As I sit at my desk eight days into the new year, I am basking in what I like to refer to as, the-quiet-of-now. The gentle tick-tock-ticking of the grandfather clock in the entryway lends a richness that is soothing as it faithfully measures the passage of these moments. While most clocks chastise, reprimanding us when we are late (again!) others frustrate us as we are held captive while waiting for a long anticipated event to finally take place, Rarely do I count clocks as friends– except for quiet moments such as now that allow for quiet reflection. This morning, as time moves forward according to the rhythm of the grandfather, I am at peace and joy fills my heart. Why? What is at the root of such peace and joy in our unstable times? Remembering how God’s faithfulness carried me through trials, as I held fast to this truth:
I CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF MY CIRCUMSTANCES,
AND I CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF PEOPLE . . .
THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
Four decades ago, when, eager to get to know God better in my new faith, I joined my first Bible study. We were a small group led by an amazing woman named Virginia Franz. From the start, I liked Virginia. She had a way of disarming people with her kind eyes and sparkling smile that drew us all in. During our study of Philippians I learned to respect the way she spoke the truth of Scripture with compassion and grace.
In our six-week-study of Philippians, Virginia developed the concept of joy being dependent, not on having the esteem of other people nor in the fluctuating seasons of life, but in staying Christ-centered. I still smile when I remember how Virginia’s face lit up as she told us how God uses the hardships in our lives to accomplish the (seemingly) impossible. In Paul’s case, Virginia talked about how Paul (chained to a Roman guard 24/7) took advantage of his incarceration as he “talked every guard’s ear off about the love of Christ” and their need of a Savior.*
Paul’s commitment to trust and honor Christ Jesus while in prison, impacted not only the lives of the recipients of his letter, but of countless people centuries later–including our own. In the four chapters of Paul’s letter he mentions “joy” or “rejoice” sixteen times as he encouraged them (and you and I) with these words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
What has stayed with me all these years later was Virginia’s conclusion–posted the last day on a board for all to see and re-posted here to encourage you:
YOU CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, AND YOU CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF PEOPLE, THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS YOU!
How is this possible? By living out Paul’s call to REJOICE . . .ALWAYSl We do this by giving thanks for His love and mercy, and thanks that this is not all there is.) We can give thanks that JOY is no longer dependent on our outward circumstances or other human relationships. No! Joy becomes our reality when we center our minds and hearts on Christ. As we refuse to give way to fear and instead GIVE THANKS that His divine purposes are being worked out–even as darkness appears to have the upper hand–JOY becomes ours.
As we move into 2021, let us enter it in the quiet-of-now confidence of knowing God is in control–determined to refuse fear’s invitation–by steadfastly walking in faith. Giving thanks for (and with!) all of you . . .❤️
Despite the darkness of our times, all around the world this Easter morning HOPE is being celebrated in a multitude of languages with expressions such as these: “He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!”
As death tolls mount because of an invisible enemy called, COVID-19, a verse written by the Apostle Paul in uncertain times has helped keep me steady:
“Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day . . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:16b, 18
Yet, even as I have found comfort and encouragement in the Scriptures, I have to admit that I have struggled at the thought of not being able to observe the traditions we normally enjoy with our church family and friends. Has that been an issue for any of you?
One thought that helped me tremendously was something I read online early in the week:
“The church isn’t empty; the church has been deployed!”
Having gone through many seasons when my husband was unexpectedly deployed while serving in the US military for twenty years, I was familiar with the term in a mostly negative way. However, my appreciation for the term widened when I looked it up in Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary where it says:
Deployed–“to spread out, utilize, or arrange for a deliberate purpose.”
It was that last bit, saying that deployment happens, “for a deliberate purpose“, that settled me with a blanket of HOPE.
In that moment it dawned on me that Jesus was deployed for a deliberate purpose: to make a way for our redemption and fill us through His Spirit with hope.
Now, two thousand years later, His Church (you and me!) has been deployed to reach out to a hurting world with the HOPE of the Gospel.
Reading further in Corinthians Paul wrote:
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced
that One died for all, and therefore all died.
And He died for all, that those who live
should no longer live for themselves
but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” II Corinthians 4:14-15
One of the things I look forward to every Easter morning, is walking into my church and seeing the Cross–last seen draped in black on Good Friday–festooned with the fragrant beauty of fresh flowers that declare: Jesus is alive and is coming again!
This year was different. As my husband and I worshiped with our church family online, there was no Cross draped in flowers. Yet God’s Spirit ministered to our hearts powerfully through song and the reading of the Scriptures. One of the songs we sang speaks to the heart of why Christ’s own celebrate His faithfulness on this glorious day:
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.*
May the blessings of Christ’s Resurrection encourage you this day, as we live for, love, and serve Him with grateful hearts.
