Darkness into Grace

 " God, all the world is an opportunity to behold more of your transfiguring darkness into grace. I won't ever get over it. I'm beholden to it all my life, now and forever. I want to accept all You give and learn to see into the darkness as You do, as a place to fill with Your light. Help me Father. Help me to see in the dark." One Thousand Gifts Devotional.

And I will lead the blind
    in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
    I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
    the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
    and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16

  If there is one thing I have learned over the course of the past few years, hard years, painful years, it is that God is faithful, even in the darkness.

  In all things and no matter the circumstances we must remember that nothing, not one thing that happens to us is a surprise to God. He knows these things, He has allowed these things, dark as they may seem to you, senseless to you, unfair to you, He has allowed them. This might seem like something a harsh and unloving God would do, but in those thoughts we must remember all that He has told us, about who He is, about what His purpose is.

He is:

All Powerful

He is everywhere present.

 He is all knowing.

He is sovereign.

He is holy.

He is absolute truth.

He is righteous.

He is just.

He is love.

He is merciful.

He is faithful.

He never changes.

  All that He does, all that He allows, all that He brings about in our lives will and does serve His purposes, and His purposes are always for our benefit. Always.

  His grace is always available, a full measure, all that you need, for each day. Open your eyes. Ask Him to show you all the ways he blesses You, ask Him to show you how to see Him at work in what you perceive to be total darkness. From every single thing comes grace and blessing.

  I learned long ago that sometimes word pictures assist us in understanding something. I have always thought of my children and my great love for them in defining how God allows bad things, hurtful things, to occur in our lives. I look back to when one of my boys was very sick. I took him to the doctor, and they informed me that he would have to receive two shots, they would inject them into his legs, and that the shots were extremely painful. They informed me that they would burn like fire. I helped to hold him down while they injected him. I will never forget his eyes, they burned into me, eyes that screamed betrayal, how could I, his mother, the one who always defended, always comforted, always gave anything and everything on his behalf, allow this to be done? He was too young to understand why, too young to know that the reason I held him down, the reason I allowed them to hurt him, was because of my love for him, my desire to save him, to preserve his life. It was not for harm, although in his eyes great harm was done.

 Now I am an imperfect created being, and I have made, do make and will continue to make mistakes. My word picture therefore is inadequate in it's representation of God, but it at least helps to form a picture that might aid somewhat in our understanding of why bad things happen. Just like my son, laying on that table, screaming his outrage and his pain at the top of his lungs, did not understand, did not have all the pieces to the puzzle, could not comprehend at that time that what was taking place was for good in the end, sometimes we also cannot see. There will be times of great sorrow where we will live to actually see with our own eyes the reasons, and the good that came from them, there will be other times where we may not see it, we may have to wait until we stand before Him, and He shows us all that He did, all that He brought about, all that He prevented, by allowing the pain in our lives. What He asks us to do right now is to trust Him. His love for His children makes my love for my own children pale in comparison, for He is God, perfect in His love, while I am human and created and always imperfect in mine.

  May God, today and in days to come, help us to see in the darkness, to open our eyes fully, to open our clenched fists completely and receive the abundant grace that He freely gives.

GRACE: unmerited, undeserved favor.

 

More information on the attributes of God:

http://www.josh.org/video-2/attributes-of-god/



On Wings of Eagles

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
 
 What is it to wait upon the Lord?
What are you waiting for? Think deeply on this? What are you really waiting for? Are you waiting for the next bad thing to happen? Are you waiting on life to give you a break? .........What are you really waiting for?
 
 When we pray what are we praying for? For an end to trials? For an end to pain? What is our agenda? I have discovered that I often have an agenda when I pray. And more importantly I have sadly discovered that often my prayers do not reveal a satisfaction in God, nor a trust in His character, but a dissatisfaction with Him and a fear of what might happen next.

