Get Back Up On Your Horse

BarrelRacing

The barrel racing competition at the Red Ryder Round-Up Fourth of July Rodeo was thrilling! The beautiful young ladies took command of their faithful horses and guided them smoothly and quickly through the course. Their great challenge on this day was foot-deep mud from the afternoon monsoons. Fighting against the sloshing and slipping of the mud, they still made it through. (You should have seen the bull riders fall into this stuff!) The junior competition followed the adults, and – wow! – these little girls were incredible! Fearless and fast, their times came in in the same range as the adults. The youngest rider was 4 years old!

Brianna was 9 years old. Her horse flew around the barrels and then finished lightning fast. But then suddenly, the front legs of her speeding horse buckled under in the mud as they tried to stop short of the arena gate. Brianna went flying off over the front of their horse. Then a split second later, the entire body of that giant horse flipped up and over itself, looking to us like it would land upside down right on top of the girl. The stunned audience couldn’t process what was happening, but thankfully, as helped rushed to the scene, we could tell that the horse had just missed her.

Both Brianna and the horse were helped back to their feet. And before we could start a supportive (and relieved) cheer, a cowboy – I wonder if it was her daddy – swooped that little girl back up and set her up on top of that horse again! Then came the big cheer as we watched the limping horse walk away with his brave rider back in her place.

The image of that little girl being lifted back up on her horse will be in my mind a long time, even more so then the horse’s body flipping up and over itself.

Everyone agreed that was the best thing they could have done – for Brianna and for the horse. Whereas I’m the mom who would’ve wanted to just hug her and hold her and share a good cry, I appreciate now why getting back up on the horse was the right thing to do. A quick hug is of course warranted, but the wise parent knows to help a hurting child face their fears right away- before they escalate and settle in. Get back up on your horse!

My daughter is on the high school diving team. She was working on a difficult dive when she over-rotated and hit the water very hard face first and hurt her head. The coach helped her up out of the pool, then helped her walk over to the diving board and told her to do the dive again. Then once she had faced that fear and done it again, they tended to her needs. I understand better now why that was important.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.  Isaiah 40:30-31

Our children will stumble and fall, and we as parents can learn to help them face their fears and keep pressing on. We can err on the side of too much hugging and holding, which hinders their ability to overcome the fear and grow stronger through it. And we can err on the side of shame and blame, expressing our disappointment and lowering our expectations for their future. Or, with God’s help, we can give a quick hug of assurance, and help them push through the fears showing them that we believe in them. They need to know we have their best interest in mind, and they need to know without a doubt we are on their side!

Get back up on your horse- I am here for you! You can do this! Keep going!

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14

So then I think about my own falls. And I think I need to learn this lesson for myself as well. How do I need to get back up on my horse- face my fears- and keep riding?

The image of the man lifting that little girl back up on the horse will remind me that my Heavenly Father is right there waiting to do the same for me. He knows what’s best for me and I can face my fears in the strength He provides. My flesh is quick to shame and blame myself, wallowing in the pain of the failure, throwing myself a pity party.

I am quick to get stuck down in the mud, when what I need is to lift my eyes to the One who is strong enough and wise enough to get me back up on my horse.

Get back up on your horse- He is here for you! He will give you strength to do this! Keep going!

I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  Psalm 34:4-5

Lord, help us look to you to get back up on the horse you have given us to ride today. Help us press on to what you have ahead, not stuck in what we’ve left behind. Give us courage to ride- and in that be glorified.

 

 

 

 

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If the LORD had not been on our side

WomanPraising

If the LORD had not been on our side- let Israel say- If the LORD had not been on our side.  Psalm 124:1-2

 Pause with me for a moment and consider what might have been, what could have happened, where we might have ended up- had God not been on our side. I can think about each member of our family- and imagine a completely different outcome in several of our most difficult situations- if the LORD had not been on our side.

It’s a little scary- well, actually, downright frightening- to imagine the pain and loss and tragedy the enemy may have wreaked in our lives- or we may have wreaked in our lives ourselves.

There are several scenarios the Psalmist considers:

“When men attacked us” (v.2)- The attacks of men take many forms- criticism, rejection, slander, or “anger flaring against us” (v. 3). Knowing the LORD is on our side, we are able to stand strong on truth, trusting that it is not men who define us but the God who created the universe. We are able to “take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy.” (Ephesians 6:16). And ultimately, we are able to find healing from the hurt, and freedom found in forgiveness. The attacks of men leave deep wounds- but God protects us from hopelessness and provides for healing and even reconciliation.

