Thinking, Listening, & Obedience

When I was a girl, one of the lessons I learned from my dad was to think.  If I did something wrong, he would say to me, “so did you think about it?”  He always wanted to know if I had actually thought about what I was doing, hoping to train me to think before I acted.  I remember at times that confounded me.  Sometimes, it made me downright mad.  But I’ve never forgotten his charge to think.  When my own son was growing up, guess what I used to say to him in moments when I knew that thinking might have kept him from a predicament?  Yep, that same thing.  “Did you think about it?”  Sage wisdom, this thinking thing.

Something I read recently made me remember this childhood training.  I’m thinking it’s pretty good advice, especially in our Christian walk.  We need to think about things we’re facing.  “What is this predicament I’m in Lord?  What do you want me to do about it?”  Knowing that I’m not supposed to worry about anything, whatever I’m facing is a known factor to God and He has a way He’d like me to get through it.  I don’t always do this very gracefully.  This is where the listening comes in again.

So, if I think about my situation, talk it over with God, ask Him for His direction (which implies the listening part), and be obedient, I think I’m ready to move on it now.  But wait, where did that word obedient come from?  Ah yes, the obedient part.  Sometimes I may not like the answer I’m hearing.  I may need to abandon something I want to do.  I may be told to do something I really don’t want to do.  Obedience takes practice and it means I must be willing to lay down my desires and decisions.  This obedience thing can be hard work sometimes.  Makes me remember a verse:

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”  Rom 6:16

I need to take obedience a lot more seriously.  What I choose to do is indicative of who I am obeying and where it’s going to lead me.  Something to chew on today…

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Walls coming down

Ephesians 2:14 (NKJV)
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation…”

Christ broke down the wall that separated us from His Father, God.  We couldn’t have relationship with Him because of the fall of Adam and Eve.  God tried working with the children of Israel, but their hearts were hard and they didn’t stay in relationship with Him.  So God decided that once and for all, He had to provide the sacrificial Lamb, His Son.  Jesus, who knew no sin, went to the cross, died for our sins, and conquered death thus giving us opportunity to have relationship once again with Father God.

Ephesians 3:9 (NKJV)
…and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery…”

What is the fellowship of the mystery?  My Bible helps suggest “to enlighten all people about the mystery of God’s grace in Christ.”  God’s grace in Christ.  Christ was all – the sacrifice, the reason, the hope, the beginning and the end.  God wanted us, so he sent His Son as the only way for us to have relationship with Him.  Christ broke down the wall of separation so I might have a chance.

Everything I’ve experienced in these years of my life is because of God and his son, Christ.  I was thought up, created, nurtured, given free choice and left alone to then choose.  I always felt chosen, even as a little girl, veiled in my conservative church beginnings.

Epiphanies keep coming.  Some come quickly, one after another.  Others come hard through the labor of life.  This has been a year of many epiphanies, eye opening revelations about myself, my faith, my present and the tiny glimmers of my future.  Lord you are so good, so faithful.  As long as I continue choosing you, you help me make the changes that are necessary to understand more and more about you, through your Son.  From there, I move on toward new revelation upon new revelation.  They don’t always come easy, these changes, but they keep coming as the mystery of life in you becomes a bit more reasonable to my not-so-easy-to-accept mind.

My prayer these days is that you will help me continue to press in.  I want newness of relationship with you, my husband, my family, my purpose.  I want so much to do what you want me to do.  I want so much to hear your voice afresh.  I want so much to continue to discover you…

Lamentations 3:22-23 (AMP)

It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.   They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. ”  How great is your faithfulness!

What is the key then?  For me, the word is dare.  I’m not the most daring person, so I have to push myself to continue to dare to choose…you, Lord.  Dare to praise.  Dare to press in.  Dare to keep going.  Dare to expose myself and search out truth.  Dare to be honest with you and with others.  As long as I will dare to, you will do the rest.  Keep the walls tumbling down Lord,  I want more!

Hearing God

OK, I’m curious.  Seems the subject of hearing God keeps coming up recently on my radar and in my life.  As I said earlier, you have to take time to listen for His soft voice.  Not so easy sometimes, other times it comes so natural.  I’m definitely needing to practice more, which of course means that I need to slow down so I actually provide some time to listen.

I’m wanting to hear him and that’s what I need practice at.  Sitting and praying, laying my requests at His feet and then waiting to hear from my Lord.  I do hear God sometimes through pictures He gives me and sometimes I become aware of Him through random people/ideas/thoughts that will pop into my conscious mind in answer to something I’m pondering.

So, how do you hear God?  What are the ways that you hear Him?  Is it in subtle ways or do you have conversations with Him all the time?  I want to know and I suspect, others would like to hear too.  What are all the ways you hear God?  Ready, set?  Go…tell us what’s on your mind!

