Treasure in Tragedy Part 2

Drink deeper…

Heartache, if allowed can pave the way to a deep connection between you and God. There was a saying going around when my daughter Haylie died; “you can get better or you can get bitter” I hated that saying. Of course I wanted to get better…but how? (Years later He required broken instead of better…but that’s a different story!)

The day after her funeral my husband and I, along with our four-year old son Joshua, went out-of-town to try to regroup. One night while waiting for a table at a Mexican restaurant  a mass of people scooted in next to us, they sat so close that their daughter’s feet were in my lap. We chatted and the inevitable question came up. How many children do you have? At first we all froze. This was the first, but certainly not the last time that question was ever asked. Truthfully, I still stumble for the right answer. My husband looked at me, I looked at Josh, we fidgeted and looked at each other again. I answered and out came the whole story. The woman who asked the question was a beautiful, subtle blonde who wore a soft, yellow turtle neck. Tears came to her eyes as she told us the story of her two-year old daughter who died, just a few years back. I looked at her and said, “you are so beautiful and look so normal. I don’t think I will ever feel normal again.” Her response; “God and time.”

In the following years when tempted to bend towards bitter I would recall the woman in the yellow turtle neck-adorned in grace-without a trace of bitterness.

God put that woman in my path. He faithfully causes our lives to curve and bend in directions that lead to Him. He had the answer (the how) to the better or bitter question, before I ever asked it. All throughout the time Haylie was dying and clear through the grieving process God in His faithfulness set up situations just as this one. Little helps and nudges that assisted me in healing and finding Him. A surrendered tender heart toward God will allow the treasure of His faithfulness to be revealed.

Another treasure that has helped me through life is the concept of allow. God does not allow anything to happen to us unless it passes through Him first. At first this could be alarming and take us back to the “why” question, (but we already cleared that up in the last blog post). In the book of Job we see Satan asked God if he could wreak havoc on Job. Then we see that God allowed him to devastate Job’s life. We can find comfort in the idea that everything the devil or the world throws at us has to be allowed by God.
It’s comforting because:
1. We trust God and His faithfulness-He is faithful–He loves and cares for us-His promises are true. (1 Peter 5:7)
2. We can rest assured that He will not let anything we cannot handle come to us. This means He has faith in us that we will make it through. (1 Corinthians 10:1)
3. In our weakness we are made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)
4. We know that God see’s the beginning from the end and will help us. (Psalm 121)

Jesus suffered and in essence made a way for us. (Hebrews 5:8) Through His suffering we are made whole, we are comforted because even though in suffering we might not feel whole, we have faith that we will be. We know that His amazing love fills in all our gaps. There is not a religion and/or pill that can promise that!

We basically have two choices:
A. Be the people who let the punches of tragedy send them on a never-ending roller coaster, allowing negativity to define us.
OR
B. Take advantage of suffering and embrace it. Knowing it’s part of life, and can be a refining fire. Allowing God to define us into pure hearted believers.

A sure treasure I found in tragedy is this..I look at it as purposeful. Why? How? Because it causes me to see my weakness and thrusts me into God–the only safe place to live life. The only place I can take all my pain, questions, misunderstandings and disappointments of life. I can lay them all down, letting them go and make an exchange with Almighty loving God, who cares for and loves me.

When tragedy approaches I try not to even give the devil a second look, I turn to God and ask “What do You want to accomplish in me, through this?”

The “hows” of finding treasure in tragedy are easy…trust God, He will never leave you or forsake you!

I ask you, what does God want to accomplish in you through suffering?

In part three of this post we will look at Job and what treasure he found in tragedy and how?

Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”

 1 Peter 1:6-7 “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trial for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

1 Peter 5:10 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

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Treasure in Tragedy, part 1

Drink deep…

The Hero of Grace post talked of finding treasure in tragedy, I now realize the need to share; “how” to find treasure in tragedy. Not only in death but all forms of heart-break and devastation.

First, realize suffering is part of life. It is written into every script, no one is exempt–it visits the rich and the poor, young and old, including everyone in between–only the degree and intensity may vary. We live in a fallen world where death, sickness, loss and all forms of sin and suffering abound.

The common question is why? Why would a good God allow suffering to come to good people?  The truth is; God is all good and all-knowing. God is the only answer for life, especially when it hurts. Good and evil are continually at war. It’s interesting how when tragedy strikes everyone blames God. That’s what I did when my daughter died. God helped me through the time of her sickness and death, then I turned right around and became angry with Him. Why? Why do people automatically blame God as if He were the one who brought the calamity?

Remember good and evil? The fact is the devil, the enemy of our soul is evil. His whole purpose is to kill, steal and destroy, even greater, he wants us to curse God. He wants us to lose faith and turn away from the only One who can help us! The devil is worse than tricky, he brings devastating situations into our life that cause heart ache and pain, getting us to turn on our only source of  hope and help–then laughs. Do you know why he laughs? Because his evil plan has left us hopeless. Not only hopeless but angry, bitter and empty without help.