“The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away” (v. 4-5)- The storms of this fallen world beat against us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, how often can we proclaim, “this could have been so much worse”? We see God sparing us from total ruin and disaster, even in the hardest circumstances.

Paul writes of these near-death trials:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

 We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  2 Corinthians 1:8-9

 Continuing in Psalm 124, a third scenario is described like this:

“Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” (v. 6-7)- A predator has captured it’s prey, ready to devour it. But the snare is broken, and the prey escapes. Our predator is Satan himself, and just when He was set to devour us, His snare was broken.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  1 Corinthians 15:55

 Praise the LORD!  The death and resurrection of the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ Himself, broke the snare of Satan’s grasp on humanity. He died and rose again, breaking the power of sin and death- setting us free to live in all the fullness of the abundant life He gives.

If the LORD had not been on my side, I would still be striving hard after the approval of man. I would be struggling to find significance and meaning in this world. I would be seeking after my own glory- trampling on others all along the way. And I truly don’t know what I would have done in the countless tragedies that we have faced. I fear I would be lost in the hopelessness and despair, totally unaware that God is working all things for my good.

If the LORD had not been on my side, I don’t think I would have many friends, and I know I would make a pretty awful wife and mother. And maybe more than anything, I would be stuck in the shallow perspective of living only for this world, unable to see the greater blessings of an eternal outlook.

Praise the LORD! God Himself has been on our side. Let us all resound as we consider the what-might-have-been’s. Let us cling to Him and trust in Him and seek His glory in all we do.

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  Romans 8:31-37

Calf Muscles and a Reminder of Who’s in Charge

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Last night my husband was out of town, and my son asked if he could “have a sleepover.” At 5 foot, 5 inches tall and fourteen years old, he still loves sleeping in our bed when one of us is away. I love that!  Around 3:00am, I got up to let the dog out, and as I crawled back in bed, there was a very long, bony leg that had stretched over on to my side of the bed. That thing was hard! And big! As I grabbed ahold of his calf muscle to move the leg back to his side, I had a flashback that brought me to tears.

See, when Zach was about two weeks old, we flew to a family reunion. On that trip, I carried him in my front pack baby carrier (which, by the way, we had not had for baby daughters 1 and 2, but my goodness, did it come in handy for baby #3!). I very clearly remember wrapping my thumb and first finger around his teeny, tiny little calf muscle. My finger went around his leg and nearly as tight as it could get back to my thumb to encircle the calf. I asked God in that moment to help me always remember how little that leg was- and how little my son had begun.

The Lord was faithful to answer that prayer last night as my same thumb and first finger can no longer come even close to touching around that calf muscle. It is bigger and stronger, and runs faster and jumps higher.

And I have had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Now, of course, we have provided our son with food, clothing and shelter needed to grow. But I have not put any effort or resource into growing that calf muscle. God has just done it!

And isn’t it by God’s grace that we have provided the food, clothing and shelter anyway?

It is God who works in you to will and act according to His good pleasure. Philippians 2:19

 God is the Creator- and He is still faithfully working to shape my son into the man He made Him to be. He is working in him to grow him physically and spiritually and intellectually and emotionally. GOD is doing that, not me.

It is God who works in my son to will and act according to His good pleasure.

We as moms are pretty good “control freaks.” We are good at working hard to keep everything in control. We work to control our family’s schedule, our family’s meals, our family’s behavior and our family’s appearance. But we are also pretty good at forgetting who’s really in charge.

Last night as I held that giant leg, once so tiny in my fingers, I was reminded of who’s really in charge. God created my son just as he was born- fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13-14). And God is still the One working in Him to grow Him exactly how He has ordained. He invites me to be a part of this process, but I need to remember that this child is not mine to grow. He is God’s.

Of course, not one of my children is perfect- from a human perspective. Each has their unique challenges and weaknesses, strengths and gifts. Their uniqueness-es serve only to more magnificently glorify the great creative Creator. My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). They also serve as reminders of who is in control- and who is not.

How can we better remember that God is in charge- working His will in our children’s lives?

