Category Archives: Encouragement

More than a cliche (Troubled Waters, Part C)

20130805-093401.jpgWhen I started on the first Troubled Waters post on Saturday I had no idea it was going to lead to two additional posts. It wasn’t until the first one was finished and I re-read it that I thought, yes, God comes to us in our troubled times, all we have to do is cry out to him but that isn’t quite the whole story. Peter’s prayer, “Lord, save me!” was prayed as Peter was seeking Jesus in the midst of the storm. Peter took the first step, Peter was following Jesus’ command, Peter got out of the boat! Which led to Part B yesterday. I woke up this morning and was going to just post a “Still Moment” but found my spirit troubled by some of the lofty words of yesterday’s post. We have all heard the saying “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.” Oh, ok thanks. That clears it all up. What does that even mean? Christians can be great at going around and spouting off clichés. Be anxious for nothing, pray for everything. (Biblical yes, but is it backed up by any “meat” in their own life or is it just off the cuff advice to combat your deep-seeded anxiety? Take two of these and call me in the morning type advice. And oh, by the way did they offer to come alongside and pray with you over it?) So as I re-ready yesterday’s post, I felt it a little cliché to say, “So I will go, out into the crashing waves, out into the deep to meet Jesus. If that means trying and failing, at least I have failed while trying.” Very well put but what the heck does it even mean? I am calling myself on this one because I hunger for more, for the nuts and bolts of faith.

I don’t have this all figured out and I will never claim to. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We try to understand Him in the only capacity we know how, which in turn puts Him into a human-size box and He is so much more. Infinitely more.

Here is what I should have said…

Father, I love you. I want to seek you and I want to obey your commands. I know that I don’t always do a good job. Sometimes I see something shiny and I get distracted for awhile, but You, in your mercy and grace, always bring me back around to what You have planned for me. You bring me back into your will. Please forgive me for the times when I have failed, when I have been distracted, when I have chosen my own path. Lord, you see my heart and my secret thoughts, and you know that sometimes the things that you ask of me are daunting. They are big, and they are primed for failure and disappointment and I am driven out of my comfort zone. Please remind me on those days that was what you were trying to teach Peter. That is what walking on water really is. It is conquering whatever is impossible, whatever is terrifying, through You. It is where you are waiting to display your power through me, and where you are waiting to show your love to me. Please help me to become more like you. I want so much more than to live in clichés. Lord, save me!

Today, I challenge you to do the same. Get back to the nuts and bolts. Strip your faith back down to the basics where it is just you and Jesus, alone on the water. What would you say to Him? And more importantly, listen for what He is saying to you. Where is He leading you? What “water” is He asking you to brave? I know sometimes its hard to hear Him through everything else clamoring around you. It’s why I started running. It’s why I started writing. Please, just be still…

Troubled Waters, Part A

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Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
-Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), Hillsong United

Tired. No, not quite right…Exhausted and beaten down. A hurting body and a mind that is something akin to mush. A heavy, burdened heart. This is closer to the truth.  I know that I am not the only one who can relate. It’s like a perfect storm and I am in search of the One who can calm the stormy, surging waters before I sink in their murky depths, but sometimes it is hard to see anything for the crashing waves.  We are helpless to do anything to save ourselves but Jesus is standing amidst the waves holding out his hand to us, ready to rescue us with peace and rest. Call out to Him, He will hear your cry and save you. (Psalms 145:19)

Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (NIV, emphasis mine) This is not an if but a when. But the promise is that God will be with us, always. Sometimes we lose sight of that as we are beaten by the raging storm around us.  If that is the case you are in good company.  Matthew 14:22-32 tells the story of Peter’s experience with walking upon, and then sinking in, the waves. Vernon McGee writes, “When he [Peter] began to sink, he prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible,” Lord, save me!” If Simon Peter had prayed this prayer like some of us preachers pray, “Lord, Thou who are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent…” Peter would have been twenty-nine feet under water before he would have gotten to his request.”  Charles Spurgeon once remarked that “the best style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a cry.” This is the prayer of a drowning person in need of help from a savior, and aren’t we all?  Here is the best news of all, Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. (Matthew 14:31)

Today my prayer is that if you are struggling to keep afloat you will take the outstretched hand that offers hope and help. I pray that you would have the strength to cry out “Lord, save me!”  If you aren’t struggling, look around you just may see someone in need of your hand outstretched on Jesus’ behalf. You may be their lifeline to Him.

