Friday, February 24, 2017

Shine Brightly

Exodus 34:29-30, 33-35New Living Translation (NLT)
29 When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord. 30 So when Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him.
33 When Moses finished speaking with them, he covered his face with a veil. 34 But whenever he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he would remove the veil until he came out again. Then he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, 35 and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face. So he would put the veil over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.

Mark 4:21New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.
Philippians 2:15bNew Living Translation (NLT)
15 Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Isaiah 58:10New Living Translation (NLT)

10 Feed the hungry,
    and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

Isaiah 60:1-3, 5, 19-20New Living Translation (NLT)
60 “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
All nations will come to your light;
    mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
Your eyes will shine,
    and your heart will thrill with joy,
for merchants from around the world will come to you.
    They will bring you the wealth of many lands.
19 “No longer will you need the sun to shine by day,
    nor the moon to give its light by night,
for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set;
    your moon will not go down.
For the Lord will be your everlasting light.
    Your days of mourning will come to an end.

First of all, I will not apologize for all the scripture for this post. God's Word speaks better than I ever can, so I hope that you will take the time to look these scriptures up for yourselves in your own Bibles in your own preferred translations and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them as well.

Secondly, as I've mentioned to you before, we're studying Priscilla Shirer's Bible Study Armor of God. It was during the study of the Helmet of Salvation that the Lord showed me that we are meant to shine--just as Moses' face glowed so brightly that he had to wear a veil, so are we meant to glow so brightly that we have to wear a veil (a helmet) so that those who see us won't be afraid!!! Moses' veil helped lessen the glow from his face after spending time with God; our helmet of salvation is a way for us to help lessen our own inner glow after spending time with God!

Our walk with God is not meant to scare anyone, especially non-believers. We are meant to draw unbelievers to Christ, to show Christ--the love of Christ--to the unsaved. When we are over-bearing or do things in our zealous joy and excitement for Him, we can scare off unbelievers. I know that I have joked over the years that I do NOT need alcohol to let loose and have fun. I can and do often get very silly and foolishly full of the JOY of the Lord. I don't mean to scare people with my JOY, but I know that there are those who can find it a bit overwhelming.

When I have on my full armor, though, God can take my overwhelming JOY and use it for His glory--to dull it just enough that it doesn't scare off unbelievers, but so that it draws unbelievers to Him. I don't demonstrate the full JOY of the Lord because I want others to notice me or give me attention; I do it because my JOY truly does come from His anointing. His anointing oil of JOY is the ONLY way I am able to have full JOY in Him.

If it was up to me, if I had to function on my own without God, I can promise you that I would be curled up into a ball on my couch, comfortingly snuggled deep inside my blankets, never to come out. And that would be on a good day. But because my wonderful God anointed me with His oil of JOY and because He alone has taken the ashes of my life and made something beautiful and because He alone has turned my mourning into JOY, I am able to shine brightly for Him.

"Radiant with Joy"--isn't that an amazing phrase?! When we look to our Lord for help, we will be RADIANT with [His] JOY!!! Radiant JOY! Isn't that wonderful?! I will shine brightly with JOY for Him when I look to Him for help! Shine brightly! Radiant with JOY!!! May I ever be Radiant with [His] JOY!!!

I will never hide my light under a basket. I will always do my very best to shine brightly for Him--to bring light to those living in darkness--because He Himself has taken ME out of the darkness and brought me into the fullness of His shining Light. For that, I will forever be eternally grateful. What other option do I have than to be one whose light shines so brightly that God has to lessen it by putting a veil (or a helmet) over my face!


Sunday, February 19, 2017

No matter the age, child loss is NEVER easy

A close friend of my family lost her grandson over the weekend. He was only 25 years old. Yes, the loss is tragic and horrific. He was the only child of his parents, but one of approximately 7 grandchildren for my friend. 

In spite of the fact that I have lost children myself, I still find it difficult knowing what to say or how to offer comfort to my friend and her family. Hugs simply don't seem to be enough. I know that words right now really aren't as much comfort because so many words can be accidentally hurtful and that is the worst thing we as friends, family, and loved ones can do for those grieving so heavily. 

I know this is how my friends, family, and loved ones felt with each
of my losses, but this time, I'm on that side, too, and I simply feel useless. I know that my friend and her daughter's family are believers, but I also know that as a believer myself, even words of scripture from well-meaning, well-intentioned loved ones could pierce my heart like a sword and make room for the enemy to creep in--to pull me ever deeper into depression and anxiety.

Think of Job's friends and how they spouted scripture at Job and reminded him of things of God, but in the end, only Job was found righteous by God. God even had Job sacrifice and pray for his friends to be forgiven because of their unbelief and lack of true concern and understanding of Job's situation. The best thing Job's friends did for him was sit with him in the early days and grieved with him.

