Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let it rain

Evening rolls in, bringing with it thick, dark clouds.  Could it be? I wonder.
Our land is starved for rain. The grass is crisp. My tomato plants wilty. Allergies are going haywire as the everything turns to dust.  Rain, I pray. Lord let it rain.

The wind howls furiously.  I run outside to drag in trashcans and tuck away plant stands.  My husband helps me remove a sun tarp which violently whips, thwacking the garage door.  The cloud is right over our neighborhood. I fear it will withhold it's rain. Please, Lord.

"Let's pray and thank God for the rain," I hear my eight-year-old say.
But, I think to myself, it hasn't rained yet!
I correct my attitude. Thank Him anyway.

We huddle in the livingroom watching flashes of lightning strike across the sky.  Thunder cracks and echos through our neighborhood. It sounds like a war zone outside.

I hear the clatter of the wind chimes. The kids snuggle close to us on the couch. My daughter is scared. She has all three of her favorite stuffed animals, plus her blanket, pulled close for comfort.  We turn out the lights and I gather all the candles... just in case.  I strike a match and set the flame to each wick.  It's comforting.

My mind drifts as I observe the sky blink and shudder.  When Jesus comes, what will it look like. Will the sky blink and shudder as it does now?  Will it holler and shout out His glory as He rides in?

Rain pours, beating hard upon the windows and the roof.  I awake in the morning to wet ground and light sprinkles.  It is cool and refreshing outside- it hasn't been that way for months.  The earth smells fresh and revived.

Thank you, Lord, I smile.

I see the parallels. I was dry, parched. I cried out, begged for nourishment, life, renewal. And down it poured. Thick and plentiful, soaking the ground just as the rain had my yard.

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Piecing together

Yesterday, my oldest son pulled out a brand new puzzle and asked if we could put it together. I cut open the box for him and watched as he poured the contents onto the kitchen table.  He searched through the pieces, trying to find two to fit together.  Several minutes passed before he asked, "Mom, can you help me?"

I plopped into the chair beside him to show him a simpler way to put together the puzzle.
"First," I began, "you find all the edge pieces."
"Why?" he questioned.
"Well, you see, if you get the border in place, it's much easier to fit the rest of the puzzle together.  We already know that those puzzle pieces with a flat edge are going to make up the border, so we can begin to assemble them first," I replied. "Even if we didn't have a picture of the puzzle to go by, we could still form the border which would give us a guideline to where the other pieces would go."
He smiled, "Makes sense to me!"

This last week, I found myself with bits of scripture here and there, but I didn't realize, until this morning, that God had set those scriptures before me as pieces of a puzzle.  Today He gave me the bigger picture. It was as if He was setting up the border, and today He led me to an image of what it would look like when it was complete.

Previously, I had been looking at a (figurative) pile of pieces wondering how to start and where to place them.  The task seemed overwhelming.

Now I feel like I have direction- I can begin filling in the gaps as I go, depending on the image Christ gave and knowing His power will lead me to completion as I work on what He has already revealed.

Coded post, I realize... but maybe some of you can understand where I'm coming from.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do I believe God is good all the time?

The thought from William Law's book stays in my mind.  All goodness comes from God.  How many times have those words of the chorus floated off my lips, "God is good, all the time. All the time, He is good."  Have I believed that?  That God is good all the time.

Did I really feel He was good when my daughter was lying in a hospital bed, face pale and head bandaged.  When the doctors didn't even know what that mass was in her brain (and still don't), and we didn't know where that road would take us?  Did I really feel God was good all the time when, weeks after she was discharged from the hospital, we found out this little one in the womb only had a three-chambered heart?

I suppose, with the first blow, it was easier for me to trust in God's plan. I kept singing, "I will praise You in this storm," and I really tried.  The only way I could sleep at night was to leave it in His hands.  Everyone kept remarking at how strong we were.  Were we?  I think we were just trying to survive each moment as it came.  It made me all to aware that God was the giver of life and the taker as well.  I felt so out of control.

Then the second blow, my little baby.  I had suffered four miscarriages before that pregnancy.  We had made it halfway through only to learn that we could possibly lose her shortly after her birth, if not in the final weeks of my pregnancy.

I could hear the pain in my midwife's voice as she called to relate the news.  She knew what we had been through with our oldest child.  She didn't even mention the cyst on the baby's brain.  I suppose she thought the heart issue was enough to handle.

It was then I began to question, "Why us?"  I knew we wouldn't escape our first decade of parenthood without some sort of huge heart-wrenching event, but two? One right after the other?

I recall days sitting on my bed, staring across the room at my reflection in the dresser mirror. Who was that girl? I felt like God was poking and plucking my children one by one.  The future seems so uncertain. Would God heal them both?  Could we be that fortunate?  Why would He do that for me and allow my friend to lose two of her children within two years?  I knew I wasn't more worthy of that mercy and grace.