 When I give in to fear, or to anger, I am crying out with a loud voice that His grace is not sufficient, that His purposes in my life are not right. When I pray for things to change, plead for Him to do what I want done right now, I am saying that the place where He has me is not the right place.

 As Christians we were made to soar like eagles. Above the fear, above the worry, above the sorrow and sin and destruction. Regardless of what may be going on, we are to know our God and to trust that all that He brings into our life is right and is as it should be. It has a purpose. He has not promised us an easy life here on this earth, but if we pray to really know Him, pray to really trust Him, pray to be more like Him, we will soar above it all. Even our tears, and our suffering will not drag us down.

 He lives brothers and sisters!

"“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord”.   Psalm 27:14

“Be of good courage.”  Alas, how can one be so when all sense and feeling dishearten the mind and deject the soul?  Lively frames in duty, sweet enlargements of heart, heavenly transports of joy, delightful ecstasies of faith, rapturous tastes of love, all, all  like Noah’s dove have taken their flight; and I fear says the drooping soul, never, never more to return.  Truly like Hezekiah, “I mourn as a dove, mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord I am oppressed, undertake for me,” Isaiah 38:14. 

Still, saith the Comforter by his word, “Be of good courage”.  Remember thy calling.  It is to live by faith, honour thy Lord, and be obedient to his word.  Thou hast the sentence of death in thyself that thou should not trust in thyself lest thy heart depart from thy Lord.  Not frames and feelings, but God’s love and promises in Christ to sinners are the foundation of hope.  These are abundantly sufficient to inspire the soul with courage, yea, with good courage to go on in the ways of the Lord. 

Steadfast faith cleaves to Jesus, abides by the truth, and perseveres in dutiful obedience.  Shall these ever be suspended for want of lively frames and joyful feelings?  How would this prove that we walk by faith and that our eye is single to Christ’s glory?    Nay, we should then only serve him according to the changes of sense and passion rather than by the uniform, consistent obedience of faith. 

The Lord’s word is our rule of duty; his promises are our support.  His grace is sufficient for us; his strength is made perfect in our weakness.  If our hearts are weak that we cannot run with eagerness the ways of God’s commandments as we desire, so much more reason have we to wait on the Lord for “the times of refreshing from his presence”.  For “he giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” Isaiah 40:29.

“Wait I say on the Lord.”  David repeats the command with a holy fervour to his own soul and others.  God has promised: expect fulfillment. Here is the exercise of faith: trust in the Lord Christ for what we stand in need of; of hope, expecting to receive all from him; of patience, waiting continually upon him. 

Most precious promise! “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40: 31."

by William Mason

http://www.rcnz.org/meditation.html
 
How do we wait upon the Lord?

 In this busy world we are conditioned to believe that doing nothing is a bad thing. To sit quietly and simply listen, to simply be, is not encouraged in our society and yet it is a wonderful method of learning to wait upon the Lord.
 Our spirits today are loud, they shout and scream a lot. This often hinders our prayers. We stop for brief moments and pour out our request, our petitions, we beg God to change our situations and then we jump up and do everything in our power to fix whatever situation we are in. We do not do a lot of waiting. I am very guilty of this.
 
 Let us sit before Him, be silent before Him, He knows our situations, He knows the desires of our heart, He knows our suffering. Let us focus on who He is, let our fervent work be spent in knowing Him more, in seeing Him more clearly, in being more like Him. That is where we will find the miracles we seek.





Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalms 27:14


Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it].
Psalms 37:34


Say not thou, I will recompense evil; [but] wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
Proverbs 20:22




Singing Trees.......

 Today, as I was sitting outside on my break, attempting to write something, some blessing received, I asked the Lord, to open my eyes, my ears, my heart to His blessings…for I was empty..
 Then quite suddenly the thought of singing trees entered my mind, and I began to notice the wind, and the trees, and I began to hear the rustling of the leaves as the trees bent back and forth in the wind….their leaves rustling together…like song….and I could hear them sing.

