Hope in??

2016 August canoeing Crescent LakeHope matters. Exactly, what are we hoping in?

Tomorrow, I will undergo labwork, lung CT, and PFT (pulmonary function testing) to see if there is progression with my ILD (interstial lung disease). I keep thinking about how hard the “unknowns” are with this HP (hypersensitivity pneumonitis). I can’t “see” my lung disease. I can feel the effects, but I can’t see what is actually going on. So, for me, those days of testing are days that let me “see” into my lungs. I have little control with this disease, but the information helps John & I take the next steps. So, looking on the positive side, the metrics help us to know what action needs to come next. Of course, I will readily admit that I am afraid of disappointment, but without the metrics we cannot possibly know what to do next. So, tomorrow I will do the testings and hopefully gain clarification. I won’t gain control. I only get more wisdom & clarification, so that I will be more informed in order to make good decisions. Being nervous is normal because it is hard to be without control. But, the up side is the information that helps us to know how to manage our care better. I am sorry this is so long, but fear is a such a hard topic, and I think a lot of anxiety is due to the lack of control. It is hard to not have control over one’s body.

2016 August Bridge over Devil's Punch Bowl, Crescent Lake

But, I have a greater HOPE…

“‘But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’
‘If You can?’ echoed Jesus. ‘All things are possible to him who believes!’
Immediately the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!'”
Jesus asks the father to trust him as the sole resource, to relinquish the desire for control. Jesus also asks for me to trust him as the sole resource, to relinquish the desire to control the outcomes, to surrender the very thing that distances me from His heart of love. He asks me to run into the arms of compassion! Interestingly, Jesus didn’t heal the guy’s kid until he dealt with the father’s heart. So, Jesus again, by His Spirit, has been graciously revealing my own heart to me. My heart has so softened. I marvel at how Jesus healed generously. Jesus healed many, many people. Many of those people didn’t love Jesus, but He healed them out of compassion. My own heart has been shown afresh the compassion of Christ, and I want to run hard into those arms of compassion. If Jesus would heal people who didn’t believe in him, didn’t love him, will he not show the same compassion and more for his pitiful child? He wants me to trust him as my only resource, my only hope, my only life. I can give him my fears. It is safe to trust him. I don’t have to know the outcome. I don’t have to “do it just perfect.” I just need to run into His arms.

2016 August Crescent Lake

So, once again, my wayward heart has been changed by his mercy. Tomorrow is a good day, because I trust Jesus to love me. This is my hope! Whatever the outcome, I trust the heart of Jesus, the plan of God for my life, and the wise Spirit of God to help me each step of this journey.  This indeed is a solid anchor my for my hope; and because the love of God has been generously poured into my heart, I have no fear.

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Live a Life of Love

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Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Live a life of love.  It almost sounds easy.  It offers a warm and inviting, harmonious fix to our relational problems.

Why then would I want to live my life more selfishly? Real life loving requires strength that I don’t have, if I am honest.
Am I really taking to heart the life of Jesus and the instructions to imitate His life of love? He lived love.  If our wonderful Lord Jesus gave up his “rights” to reconcile me back to God, someone that did not deserve such mercy, why wouldn’t I want to be transformed to have this same sacrificial mind and heart?  Christ Jesus is the maker of all things; nothing exists without Him.  He is the Son of God, and He alone stands preeminent above every other power or authority.  And, yet, Jesus did not choose to live for Himself or grasp at the “God” rights.  His love was a giving, extravagant kind of love.

The very sad reason I chafe at living a sacrificial life of love is that I default easily to loving myself more, more than Jesus, and more than the people around me. I want easy comfort.  I don’t like relational messiness.  I don’t want to give sacrificially and extravagantly like Jesus did for me.  I often set standards that must be met before I will love freely.  I live like love should have to be earned.  But, I don’t know any of these perfect people.  Life can get really messy.  The person I want to love has weaknesses and failures.  I am ashamed that often I demand so much from others, which seems especially terribly when I have been given the truest love generously and without a price tag.  pleasing-fragrance-grace-god-ephesians-5-2I have this ongoing need to have these self-centric desires removed and to return again and again to my first love, Jesus–every single day.  So, that out of the joy of His love for me, the comfort of never being abandoned by Him ever, the confidence of every spiritual gift given to me to fulfill His purposes for me, and the resurrection power of His living Spirit working in me, I will have a quiet heart to do His will and live a life of love to Christ first above all, as well as in my relationships. I am dependent on Jesus to love like He loves. When it is easy and also when it is hard, my strength will come from Him as I live in Him and for Him. I could never live a life of love without the presence and power of Christ living in me, and gloriously that is exactly what is offered through His triumphant and generous grace.
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Where is My Heart Home?