It had been a very long day. After sitting in a small boat teaching enormous crowds of people who came to see and hear Him, Jesus then ministered privately to His disciples. Having poured Himself out on all who sought Him . . . Jesus needed sleep. Mark 4 records what happened next:
“That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side. . . .”
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat . . . .
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘QUIET! BE STILL!’
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid?
Do you still have no faith?’”
Having read the story many times, I would have skipped past it. What stopped me was that in my last post I had featured God’s call in Psalm 46 to, “Be still and know that I am God!”. Before publishing that post, I had asked my son Luke to read it to make sure that what I’d written came across clearly. What I hadn’t expected was the blessing of Luke’s comment written on the corner of the page. This is what he wrote:
“Be still and know that I am God’—
is a command to HOPE—
establishing who is God and who is not.”
That insight, filled my heart and soul with an awe of God that left me nearly breathless. That is why, when Jesus commanded the waves to “be still” and He admonished His disciples for their lack of faith, it grabbed my attention. What I have since learned is:
Our response to difficulty and pain before God matters, because they demonstrate who or what rules our hearts,
It wasn’t wrong to run to Jesus in fear. Jesus encourages all:
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you , , , rest.”*
What the disciples did wrong was to run to Jesus doubting His divine goodness: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
God’s command to HOPE is also a command
to refuse the temptation to doubt His goodness. Such ‘invitations’ from Satan come to us in packages large and small:
Years ago I was friends with two sisters who grew up in Indonesia until their family was forced to leave for political reasons. One day a letter arrived in the mail, bordered in black around the edges of the envelope. I became curious as they they carefully separated the letter from the rest of the mail. When questioned, they explained that it was customary to send notices in black-edged envelopes to family and friends when someone died. I’ve never forgotten the sobering veil that filled the living room, as they waited until their parents came home to learn what friend or family member had died.
Satan plagues us with such black-edged invitations, filled with every sort of fear and dread imaginable. When we open them, we are overwhelmed by dark hopelessness. So how are we to handle such ‘invitations’? A passage in James 4 provides clarity and direction in how we are to run to God in faith:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Grieve, mourn and wail.
Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
When life hits us hard He says,
Come . . . COME! Just as you are,
with tears streaming and hearts broken by despair, COME in faith and you will find HOPE for your souls!
The following is a love-filled invitation to HOPE given me when despair threatened to capsize my boat. I’ll never forget driving on a dark, rainy night, sobbing as HOPE flooded my heart beyond measure.** If you are in such a place, I offer it in the love, mercy and tenderness of Jesus. ❤️
“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I
will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
(New Living Translation)
All to His Glory!
** What Wondrous Love Is This?, Fernando Ortega.
It started this past fall. Friends had told me about a struggling young woman who occasionally showed up at our church. Professing faith in Christ yet full of doubt, anger and self-recrimination, I began to pray . . . .
When I finally did meet Sonia (not her real name) I appreciated her honesty in expressing her struggles and was slightly intimidated by the intensity of her passion. Most of all, I was impressed by Sonia’s goal for counseling:
“To be healthy, happy, whole
even as she lamented, “PEACE is what I want–and do not have.”
Seeing that she had left a question blank on the Intake Form all Clients fill out before our first meeting, “Do you have a favorite saying?”, I recommended a favorite I use when I’m struggling,
“THANK YOU, GOD, THAT YOU LOVE ME.”
With every Session that followed, Sonia unfolded her story of heartache, disappointment and resentment. Week after week we dove into the Scriptures:
To see God as a merciful Shepherd in both the Old and New Testaments.
To gain wisdom and perspective into how God uses the hard things in life to draw us closer to Himself.
To talk about how pride and resentment separate us from God, and how humility before God brings us peace.
As we searched, Sonia appeared appreciative of what the Scriptures said, but invariably every Session ended with this roadblock:
“Why would God allow me to suffer the pain of hurt and rejection,
if He is truly a loving God?”
Sometimes reframing a question can be the biggest help to moving toward a solution. In Sonia’s case, we began to look at why she blamed God for her suffering, when it was people who had sinned against her. We turned to Genesis to consider the first instances of blameshifting:
“And God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’
The man said, ‘The woman YOU put here with me— SHE gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”’*
We then talked about how, as Christians, we are to break old sinful patterns by going to God in confession and in faith.We turned to the New Testament for direction and Sonia began to read:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is . . . .
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed . . . .
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things
as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language . . . . Colossians 3: 1, 5-7
We talked about the beauty of humility before God and the ugliness of pride. We considered the example given to us by Jesus, as in humility He bore our sins rather than shifting what was due us from Himself:
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
‘by His wounds you have been healed.'”