 The sycamore trees were loud and joyful, their leaves making a mighty rustling sound, their many limbs whipping back and forth in time with the wind…nearby the pines sang, their voices low, almost overpowered by the sycamore…until you stood close to them, they more stoic and reserved, but still singing….and the Japanese maple, dancing gracefully, its song but a whisper in the wind…

How blessed I am, what blessing…to hear the trees sing!

 Later, after penning these words in my journal, I in curiosity decided to do an internet search for trees singing. And I found this poem and this painting....…..How delightful!


When the Trees Sing


When the trees sing,
It doesn't really matter
If you know the song,
Or if you know the words,
Or even if you know the tune.
What really matters is knowing
That the trees are singing at all.


May 6, 1998© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

 

Weeds and the Heart


Living in New Mexico one becomes accustomed to dirt. My yard is pretty much a huge dirt yard, there are various desert plants and some fruit trees, some decorative grass…….and for those of us who live here it does not look all that bad.


Another thing we become accustomed to here in New Mexico is weeds…and most especially Goat Head weeds. They are hardy, they grow everywhere and their seeds have thorns that will stick to anything and everything…your tires, your shoes, your animals feet, your feet…they are the enemy here in New Mexico.


Recent drought conditions here gave us a spring without weeds, and part of a summer without weeds. We water our garden plants and we sit back on our patio and enjoy the landscape. No weeds! And yet laying just under the surface of the soil are hundreds upon hundreds of goat head seeds. Our dogs are often seen standing out in the yard, paw raised in air, hurtful expression on face that yells out “help me mom!” and we are called to go and remove a goat head.


Recent rains have caused an explosion of these pesky weeds in our yard. Battle is required daily to wipe them out, wipe them out while they are small and tiny and manageable else they will become a plant, they will produce seeds, and those seeds will lay dormant in the dirt, causing pain and suffering to those creatures unfortunate enough to step on them, and producing thousands more if allowed to take root and grow. They are deceptive weeds, for when they bloom they have a beautiful delicate yellow flower.





My backyard is rather like my heart. I can water my heart with God’s word, I can exercise my heart by sowing seeds of peace and love with others, but I should never sit back and behold my heart and look upon it as a finished work….for each day tiny seeds are tossed in, tiny seeds sometimes not even noticed, not even noticed until they raise their foul heads and behold upon them dark stickers that cause pain…..or even worse…they take root, they grow, and they become a foul thing that chokes my heart, causes pain and sorrow and propagates the same.


Guard your heart for from it flow the well springs of life……


And from an unguarded heart can flow evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.....
 
Originally published on Blogger, August 2, 2013

A Peaceful Place

I was recently blessed with a very relaxing, peaceful and enjoyable weekend. It began on a Saturday morning, very early when my husband, my sister in law and myself headed out to Blue Water Lake, for some fishing.

We arrive just as the sun was rising. It was rather shocking to see how low the lake has gotten over the past few years, but where the lake used to be, now sits a huge grassy meadow, and it was filled with free ranging cattle and horses. This presented a beautiful picture to the eye as you looked upon the lake, the reflection of the sky in the water, the huge clouds in the sky, the bright green grass, the multi colored horses and cattle…..it was breathtaking.


Needless to say my desire to fish left me, to be truthful it had not been that strong in the first place, I have grown to be more of a relaxer, someone who likes to sit while others fish, and just watch the beauty……so as the husband and his sister took chairs and poles and tackle boxes to the lakeside…I embarked on a journey to walk around the lake and visit the green pasture and the animals within it.


As I walked along the lakeshore, I saw brightly colored dragonflies, some red, some blue, darting about on the water. A red tailed hawk took to the sky and soared above, prairie dogs gave their warning barks and dived into their shelters as I passed, a few brave ones standing at the edge on hind legs…watching me.


