Rest In It

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  II Peter 1:2

I feel like there is only one thing that I need right now above and beyond all other things.  Just this one for now.  With it, I believe I can manage most anything — keep a level head — and with Christ at the center, remain firmly planted.

My needs are few and far between right now.  Give me the basics of life and I’m set, but far fewer needs are as obvious to me than this.  The battle that rages around me, for me and against me, sometimes becomes as real as a sword thrust into my own chest.  It swallows the air in the room and clenches my attention.  It’s in these moments when I know the battle that rages on is not against flesh and blood that I need wisdom, strength and a reminder of where the battle is being waged.  I feel weak and completely inadequate at times, reduced to garbage at others.  When the pressures of my circumstances suddenly blast their way into my life, I find it incredibly difficult to remain hemmed.

It’s not much to ask I don’t think – just this one thing.

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Here’s how God answered me as I was going through these emotions.

From a dear friend He reminded me of this . . .  II Peter 1:2 — God has given ME an abundance of grace and peace through the knowledge of God.  I thought, what?  And then I continued to read.  In verse 3 it is confirmed.  “. . . has given us [ME] everything we [I] need for life and godliness . . . so that through them you [I] may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  You mean I have all that I need here, right now to participate not in the angst, not in the anger, not in the selfishness, not in my self-condemnation, not in my worry, not in my self-loathing — BUT INSTEAD — to participate in the divine nature and escape all these things?  Oh, Lord, that is big!

I will need you to show me what this looks like and teach me in these ways because I cannot do this on my own.

GRACE: Gods power freely given to me to meet my circumstances.
PEACE: Resting in Gods GRACE.      -Anabel Gillham

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Lord Jesus, maybe I need more than just one thing.  I need to experience your abundant measure of grace and then, rest in it!

When God Asks

. . . my cup overflows.   Psalm 23:5

In the course of my life I can guarantee I’ve reached the million mark in a number of areas.  There’s been more than a million cups of coffee (ok, maybe not that many-but close!), a million steps since I learned to walk, a million sneezes (each time I sneeze I do them in threes-that adds up fast!), a million mistakes and a million peanut M&M’s.  But one thing is for sure, the benchmark of asking God to do things, change things and make things happen have far exceeded a million I think.

I just celebrated my birthday this last weekend and the top question on the board was, “What would you like?”  Others were wanting to create a day full of blessings by giving things I’d enjoy.  My day was filled with my favorite things (I suddenly started humming that song from The Sound of Music) — ugghh!!  I was overwhelmed at times and stuffed to the gills for most of the day!

I have spent a great deal of my time in life asking God for things.  Some of those requests and prayers have been answered, while some are still in the queue.  And now, many have asked me for the answers to questions in order to bring blessings to me.  That day was made marvelous through the diligence and willingness of those asking of my favorites.  But what about God?  How often has God asked me, about me?

I know that God cares about me, in fact loves me beyond measure.  I also know that He wants nothing but the best for me — even though my choices have not always opened the door to His blessings.  But God knows my heart and He knows what delights me and my spirit.  Knowing this, sometimes He doesn’t actually need to ask — He knows — and He blesses.  My day entails keeping a close watch out for His subtle surprises — to see the beauty in the blessings of those things in which He knows I find delight.  I don’t always accept those blessings as I should, nor see them as from His hand.

My cup, indeed, overflows!

  • The honks high above of the Sandhill Crane, circling in their flocks on their journey home, grabs my attention in awe and wonder.
  • The dazzling dance of a bumblebee in the garden captures me.
  • The sounds of a saxophone.
  • The burst of orange, blue, yellow and purple from the sun’s first kiss of the day takes my breath away.
  • The heartbeat of the ocean gently breaking on the shore in the early morning hours mesmerizes me.
  • The subtle breeze of springtime.
  • The sounds of my children laughing.
  • The winter night sky is overwhelmed with the details of His creation.

When God asks me how He can bless me, these are a few of those things He shares with me!

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed at how much my cup runs over.  My party is clearly not over or my cups would be dry.  Instead, you have filled them to overflowing!  I celebrate these many blessings and more — may my eyes continue to recognize your hand in all things.

. . . because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.   Genesis 49:24-25

Forever Following

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

Today I returned to an old favorite — Psalm 23.  If you haven’t read it in a while, it is chock full of encouragement and hope.  A great book – a short daily read – that I would recommend is Max Lucado’s Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms.  It’s amazing!

As I was rereading this passage this morning, it struck me how David stresses that goodness and mercy (love) follow me.  Follow me?  God’s goodness and mercy?  Well, depending on your personal theology of God’s whereabouts, this can crash someone’s party if all they think is that God’s dictating from some throne.