The story ends well. I have both of my girls, healthy, safe. But now that I'm pregnant again, all those feelings, memories, and emotions are rushing through the cables of my mind. 

God is good, all the time.   Is that what Abraham was thinking when God told him, "Take your son, Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2, HCSB)  Was he singing songs of thanksgiving as he, his son, and his men made their way across the land?  On that third day, as he glimpsed the location from a distance, was his heart full praise?

Did it feel like a punch to the gut when his son asked, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

I've been thinking about this a lot.  What am I willing to sacrifice?  I've come to a place where I feel I could sacrifice my comfortable living, the material things I love.  Could I sacrifice my family?  If God chose to take them away, would my faith remain? Would I still praise His name? Would I still call Him good?

My mind drifts to the author of my favorite hymn [It Is Well With My Soul]. Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in the 1860's. He was likely more known for his support of preacher D.L. Moody. His testimony amazes me.  Here is a man who seems to have it all- a beautiful wife, five wonderful children, a lovely home in Chicago.  And then tragedy strikes.

Their only son is struck with scarlet fever and dies at the age of four.  (My third-born is about to be four. I can't even imagine...)  A year later, still morning the loss of their loved little boy, the Great Chicago Fire sweeps through the city.  The Spaffords had invested in real estate. Almost everything they owned was ashes.

A couple years later, after the family had pitched in to assist in the restoration of their community, Spafford decided it would be good for his family to take a much needed vacation.  He sent his wife and four daughters to England, as he was delayed in business dealings and planned to follow shortly after.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and two hundred and twenty-six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford beginning "Saved alone."

Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters' deaths. According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote "It Is Well With My Soul" on this journey. [source: Wikipedia]

The words of his hymn stick with me.

When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."

I remember singing those words one Sunday as my daughter lay lethargically in the hospital bed. My mom and I wept as we listened to a version on YouTube in that cold, sterile room.

It is well with my soul.

Would it still have been well with my soul if one or both of my daughters had died?

How strong is my faith? I mean, how strong is it really? How strong is it when everything seems to be going awry, when the pretty life I had hoped for begins to make a downward tilt, or the plans I make begin to go askew? Will my faith stand, will praise still joyfully sound, will my hope remain?

Do I truly believe that God is good all the time, even when life has taken a road I'd rather not go down, when I lose those I love, when I'm challenged with sacrifices I'd rather not make?

Oh Lord, help my unbelief!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Worthy of Love

My name, Amanda, means worthy of love.  Strange, since I've spent twenty-seven years of my life believing otherwise.  But, just now, it hit me.  I'm worthy of love because I'm God's creation.  It's not because I'm something fabulous and fantastic on my own or of my own doing.  It's because of Who molded me from dust, Who breathed life into me. Him. I am worthy because of Him.

I was formed by holy Hands.  Pretty amazing to think about.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Power of the Spirit

Some time ago, my husband borrowed the book, The Power of the Spirit (by William Law, edited by Dave Hunt) from our good friend Terry. Brandon raved that it was one of the best books he had ever read, that it had opened his eyes to the truth of the Holy Spirit so many people miss or forget. I intended to read it, but you know how it is.... life gets in the way!

With my hubby out of town, I decided now would be a perfect time to devour it.  With no one to talk to as the household winds down, I can definitely find time to snuggle into my covers with a good book.

If this was my copy, I would have underlined every single word in the first chapter (and likely the second too, but I haven't read it yet.)

Allow me to share some of the (many) points that stuck out to me.  If I were you, I would consider buying my own copy, right now.

"The Spirit of the triune God, breathed into Adam at his creation, was that alone which made him a holy creature in the image and likeness of God. A new birth of this Spirit of God in man is as necessary to make fallen man alive again unto God as it was to make Adam at first in the image and likeness of God.  And a constant flow of this divine life by the Spirit is as necessary to man's continuance in his redeemed state as light and moisture are to the continued life of a plant. A religion that is not wholly built upon this supernatural ground, but which stands to any degree upon human powers, reasonings, and conclusions, has not so much as the shadow of truth in it. Such religion leaves man with mere empty forms and images that can no more restore divine life in his soul than an idol of clay or wood could create another Adam. True Christianity is nothing but the continual dependence upon God through Christ for all life, light, and virtue; and the false religion of Satan is to seek that goodness from any other source."

I should return to a note from the foreword of this book so you can capture a glimpse of who William Law, the man who wrote those words above, truly was.