As I neared the portion of the lake where the grassland began, I passed a campsite and a large, goofy Labrador retriever ran out to greet me. His owner informed me that it was his furry friends very first camping trip….boy was he enjoying it!

Bells began to ring across the meadow and as I looked out I could see a flock of sheep coming across the field, driven by one little sheepdog. He carefully took them out into the middle; made sure each one was accounted for, and then settled down to watch them graze.

By now the horses are curious; they approach me slowly and with some trepidation. I began to talk to them, hands at my sides, not really staring at them, just telling them what a pretty place this is, and how much I enjoyed looking at it. They got within 8 to 10 feet of me, but any movement to reach a hand out, or entice them nearer was met with snorts and head tosses. So I took a few photos of them as they watched me.

As I walked about they followed from a distance of about 10-15 feet, stopping if I stopped, watching me closely if I turned to look at them, I took a few more photos, and just continued to chat with them as I walked. I took a few photos of the sheep, the dog unwilling to let me get to close, he warned me off with a bark, and when I took two steps forward he began to move his sheep away. So I backed away and left him be, hearing his message…I am working. No time to meet new friends right now.


I began my walk back towards the vehicle, and the horses followed. I figured they would stop at the edge of the grassland, but they did not, so I chatted with them as we walked, still not being able to touch them or get to close.

They stopped some distance from the car, and at that point, since they had come so far and been such great company, I had to reward them in some way, so I pulled carrots from the ice chest, and made my way back to them, and just stood, a few carrots in hand, and asked them if they would like one.

Slowly and with caution, the big blaze faced one approached, and extended his neck as far as he could, and then extended his lips and managed to grasp a carrot from the edge of my palm…and then he came a little closer. Within moments I was able to touch his neck, and then another came closer, and another.

 


Surrounded by horses I continue talking to them, most of them allow me to pat their necks, they become curious about the vehicle and one decides it would make a wonderful butt scratcher…and begins to scratch his backside on the back of the car, another for whatever reason decides to lick the back windshield…..and then another decides the windshield wipers just might be edible.

At this point it is time to say goodbye, before my husband gets upset at them for eating parts of the vehicle, so I climb into the driver’s seat and gently shoo them away, and take a short drive to the nearest rest facilities. Upon my return they had all gone back to their grazing.

I took my chair down to the lake where my husband and sister in law were fishing, along with my pole and my book, and sat for a spell, listening to the water gently lap against the shore, watching the birds flying above, the dragonflies flitting to and fro, and the occasional fish leaping from the water. I fished for perhaps ten minutes and quickly lost interest.

I read for a while, went for another walk, took a nap and just generally soaked up the sun and rested. No fish were caught on this trip and by noon the thunderheads were rolling in and a hard storm was approaching, so we took our leave of Blue Water Lake, for fear of being caught in the storm and getting stuck in the mud that was sure to be left in its wake.

I left refreshed and full of joy, the circumstances of my life had not changed, I still have a son suffering from severe PTSD, my daughter in law is still dead, my younger son still depressed, my niece still dealing with her husband’s suicide, all the things to worry about were still there, but I was at peace.

I thought a lot about heaven that day, what it must be like, would there be the same animals in the new heaven and new earth as we have on this one? I believe so, after all my Lord has told me He is preparing a place for me, and He has told me that I am unable to even imagine how wonderful it will be. I have always loved His creatures, and it is His will to delight His children….there will be animals in heaven!

 
Originally published on Blogger, July, 2013

Why?.....Why?......Why?

I have been reflecting a lot on the subject of death, especially untimely death, and the subject of the hereafter. I cannot count the times I have asked God why…..I have asked why He allowed these young souls to leave so soon, and in the manner in which they left. Why did He not intervene, why did He not stop them…why….why….why?