10437336_886594004696690_560646586782056199_nI have been thinking a lot about “home” lately.  If the hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) which I have been diagnosed with does not go into remission, my pulmonologist believes that it would be wise for my husband and I to move from Oregon where everything stays wet and creates a prime habitat for my HP triggers to grow (aspergillus and aureobasidium pullulans.)  I was surprised at how sad his medical advice made me.  Of course, I don’t want to move away from my sons who currently attend college here.  But, I also don’t want to leave my beautiful new home or my beloved church family, either. My husband has worked for a biomedical company for twenty years, and it has been a good fit for him; so, moving would mean starting over with a new company. Only a few years from retirement, this doesn’t really sound like fun.  I realized, though, that “home” to me actually represented relationships, security, and easy comfort.  My heart is being tested to see if I will trust my good Father God to orchestrate my life with perfect wisdom and then to  happily rest in His faithful goodness come what may.  I am thankful that God has renewed my heart making it ready to release these lower loves if asked.  My eyes are fixed on Jesus and my desire is to steadfastly love Jesus more than all other lower loves, even the ones that are considered worthy ones.

Jesus is the joy of my heart’s desiring; and the more I know Him,  the quieter my heart becomes in His sweet love — He is my “heart home.”

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” – Corrie ten Boom

“You will never know the fullness of Christ until you know the emptiness of everything but Christ.” – Spurgeon

All Things: From,Through, and For Him

God was wisely sovereign when I heard the words on my birthday, “Your chest x-ray is abnormal.”  I had already been struggling with debilitating vision.  Now, I was being told that my lungs were being damaged by an overactive immune system which was attacking this much needed organ for breathing.  Over the last three years I have been struggling with unexpected and weird, even rare, health issues.   And, yet, I am being cared for with a sovereign wisdom that is perfect.  I don’t have to understand the why or know what will happen next; I just need to know my God, for then I will most happily trust and rest in His active care.

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God’s ways are inscrutable, because, honestly, I cannot even come close to knowing what the right questions should be to ask. God surveys all time in one gaze. He knows and sees everything, all at once, all the time. I can’t even begin to go there. I remember some of my past. For, today, well, I am here in the moment. And I have no ability to tell you what is going to happen next, because I frankly don’t know; and even what I suspect might happen doesn’t necessarily mean it will. Not so with God. He is beyond time. He is present in all time. And He controls the minutiae of every day in the universe as well as the invisible world beyond that which we can perceive. There is so much I just don’t know! How can I even begin to control what I can’t understand?


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Not only is God wisely sovereign over everything, but He is also dedicated to completing His work in me; so that I am made able to finish the works that He Himself ordained for me to do (Philippians 1:6).  I am confident that I will not have one unfinished task, because of His divine promises to me, His faithful love over me and His power to accomplish what He says He will do. God is able and trustworthy, so I am assured that He will complete everything concerning me.  When I actively believe these truths about my God, it makes me happy and at peace in and with my God, even smack dab in the middle of difficult days.  God always acts in a way that is beautiful and above reproach, and He is laying up His goodness for those who trust in Him.  “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19).   The apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Thessalonica sharing how he prays for them, “…that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” Paul writes in another letter, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  So, if God is for me, then I am being held by the safest, strongest, and most worthy hands.


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Who I am and whatever I possess originates with God.  I didn’t create me.  I didn’t decide when I wanted to be born, or where, or into which family.  I have absolutely nothing to do with my existence.  Which is kind of crazy to wrap your mind around, because when things go wrong in our lives it is common to feel that you deserve a bit better in your life.  But, I don’t even exist on my own.  The breath in my lungs doesn’t originate inside of me.  God is generously giving you and me every breath.  It is all from God.  So, when I think about the good life plans ordained for me by God, and more specifically the tasks He has ordained for me to do, I must consider that none of which I was created do comes from me.  Everything comes from God.  It always starts and ends with God.  Even when I do the things I was designed by God to do, I am only giving back to Him what belongs to Him anyway.  God is not any richer by my giving to Him.  God is not needing anything that I can do for Him.  It is similar to a child giving a birthday present to their parent which they purchased with their parent’s money!  My behavior and good gifts will never put God into my debt; everything always comes from Him!  All glory, honor and power belongs to Him.  

Doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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(All images used are believed to be in the public domain.)

Once and Forever: the solution for not being “good enough”

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The ancient people of God were bound by the law.  Daily, it screamed out their failures in unbiased, unrelenting terms.  The law was perfect and pure.  It revealed wisdom.  Although the law was good in every part, the human heart defaulted to self reliance every time.  And so the law was broken over and over again.