I know it's not much. I know it feels as if we are completely useless if all we do is BE there, but it truly is all many going through the very earliest stages of grief need---or can handle. They don't know how to do handle the wave of emotions that explode through them, so we can't possibly expect ourselves to know any better how to handle things or what to do. Telling a grieving mother that God only gives us what we can handle is a lie from the pits of hell because that mother most certainly has more than she can handle as she lays the body of her beloved child in the cold, hard dirt. 

My heart is broken for my beloved friend and her family. I offer each and every family member and loved one up in prayer and ask God to provide the comfort and peace that passes all understanding that only He can provide. If we're going to mess up when helping our loved ones through their grieving, I pray that we err on the side of LOVE.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Even if He doesn't...

Daniel 3:18

But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

It recently struck me as quite powerful the opening clause to Daniel 3:18: "But even if he doesn't....." Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego had two options: 1. bow to the golden idol King Nebuchadnezzar had made or 2. be thrown into a fiery furnace and die a horrific death. I am not so sure in their situation or even similar circumstances that I would be able to refuse to bow down to an idol with my only option for not doing so is what I consider one of the worst possible ways to die. ("Some say fire...some say ice..."--yeah, ice--for me, please.)

Even with those two options facing them, the 3 men stood firm in their faith and belief in their God. They even had the audacity to tell King Nebuchadnezzar that "even if" their God did not save them from the fiery furnace, the "will NEVER serve [his] gods or worship the gold statue [he had] set up." Do you get the picture here? These three lowly men told the KING, emphatically, "NO!" Say what?! They DARED to refuse the KING himself?!

Yep. And in doing so, they made a conscious choice to die by fire. I don't know how much you know or how much you have thought about death by fire, but based on my knowledge and understanding, those who die by fire die VERY slowly and feel every bit of the horrific pain of the fire as it SLOWLY consumes them.

I cry and moan in pain when I burn my finger on the stove! I don't even want to begin to imagine what it must be like to die such a slow and horrific death as that.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed that God would save them, "BUT EVEN IF HE DID NOT," they would not do the awful, terrible thing King Nebuchadnezzar ORDERED them to do. Wow. That is TRUE faith.

Even if God did not save them from a death more horrific than any death I can imagine (ok, I can imagine other horrific deaths, but fire is definitely at the top of the list), they refused to bow down. Even if God allowed them to burn slowly, painfully, they refused to bow down. Even if God did not show up, they refused to bow down. Even if....


It makes me wonder if my own faith is that strong.

Would I have quit taking the pill "even if" I had known what was going to happen with my first pregnancy?

Would I have accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior all those many years ago "even if" I had known what my future held?

Would I have purposely chosen to be a pastor's wife "even if" I had known back then all that came with such a responsibility?

I am not sure that I can 100% that I would have stood firm in my salvation throughout my younger years if I had known what was coming in my future. I can not say that I would have jumped blindly into what I believed with every fiber of my being that God wanted of me "even if" I had known that one day I would lose an ovary and part of my fallopian tube while 20 weeks pregnant...that I would have a stillbirth...a miscarriage....a difficult pregnancy with a live birth....another miscarriage....a life and death situation with two life-saving surgeries....more female problems that resulted in completely destroying any dream I may still have had regarding having more children...."even if" I had known that my husband and I would go through a period of time where I honestly and truly hated him...."even if" I had known that I would struggle at various points in my life to hold down a job..."even if" I had known that I would lose a number of close friends over the years.....

Proverbs 24:10 says that if I faint in the day of adversity, my strength (faith) is small (KJV). Is my strength small because I am not so sure that I can say, as these 3 men did, "even if God doesn't"? Based on what the Bible says, yes, my strength is small.

But do you know what?! My Bible also says that when I am weak--when I have no strength--that My Jesus IS my strength--when I am weak, He IS STRONG:

Isaiah 40:29, "He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless."

1 Corinthians 4:10, "Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed."

2 Corinthians 12:9, "Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."

2 Corinthians 12:10, "That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Ain't our God GOOD?! Thank You, Lord, that when I am WEAK, YOU ARE STRONG! Help me, Lord, be able to live out "but even if he doesn't" in my everyday walk with You.

Since I first posted this blog entry, two songs have come to my attention that fit this theme perfectly. Enjoy.

"Even If" by MercyMe

"Thy Will be Done" by Hillary Scott & the Scott Family

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What does the Lord want me to learn regarding GENTLENESS?

In the past few weeks, the Lord has put the word "Gentleness" "in my face," so to speak, at least 3 different times. One was the journal post (see below "Faith Writes" from my Facebook group "Praise Prompts") and another was a journal prompt from Margaret Feinberg's newest devotional Flourish. There has been a 3rd, but at this moment, I can't remember the circumstances that brought it my mind.