This week I read the story of Lazarus. I have read it countless times before, but this time many things jumped out at me……Jesus loved Lazarus…..the man Jesus….Lazarus was his friend, Lazarus was dear to Him. When he was informed that His dear friend was sick and near death, Jesus could have rushed to his side….He could have just spoken a word right there, without even leaving…He could have healed Lazarus in an instant……..but He did not….He delayed……He was in sorrow for His friend…but He delayed…….Lazarus died.

Now everyone knows the rest of the story…but did you notice the grief and anger from Martha and Mary….Martha who cried out “Lord had You only been here, he would not have died!” Her cries are so similar to my cries of “Why Lord?” Mary. In her grief, she also wonders why…and yet she believes….she states that Jesus is the Messiah…the very Son of God…..and yet she wonders why He did nothing to save her brother.

Before calling Lazarus from death to life, our Lord stands outside his tomb and weeps. Why does he weep. He knows that which He is about to do…and yet He weeps. Perhaps He weeps for Lazarus, who must now leave eternal glory and come back to a life of flesh and misery, come back and walk in a world where he will see his friend and his Lord hung upon a cross, and where he will live out his days and die one day, weak and old, or sick and broken…perhaps that is why our Lord weeps. Perhaps He weeps for those standing with Him, for they do not truly understand all that He is.

I dare not presume to know the will or purpose of God, but it is good to sometimes reflect on things. Recently in one of my prayers, one of those broken prayers asking why…one of those prayers telling God that I would do anything to take away this pain, to bring these souls back, to grant them a long and happy life here upon this earth with those who grieve for them…during this time something came to my mind. What if I was given that power? What if God allowed me to choose, allowed me to bring back those we have lost, restore them to their loved ones, and grant them all life and happiness here on this earth…..and the only catch is that I must understand the cost?

Cost? What cost in bringing back a loved one lost too soon, lost in tragic circumstances? Surely God did not mean for this to happen to them? Surely it is a result of sin in the world, or an accident, surely?

When I began to ponder what possible cost could there be….this came to mind. What if in bringing back one of these loved ones, I knew that I was condemning ten others to eternity apart from God? What if I, knowing that these loved ones are with Him, that I and those they loved will see them again? What if I could bring them back here right now…but the cost was the eternal destiny of others? These others may be strangers to me, or they may be dear to me…perhaps they are brothers of the ones who have gone over, or sisters, husbands or wives; they might even be children….or parents. If I knew the cost would I still choose to bring them back?

If faced with having the power to award a long life here on earth, together with those they loved, and yet an eternity in heaven with someone they held dear not present, or even strangers, perhaps a handful, perhaps a multitude… Not there…doomed to eternity apart from God…..would I bring them back?

Again, we must not presume to know the will or purpose of God in these matters. And we must learn from Job “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing”, and never accuse the Creator and Sustainer of life of wrongdoing.

But it is safe to remember and to meditate upon the will of God revealed in the scriptures and upon His character as it is revealed in scripture. He is good; He loves those who He has called. He has plans to prosper those He calls. He is merciful. He is right. He is just. He is all these things and more.

Notice that I have not answered my own question. I have not answered whether I would choose to bring them back, were it in my power to do so. This is intentional for I see within myself the possibility of choosing wrongly, of choosing to do whatever required in removing the pain of those I love, to restore dear ones to this world from which they were in my eyes removed too soon. So instead of choosing, I will only say this, it is good that I have not this power, it is good that you have not this power, it is good that such power rests in the sure hands of He who knows all things, in He who works always, for the good of those He has called. Instead of answering the question, I choose to trust Him, although I do not understand I choose to trust Him, although I am hurt and angry and at times utterly dismayed….I choose to trust Him.

Will you also trust Him?

 
Originally published on Blogger, July 3, 2013

Compassion for Others....a gift or a curse?

Of late there has been an abundance of occurrences whereby the opportunity to extend mercy and compassion has been made available. Currently my family has endured two suicides in a three month period, over the past few years I have come to know many people who have suffered the loss of a son in combat, and it seems that all my friends are struggling with various heartaches, from deaths in their family to very ill family members, lost jobs, and just all around hard times.