Heart proud, the people were distanced from what their heart needed most–God’s presence and power.  (photo credit: ravenwhimsey)

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Every day this constant need for reconciliation was met at an altar.  Every day the heart was reminded, for each day brought a new need for reconciliation.  Continually needy, the ancient Israeli priests would begin afresh the work of mediation between God and His people.

The High Priest
The rites of purification had been completed.  The man’s wrinkled skin had been scrubbed clean in strict rituals.  The old man had been a priest for many years, and the rules had remained constant and rigid, never changing at the break of dawn.  The separation between God and the people remained fixed, for there was never enough soap to cleanse away their inherent disunion with complete holiness.  The distance between the people and their God was so vast that there would not be a way to reach the other side at all had not God El Elyon (God Most High) become God Yahweh (a personal, covenant-making God) intiating a covenant with his people that provided access.BALT9F  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11.  Yahweh had made a way for His people to have a personal relationship with Himself through the blood of an atoning sacrifice.  Their brokenness and bent toward sin made a daily sweet fragrance of sacrifice an ever-attending need; so, atonement, a perpetual sacrifice for their constant need, was a constant “must have” for the people of God.

There were daily sacrifices, special one-time sacrifices, and then there was the special Day of Atonement. On that one day, a chosen high priest would enter behind the enormous veil that separated the people of God from their holy God to make atonement for the people’s sin.HP1  The high priest entered the Holy of Holies robed in priestly garments: bearing the weighty ephod of gold upon his shoulders representing the government of his people; the beautiful ephod, woven in blue linen threads,  which covered his heart, bejeweled with precious gems, representing each of the tribes of Israel; the breastplate of judgment, the Urim and the Thummin,  lay weighing against his heart representing the verdicts of acceptance or rejection; the sash girding his waist reminding him that he came to serve.  The entire costume was both physically and symbolically heavy.  The Law prescribed every detail; and access to God demanded a strict adherence to the code, every detail whispering that these were garments of holiness to be worn by the mediator.

Now it was time for the priest to enter behind the thick veil of the Holy of Holies and make atonement for the peoples’ sin.  The priest’s heart trembled. The circle of high priest’s garments were adorned with embroidered blue, purple and scarlet pomegranates with little golden bells stitched between, 33bec4402072917157ba3c8e7792f670and he purposefully listened for the tinkling bells circling the skirt of his robe as he walked toward the veil.  The musical sounds would be the only indication to the rest of the people as they waited for him that God had kept His covenant with them when he sprinkled the blood on the Altar.  Let the musical bells sound in worshipful praise; for if the blood did not provide acceptable access to God, the priest would die during the sprinkling of the blood offering.

Walking through the tabernacle courtyard, the old man’s eyes lifted to the flickering flame of the almond blossom cups branching off the hammered, pure gold lampstand.   His heart was raised in hope knowing that this constant flame was a visual reminder to assure them of God’s presence among them.  God had given them so many reminders. Each part of his day as a priest was filled with reminders of a God who desired to be known and loved by His people.  Tabernacle05-06

Born broken in sin, bent toward self-reliance, the priest marveled at the visual, repeated reminders of their need for God’s presence and power.  Though ritualistically purified, the old man approached near to the bronze basin of water to cleanse his hands and feet yet once again.  LAVER9SHe watched as the water splashed from his hands; so many washings, yet he was never holy.  God was so very separate from them, and God’s brilliant holiness was once again on the old man’s mind.  The chasm between man and God was wider than any earthly canyon; and yet, he mused, God remembered his people and provided a way of access to Himself.  Still, he trembled knowing that these offerings for atonement were continual, for none of the people, including himself, could ever stop sinning.  The cavernous gulf between God and his people never closed, for their perpetual unrighteousness seperated them from the glorious, shining worthiness of a completely holy God.

He waited as the anointing oil was administered covering his body, again for purification.  Again and again, the message was clear:  I am holy; you are an unclean people.  Everything was designed to remind them of their constant need for God’s presence and power, and their inability to gain it own their own.  
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The aroma of incense flowed upward filling his nostrils.  The incense was also always perpetually burning reminding them of their constant need for intercession with God.  The incense of the altar was never to go out; they were visually instructed as to how much the people desperately needed their God.