Praising Him

So here’s the thing.  God wants relationship with us and we are to praise and worship Him always.  Something about this praise thing that really gets you on the right track.  Let me explain…

Late May of 2007, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  I had to wait for six long weeks for surgery where the doctor would go in and freeze the tumor.  When I first heard I’d have to wait for six weeks I almost lost it.  “Come on God, six weeks?  How am I going to survive six weeks of anxiety/fear?  Little did I know what God had up His sleeve.

I had about three days of panic, feeling sorry for myself, and wads of fear.  But I started asking for prayer from my co-workers, my friends at church, my family.  An amazing thing started happening as I opened my mouth and admitted that I had a need.  I started feeling strength building in my spirit.  The knot in my stomach let up.  I turned on worship music and started singing.  I started writing emails, telling people how uplifted I felt by their concerns, their prayers, and their love.  And, most importantly, I started praising God.

Those six weeks ended up being perhaps the strongest days of my life!  Literally!  I walked in such a state of wellness that it shocked me.  I’ve been a pretty negative person most of my life, but this.  Unbelievable.  After moving to Central Oregon a couple of years earlier, I started growing.  I mean I was purposing to follow God.  My husband and I were joining every class that came up and going to home groups.  We were blossoming.  I realize now that what happened was that our foundation got Rock solid.  And that change literally changed my life forever.

I made a lot of stupid choices as a younger person, getting involved in behaviors that certainly didn’t enhance my life.  One of my biggest regrets was that I started smoking cigarettes at about 18.  I wanted to quit for years but couldn’t muster it until approximately 1993 or 94.  That’s a lot of years of smoking.  That’s a lot of years of regret.  One of my biggest fears while being a smoker was that I was so afraid of getting cancer yet I couldn’t stop.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t help but wonder if my smoking was the culprit.

The crazy, wild part of this story is this…I had spent so many years afraid of this diagnosis and then when it happened,  I became rock solid strong in my Lord.  There were a few hours, literally hours (after the initial couple of days of panic), that I wavered in my faith.  But I would call someone or get out this one particular book I have filled with scriptures, and my faith would soar and I was solid again.  It was truly amazing.  Praise was on my lips most days and nights.  And He got me through.  Six weeks after it started, the tumor was frozen.  Three months later my CT scan showed the tumor was deader than a doornail.  I was one happy, praising woman, loving my God for answering my prayers and showing up in my life.

So, this summer I started having a few stomach issues.  About three weeks ago, my left side started aching just enough to let me know something was up.  There have been some other stressors in my life lately, so it was hard to determine whether I was feeling the effects of too much stress or was there something there to worry about.  Your mind does funny things under these circumstances.  Two weeks ago, I let my guard down, and in came the enemy of my soul with all his tormenting thoughts.  By the end of that week, I was convinced the cancer had returned after 2 1/2 years of clean CT scans.  I finally (oh what on earth was the matter with me that I waited so long to ask for prayer?) got a couple of friends together and asked them to pray for me.  One of them made me promise to call the doctor the following week and get this figured out.

Do you know the torment you can go through in one short week?  Of course you do, you’ve probably been through it yourself.  I was convinced, in my weaker moments, that this was the end of my life.  I allowed the enemy to grab my ankles and slam me from side to side with all his lies.  I felt like I had been through a war.  I was inconsolable, as hard as my husband tried to tell me it was not cancer.  I cried a lot that week.

I went to my doctor this past week on Wednesday.  After asking me many questions about how I felt, had I changed my diet, etc. she decided I needed a CT scan to make sure nothing was going on with the affected kidney from three years ago.  I felt slightly relieved by her exam.  CT was scheduled for Thursday and she told me to call on Friday at noon if I hadn’t heard from her prior to that.  Friday I waited nervously all morning but no call came.  Finally I called her office and got one of the nurses.  She pulled up my records and reported, “no evidence of any recurring malignancy in the kidney nor in any surrounding area!”  I couldn’t get off the phone fast enough before the tears started falling.

I had to confess to my Lord how ashamed I was of myself for doubting and allowing fear to run rampant for a week.  As I sobbed and sobbed at the great news I’d just received, I couldn’t help the praises that began coming out of my mouth.  I had my life back!  Not that it had actually been taken away from me, but the enemy wanted me to think it had.  Another great lesson concerning:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Cor 10:3-5 (NIV)

The enemy comes in through the mind.  If we let him, and boy can I attest to this, he will slam you relentlessly, to the point you think you’re going to die.  I had let my guard down and the resultant behavior I exhibited was testament to the power of his weapon.  One redeeming thing I can share with you.  Over the weekend prior, when I had asked a couple of friends to pray for me, I could feel the strength begin to come up.  I went home and I dug out my much used book with all the scriptures in it along with a binder called “My Journey through Cancer”.  I started reading notes and cards and emails that had been sent to me in 2007 leading up to my surgery, along with scriptures about healing, health, and Jesus’ unending love for each one of us.  My strength soared.  I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but I was certainly better, the tears dried up, and now I was expecting Jesus to show up in my life.  One of my life scriptures is:

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalms 5:3 (NIV)

Expect God.  Praise God.  I am alive and well in Him.  Praise God!