Being merciful and having compassion on others can consume you if you are not careful, it can lead to depression, to despair, to hopelessness, as God brings one person after another into your life that is hurting. In most cases you are powerless to do much about the situation, you may offer comfort, you try and console, you try to bring hope, you try to show love, in other words…you extend to the hurting the gift of mercy and compassion.


The situations my family have endured and many of my friends has led me to reflect upon this gift I have….is it a gift or is it a curse? There are some days when I feel so burdened, so weighed down with the sorrow of others that I can hardly focus on the mundane tasks at hand, and I feel discouraged, and very sad. Today was such a day. When I arose this morning I felt discouraged. Various trials being experienced by persons that I love very much were heavy on my heart, and I cried out to God…”how much longer Lord?”..” I cannot stand feeling like this, I cannot stand this constant burden, I cannot stand this constant worry for those I love…..how wonderful it must be to be able to simply live life without so much concern for the welfare of others.”


And then it came to me….how the gift of mercy is truly a gift. It is a small and tiny piece of God’ own heart….He is burdened for the sorrows of His children…..He hurts for them…and He desires me to pray for them, he desires me to offer words of comfort…He desires me to stand beside them……and in so doing He is standing with them, He is offering comfort, He is praying….What a wonderful thing to be used by God in such a way!


We are His hands here on earth! We are His voice! We are His arms! We are His legs! We must embrace all that He places on us, and do His work!


Romans12: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.



“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
Teresa of Ávila
 
Originally published on Blogger June 26th, 1013

Happiness or Joy….Sorrow or Despair

Happiness is fleeting at best, for to be happy everything must be as one would like it to be……but joy is always possible, one cannot be happy while in the midst of sorrow, but one can have joy in the midst of sorrow. Despair destroys both happiness and joy, for in despair there is no hope, no light, nothing of beauty, nothing to delight in, nothing to be amazed by…….so I choose to reject despair and take up sorrow………for my family and for many of my friends, there has just been too much recently to grasp at happiness….for me, in order to be happy, my children must be happy, my husband must be happy, finances must be certain, health must be good, and my extended family and friends must likewise have these things….if any is lacking, if there is concern, if there is loss, if there is suffering of any kind, then happiness escapes me. Buy Joy…joy is another thing entirely!

 I rejoice in the midst of sorrow, I rejoice that loved ones who have left this world are with Him, where there is no more sorrow, where they are as He meant them to be, where all is well, and where I will one day be……I will see them again.

In the midst of sorrow, I rejoice in creation, in the wonder of the flowers, and the life that surrounds us, in the antics of silly dogs as they play, in the wonder of children as they ask simple questions about things I often do not even notice…..I rejoice in these things.

In the midst of sorrow, I rejoice in the people He has brought into my life, the dear friends, and the strangers who seem to fall from the sky right when I or someone I love need their expertise. God is so good to have sent such people my way.

I rejoice in His grace, in the midst of my sorrow, His abundant marvelous grace that never rewards me for my thoughts, my deeds…but instead pours out goodness and mercy upon my so often sinful soul.

I rejoice in His word, that brings comfort to my soul, and in His promises to which I cling. He will not leave me, nor forsake me, He is faithful, He is trustworthy, and He is true.

All around us are blessings, for He blesses the righteous and the unrighteous with the simple wonders of creation, the air we breathe, the gentle breeze on a hot summer day, the refreshing rain that falls upon the hot parched earth, the flowers that fill the air with their wonderful fragrance….all these things and more are given us each day. 1000 blessings, and on most days we miss even seeing 999 of them.

 

Take a moment and watch this short video….perhaps it will help you as it has helped me, to see the beauty around you, to see the blessings around you, no matter what loss, no matter how sad, no matter the sorrow….there are always things to be thankful for. It is a truly profound video, I do hope you take the time to see for yourself.