This suggests one, if not two things.  First, as implied, this means that God’s not just ruling like we see of the images of Pharaoh.  He is not the unapproachable conductor of all things.  On the contrary, He is personal, relational, compassionate, with an abundance of grace and love beyond our wildest dreams.   Which leads me to the second.  While God is clearly “seated” on the throne, He, through the Holy Spirit, pursues me!  Pursues!  David understands this in his remembrance of God’s presence through the guarantee of God’s goodness and mercy following me every day.  It reminds me somewhat of the old 90’s episodes of Dukes of Hazard when the “good ‘ole boys” were in “hot pursuit.”  They couldn’t seem to cut a break!  I, too, am in “hot pursuit” by my Savior — every day!  And trailing and flanking that pursuit is Goodness and Mercy!

But even in the midst of great news, where goodness seems so obvious, it’s possible for circumstances scratched by the sharp nails of darkness to overshadow our hearts and minds with pittance.  Its unfortunate that such be robbed from our lives, but God still moves!  He still pursues, not sitting and ruling from a throne, but running and guarding, protecting and whispering in our ears at every turn.  Whispering the Truth of His goodness and His mercy that stands firm against the lies of darkness, the thief in the night, and fills me with joy unspeakable, full of His glory!  All this in spite of my circumstances.  Amen!!

Lord Jesus, I’m reminded of my first day of school.  I was so scared, worried.  I didn’t like kindergarten and I wasn’t going to stay.  I remember planning my escape down to the very minute for when I’d make a dash.  Mrs. Mapstone was faster than she appeared as I remember she was a bit older than me — much older!  Remember how I made it out the door and just beyond the ditch before she caught me?  I was so not happy about that!  But as much as I was frightened to be at school, I think the bus was even worse.  I remember looking back over my shoulder more than once to see if mom was still there.  She was.  You’re pursuing me, right?  Life’s bus ride and classroom are filled with so many things.  Some I know, most I don’t.  I’m looking back, if that’s o.k., to see your Goodness and Mercy!  I see them . . .!

The Pit and Peace

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 26:3

I pulled up to the curb and said my goodbye’s as my boys replied with “I love you, dad!”  Slinging their backpacks over their shoulders they made their way to the sidewalk and began the journey of their day in middle school . . . but not before looking back at dad one last time.  They’re gone and now the car is quiet with the faint sound of the radio in the background and the warmth of the sun beating against my chest and with it, my self is unsettled.

It’s a pretty long ride home each morning from drop-off, about 30 minutes.  And, while on a normal day I would sing with the radio, talk to God about what my life looks like right now or pray for others and myself — today was a bit different.  Quiet with an occasional honking horn here or there, it was a rather mesmerizing ride.  I could tell I was losing my footing and slipping into the pit.

I got home and opened the front door to further silence.  I was all alone now.  But this wasn’t the first day I’ve walked into a quiet house.  And nor will it be my last.  I had decided earlier that  I wasn’t going to write anything in this blog today, but instead just move on with my day.  I grabbed my computer, a cup of coffee with my bible and sat in my chair . . . and the lump in my throat grew and tears began to flow down my cheek.

Why am I here, God?  Why?  Why do I feel this way?  I asked Him question after question — He promised me peace and I feel like I’m in the pit!  My world is upside down, my heart is racing and I feel like a basket-case.  It certainly doesn’t appear very peaceful in my life right now as my hands tremble and my thoughts are so mixed.

And then, I ran across the words of Isaiah 26.  It was though He said to me, “Mark . . . What are you setting your mind on?  What is your heart and mind dwelling on?”

Oh how I’ve thought His peace to be unconditional, but this is not His promise.  He wants me to not only remain in Him, but to set my mind to Him.  It is then He gives peace.  I weep with His presence.

How can I be so hard-headed and stubborn?  I always felt like peace came in the absence of troubles, but God says no to that.  He offers peace in the midst of troubles, in the midst of pain and hurt, in the midst of grief — and through His peace is healing!  Why?  Because our minds are set on Him — trusting and leaning with our full weight on Him alone.

Lord Jesus, I know . . . I know — trust you!  But, man, that’s so hard to do sometimes!!!  That’s me being honest!  When I stare at the dot in front of me and focus through my flesh on circumstances around me and neglect to witness your hand in the big picture of what you are doing in and through me, I experience the pit instead of your peace.  Create in me a discipline in my mind to be more steadfast in you!

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:4

A Dark Place Called Pit

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   II Peter 1:19

Last night I had the opportunity finally to see the first episode of the new series, The Bible on The History Channel.  It was exciting to see the Bible come to life and get more of a sense of human emotion as God stirred the hearts of His people.  It was very dramatic — yet still, it was perhaps nothing compared to the actual events.

In one particular scene I noticed something that had not occurred to me otherwise in reading of this account.  The excitement and energy of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground has, as for many, been a moment of intrigue for me.  Imagining a wall of water on either side being held back by nothing but the strength of God himself is for me, a more than remarkable event.  But in this particular episode, I noticed the people grabbing torches to use for light as they journeyed quickly to the other side.  It never occurred to me that the walls of water might be so high as to block the daylight.  And as they reached the other side, it was as bright as noon.