If You Seek Him

I read my devotional today; it went like this:

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” 2 Chron. 15:2

“Our response to God greatly determines His presence in our lives.  If we seek God with all of our hearts, then we will find Him (Jer. 29:13-14).  The Lord wants to have fellowship with us, but He will not force a relationship upon us.  We cannot reject relationship with God and expect Him to remain near.  He doesn’t merely follow us throughout our day in case we need His assistance.  If we continue to forsake Him, a time will come when we desperately need Him and He will not be near (Isa. 59:1-2).”

“It is an affront to sovereign God to treat Him like a servant who should wait upon us.  God will relate to us on His terms, not ours.  God desires a close walk with us.  He will make His presence real and personal if that is our desire.  If we repent of our sin and seek God on His terms, we can look forward to intimate fellowship with Him (James 4:8-10).  We are to continually seek Him, not content to enter a new day without the assurance that God is walking beside us.”  (Out of Experiencing God, Day by Day by Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby.)

Whack!  Right up the side of the head.  Shocking.  I’m guilty of what this devotional is saying, sometimes believing that God will always be available exactly when I need Him.  Yet that goes against this scripture.  I must do something.  I must participate with Him.  I must choose Him and His ways and what the Word tells us to be truth.  I want to be in fellowship with God, but sometimes my life is so busy that I forget Him or I just don’t have time.  So what will my reaction be one day when I need Him and He is silent?  Chances are I’ll be devastated.  So what do I need to do?

I have to slow down, waaaay down, in order to insure that I have time to spend with the One who is most important to me.  If I don’t spend time laying my requests at His feet and then time listening for His response, I’m out of order.  If I’m not reading His Word and allowing it to change me, I’m out of order.  If I’m not worshipping and praising Him for what He’s done in my life, I’m out of order.  The definition of the word order means  “the disposition of things following one after another, as in space or time; succession or sequence; proper, satisfactory, or working condition; conformity or obedience to law or established authority; absence of disturbance, riot, revolt, unruliness, etc.”.  So if I’ve made the decision to make Christ the established authority in my life yet I’m not taking time to spend with Him, then I’m in riot or revolt, or just being unruly.  Life has a proper order to it and it’s simply too easy to push the limits of that order.  I do not please God when I do this.  We take orders or direction from our bosses, why not God?

I’m beginning to see a theme developing here in my last posts.  It seems that God is helping me re-order my life.  The “stripping out” I mentioned on my home page follows this line of thinking.  God is removing things so I might add some things.  I’m beginning to see and understand His logic.  I have, for a very long time, declared that I want to follow God with all my heart and yet, there are still areas that continue to “take me around the mountain”.  I hate that!  You’d think after knowing God for 34 years (I think it was about September, 1976 that I asked Jesus into my life — wow, happy anniversary to me!) that I might have this a little more together.  It’s all process, nothing but process.

I do not want to grieve God and I certainly don’t want Him to not be around when I need Him.  So, in the words of a worship song that goes something like, “I’m taking time to listen, to your voice; I’m taking time to hear you, your soft speech, as I reach,” I’m pulling in the reins of my life, with God’s help, and I’m going to slow down.  I want to hear every word He has for me.  I want to be able to distinguish His voice from all the others that sometimes roar around in my mind.  I want more of Him in my life.  So I’m going to seek Him…

Don’t forget to remember

I heard this somewhere along the way…”don’t forget to remember”.  It stuck.  It’s one of those catchy little phrases that kind of make you snicker when you hear it, but it has become one of the sayings that I share quite often.  Don’t forget to remember.

I was looking back through some of my journals recently.  I have to admit, I’m only an occasional journal-er, but it seems every time I pull one of them out and take a look, I’m just blown away by what was happening in my life at the time.  Like one I looked at yesterday.  A friend had written me an email in response to a particularly difficult time I was going through.  Among other things, she wrote this scripture to me, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Cor. 1:3-4  Right after that she said, “your greatest strengths will come when you minister to others out of the grace and comfort you have received from the God of all comfort!

