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May 8, 2012

Delays, Disappointments, and Going Deeper

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Delays and disappointments are common to man.  However, if you are a friend of God delays and disappointments are often gifts from His hand to take us deeper and allow us to be someone through whom He can display His glory.

In John chapter eleven we see this lived out in such an extraordinary way we may miss the implications for our own lives. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends of Jesus.  They had a history and were intimate friends.  When their brother, Lazarus, became ill  they sent word to Jesus.  They knew Jesus healed, they had seen Him and they heard the testimonies.  Jesus received that word and this was His reaction,

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was.” John 11:5-6

Notice that love motivated His delay.  Love allowed the disappointment. Love allowed the death of Lazarus,  and the devastation to ultimately take them deeper and display His glory.

Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. John 11:20

Martha called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here, and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. John 11:28-29  When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:31-33 

For those of you who know Mary and Martha’s history it may surprise you that it was Martha and not Mary that instinctively and quickly made her way to Jesus. People may act in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways in crisis. When thrown in prison, the bold and fiery John the Baptist questioned the validity of the One he had previously proclaimed.  Disappointment or disillusionment in the way Jesus allows things to unfold can shake us to our core.

We read that the Jews who were with Mary were comforting her.  The word comfort literally means to “relate near.”  On some basic level just the presence of people who care about us can provide solace, but eventually they go home and we are alone.  We don’t know why Mary didn’t run to meet Jesus but I suspect she was deeply disappointed that Jesus didn’t respond in the way she thought he would. We  don’t know why she didn’t go until Martha told her that He was calling for her.  One of the simplest things we can do for the hurting is to remind them that Jesus is waiting for them to come to Him with their grief and questions.

When Mary got up her comforters presumed she was going to the tomb to weep because that is a very human response.   We visit the grave, we relive the events, we cry, we leave tributes, but I personally have never found consolation in those acts.  But I have, with countless others, reached the place where Jesus is.  It was there at His feet that Mary and Martha released their hurt and disappointment.  It was there at His feet they received a deeper revelation of who He was.  He took them beyond what they already knew.  “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Mary and Martha knew Him as healer, but He would take them deeper.  He would show them  that He  is the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Jesus shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. John 11:25-26 What a revelation, what a promise, and what an amazing Savior.

We all have our own ways of coping and making it through tough times.  Where do you go when you are wounded, disappointed, or grieving? Mary and Martha went to the place where Jesus was. We too need to get there by faith. Stand on His promise that He is near to the brokenhearted and to those who are crushed in spirit.  He will not fail you.  You may be disappointed because you know what He could have done and didn’t.  But you don’t know what He can do if you trust Him.  When He doesn’t meet our expectations He wants to exceed them.  He will work it for our good and His glory. He wants to take us deeper still. Get to the place where He is.  He is calling for you.

MY PRAYER:  Lord, whatever you allow in our lives is meant to draw us deeper into our understanding and experience of you.  Help us to run to you for the healing and comfort that we need.  Only you can bring life in the midst of brokenness, hurt, and confusion. In Your beautiful name, amen.

 

 

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Marriage and Baggage — Part 2

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Yesterday, dear readers, I opened wide my suitcase to show you two areas of baggage with which we struggle in our own marriage (Read Here, if you missed it). Today my suitcase carries a can of worms! Oh let’s just get it out on the table shall we? Here are two more areas of baggage with which we struggle:

  • PAST/ PRESENT HURTS —  When a little bird is learning to fly, the Mama bird will fly with her little one and be at-the-ready to fly right underneath, to undergird her bird in flight until that baby learns how to fly steadily. I actually watched this the other day out in a nearby field. The mama bird was watchful, intent and faithful to swoop down when needed to steady her student. So it is with our past and present hurts.  Some ground is new for us, and we need wisdom in learning how to navigate and grow strong.

 

As a couple, we are to undergird one another in their hurts–not enabling for poor behavior stemming from the hurts, no.  But standing with and beside and cheering one another on, being watchful, intent and ready.  If counsel is needed, get good godly counsel without delay.  Sometimes, we just need to shut our mouths and LISTEN without interruption. Even so, we are navigating this course together.  To be strong, we must be willing to get underneath one another as they fly, meaning we pray for them and speak encouragement and listen. {This is a topic I will touch base on more personally next week–probably two posts worth.}

  • PRIDE — Oh each one of us should have just groaned. We ALL have pride and are prideful.  It is in our fabric. Let me tell you, this kind of baggage is poisonous, if given full rein.  It will destroy your marriage and any healthy relationships you are building–tearing apart families, churches, communities and nations. Scripture tells you to take it off or put it off, like clothing. Call the attitude for what it is and throw it off. Now granted this word has been misused in our language, as it has two distinctly different flavors .  There is proud of someone for an accomplishment–that is the FOR you kind of pride.  Then there is pride and arrogance that is paired with unteachability–this is the AGAINST you kind of pride. This is the kind of which we are talking today.