Constant need.  Each step toward the Holy of Holies reminded him of how much he needed God to give him access.  Every ritual reminded him of how he could not enjoy God’s presence without God making a way.  He was still dirty and would keep being dirty.  Only the acceptance of the atoning sacrifice would give him access to God and forgiveness of the transgressions against their holy and just God.  Healing of their sins would require the spilling of blood from an unblemished sacrifice.  His heart ached.  How he longed for complete deliverance from this body of death.  The sacrifices were never enough.  The work of the priest was never done.  No one was ever good enough.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take aways sins.  Therefore, when He came into world, He said:  ‘Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come-in the volume of the book it is written of Me-to do your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:4-10.  

The ritualistic symbols and priestly duties were only a foreshadowing of God’s plan for a better mediator.  No bleeding bull could take down a proud heart.  No precious baby lamb, no matter how wonderfully unblemished,  would forever change the bent of a rebellious heart.  No the only way to sanctify the heart was to give the owner a new one!  The only way to take away the hard rock heart and inscribe righteousness on a living, breathing heart was to give new life.  The old covenant was made obsolete, because of the weakness of our flesh.  The Law was good and without fault, but we were the messed up ones who could not keep it.  A new covenant was offered that would abolish the old one.  This time the offering would be a final propitiation for sin.  However, it would be very, very different this time.  The real body of a man would be offered, an earthly life lived just as we live, tempted, but never sinning.  A life lived in complete obedience fulfilling all righteousness 24/7.  The unthinkable would take place–this sinless life would be made to be sinso that a final, forever atonement could be made and all of the holiness could be given to the sinner!  There is only one man that could fulfill all of the requirements, and He is the Son of God.  So, God, did the unthinkable.  Yahweh kept covenant faithfulness and steadfast love with His people by sending His one and only perfect Son to reconcile us back to Himself through a new and living covenant of grace.  God gave His Son; the Son gave His life; and the Holy Spirit was given as the seal of this new covenant of redemption.  “It is finished!”  cries powerfully of this unbelievable reconciliation accomplished by the death of the Son of God.

It is the new covenant of Christ’s own blood that washes me, so that I am no longer defiled.  I will not get dirty again.  No more washings.  When I come before God, I confess my sins.  I claim my unworthiness, attesting to the fact that I will never, never be “good enough.”  All of my sins, past, current, and those I will still wrongfully do are covered by the atoning blood of Christ.  The judgment of God rejected Jesus on the cross blackening the sky, and the Lamb of God took all of my rightful condemnation and bled out; and yet God saw the righteous blood and was pleased to accept atonement in full.  We know this because death was not the final word.  The thick veil covering the Holy of Holies was dramatically torn from top to bottom opening the way to God’s presence.  Death did not hold the Son of God, but He had the authority over death and was raised the third day just as He proclaimed it would be.  I am now clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and every time I choose to enter into his Presence and Power, I have the victory of resurrection grace.  There is a way across that  cavernous gulf between God and his people.  Because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, nothing can separate His people from His love or from the glorious, shining worthiness of a completely holy God.  Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, our perfect mediator, forever interceding on our account; and now there is no need for anything more. “But Christ, because he lives for ever, possessses a priesthood that needs no successor.  This means that he can save fully and completely those who approach God through him, for he is always living to interced on their behalf.  Here is the High Priest we need.  A man who is holy, faultless, unstained, beyond the very reach of sin and lifted to the very Heavens.  There is no need for him, like the High Priest we know, to offer up sacrifice, first for our own sins and then for the people’s.  He made one sacrifice, once for all, when he offered himself.” Hebrews 7:24-27.

Once for all, the constant need for a clean heart has been satisfied.  Our hearts are no longer distanced from what the heart needs most–God’s presence and power. Hang onto this sure hope, “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22).  Our hearts are happy and we bring a daily sacrifice of praise to Jesus, for there is no more distance between us.

              Our constant need has been satisfied once and forever in Christ’s life.
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Truth to Hang Onto on Difficult Days

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This morning the spring winds were especially blustery.  As unseen winds pushed up against my house, eerie howls encircled the windows of my home leaking in creepy noises.  I heard strange thumps and groaning creaks as the house bemoaned the gusty punches.17854851_1401467119876040_4599875741995813320_o In our front yard, a large limb from our street tree snapped under the pressure and fell hard to the ground.  My neighbor’s children were playing basketball outside next to it when it happened.  I am extremely grateful that none of those precious kiddoes were harmed!  I am writing with a grateful heart this morning and have an unexpected desire to hug those little people.  But, it also reminds me that the breaking of the limb evidences the strength of the wind, that though unseen, it still can damage what is not strong enough to endure the persistent pressure.  

In the same way, the persistent pressure from life’s turbulent stresses can cause us to bend and even break, to fall hard, and to realize real damage to our souls.  If I don’t have a strong root in truth, my weaknesses will succumb to the blustery beatings.  On those difficult days, what can I hang onto?  What is the truth that cannot be shaken?