He chose me…

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Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Ok, confession time again. I am going to let you all in on a little secret. I am a closet Veggie Tales movie watcher. They are so entertaining with catchy little songs and teach practical Bible truths in a fresh way. I often find myself chuckling out loud. If you have never watched one I invite you to check them out. Although they are made for kids they are quite clever. So the other day I got to have my niece and nephew (4 & 2) over to “play” and we pulled out the Veggie Tales Tuba Warrior, a story about Gideon, and while I was sitting playing dolls and cars on the basement floor watching the movie I was struck by a prayer from Gideon. This was Gideon’s prayer, just before going into battle.

“Hey God, it’s me. You and I both know I can’t do this on my own, but you can, and that’s good enough for me. I pray you’ll be with us tonight and your will be done. That’s it I guess. Oh, one more thing. You could have chosen anyone but you choose me. Thanks. Amen”

A simple little prayer offered up by a cucumber resonated so deeply that I found myself days later still thinking about it. This little clip made me realize how thankful I am that God chose me. He chose my path, He chose my struggles, He chose my disease, specifically for me. All of these things have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. He has realigned my will, my thoughts, and my desires, all the while holding my heart in his hand to keep it from breaking in to an irreparable mess. It sounds crazy even to my own ears, thankful for a disease?! But the changes that God has engineered through it, in myself and in my family, are something to be thankful for.

God, you could have chosen anyone, but you chose me. Thank you!
Today, I pray that you can live in gratitude as well. No matter what your circumstances.

PS – In case your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you want to see the clip of Veggie Tales with Gideon’s prayer here it is. It is about 7 min long and comes from the end of the movie. There is also a great exchange between Gideon and an angel about how hard it can be to trust God
sometimes when what He is asking us to do doesn’t make sense. Like I said, they are full of great truths!

If God has closed the door…

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“God closed the door. Why are you trying to get into the window?”

A very wise person asked me this question one day as I was trying desperately to figure out a way around a very definite “no” from God. It made me pause and think for quite some time about what I was trying to do. In the years since I have come back to this question many times as I realize I am trying to work around God’s answer to my prayer. We don’t really like to be told that we can’t have something or can’t do something, especially when we think we want it so badly. I can tell you with certainty that in the moment, nos can be hard to swallow, but looking back, God’s plans for me have ALWAYS been better than my plans. You may not be able to see it overnight, but God only wants the best for you, just as any parent does for their children. Sometimes that means we have to say no.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5-6, MSG)
The next time you find yourself jiggling the handle of a locked door, instead of continuing to pound or searching for the unlocked window, turn your eyes heavenward. God has big plans for you, even through heartache, even through disappointment. Just be still a moment and listen for His voice. Let Him direct your paths, for what can we really do apart from Him?

A Reflection in Reflection

20130728-091311.jpgWhat if I stumble? What if I fall?
While yesterday’s post (A Reflection) was challenging let me follow up today with some encouragement. I am not perfect. I don’t know anyone who is. My Christianity is very real which means that it in turn is flawed and laced in humanity. But I am living a love story, one in which I have found grace, mercy, and forgiveness on those days when I find myself stumbling, struggling, and ultimately failing. I can’t do anything to earn God’s love and in all of my shortcomings He continues to pour out His love and forgiveness because I have accepted His gift of grace, salvation for a struggling soul.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8 NLT)

On those days when we find ourselves needing a re-do or a mulligan remember what Charles Stanley teaches on the subject of second chances. “Sometimes your burdens may seem endless. You repeatedly go through the same trial, making the same mistakes. The last time through, you thought you had truly mastered this area of your life. However, now you realize that it continues to cause you pain.

You question if God has abandoned you or if you have displeased Him so greatly that He would allow this suffering to persist. You wonder if you will ever learn the lesson God desires to teach you.

Take heart; the Lord loves you, He is with you, and He will never forsake you. He allows the trials in your life because He desires to give you freedom through them and show you His love.

He is drawing you close through this repeated problem. Do not despair. Cling to Him and He will fill you with His love.”

In return, all we can do is reflect this love to a broken world in search of second chances and show them through your walk, imperfect and stumbling though it may be, the gracious forgiveness you, yourself, have received.