Reflect on the past and the progress that has been made. Think back on where you were a year ago, five years ago, or where you were when your child was born. How has he or she made progress- even if only small steps- in the last week, month and year? Look at old pictures and reminisce together. Most importantly, look for God’s touch, His presence, along this journey- and give Him great thanks and praise!

Ponder the possibilities and dream big for what is to come. You know better than anyone else what all is packed inside each of your children. Imagine where God is headed with that! Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Glance ahead to the beautiful unfolding of all God brought this chosen child here to be and do.

And pause to be thankful and content for what is. Still your heart from all the rush and stress daily living can often bring, and be thankful. Make a list of things you’re thankful for today- even the littlest things. Rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).

I’m so thankful God is in charge- and I am not. There is a deep peace that comes in the surrendering of my way, my control, my plan, to His. His is far better than I can imagine. He has wisdom and power and resources beyond all human knowing. And He is working all on our behalf- for our good and for His glory.

Take this scripture and fill in the name of your child- and remember God is working in him or her. (You can also try plugging in the name of your husband, or your frustrating coworker or family member, or anyone whom you need to remember is in God’s hand too).

It is God who works in ______to will and act according to His good purposes. Philippians 2:19

Blown-Out Tires and God’s Great Undisturbedness

flattireMy husband was a hero today. A back tire on our vehicle blew out with a loud bang and a sharp pull to the left that could have sent us all out of control. We could have swerved out into the speeding oncoming traffic or the other way into the concrete barrier. But we didn’t- because Chris stayed calm. He didn’t panic but rather maintained composure, and brought us slowly to a safe stopping place off the main road. From all appearances, He was undisturbed by the sudden crisis. And in this “undisturbedness,” my husband commanded control of the situation and responded with wisdom. He chose peace instead of panic.

I was reminded immediately of God’s great undisturbedness. When we face any sudden crisis, we can either look at the frightening circumstance and panic, or we can look up to our Great King who is seated on His heavenly throne and find peace. When we see Him there, reigning over all, we see His great undisturbedness. As unexpected as the crisis is to us, the One who set time in motion, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), has not been caught off guard. And if we will allow Him to, He will command control of the situation and respond with wisdom. And He will help us choose peace instead of panic.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

When did you last have a blown-out tire? When did your world blow apart with unexpected news or injury or illness? What crisis has sent you into panic? Can you look back now and see how God was there- He was with you and He was working good even through the hardest time? Or are you still waiting for Him to make sense of it all?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Romans 8:28-29

If we believe that the promises of God are true, then we can be sure that each crisis that comes is ultimately working in us a greater good than we can know in the immediate experience. We can look back upon His faithfulness through past crises, and trust Him to be faithful for this one, and for all the ones that are yet to come. These are all part of His growth plan to conform us to the likeness of His Son. We can look into His great undisturbedness, and find the peace and wisdom and strength needed to wisely navigate through another life storm.

As a kid, my dad taught us the “3 C’s”- He taught us to stay “calm, cool, and collected” in stressful situations. He taught us to not panic (or at least try our hardest not too), because things only get worse when we panic. It helped me not to panic knowing my dad was nearby to help. And now as an adult, it helps me not to panic knowing God is always nearby to help.

God will not temporarily take a break from his throne and let the world spin out of control. Do we believe that He is Lord of all- or do we think things happen that catch Him off guard? Everything that comes to His children has come through the fold of His hands around each of our lives. Nothing slips by Him, but rather in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us.  Psalm 46:10-11

Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and I am in control. Be still and know that I am undisturbed by what is happening in your life. Be still and know that I am working all for your good and for my glory.

Don’t panic. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Look for my peace to guard your heart and my wisdom to direct your path.

Be still.

And know that I am God.

Thankful for Dads

DadandLori1

I woke up this morning 750 miles away from my Dad. For the last 20 years, I have worked to celebrate him on Father’s Day, usually from my far away adult world, while also celebrating the great dad that my husband is to our family. The more years that pass, the more I realize what a gift I have in my dad. I realize that his faithfulness, kindness and unconditional love are rare. And I realize that his character has helped me better understand the character of God.

I’m thankful for years of special memories- hiking the Colorado mountains, fishing New Mexico streams, cross-country camper trips to my Grammy’s house, and always seeing him in the stands for my volleyball games. My dad was present, and very active in our lives. (And he still is). He took time to pass along wisdom and life tips to my sister and me. (And he still does). He always knew what to do in a crisis, and he always told too many “punny” jokes. For all he gave, and all he shared, and all he taught, I am very thankful.