In one of his letters, Paul addresses the problems of life and how to continue faithfully through them.  Here is what he wrote:
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Okay, when I am experiencing the strong winds of difficulty, what is the truth that firmly holds and keeps me unmoved?  What can I rely on?  I need to know and understand God’s heart toward me, so I have taken the same Pauline words and re-written them using my own words striving to understand how this applies to my everyday real life.  God’s Word tells me that I can know and believe that I will experience trials and testings that are common to the human experience.  None of my trials are a special exception, but are just normal like everyone else’s.  But, I need to know this, my God is faithful; so, I can trust Him.  My God sovereignly rules and will impose boundaries on my trials, so that I will not be tested above and beyond what is right (even though it may not feel like it, this is the still the truth.)  I also need to know that God promises to provide a way out of the trial with His help, so that I am able to walk in faithful obedience while enduring the stormy, gale-force pressures and difficulties I will encounter again and again.

This is truth that cannot be shaken no matter how fierce the winds blow!  Matt Chandler speaks about the good news of the gospel applied to trials in this way:

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is regardless of our circumstances, we get God, and he’ll be enough. On the day of trouble, we’ll cry out, and we will hear, “Here I am.” When marriage is difficult, and we cry out, we will hear, “Here I am.” On the day the doctor says, “Can you come in? We need to talk,” we will hear as we cry out to God, “Here I am.”

He will not abandon. He will not quit, and he will not cut out his children. He is ever present, ever chasing, ever hoping, ever putting his Holy Spirit’s power into us to sustain us and hold us up regardless of life’s circumstances. This is how he blesses those who are saturated in grace. He is present. He is enough.

So, when the difficult days come-and they will-remember the faithfulness of our Father and the ever present nearness of our wonderful Jesus, and the resurrection grace and power granted to us by our Helper, the Holy Spirit, and do not be shaken.  Let the Word of truth be a deep root to secure your faith in Christ.

Alive in You

2f5648382740548387acff1d05daa755 (1)Dear Jesus, I love you. I can’t do life without you.  There are so many times that I am enticed to handle life on my own and end up in a sinful mess.  Forgive me for not living the miracle of new life through you.  I confess that I present myself to serve my own sinful desires instead of you.  Forgive me and cleanse me from the sin that so easily entangles me.  I am sorry and grieved for my sin.

Sometimes I feel disempowered and unjustly treated in political arenas, business contracts, etc. …
Often I struggle with knowing I am loved by others…
Or other days I feel criticized for what I consider good, and I can’t see the “kernel of truth” in the message…
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No matter the temptation to handle life on my own, be near me.  Remind me through your Holy Spirit that I am crucified with you (I am dead, “powerless”) and my “old life” has been rendered inoperative.  I died with you on that day on the cross, but I also was resurrected with you, Jesus.  d674ba538084102ec3cd7918106f6d34 - CopyI am alive in you, Jesus, and have been given a new heart, a new life; and I am filled with the power of your Spirit within enabling me to do whatever you ask of me.

Let me learn of you!  Let these truths transform my life!  Teach me, Spirit of the Living Christ, that I am set free from sin.  I serve you, Jesus, with my life; and my life in you bears fruit in holiness, only because I live in You, until that day You bring me safely home to enjoy your glory forever.9c3c86cf8d619b7d03375cd944b05641

 
Thank you for your justice & mercy.
Thank you for your faithfulness.
Thank you for your love.
Thank you, Lord Jesus.

God’s Heart For Me is My Hope

I am in awe of how God works in our hearts.  I am learning that our hearts are a trust account into which we make deposits.  The deposits we make are our beliefs; that is, what our heart truly relies on.  We can believe truths or lies.
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One thing I know– my heart will yield to whomever/whatever it trusts. So, may I share about two deposits of truth God has put in my heart that has increased my trust in Him?

 

Deposit #1:  God’s HEARTBEAT is to reshape everything in my life for his glory.

This is clearly seen in Is. 43, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.

Because I am His daughter, God wants to reshape everything in my life for His glory!  It is so easy to drift from our true purpose in life. So, what is my most important need of life every day?  hand-drawing-heart-beat

MY NEED is to be realigned to God’s HEARTBEAT.  