I have found there were two William Laws: the one who wrote that classic The Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, but who at that stage did not know more than a Christ to be imitated rather than the the Christ imparted; and for that reason John Wesley always had a negative opinion of Law, because Wesley only knew him as the author of that legalistic book in Wesley';s unenlightened and Holy Club days.  But then Law tells many times in his other writings how he later met with the works of Jacob Boehme, the cobbler of Gorlitz, Germany. Through Boehme the midday sun of God's revelation in Christ shone into Law; and while Boehme, as an illiterate shoemaker, could not put his inner insights into coherent German (and his translators into English have the same difficulty), William Law could and did reproduce the essence of Boehme in Law's matchless Spirit of Love and Spirit of Prayer.  [Norman P. Grubb]

I can see why The Power of the Spirit was so passionately written.  When one turns from a legalist sort of life to the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a drastic change within the heart, mind, and soul. As a former legalist, I always struggled with this "freedom in Christ" the bible spoke of. I didn't feel free. If I was free from sin, why did I feel like I was still bound by something else?

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1

I wonder if Law felt the same before he came in contact with Boehme.

I love the point Law makes here:

All goodness comes from God just as surely as all life comes from God. The highest angel has no more of his own that he can offer unto God than the poorest creature upon earth. Were an angel to imagine that the smallest degree of wisdom, goodness, or excellence came from or belonged to himself, his place in heaven would be lost as surely as Lucifer lost his. But songs of praise to their heavenly Father are the angels' ravishing delight, because they never cease to acknowledge God as the source of all good in themselves and in the whole creation. This is the one religion of heaven, and nothing else is the truth of religion upon earth.

This part stings a bit:

Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it- yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon Him. For delight in matters of Scripture can be nothing but the carnal emotion of a fallen Adam-nature unless this delight finds its source in the inspiration of God as He quickens His own life and nature within the heart.

Wow. Yes. Been there. And I bet William Law had too. For twenty years of my life, the bible was little more than inspirational words and good instruction mingled with fear and horror over what would happen if I couldn't "get it right".  And even still, there are times when I read the bible apart from the Holy Spirit, and while I can take joy in certain verses, I can now tell the difference when it is the Spirit quickening my soul or when it's just my carnal mind taking delight in "a good book".

Law seems to return to the basic, but important truth, that God is the creator of all things.  Each of his points in the first chapter return to this truth- He is the maker.

It is as great rebellion against God to think that your will may ever rightly differ from His as it would be to boast in His universe that you have not received the power of willing from Him.  You are therefore to consider yourself as a being that has no other business in the world but to be that which God requires you to be; to have no desires, to seek no self-ends, but to fill that place and act that part which the divine pleasure has ordained. To think that you are your own, or at your own disposal, is as absurd as to think that you created yourself. It is as plain and necessary a first principle to believe that you are thus God's, and are to act and suffer all in a thankful resignation to His pleasure, as to believe that in Him you "live and move and have your being."

I can just hear the scoffing and see the cringing by those who believe that Christians are a bunch of people who need someone to "control them".  I'm sure there are even a few Christians cringing at these comments.  But they are truth. Law expands on this, and I'd love to share the whole chapter here (but I'm pretty sure that's illegal...)

Here is a great free resource (so I'm told). I've skimmed it. It is based on Law's book, The Power of the Spirit.  Click here to go to the PDF.

With love,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Struggles: Am I really loved?

Lately, I've been struggling in my faith. Sometimes it is really difficult for me to grasp the love of God.  I've had to remind myself that Jesus died for me. There's never been a bigger statement of love than the Word of God, God in Flesh, taking upon the wrath of the Father as He bore the sins of the world- my sin, your sin, our sin- on that cross.

God really spoke to me through this song this last week. I've posted the lyrics below as well.

Album: A Beautiful Life

You might be the wife waiting up at night
You might be the man struggling to provide
Feeling like it’s hopeless

Maybe you’re the son who chose a broken road
Maybe you’re the girl thinking you’ll end up alone
Praying “God, can you hear me?
Oh God, are you listening?”

Am I more than flesh and bone?
Am I really something beautiful?
Yeah, I wanna believe, I wanna believe that
I’m not just some wandering soul
That you don’t see and you don’t know
Yeah, I wanna believe,
Jesus, help me believe that
I am someone worth dying for

I know you’ve heard the truth that God has set you free
But you think you’re the one that grace could never reach
So you just keep askin’, oh, what everybody’s askin’


You’re worth it, you can’t earn it
Yeah, the cross has proven
That you’re sacred and blameless
Your life has purpose

You are more than flesh and bone
Can’t you see you’re something beautiful
Yeah, you gotta believe, you gotta believe
He wants you to see, He wants you to see that
You’re not just some wandering soul
That can’t be seen and can’t be known
Yeah, you gotta believe, you gotta believe that
You are someone worth dying for
You’re someone worth dying for
You’re someone worth dying for