Anyway, as I have been answering and responding to these prompts, obviously I became very aware of the fact that "gentleness" has kept popping up. As someone who has studied JOY for years and who continues to study JOY, and who determined at the end of 2016 that the Lord was giving me "Lion" for my 2017 word, it continues to puzzle me as to why "gentleness" has suddenly become something the Lord keeps laying on my heart. 

I honestly do feel as if I can give myself a 7 or 8 out of 10 on a "gentleness scale." I feel like I try to be gentle and loving to all around me. I have moments, as anyone does, when I lose my temper and roar like a lion a little, but I still feel that I can say that I am more gentle than not. 

The definition of "gentleness," straight from is:
kindly; amiable: a gentle manner.
not severe, rough, or violent; mild: a gentle wind; a gentle tap oon the shoulder.

I feel like I'm kindly and amiable--gentle in manner--with those around me. Yes, I can get really sarcastic and snarky, but it's all in good fun...isn't it???

I don't think I'm severe, rough, or violent. Again, I am quite often pretty sarcastic, but I honestly don't believe that being sarcastic makes me severe, rough, or violent. When students need me--need my help on an assignment or anything, really, I do everything in my power to work with them and to be as kind as I can possibly be--without letting them make excuses or get away with not doing the work. I try to discuss a fair compromise so that the student benefits--but I don't get stuck trying to show favoritism or even being "severe."

So then, why is God putting "gentleness" in my heart lately? What is He trying to tell me? To teach me? To show me? To get me to do? Or be? In all honesty, I'm struggling with this one. If you know me and have any thoughts or would like to join me in prayer regarding my discovering what God wants me to understand when it comes to "gentleness," I invite your thoughts, ideas, and especially your prayers.

Faith Writes
Word:  Gentleness
You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. ~ 1 Peter 3:4
1 Peter 3:4New Living Translation (NLT)
You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

1.              How would you rate your level of gentleness? I have never thought about gentleness in terms of “rating my level of” it. Hmmmmmm. I suppose that if I would rate my level of gentleness on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most gentle and 1 being least gentle, I’d have to give myself around 7 or 8. In recent years, I have dealt with extreme rage and I am still working on giving that to God and not getting overly worked up. I’m better than I was even just a year ago, but it’s still something that can rear its ugly head if I don’t stay in the Word or seeking Him every single day.
2.              How do others see you?  How would they describe you? I think that others see me as very gentle, at least my students do. Those who know me best and who are around me outside the classroom are very aware of how easily I can lose my temper. But I think they are all also aware of the fact that I have come a long way and I am much more gentle now than I’ve ever been. I know they receive a lot more hugs than they used to!!!! ;)

Technique:  5 Minute Sprint
Write for 5 minutes about the word Gentleness.  Write continuously without stopping.
Gentleness: I’ve honestly never given the word “gentleness” much thought beyond using it casually in conversation and/or in writing. I know that of the several times I have been in the hospital, the gentleness and loving care of my doctors, nurses, CNAs, etc. have all gone a long way in helping keep me calm during each procedure/surgery. While every single care giver has always been very gentle and quite wonderful, I have to say that the male nurses in particular have always been the most gentle. I don’t know if their instructors spend time teaching them that they have to be aware of the fact that they are much stronger than they may realize and how to have such a gentle touch, but I have been highly impressed with the gentleness of the male nurses I have had. This last time I was in the hospital (I had my gall bladder removed), the first nurse I had in recovery—as soon as I woke up from surgery—was not as nice as I have been used to. She wasn’t mean, but when I started crying and just wanted someone to hold my hand for a moment, she told me to calm down, I was alright, and that she had two patients to take care of—she didn’t have time to hold my hand. Thankfully I was too drugged still and under the effects of the anesthesia to allow her words or her tone to sink in too deep, but it is interesting to note that even more than a month later, I still remember her lack of gentleness and compassion with me. I have had a large number of amazingly gentle and compassionate nurses and others in the health care field, but that one nurse just really hurt my feelings. All I wanted was for someone to hold my hand for just a moment while I woke up and calmed down.
Evaluate:  Write one or two sentences that sum up what you have discovered after completing your sprint and questions.
No matter how gentle the majority of people are around us, it only takes one non-gentle person to make me feel less than. I need to keep reminding myself of all the wonderful health care individuals who have cared for me with amazing gentleness and tender loving care.
-        The nurse immediately after waking up from my first D&C who held my hand and shared her own story of loss and crooned soft words of comfort to me until I quit crying.
-        Every single person who came to my son’s funeral—the gentleness and care of their hugs and loving kindness still makes my heart feel full to bursting.
-        The care and gentleness of everyone involved when we lost our firstborn to stillbirth. Since I still go to the doctor who delivered our precious James Isaac, clearly he and his team were gentleness personified.
While I have never really taken time to think carefully about gentleness beyond using it casually in conversation or writing, it is clear that gentleness is something I find very important in the people around me—especially in those who care for me—in the health-care field as well as my loved ones.