Years ago I was in a Bible Study that looked at the influence our earthly fathers have on our understanding of our Heavenly Father. We filled out a chart with lots of characteristics, both positive and negative, and checked those that described our earthly dad. Then we turned the page and did the same for how we view God. And then on the third page, we laid the two sets of answers on top of each other. It was so insightful to see how similar the two lists were. People who had angry fathers tended to see God as angry, or people who had strong fathers tended to see God as strong, etc.

I am thankful for my own father, who wasn’t perfect, but had many God-like characteristics for me to experience, and for so many fathers I see that are living out the love, strength, wisdom and closeness of God for their families.

Thankful for dads who play. Dads are usually better than moms at play time- or at least that has been my experience. Dads communicate a lot of love through teasing and wrestling and joking and giggling. Moms tend to be more preoccupied with the “serious” things and taking care of all the details for daily living. Playing dads teach us to be happy and joyful, and not take life or ourselves too seriously.

May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.  Psalm 68:3

Thankful for dads who pray. Dads who set an example and lead out spiritually for their families teach more by their actions, than by their wise words. Guiding their children with wisdom they have sought from God, and extending God-like compassion and grace, set a life-long impression of their Heavenly Father.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Thankful for dads who stay. Several years ago I helped our church start an outreach for parents of children with special needs. I was expecting moms and dads to come, and share an encouraging Bible Study, and support one another on this hard journey. What I didn’t expect though, was that the parents who came would be primarily single mothers. Single moms raising one or more children with special needs on their own. Yes, I had read of the high divorce rates of these families, but I didn’t want to believe dads could actually leave their wives and children with so many challenges. Yet it happens more often than not.

Two things I would like to say in light of this. First, if you are a dad who is staying, thank you. And if you are a wife of a dad who is staying, be thankful. Be very thankful. Press in close to God for strength and cling tightly to each other through the hard. You will display the faithfulness of God as you do.

Second, if you are a mother raising children on your own, you too can press in close to God for strength. He is your perfect Heavenly Father, and He is that for your children. He loves each of them more than you do, and promises to take care of their every need. My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

God is your heavenly husband: For your Maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is His name. Isaiah 54:5 (Read the whole chapter for more promises).

God is their heavenly father: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Psalm 68:8

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  I John 3:1

As we honor fathers on Father’s Day, let’s be thankful for the dads who have been a part of our lives and our children’s lives. And let’s work to  trust our Heavenly Father to heal our hurts and meet our unmet needs with his perfect Fatherly love, compassion and care.

Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?  Deuteronomy 32:6

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Praise from a Place of Pain

PraisingBeachMy good friend sings in our church choir. She always sings with all the strength of her beautiful voice, lifting the name of our Savior high in song. But tonight, she seemed to be singing with an extra depth, an extra vigor, and an extra true joy shining on her face. I could hardly watch her without some of my own tears springing forth. I am one of only a few who know the hard she is facing and the great depth of the pain from where she is coming to praise God the way she does. Difficulties in her marriage and with her child are almost insurmountable, and she is struggling with grief, betrayal, anger, anxiety, hurt and confusion.

It is easy to give God praise when life is beautiful, but how can we give Him praise when life is hard? He is pleased when we praise Him from a place of blessing, but I believe He receives even greater glory when we praise Him from a place of pain.

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3

Isaiah’s prophecy about the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was proclaimed hundreds of years later by Jesus as He began His earthly ministry. He told the people “Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:22) He proclaimed Himself as the one who brings us a new garment in the midst of our ashes, mourning and despair. Christ covers our pain with praise.

The contrast of the light of praise to the darkness of our pain makes it shine even brighter. Light a candle outside in the afternoon sun and it can’t hardly be seen. But light it in the darkness of midnight, and its light shines forth enough light to comfort your fear and guide your feet.

Praising God in our pain is “heart” work. It is making a conscious choice to lift our hearts and minds above the pain to see God still reigning on His throne. And it is choosing to praise Him there.

Why are you downcast, I my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me, therefore I will remember you. Psalm 42:5-6

The Psalmist here speaks of a conscious decision to place his hope in God, reaching out from his downcast and disturbed soul to look for his Savior and God. He “remembers” God as he moves his mind from his pain to praise.