 

How does that happen? Well, let me share a bit of my story.  Because God uses everything… I need to tell you about a fall afternoon in 2014.  I was in my car.  I was driving on north Interstate 205 headed to my son’s soccer game.   I have never liked to drive very much, and that day I didn’t know exactly where I was going.  I attempted to pay attention to the British lady on my cell phone giving directions, but I was distracted.  It rains a lot here, but on this day, it was raining really hard.  The raindrops were dancing madly across the windshield.  The windshield wipers were moving in tandem trying to keep up with the dancing rain.  The rush hour traffic propagated around me with cars whizzing by in the periphery. There was so much motion.  I was having a really hard time focusing.

raindrops on windshieldI began to squeeze the steering wheel more tightly and I started praying. I kinda shook my head to reboot my vision.  Shaking my head, tilting my head or blinking hard seemed to reboot my vision, but my eyes were still refusing to work together.  I was beginning to panic.  I kept trying to discern what was going on.  I can’t see!  I began to realize that actually I was seeing three landscapes!  In my left eye, I saw one landscape on top of another, the same landscape.  The right eye saw a single landscape, but that image was set diagonal from the other two images.  I was begging God for help at this point Please, God, I really need you to watch over me.  I can’t see!

That was a hard day, and after multiple tests and visits with specialists, the doctors still don’t know what caused it all.  They have suggested that my vision impairment stemmed from a horseback riding accident I had experienced in 2000.  I had suffered a broken jaw, a fractured skull, and, most importantly, a cerebral cavernous carotid fistula.  The cranial nerves which control my eye muscles are affected somehow.  And for fifteen years, my brain had compensated!  But, now, my brain was refusing to “see.”  What the specialists do agree on is that there are no medical options available to address it.

For six months, I was homebound.  I could no longer drive.  Gradually, as my vision improved, I could travel a very short radius from my home.  I began to understand and adapt to my limitations.  I usually only had 2-3 hours to do errands, grocery shopping, or go to an appointment, etc. before my eyesight would begin to scramble again.  One Sunday, a year later, I had quite the meltdown.  I sobbed long and hard, experiencing a tornadic upheaval of emotions, and I was beginning to ask some hard questions. What was my purpose anyway? Why should I even bother to go through the motions of the day?  Laundry didn’t exactly seem like an inspiring purpose of life.  What was the meaningfulness of my life?  How did my life matter?   Being at home, isolated, and alone day after day was wearing me down.   The unpredictability was also hard.  One day, my eyes would allow me a short burst of freedom.  Another day, I would be unable to leave my home because my eyes refused to cooperate.
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In the middle of my angry confusion, the gentle Holy Spirit spoke to my heart.  He reminded me that although I pray often, I had not prayed my honest emotions about my eyesight.  My Father was asking me to become helpless—like a child needing help from a parent. I have always been uncomfortable praying in such a vulnerable way.  I could pray for my family, a friend in need, etc.  But, I held back my personal complaints before God; because it felt disrespectful to me.  I believe God is over all; so, I reasoned that I needed to submit to His providence.  I told myself that I just needed to buck up.  (Which, by the way, is not helpless dependence at all!)

But, I also didn’t want to be that open with God, because I really did feel upset about it all.  So, if I hid my emotion before God, I wouldn’t feel inadequate before Him. I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable.  But the Psalmist says that God delights in truth in the heart.  God, my Father, knew I was holding back, keeping a pretense between us.  My Father wanted me to tell him what He already knew.

He was teaching me that I am safe in being completely known by Him.  I am still loved, still acceptable because Jesus had given his life so that I could stand acceptable before a God who knows everything anyway. My Father God was teaching me about ‘real’ relationship with Him.  I was a real person in a real world with real struggles, and I needed a real God who not only knew me, but loved me.  My heart could be real with God, and it was held safe in His love.

I started studying prayer and how to pray like a child.  I learned from the Psalms how to lament—how to pray my tears.  God was teaching me about His nearness.  I learned to come as a child with tears of helplessness to a Father who treasures me. He says, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me.” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

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The LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession.” (Deut. 26:18)

I learned my Father would care for me, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18).

But, that wasn’t all.  The Teacher, the Holy Spirit, spoke the Word into my heart again, this time using Scripture from Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  At the time that all of this was happening, the youngest of my four children was a high school senior soon to graduate, and I was ‘graduating’ from my “stay-at-home” mom status.  I was on the cusp of beginning a new & exciting chapter of life; I had dreams of what-could-be.  But, somewhere along the way, the “living sacrifice” had crawled off the altar.  So, I confessed my fear and my own weak love for God.  I confessed my own strong desire for control, and I submitted my body—my life—as a living sacrifice.
God is reshaping everything in my life for His glory.

Deposit #1:  God’s HEARTBEAT is to reshape everything in my life for his glory. I am his daughter.  I am known, and also loved.   Is. 43

Deposit #2:  Because I BELONG TO HIM, GOD’S HEART IS FOR ME and HE IS MY KEEPER.  