Here is what we do in our marriage: when we see the other acting from pride, we tattle on them to God. We keep on tattling until we see an “invitation” with the other to discuss the behavior. When the invitation comes, we gently share that we know and understand where they are coming from, but the outworking of it is prideful, arrogant and destructive.  For instance I have said to my Chris before, “I know this person in your life is acting in a way they shouldn’t and you are feeling threatened and angered by their behavior, so you are taking this into your own hands and handling that person in a way you should not. Turn them over to God. Charge it to His account. (Philemon 18) He will be faithful to take care of it.”

As we bring our baggage to God, each weight and hindrance that it represents, He gladly TAKES it from us and carries the weight–cast your cares on Him, every single one. He invites us daily to stay in the yoke (the kind built for two and intended to plow the ground ahead) with Jesus, letting Him bear the burden of the weight.  Our only job there in that place is to go where He leads, one step at a time and one day at a time. As a couple, we let God teach us about our baggage and the layers and layers of baggage within our hearts and lives.  It isn’t a quick process, but it is one that in the long run allows us to be all that God intended for us to be and do what He has called us to do.  I will close with a verse that has marked my walk that past two years, may it arrest your attention:

“Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time–pray that our God will make you fit for what He’s called you to be, pray that He’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with His own energy, so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the Name of Jesus, He will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving Himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving Himself freely.” 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12 The Message

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Marriage and Baggage–Part 1

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A few years ago, I traveled with my friend to a weekend conference. As we were waiting for our luggage at the final stop, my very large and well-used suitcase (which had been given to us by a friend, who often traveled internationally) was coming down the luggage shoot and the handle just fell out and came first. Then came the bag.  And we laughed our heads off! Now my friend also works at a fine luggage store and said wryly, “You gotta get a new suitcase! That ain’t right.”

We ALL have baggage–whether is it packaged all nice and pretty or falling down the shoot and falling apart. The packaging really doesn’t matter so much–”controlled” junk and out of control junk is all the same junk.  Eventually the contents come pouring out over time, for any semblance of control is a facade.

Earlier this week, I spoke about how to divorce-proof your marriage.  The topic alone is a difficult one.  There are so many scenarios and situations that begin with, “But what about…?”. I know. I get that. We are all unique and created to be so.  Marriage is the marrying of two hearts and lives, but that does not equal “same lives.”   It means we have a wonderful supply of talents and abilities and a terrible lot of baggage we try to hold at bay, until it comes seeping out or pouring out in a torrent. We should celebrate and utilize those positive parts–talents and abilities. The negative parts, well, we have to face and deal with them in a healthy way.

That is my subject for today and tomorrow–dealing with the baggage. So let’s discuss today two kinds of baggage, which we may be carrying:

  • CHILDREN – No they are not baggage, and having them or not having them, wanting them and not being able to have them can all grow into some serious baggage of heart and mind. They are truly a blessing.  They do not fit into neat little packages nor do they arrive when we want them. They are often not on our schedule! But as a couple, we should discuss them openly and honestly.

If you are longing for a child in your home, the first place to begin is with one another and in prayer–seeking God one day at a time. I have been where you are–longing is hard, I know, so lift your eyes to God. He has a plan, knows your heart and is the initiator of this desire for children! So trust His plan, His way and His how. It is worth the faith you will gain, as you trust Him.

With children, sometimes they try to take the place of hierarchy in the home, which is the wife’s or husband’s.  As a couple, we must guard here. They need to know that mom and dad are a united front and there is no way they can come and usurp authority. Of course, we must tend to the children’s needs–and as babies, they need a LOT of our time and attention. This is where, as a couple, we must be proactive in spending time together and doing those activities we love to share! Model to your children the importance of united front, by showing them that while they are important and valuable, you and your spouse have time set apart that is just you. Believe me, children will try to get around the system and use many methods to divide.  Be watchful for this behavior and nip it in the bud. Love them and lead them.  Show them it is okay, even GREAT, for mom and dad to like spending time together, just as two.

  • APPEARANCE/ WEIGHT – It is completely unfair to think that we will always look the way we did back in the day. It is an unfair expectation and unrealistic.  We do not have personal beauticians, trainers and make-up artists following us around.  So if we see a movie with “so and so” and “such and such,” who (though our age) still have maintained their youthful appearance, some of it is hours and hours of hard work on their part, some is money they have to pay such people to train, brand and dress them, and some can be special effects or airbrushing. So let’s face it, while it is important to pay attention to daily hygiene and health choices, we are not going to be on film (nor is Better Homes and Gardens likely to come and do a photo spread on our homes!). We need to drop this ideal of perfection that our society is throwing at us on a daily basis.