In times of great pain, our emotions can be all over the place. We have to allow our minds to lead out over our hearts seeking truth and perspective that move us towards Christ. We want to seek Him first and follow hard after Him even in our pain, and not be swept into even greater pain by letting our hurting hearts guide our decisions. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Praising God in our pain points others to Christ. God uses our pain and the hope we hold on to through it to draw others to Himself by faith. As they see us hurting, yet hanging on to Christ, they see genuine faith lived out. They see a hope that they want to have. Our pain has a purpose in our lives, yes, but also in the lives of those who are touched as we live through it.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

Praising God in our pain calls Him in close. Psalm 22:3 says, “You are holy, and you inhabit the praise of Israel” (KJV). When we praise God, He inhabits, He lives in our praise. Psalm 75:1 says, “We give thanks to you, O God, for your Name is near.” He is near! He is here! He is pleased to dwell with those who are dwelling in His praise.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Save me, and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14

It’s hard to describe in words, but we have a funny tradition at our house. If someone falls or trips or in some crazy way hurts themselves, they follow it by getting back on their feet, raising their hands and proclaiming a simple, “I’m okay!” Praising God in our pain is somewhat like this. Though we may be hurting, from our own shortcomings or someone else’s, we raise our hands and let God and everyone else know, “I’m okay!”

We can be more than okay as we choose to lift hearts to our God and Savior still seated on His heavenly throne. As we praise Him there, we shine His light to others and call Him in close to see us through. May God give us greater faith to praise Him from our places of pain.

Hope Surrenders to God’s Word

OpenBible

(Continuing on with earlier posts- Hope surrenders. Hope surrenders to God’s will. Hope surrenders to God’s Word.)

Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your Word. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.  Psalm 119:73-77

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:2

Hope delights in God’s Word, and surrenders to the commands and promises found there. We often run ourselves nearly to the ground, seeking answers and encouragement elsewhere, when all the while God’s Word holds all that we need. The richness of God’s Word and all it has for us await for us to take in. So often, it is a treasure yet undiscovered, waiting to bless and enrich our lives.

I rise before dawn and cry for help. I have put my hope in your Word.  Psalm 119:147

 With two testaments, sixty-six books and 1,189 chapters, the Bible can be overwhelming. Where do we even start? I think we all know we need to read our Bibles more and we all would like to read our Bibles more, but we can get stuck wondering where to begin. Having a plan for when, where and how to study can help get us on our way.

The psalmist here as in other places in scripture tells us to start our day off with prayer and Bible Study in the morning. Whether you are a morning person or not, a few minutes of devotional reading and laying out your praises and prayers for the day can make an incredible difference. For me the few moments I lose in sleep to get up before my children far makes up for itself in peace and direction for the day. My Bible and a cup of coffee in my comfy chair in the quiet before the chaos have become absolutely critical. Find a way to put time with Christ in your morning. “She gets up while it is still dark.” (Proverbs 31:15)

Where to read in your Bible can be a challenge. There are so many verses to take in. I suggest two kinds of reading- devotional reading and in-depth study. Devotional reading may be guided by a devotional book, or maybe a daily reading plan, and usually covers a short part of scripture. Some of the most popular books for devotional reading are Psalms, Proverbs (try reading one chapter a day), the gospel of John, or one of Paul’s letters like Philippians or Colossians.  In-depth Bible study may happen in a longer period of time later in your day. If you are a night person, you may best study at night. In-depth study takes one book or one passage and looks intently into its context, meaning and application. While we should read devotionally every day, we may only study in-depth several times each week. Consider working through a New Testament book, and then alternate with an Old Testament book.

How to read the Bible could fill a year’s worth of seminary classes, but what is helpful for us as we commit to daily Bible study? As we look at a verse, or several verses, we should always look for meaning in its context. Read the verses before and after to get a greater feel for its true meaning. Then see if you can find out who wrote the verses. What you can learn about the author and his purpose for writing will add further understanding. And most important of all, ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” The Bible is a book about God, not me. I can be quick to jump to the question, “What does this teach me about me?” and look for a personal application, before seeing first all that I can learn about God, His character and His purposes.

Another great way to learn God’s Word is to teach it to our children. As we share the stories of Old Testament heroes and prophets, or the New Testament gospels of Jesus’ life and the early church, we learn them better ourselves. I learned the names of the books of the Bible singing children’s Bible songs. We learn as we teach.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees, then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your Word.  Psalm 119: 33-37

Hope surrenders to God’s Word. Cling to His laws, delight in His decrees, and find freedom in the paths of His commands.