Well, by the end of 2015, things were improving.  Deposits of truth about God’s worth, his faithfulness, his nearness, his steadfast love, his commitment, his desire to be my ally, were being placed in my heart, and I am so very thankful for this time.  In God’s wisdom and love, he was preparing me for what would come next.

This last summer, our family moved to to a beautiful home in a nearby town.  Everything about that move seemed to have God’s fingerprints all over it.  But, the move itself took a steep toll on my poor little eyes.  This time my eyes crashed very, very hard.  There were days that all I could do was sit.  My eyes were not working together at all.  I had ocular pain, temporal pain, and incredible nausea.  It was awful.  It would be several months again before they would stabilize.

At the same time, I also was extremely fatigued.  I could barely, I mean barely, go up and down the stairs.  I had experienced a chronic cough for two years which was becoming more severe.   I had been going to doctors who could not find the root cause.  Last September, after months of waiting, I got in to see a pulmonologist.  I was fully expecting another dead end. I received very unexpected news.  My lung x-ray was abnormal. The doctor was fairly certain I had some form of interstitial lung disease.  He just didn’t know which one.  This was a devastating report.  Typically, people only live for 3-5 years after this diagnosis. Then just as I was leaving the Oregon Health Clinic late that afternoon, I received a phone call.  It was a police officer telling us that our 18-year-old son, James had just been in a car accident.  Both of the vehicles involved were totaled.  Everyone was okay.

So that evening, John and I sat in a darkened family room numb with all of the news we had received that day.  It was a lot to take in.

I now know that I have mild to moderate scarring in the interstitium of the lungs.  Presently, I have 59% lung capacity.  I have hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and the antigen that my body is reacting to is literally everywhere.  So, though I would prefer this to be a detour, the detour has become the road I am now traveling.  Having HP is not necessarily a terminal diagnosis, but it could be if it keeps progressing.  There is a lot of unknown; this condition is fairly rare.  But, whatever I don’t know, God does know. Nothing has changed. I have never known what tomorrow will bring.  Only God knows our tomorrows.

And, through all of this, I am learning that because I BELONG TO HIM, GOD’S HEART IS FOR ME and HE IS MY KEEPER. God tells me, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  (Is. 43:1-2).  Every time…no matter what the trial, God keeps telling me, “I have redeemed you.  I am your Father.  You are mine.  I am here.  Don’t be afraid.”  You see, I do get afraid.  When life hurts, you can feel very alone.  I can fear that God will abandon me and give me what I deserve.  God is getting rid of the lies and telling me truth!  I belong to Him; He belongs to me.
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In that same passage in Is. 43, God tell us, “…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”  It is hard for me to believe God said that and that I am that loved.  Precious?  Me??  But, He does say that.

 

God has given himself to us.  He will go through affliction with us.  God has proved he would rather die than lose one of us—the cross is the evidence.  God so loved us that He gave us His Son Jesus to suffer for us.
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Jesus has taken what I deserve, so that I don’t have to endure the worst suffering of all—life without God.     Jesus is my redeemer and he has taken me on as his own personal responsibility. He understands my hurt, because He Himself has suffered.

Because I belong to Him, God’s heart is for me, He loves me, and He is my keeper. This truth is becoming sweeter to me all the time.  I know myself.  I know I can’t do this.  I need Jesus.  I so thankful that He is my keeper, and He will bring me safely home.
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My disappointments, discouragements and plain ‘ole tough times do have purpose.  It helps me to see that there is nothing here in this life to put my hope in that will last.  Everything in this life is passing away. God’s love sent His Son Jesus to redeem our lives.  Salvation is more than forgiveness of our sins, salvation is about making everything about us new.  In “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” 

The Unraveling of Peace

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(Photo credit:  Marc Adamus)

God planted a garden.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8)

Cain built the 1st city on the planet.

Cain also had the distinction of having the very first birthdate in mankind’s history.

