," but she was everything in that moment. He knew her - He saw her - He stopped for her.
Jesus accommodated the ONE.
Jesus is a Savior who can do what no one else can.
He heals the hopeless - the helpless - the hurting.
He heals and He SAVES.
                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If I am honest, I see myself in the woman. Not all of me, but the Michelle of my past.
I see her in the women who sit on my couch broken and weeping over deep wounds and thick scars.
I see her in the babies and children who cry themselves to sleep each night because they have no one to hold them.
I see her in the addict who hides and isolates himself because of his shame.
I SEE HER. Everywhere. And my heart breaks for her.

The tears that rolled down my cheeks on Sunday represented deep sorrow for the intense loneliness and pain that envelops so many, but the tears told another story too. "You have a job to do, Michelle!"
The Lord is giving me an increased passion for those who are neglected, rejected, and forgotten. It is growing at an intense rate, and I have absolutely no desire to stop it.
There are hundreds, thousands, millions of people drowning ... and there just isn't enough rope.
BUT ---> my God is SAVIOR of ALL.
And He sees,
He ministers to,
and He heals
the ONE.

Why do you do what you do, Michelle?
Why do you invest in others?
Because of people like her - they are everywhere.
And because a Savior like HIM. He is ALL in ALL!

Lord, thank You! I was profoundly affected by the message You chose to speak through Your faithful servant. I was surprised by the intensity of my emotion, but I was not afraid of it. You are creating a new heart in me, a heart full of passion and drive, and though I have no idea what You are doing, I am willing to find out - and follow where You lead. Prepare me, Lord. I know I am not ready. I still try to wiggle off the altar instead of lying still in quiet surrender, and I'm sorry. I am a willing vessel, Lord. I just have a lot of cracks. Seal them and strengthen me so I can be the woman I need to be to obey You and lovingly serve others. Brokenness surrounds me, Lord. I cannot just walk by and pretend I don't see it. The brokenness cloaks human hearts who need to be seen, touched, accepted, and loved. LET ME SEE THEM, LORD. Let me see them. And then show me what to do next.

10.23.2016

Quote. Humility.

One of the hardest things about humbling ourselves before a holy God is the fact that 
humility requires dying to self,
while our sin nature seeks to preserve self.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11

10.21.2016

Quote. Character.

What a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is. 
~ C. S. Lewis 

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 
Luke 6:45

10.20.2016

What am I waiting for?

This is one of my favorite views in our home. A sweet little corner right in between the family room  and kitchen. I read this verse dozens of times each day.
It is our family verse.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8


I memorized it when I was in high school as a worship song, and have always loved the power of the command and the beauty of the words.

For the past couple of weeks, I have found myself meditating on those beautiful words in a way I never have before. It is the phrase "walk humbly with your God" that plays over and over in my mind. What does that mean? What does walking humbly with God really look like?

I decided to do a simple word study and began by looking up the main words of the verse in the dictionary. 
I did not want the biblical definitions - just the generic version of each one.

Justly
1.  in a just manner; in conformity to law, justice, or propriety; by right; honestly; fairly; accurately.

Mercy
1.  compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; also: lenient or compassionate treatment
2.  a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
3.  compassionate treatment of those in distress

Walk
a : to move along on foot : advance by steps 
b : to come or go easily or readily 
c : to go on foot for exercise or pleasure

Humbly
1.  not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2.  reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
3.  ranking low in a hierarchy or scale

Even without a biblical lens, these definitions provide an accurate picture of what God requires of His children. I especially like the word "walk." We all know what the word means, but sometimes it is the simple thing that makes the most impact. For me to "walk with God" I must MOVE. And not just any kind of movement - forward movement. Advancing. Easily and readily. For exercise or pleasure. I love that! Walking is a choice - a willful action. And because He commands it, "what the Lord requires of you," it is not an option. Forward movement with the God who created the universe ... what an honor, what a joy!

There is one more word that must be defined. The most important word: God.
The dictionary does not - and cannot - define our God, so I did not even bother opening one. Scripture is the only resource we need to identify, define, know, and understand our God.
So. Are you ready?
Look at THIS!

God
“Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and His arm rules for Him.
He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
    He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
    or what man shows Him his counsel?
Whom did He consult,
    and who made Him understand?
Who taught Him the path of justice,
    and taught Him knowledge,
    and showed Him the way of understanding?
To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with Him?
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
'To whom then will you compare Me,
    that I should be like Him?' says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
by the greatness of His might
    and because He is strong in power, not one is missing.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    His understanding is unsearchable." Isaiah 40

Isn't that a fanTAStic passage?

If that is my God ... if He is that powerful ... that gentle ... that majestic ... that trustworthy ...
why do I ever fear?
Why do I doubt Him?
Why do I question His ways?
Why do I allow the trails and tribulations of this world to defeat me and drag me down into despondency and despair?
Behold Your God, Michelle!
And let everything else pale in comparison.
The Lord is the everlasting God!
And He is - absolutely, positively, without the slightest doubt - ENOUGH.

God has told me what is good and what He requires of me.
Do justly.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly with Him.

So - what am I waiting for?

10.19.2016

Excellent quote - on prayer.

"The man of obedience is the man whom God will hear. 
The man's obedient heart leads him to pray humbly and with submission, 
for he feels it to be his highest desire that the Lord's will should be done. 
The man of obedient heart prays like a prophet, and his prayers are prophecies. 
Is he not one with God? 
Does he not desire and ask for exactly what God intends? 
How can a prayer shot from such a bow ever fail to reach its target? 
If your soul is in harmony with God's soul, you will wish God's own wishes. 
The difficulty is that we do not stay in harmony with God; 
but if we did, then we should strike the same note as God strikes. 
And though God's note would sound like thunder and ours as a whisper, 
yet there would be a perfect unison - the note struck by prayer on earth would coincide 
with that which sounds forth from the decrees in heaven." 
~ C. H. Spurgeon

I LOVE this.
To be so in love with, and so connected to God that my prayers are His prayers because I want nothing unless He wants it first ... 
this is what I want!
Teach me, Lord. I am willing.