Do your best to invest in your health for LIFE and enjoyment of life with your spouse, family and friends.  Invest.  But do not let it steal the joy from the blessings you have in your everyday imperfect, yet wonderful life! Choose daily to make good choices and let go of that standard of perfection that is daily trying to steal, kill and destroy your joy, your marriage and your peace. Spend yourself on investing in your inner self and relationship with the LORD, not spending more of your time, effort and worry on clothes and things that “re-package” your baggage. God made us in all shapes and sizes–and beauty that is real exudes from the inside of a person reflecting on the outside. Anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear and a mind that can conceive can tell you that.

Take time this afternoon and evening to pray about these two areas of baggage, which you may be carrying.  Ask God to get in your business of heart and mind–to the marrow of the motives and intentions.  Ask Him to show you how to cast the weight of your burdens upon Him.  He is faithful with each part and is not going anywhere.  He is with you every step of the way! More tomorrow…

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Bitterness

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Bitterness: a feeling of anger and resentment, caused particularly by perceived unfairness in suffering or by adverse circumstances.

Grace (in human relationships): undeserved favor or kindness, mercy, compassion and generosity. Strongly encouraged in Scripture. See examples: Ru 2:10; 2Sa 9:1-7; Acts 28:2; Gen 33:8-11; Jos 2:12; 1Sa 15:6, 24:18; 1Ki 2:7; Ps 37:25-26; Ac 4:8-10; 1Co 4:13

It seems so easy for us to become bitter. At times we don’t even know it’s happening. We just keep stuffing those unwanted feelings (that we may believe are inappropriate) way down deep inside, burying them where we hope they’ll stay in darkness and never resurface. At other times we feed our bitterness as though it were a plant or a pet. We knowingly, even purposefully, bring to mind some perceived slight, or an event that upset us or made us angry. We rerun that tape in our head, over and over again ~ and the hurt, the anger, the bitterness, grows larger and larger, until our heart begins to harden. The worst part is that whether we consciously feed the bitterness or not, it is still there, growing ~ and we run the risk of being consumed by it.

When bitterness threatens to overtake me, I must remember that I have a Lord and Savior who understands. Would it not have been exceedingly easy for Jesus to feel bitterness toward those whose desire was to harm him? And those who crucified him? And what about Peter, who, in just a matter of hours after telling Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37) denied and disowned Jesus three times ~ on the day of Jesus’ death by crucifixion, no less!?

Jesus was not bitter ~ after His resurrection from the grave He even restored Peter and commanded Peter to feed His sheep (teach about Jesus).

God’s Word tells us,

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4: 31-32

 

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~ Hebrews 12: 14-15

Extending grace to someone who has hurt me is not easy. At times it seems a difficult and almost impossible task. It’s work. Too often it’s work I don’t want to do. But it is necessary. That root of bitterness will never be dug up, eradicated, killed, and not allowed to grow or possibly even consume me unless I willingly do the work.

Jesus already did the most difficult work of all ~ He died, and rose again, that I, that we, may have eternal life with and in Him!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins……But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1, 4-7 (emphasis mine)

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I Know…

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Since Thanksgiving, my hair has been falling out–in large amounts and daily. One day I had showered and cleaned the drain once more. With a pile of hair in my hand, I walked to the trash can, frowning. I distinctly heard the voice of God saying to my heart…

I still know the number of hairs on your head.

This past weekend, I drove far out of my way through snowy and icy roads.  It was so beautiful!  I was so scared, as I white-knuckle drove through each curve of the road. It ended in disappointment, as my destination all of a sudden changed. Downcast of soul, I asked God, “WHY?” He said…

I know the way that you take and when you come forth, it shall be as gold.

Sunday night I received a call from a family member…only thing was they didn’t know they were calling me, didn’t recognize my voice, didn’t know my home number (even after 5 1/2 years). To them, I am a stranger. It deeply hurt my heart. For we all want to be known–especially by those, with whom we long to be close.

God spoke once again…

I know your number, Holly.

He knows me.

He loves me.

I am valuable to Him.

I am known by the Lover of my soul, Creator of my life and the One who holds each day in His hands with care–by Jesus.

Perhaps this post comes to you on a day, you feel unknown, unloved, rejected, thrown out like so much trash…

Perhaps you feel that God only speaks to some, but not to you…

I charge you to come to Him with your hurts, with your concerns, with your distress of soul. He says to you…

COME.

Then charge each thing to His account, as my dear friend Amy has taught me. Speak it.  (“If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”  Philemon 18)

Then let Him tend to your soul in the way ONLY He can.  You will find that the Author of language longs to speak your language to you…look for Him to meet you.  He may allow the hurtful things to happen, the disappointments, the losses, but He will also lovingly meet you right where you are. He loves you with an everlasting love and draws you with loving-kindness. Receive that from Him. Give Him thanks for who He is…Jesus is with you. Immanuel.

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