Sadly, Cain was also the first criminal having murdered his younger brother in anger.
So this is how it happened that God removed Cain, alienating him from Himself and the earth.  Leaving the presence of God, Cain remained determined and took control on his own terms.  Doomed to be forever restless and experience frustration and futility, Cain discovered being separated from God mattered in ways that he could have never imagined.  It began an unraveling of peace.  option2
Cain remained forever on the outside of things and continually wrestled with his own insecurity.  So, in response, Cain built a city, constructing his own alternative reality, as a way to run from the curse.  In truth, it was a denial of God and His spoken Word.  Attempting self-salvation, to satisfy those gnawing longings of the soul, Cain sought to create his own enduring greatness in his own prideful way.  Blaspheming the things he did not understand, Cain abandoned himself to destruction.Pride is a battle that never ceases, and the heart is the bloody battlefield.  From the dawn of time, the story of human pride has marched defiantly through the corridors of history leaving the refuse of destruction and the unraveling of society.
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Yet, there is hope.  God’s plans are not last-minute attempts but an ancient, long-established, settled victory.  Incredibly, God takes the very symbol of our rejection of him-a city built on pride- and redeems it, declaring, “You shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” (Isaiah 1:26). 

What is the cost of Shalom?

God paid an unimaginable price to reconcile us back to Himself.  Even while we were without hope and alienated from the life of God, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13). he-has-now-reconciled-in All of sin’s curse and punishment is taken once for all by His Son Jesus on the cross.  The God we have rejected offers us redemption.   “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:8).

No longer outcasts, God keeps us in His peace and gives to us a song of praise: “We have a strong city; He sets up salvation as walls & bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Is. 26:1-3).
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A Tale of Two Rivers

rivers_title_0There is a tale of two rivers told to the reflective heart.  There is glory in the story and great and gentle a reprieve from all that overwhelms.  This story is set oh so long ago, but the heart of the story never quits thumping loud.  Listen, my friend, and hear hope’s story.  Better yet, it is a true story.

Long ago, the powerful Assyrian Empire reached outward expanding westward.  The surrounding nations were nervous, and Syria and Israel sought to compel Judah to form an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz, with arrogance of heart, was unwilling and refused to join.  The prophet Isaiah advised the weak, but prideful, king, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands…thus says the Yahweh God:  ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.'”  But, King Ahaz also foolishly refused the counsel of Yahweh God.  Gathering silver and gold from the temple’s treasuries, King Ahaz eagerly offered gifts to the forceful Assyrian king asking him to come to Jerusalem’s aid against the mounting Syrian and Israeli forces.

Judah’s king was jubilant!  Yes, the king’s own strategic alliance had worked! King Tiglath-pileser had defeated Israel and Aram just as he had envisioned.  He had been right to reject the prophet Isaiah’s warnings and to enlist the help of the formidable Assyrians.  Ah, but the ambitious Assyrian had no motivation to stop.  Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.  2 Chronicles 28:20.  So, the rage of the rushing River swept over Judah heeding no bounderies.

Once again Isaiah speaks using beautiful imagery to paint on the canvas of the heart:  The Lord spoke to me again:  “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”  Isaiah 8:5-8
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The small perennial fountain situated in Jerusalem was called Shiloh, and from it flowed a little river that ran gently through the city.  God reminded his people, “Do you not realize that I am in your midst?  I am a gentle brooklet softly meandering with placid, untroubled waters of life.  I invite life and refreshment.  Will you not come to the well of your salvation?  My everspringing fountain of life was meant for your joy.”

But, their hopelessness and poverty made their hearts envy; and their weakness made them desperate.  Their restless hearts were dissatisfied in God; so they gave their confidence to human aid and worldly powers.  Mad with desire, they sought to control their future by trusting in the resources of a mere mortal king.  How stern the lusts that ravage the soul dictating rejection and contempt of holy salvation only to rejoice in the strength, wealth, and assistance of the false and the fickle!  Euphrates the most celebrated river in all the east is an impetuous river that heeds no boundaries.  If you enter this rapid river you will be plunged into the deep; its rushing powerful waters will overtake you.  This river will rise to your neck and you will be caught in its powerful grip.  In its strength, you will perish.
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So, the tale of the two rivers was told, but the lesson was not learned.  A few years later, the Assyrians completely beseiged Jerusalem fulfilling all that that the Yahweh God had spoken.  The River rose spreading like wings over the land engulfing all into its strong currents.

If only you had listened to My instruction,  then you would have been flooded with peace; Your righteousness would have risen and crested like waves on the sea.  
Isaiah 48:18 (VOICE)

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There is yet glory in the story, for the land belongs to  Immanuel; and though violently wasted, the true king will not abandon her.  He would bring massive righteousness to her, rising strong with power and peace.  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. … The people who walked in great darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. …For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase ofhis government and of peace there will be no end.  
Isaiah 9:2, 6.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:27

Hear real hope meant to comfort the heart.  Hear the lesson of the two rivers, and choose life.  Turn and trust in the Prince of Peace to still your heart and give the lasting rest your heart stumbles after.  He is gentle and kind softly wooing your heart with his goodness; for in Christ alone will you find sanctuary.