I don’t have the space to go into the reason she was writing this to me, but once again, the impact of it slapped me in the face!  It wowed me back then and it wowed me yesterday.  My greatest strengths will come when I minister to others out of the grace and comfort I’ve received from the God of all comfort.  Wow.  It is so true.  I’ve experienced God’s touch in some mighty tough situations, sometimes after I had to get my attitude straightened away.  It’s so easy to panic, freak out, get swamped with fears or anger or a myriad of other feelings when things don’t go the way we think they should.  But, after reaching out to someone with a cry for help, or asking for prayer, or admitting to someone that I flunked a spiritual test (yet again), I’ve gained something important…strength.  Why is it that failing can lead to strength in the spiritual realm?  I think it’s because God never intended for us to carry things all by ourselves.

Oh yes, I’m quite good at stomping off through the woods of my life, feeling quite confident in my abilities to get me to where I’m trying to go.  I can make things happen, thank you very much.  The problem with this is that I don’t always know where I’m supposed to go.  I’ve finally figured out that where I’m trying to go isn’t necessarily where God intended for me to go.  And there is the hitch.  I often get so busy planning my next strategic move, that I forget to consult with the Master trip-planner.  My plans don’t often equal His plans.  When I read my friends’ email, I suddenly realized (yet again) she nailed it…my greatest times of strength have come about when I was sharing out of my own life, my own trials, my own errors.  Why?  Because God comforted me during the dark days of those times.

It’s important to remember what God has done in your life.  It’s important to keep some records of those times.  If you don’t journal, I hope you’ll reconsider…I am.  It may be time to dust off the journal once again, and start recording what God is doing in my daily life.  Keep emails and notes and letters that have meaning to you.  Get a binder and start collecting, especially if there is prophecy involved.  This one, small sentence my friend wrote to me was prophetic for me.  It has much more meaning to me today than it did the day I received it because now I can look back and remember what God did and how He comforted me.  She comforted me that day out of her own experience with God’s comfort.  I can also look back now and see where I’ve gained strength because I was willing to share with others out of my experience.  What an encouragement.  Don’t forget to remember!

Venison Visions

It’s been such a great weekend; weather in the 80’s and 90’s, we’ve been home for the long Labor Day weekend, enjoying ourselves, and went out to eat and to a movie last night.  On our way home from a nice evening,  I saw them!  As we drove into our driveway and the headlights reached their long arms out over the front lawn, we see a fawn jump up off the grass.  Next momma gets up from her resting place further up the canal bank and then another (we can’t quite make out whether it’s fawn #2 or another doe) stretches its legs as we’ve disturbed their resting place for the night.  I absolutely love living in the country and being able to see the wildlife in our everyday lives.

This morning we enjoyed a lazy launch into our day.  Coffee on the deck, a bit of catching up from a long, busy week, and then a long, warm shower.  I opened the blinds in our bathroom only to discover that quite a number of our newly landscaped plants had been systematically given a “haircut” during the night!  Now I’m mad!  We’ve spent the better part of the last two years and a goodly amount of money trying to make our sagebrush surroundings look like something closer to a Good Housekeeping cover.  We’ve felt such a sense of accomplishment as the yard went from very rough to dug up to water lines in to covered up again to lawn planted to lawn sputterings (we really wondered if it would ever fill in last summer) to shrub plantings last fall to more planting this spring and finally, bark covering this summer.  We’ve stood back and looked at it with awe that we actually got this job finished and it actually looks like something presentable.  That is, until the “haircuts” last night!

I love deer.  I loved Bambi as a child and cried when my dad (the avid hunter that he was) made noise about shooting Bambi for supper.  While my husband has been a hunter and I actually spent a couple of years bow-hunting too (the deer were very safe when I was in the woods!), I still love to see deer out in the wild.  When we go for a drive into the countryside, I’m often the first one to spot a deer because I’m always looking for them.  I love to see their sleek bodies prancing gently along as they head for cover after being discovered in the forests.  I’ve actually loved seeing them here at our place these past six years.  One morning while my parents were visiting, my mom opened up the curtains in their bedroom and ended up about one foot away from a doe who had bedded down under the deck for the night and was just stretching when she noticed the curtains open up!  I don’t know who was more surprised, mom or the doe!  Yep, I’ve loved that we get to see wildlife here at the place.  Until now.

When you’ve spent your blood, sweat, and tears on a project, there’s something quite disconcerting about finding it wiped out in a single night’s time.  I can forgive the frosts that come early here on the high desert.  I can forgive the mistakes we make with our outside landscape because we’ve never done this before and there are things to be learned.  What I can’t forgive is some cute little fawn who doesn’t know yet what it wants to eat and has to try, no, make that annihilate, every plant it decides might look like dinner to it today!  I can just see it taking it’s sweet little, soft lips to tenderly tug at the flowers of my Johnny Jumpups, roll it around in its mouth for a moment and then realize, “p-tooooo-ey, that doesn’t taste so good.  Hmmm, think I’ll try this piece right next to it.”  It’s these darned juveniles that are plundering my landscape!  Aaarrgghh!  Hmmm, maybe it’s time to take up bow-hunting again!