Hope Surrenders to God’s Will

HandsThough He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.  Job 13:15

Job surrendered to the will of God, even at the loss of his fortune, his family, and then his own health. His hope was in the God whose character He had known to be trustworthy for many years. He knew He could surrender to God’s will and God would prove faithful.  Job held on to God even in the hard. His example is a strong one for us as we try to hold on to hope in our own hard.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Surrendering to God’s will begins in our minds, when we make a conscious choice to move from the world’s patterns to take hold of what He has for us instead. As that transformation happens, we are able to know God’s will for our lives. His “good, pleasing and perfect will” becomes clearer as we remove the old ways of thinking and “let this mind be in you which also is in Christ.” (Philippians 2:5) His Spirit makes His will known to us.

Many struggle with the idea of “God’s will.” If we are honest, we may ask questions like, “Was it God’s will for my child to get sick?” “Was it God’s will that she was born with this disability?”  “Did He will for my husband to leave us?” This can become a complex theological discussion that would take many pages. For our purposes, though, I think we start by asking the question “Is God sovereign?” Does the Creator reign over all His creation?  We can be sure from scripture, from history and from our own experience that He does. We can be sure that all power and glory and honor and praise belong to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then as Job did, we can surrender to what He allows to come into our lives and trust His will to be best- for His glory and for our good.

The illustration I like best to help understand this is from the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Picture God’s hands held together holding your life inside. As He protects and provides for you, any blessing or trial that comes your way must come through His hands first. What gets through to you has been allowed by Him, even if that be sin’s consequences or Satan’s schemes. And if He allows it through, it is according to His good, pleasing and perfect will.

We can be sure that God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself as Lord of all. We have seen how that happens even in life’s most difficult circumstances. His presence, His power and His peace through our trials all bring honor to Him.

A second purpose we can be sure of is His will to conform His children to the image of Christ. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). We can surrender to His sovereign hands allowing tests and trials to come our way to shape us into His image. As a potter pushes and prods his clay to conform to his beautiful plan, so does God push and prod His children to become more like His Son.

Jesus Christ demonstrated total surrender to God’s will through His death on the cross.  Knowing the great sacrifice of suffering He was near to enduring, He prayed this profound prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

The scripture goes on to tell us that an angel came to Him and “strengthened Him.” Then we learn how difficult that prayer of surrender was for Christ to pray:

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  Luke 22:44

If surrendering to God’s will was that painful for His Son, we can expect to struggle with it as well.  He understands the fight to surrender our own will for His. And He will be faithful to be near to help with the letting go. He knows that the letting go is the very best thing for us. He will give us faith to hold on for God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

Because of Christ’s surrender, we can surrender to God’s will for our lives.

        

Hope Surrenders

rappellingwomanYears ago I was asked to help lead a group of high school students for a week at a summer camp in Colorado. Our activity one afternoon was to go rappelling from up high on a cliff to the scenic canyon floor below. It was beautiful there, and I was looking forward to my first try at this. I trusted the instructor and I trusted the equipment he secured me with, or at least I think I did. But when it came to actually starting down the cliff, I was a complete failure! I could not do it at all.

Proper rappelling happens at a ninety degree angle to the cliff. You’ve probably seen pictures of this. People who rappel correctly walk, or even bounce, down perpendicular to the cliff. My problem was that I couldn’t shift my weight from my feet where I stood vertically and lay back horizontally into the ropes. There is a short moment of free fall into the strength of the ropes behind you that I just couldn’t do. I couldn’t let go. And in the end, I lost my grip and spun around, dangling with my back against the cliff, crying in defeat, until the instructor was gracious enough to pull me back up to safety at the top.

We have said that hope is the anchor we hold onto in the storms of life. We have to come to the point of trusting the strength of the rope more than our own strength. We have to surrender and let go and trust what we hope for.  That’s what I couldn’t do in rappelling- I couldn’t surrender to the strength of the rope. I couldn’t let go.

We have all sat beside a swimming pool watching children jump freely to the arms of their mommies or daddies down in the pool. They have total trust that their parent will catch them, that they have the ability to catch them, and that they want to catch them and keep them safe. Their faith gives a much better picture of surrender than my rappelling experience.