I can only imagine what the Israelites must have felt while in the middle of the Red Sea, walking a dry bed.  Frightened.  Worried.  Confined.  Limited.  Uneasy.  Scared.  Curious.  Amazed.  Doubtful.  Confused.  Who could blame them?  They were just led into a very dark place!

For me, this dark place is called a pit.  I could spend a few days on my thoughts about the life and way of the pit, but for now, the measure of the journey is most important.  In the lives of so many, unlike the Israelites, the journey ends somewhere in the middle of the Red Sea.  Pitching a tent and making the pit feel like home.  Let me just say, there’s no place like home and the pit is not it!

It’s all about the journey, because, like the Israelites, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — my and your God, lifts me, leads me, guides me, teaches me to finish the journey.  He wants me to learn, forgive and love, and experience His life on solid ground!

Grab The Torch and journey through that dark place called pit!

Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for giving me your Light of Truth to guide me and teach me!  Your deliverance from my pits I’ve called home far too long is truly a celebration — a homecoming!  May I continue in my journey bearing witness to your hand as I learn to have eyes for you!

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  II Samuel 22:29-30

Something For Nothing

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.  “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—-and even more.”  Mark 4:24

Years ago I built a screened-in back porch onto our house.  I had never done anything like that before, but I knew I could — if I only set my mind to it.  And boy did I do just that!  It went on for days, weeks and possibly months before I lifted a hammer or purchased a board.  Night after night I remember laying in bed and dreaming about that porch.  As soon as I ran into a problem, I would spend my time solving it first before moving on to laying the next imaginary board.  I would go out back to spot check the site after work and relive the experience in my own mind and mentally envision the progress being made.  It was taking great shape and looking good!  Before laying a hand on a real hammer, I must have built that porch five or six times over.  It was all I thought about.

Since then, I have learned a great deal about myself in that I think long and hard about many things.  I rarely jump into a project without “thinking it through” first.  Sometimes that takes weeks or months.  I’m thinking of demands, outcomes, benefits, value, purpose, risk, worth and level of difficulty to only name a few. It’s a great gift, but a horrible curse if abused.

The things I hear are those things I think about most.  And the things I chose to think about grow out of the seeds of knowledge I plant within my mind through my eyes and ears.  The more I read of God’s Word the more I begin to think, both day and night, of the Truths from those pages.  In essence, Mark is telling us in chapter 4 that I will get out of the Word what I put into reading the Word.  There is nothing more true than that — trust me — I know!!

So unlike much of my life, God’s Word is ringing in my ears now — literally!  It’s fresh and new, because it’s what I’m thinking about!  Israel was commanded by God to never forget Him once they reached the promised land (Deuteronomy 6).  God encouraged His people then to speak about Him always to their children, write about Him on their door frames and wear symbols to remind them of His presence always! There was a reason then . . . and there is a reason now!

Lord Jesus, it refreshes my soul to think of you night and day and your presence is overwhelming.  Not in a way that burdens my will, but instead your holiness and righteousness gives strength and nourishment to my heart and mind to live as Christ.  I am certainly not perfect, but Jesus, I know you were and the power given you by God through the Holy Spirit is also available to me through you.  I want to think on YOU things so continue to press your Word on my heart — through my mind!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

Strength In Me

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14

These verses from Philippians sustained me throughout my years in college.  I turned to them often and displayed them on every page, poster or mirror I could find as a reminder that I hadn’t arrived, permission to forget and confirm the fact that today’s race felt more like an Iron Man event — without training!

The common theme from then and now is the strength I find in making it through that day . . . either then or right now.  And as I reflect I see a startling pattern of self-inflicted, superimposed godness — not goodness — upon my ever being.  My strength in victory as well as defeat has been out of the arrogance of my own heart and fervency of my own abilities and the lack of need for anything, or anyone, else.  Habakkuk 1:11 says it well, “Then they sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty men, whose own strength is their god.”  Never had I imagined that one of my gods was my own strength.  But, looking back, far and near, I see the pattern of dependence, the island of fortitude that I built that would ultimately lead to a crashing world where few pieces were left tangible.  Living with Habakkuk as your true motto, but shrouded by the mantra of Philippians succeeds in the misguided dependence on my own self to lay claim to victory.

And so, here I stand, wanting to press on, wanting to forget, wanting to strain for that prize — the temptation is to trust in my own abilities to get through it all.  But my heart will always be dissatisfied until it rests in Him and Him alone.  It not only is a place of refuge, but of ultimate and pure strength — unadulterated by the generic.

So it is true, in my weakness I am strong when Christ is my King and my strength is His.  I can only do because He does!

My Jesus, in my weakness . . . not so much in temptation, but more so when I make my strength my god, remind me of when you took up residence in my life.  Remind me then of those moments when you were undoubtedly present, when you moved through my heart and my whole body witnessed a taste of your glory as you met me there.  Remind me of the victory you have and that my adequacy is found only in you (II Corinthians 3:5).

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.   Psalm 84:5-7