I Peter 2:24
Sonia continued to read, more softly in tone as we drank in each word:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another . . .
forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12, 13b-14
I told Sonia that every time I heard that passage read, the deep rumble of closet doors being opened sounded in my head and I imagined beautiful robes of “compassion, kindness, humility’, gentleness, patience and love” waiting to be taken out and worn–to cleanse our hearts and make us whole.
As Sonia read the concluding piece of the Colossians passage it was as if the words had come alive,
“Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to PEACE.
And BE THANKFUL. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
GIVING THANKS to God the Father through Him.”
As the room was engulfed by quiet, I wondered if the Scriptures had ministered to Sonia’s heart as they had to my own. There was nothing left to be said so I asked her to close us in prayer. I remember little of Sonia’s prayer except for these heartfelt words:
“THANK YOU GOD THAT YOU LOVE ME.
THANK YOU FOR SENDING YOUR SON
TO SAVE ME FROM MYSELF . . .
No matter where you’ve been in your life, God has a plan of blessing for all who come to Him through Christ in humble faith. As I have chosen this path of humility in the most difficult of times–as well as in seasons of ease–He has proved Himself to be faithful.
May His Peace be your greatest gift this Christmas as you pray, “Thank You God that you love me . . .
help me to love others as You have loved me .”
After hearing their stories, I have told countless new Clients,
“I won’t pretend to say that I know exactly how you feel,
but there is little that comes through my office door
that I haven’t had at least a taste of.”
It’s true . . . and most seem to know it, as I look them in the eye with as much tenderness and compassion as I can muster.
I thought about this as I scrolled down my Facebook timeline last week and noticed several “Me Too”* posts entered by people I care about. Knowing personally the powerlessness of being a victim of abuse (sin imposed by others), and having listened to countless stories in the Counseling Room, I was deeply saddened by the dark reminder that such evil continues.
While a sympathetic, “Me too”, may offer temporary comfort, the larger question remains, “Where do I go from here?”
That is the question we face in the Counseling Room, and the answer is always the same:
“We go to God and the Scriptures,
for the wisdom and perspective we lack.”
Why? Because, while the world offers theories that change with the seasons; God calls us to trust Him as He speaks to the heart of our problems in every season:
Genesis 4:6,7 (the first counsel offered in Scripture):
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?
Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’”
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’, but you would have none of it . . . .
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said,
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Of the many places we visit in the Scriptures, Psalm 139 is one that speaks light and hope to every possible challenge we face:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your Presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”
To those who isolate themselves from the world to avoid further pain or heartache, Psalm 139 reminds us, there’s nowhere to hide from a Sovereign and Good God:
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.
Truly, when the whole of Scripture
and the ultimate, “Me too” of Christ on the Cross is received,
a new dawn speaks light, hope and ultimate joy
into the darkness of brokenness.
This is why I urge Clients to enter into the Journey Notes process, to discover God has so much more to say to them personally. As they do, I am always profoundly touched as I watch God’s peace pushing back the darkness.
“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.
Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name,
He gave the right to become Children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision
or a husband’s will, but
born of God.” John 1:11-13
So my question to you, no matter what your past history is: “What are you waiting for?!!”
All to His Glory!
*Part of a movement on social media, meant to expose the problem of sexual harassment and assault in our culture. “Me too” was a quote taken from a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano.
This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️
As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment. When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”. As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.
In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ. It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself. It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:
My anger at my children, and/or
My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?
The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT! (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!) I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.
It was not until I learned:
Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
“Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them!
that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.
So what is the difference between discipline and punishment? The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:
“We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment. Punishment is what you do TO someone; discipline is what you do FOR someone.“
The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”
Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.
Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline. Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor. The results? Just listening to the nightly news says it all.
So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent? The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”
It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children. Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent. All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:
“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”
The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of Godly discipline:
Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied.
God convicted me early-on with this thought:
If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
MAKE YOUR OWN BED BEFORE REQUIRING THEM TO MAKE THEIRS!*
Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.
I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.
This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place. I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author. I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.
Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.
Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.” Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times. Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our kids greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.
Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!
Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts. I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books. As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed. We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible. (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)
Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.
I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble. When my children needed discipline, I viewed that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts. This is the pattern we followed when they were small and required discipline:
They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back (to help them think about what they had done rather than get distracted.) If they fidgeted in the corner, more time was added– they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
When the timer dinged, I sat on a chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me. (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?” I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again. (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.
As they grew the pattern adjusted. Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)
Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine.
I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him. What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “ Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .
All to His Glory!
*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!” (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)