Jesus calls us to have the faith of a child. He calls us to have the free trust to surrender to Him, knowing He will keep us, He has the ability to keep us, and He wants to hold us and keep us safe. We let go and place our hope in Him, and we are free to surrender to His strength.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ we have a transfer of trust from the old to the new. We let go and surrender the old life to trust in the new life He has for us.  As in rappelling, there is a moment of “free fall” from our old self in its sinful ways to take hold of the new life filled with His Spirit. That is our point of surrender.

For most of us, the challenge of surrender is the challenge of giving up control. We love to have control of our own lives, and often the lives of others as well.  To surrender to the Lord is to surrender control to Him, and our pride often keeps that from happening.

The dictionary definition of surrender has two parts: first, to give up fighting or resisting because you know you cannot or will not win, and second, to give control to someone else. I think we do a lot of fighting, almost to the point of exhaustion, as we wrestle against giving God control of our lives. We may hang on for dear life, unable to see or accept that we cannot win. He may use a very difficult situation to make clear to us that we are not in control, and bring us to that point of surrender. At the end of our own strength and ability, we finally give control to Him.

When we give up fighting, we find peace. When we quit resisting, we can rest.  When we surrender to Him, we are surrounded by Him, and all can be well again.

I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

New Every Morning

newyearcalendar

Walk through any grocery or department store and you know right away that it’s New Year’s Resolution time, isn’t it? The front displays all relate to weight loss and home organization.  Everyone seems to be exercising more, eating less and cutting the clutter.  Admittedly, I usually jump on the resolution bandwagon, and take the opportunity to renew some healthy habits left off a few months back when life’s busy days got the best of me. And admittedly, the commitment usually trails off a few months in and we’re back to where we started.

My husband has a different perspective this time of year, and it got me thinking this week. He adamantly refuses to make any New Year’s resolutions and resists the concept entirely.  Here’s why: he says if a change is that important, then it should be that important any day of the year. It shouldn’t take a change of the calendar year to get you to do it if it’s really worth doing.

I see great value in taking the turn of the year to reflect on God’s blessings in the year gone past. And I see value in renewing a personal vision and commitment with expectation for the coming year. But I think the key may be in Chris’ thinking that this level of commitment should sustain itself throughout the year.

Maybe the opportunity to reflect and renew should be taken every morning, rather than just at year’s end.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:21-23

So maybe our New Year’s Resolution should be to make a “New Day’s Resolution” everyday.

And that new day’s resolution should start with a reflection on the LORD’s great love and compassion in the day before. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness for yesterday strengthens our trust to know He will be faithful for today. Then our response to His love, compassion and faithfulness becomes our vision and commitment for the day. We then go out to serve out of the overflow of our hearts, seeking His glory and not our own.

Our new day’s resolution may include a healthy eating and exercise plan, not to achieve body perfection, but to be better fit to serve God and others.

Our new day’s resolution may include a home organization project, not to achieve earthly praise, but to better serve our family and create order and peace in our home.

And our new day’s resolution should always include a time of prayer and Bible Study, not to check off a to-do list, but to better conform our hearts and minds to God’s will.

If you’re like me, the end of the day finds you pretty much beat. We’ve taken care of ourselves, our families (should we list all the laundry, carpools, and meals?), and our work and church responsibilities.  I love putting on cozy pajamas and climbing in my soft bed- and resting. Then, assuming no middle of the night dog or kid crisis, I awake in the morning ready to start a fresh day.

How about we try and make the refreshed start of the day a refreshed vision and commitment for serving Christ? Could we take our shower time and use it for drinking of the Living Water and letting Christ’s healing and forgiveness pour over us? Could we take our getting dressed and be reminded to put on our new self- clothed in His righteousness?

Be made new in the attitude of your minds and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:23-24

Experts agree on the value of both short- and long-term goals. Maybe there is a combination of a New Year’s Resolution that sets a bigger direction for our lives and a shorter-term daily commitment renewal that keeps us moving towards that vision in realistic achievable steps.

I pray we would begin each day renewed- with a new song in our hearts and on our lips- ready to serve the Lord with fresh commitment.  I pray we would seek a fresh vision as this new year begins- watching on high for His guiding hand. And I pray we would rest at each day’s end to praise the One who is “making everything new.” (Revelation 21:5)

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night. Psalm 92:1-2