The way (or the how) that I found treasure in the tragedy of my daughter’s death was as follows. The Lord in His grace showed me myself and I was angrily shaking my fist at Him, blaming Him for my pain. He spoke and said why not shake your fist at the devil–the enemy of your soul? Why not shake your fist where it will do you some good? I realized I was basically working against myself, my hard heart towards God and my anger were hurting me and making my situation worse! Again by the grace of God, I turned my fist to the enemy, to the one who came to destroy me and my family, more than that he came to steal our faith and kill us spiritually, hoping that we would spend eternity in hell with him.

I am not a very passive person and believe me when I caught  a glimpse of the devil’s plan and how he got me to turn on God the One who loves me–my only help, I was furious and I still am! All my anger is harnessed and turned against evil. I will not give the devil one inch in my life or in that of my family. When he comes against me and he does quite often, my faith only gets stronger and my dependency on God only increases.

The enemy’s plan for humanity is to turn us against God and to cause tragedy, his hope is that we will not find any treasure in it. God, in deep contrast to the devil, plans that we find good in all that is bad. Understandably, it is difficult to see any ray of sunshine in thick darkness and pain, but guaranteed if we will make a shift in our thoughts towards God, soften our heart and stop blaming Him, we will find just what we need–hope, help and healing–we will find Him.

The big question at this point would be–how? How do I soften my heart towards someone who has allowed this pain in my life? For me the answer was in surrender and trust. I let myself be loved by God. I surrendered to His love and help, then in the place of true love–I found trust. Think about this; if you don’t soften your heart and surrender what are your options? Be angry and become the bitter person everyone avoids? Surrender to the devils plan; curse God, live a miserable life then die and spend eternity with him? If you ask me none of these are even options. Why not get on God’s side where hope, comfort and real love await?

Surrendering to God caused me to find treasure in all situations. The biggest treasure of all is my relationship with God. Part two of this post will give some more “hows” on finding treasure in tragedy, but for now just let the truths above soak in.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Living the Dream

Drink…

I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming about prosperity, houses, cars, great relationships, businesses I could start, things I could buy, and places I could see; the list was incessant. Those dreams always seemed elusive. When one was achieved (or not) it was never very fulfilling but rather shallow and empty. It always left me in a place of wanting and/or disappointment. So there I’d go, on to the next dream…or was it fantasy?

After God sifted all my dreams, only one remained—Jesus—the only dream that never disappoints.

Essentially, when we make Jesus our best dream, everything in life falls into place. This is where the two worlds of fantasy and dream divide. Some might think making Jesus our best dream is a cop-out. I beg to differ. To make Jesus our best dream means we surrender to His plan—His dreams for us. Proverbs 19:21 states “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” We can dream our dreams and strive to make them happen, only to watch them crumble, or we can dream God’s dreams for us and expectantly see them come to fruition. No matter what path we take, in the end, God’s plans and dreams are going to prevail—it’s a no-brainer.

Making Jesus our best dream means we find Him as our only source and contentment. It’s a journey of single focus. It’s the wonder of relationship with an Almighty, Eternal God where in the midst He deposits His dreams in our heart. And not only does He birth them in us, but He strengthens us to make them happen! Philippians 4:13 speaks of this very thing “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Additionally, Jesus as our best dream is the essence of Philippians 4:13. Little ol’ me and little ol’ you cannot do all things unless we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Running off doing our own thing and conjuring up our plans and then asking God for His approval is not Christ through us. Being in a relationship with Him where He is our everything (our best dream) is the core of Christ through us. A love-sick relationship of a submitted life style is where His dreams are exchanged with ours and where the dreams succeed.

Tired of disappointment? Live the dream of Jesus as your best dream—you will not be disappointed!

Hero of Grace

Drink this in…

A quarter of a century has gone by since my two-year old daughter Haylie Anne, left my arms to be in Gods. It was September 30, 1986. Twenty-five years is quite a while, even so, at times it seems as yesterday.

When Haylie died I quickly wanted another child, so the void in my heart would be filled, I soon learned the spot she held in my heart was hers; and it remains hers till this day. It is interesting how each child holds a certain place in our heart. I’ve given birth to seven children, as each one arrived, their place in my heart never crowded the other. My heart only expanded and made room for each.

The meaning of Haylie Anne’s name is Hero of Grace. God in all His wisdom allowed a hero of grace disguised as a wide-eyed, precious girl to visit my family. For what purpose? How could such a short life, serve a great purpose? Haylie may have lived only two years but the imprint of her life is still alive.

At her funeral a friend sang a song he composed. The words have never left my remembrance, they  rang; “Haylie chosen of God to do His will on this earth and now the princess has married her prince.”

Haylie was never meant to live a long life, her purpose was fulfilled in God’s perfect timing. Yes, her death was tragic and unexpected, but her life warmed my heart, filled my arms and has lasting effect. In tragedy we can always find  treasure. God has deposited numerous treasures in my life through hers. Because of her I live my life with intensity and intention, loving God and others as if I may not see tomorrow. Mainly, Haylie’s life and death have bridged me to God in a way that nothing else ever has or could. For that I am grateful.

Today, I just want to remember Haylie out loud, and to publicly thank God for His Hero of Grace.

Haylie, until we meet again…

The book Thirsty Heart holds many stories of Haylie and how God used her life and death to shape and save me and my family. Look for it soon!

Weightless

Drink up…

When the manifest presence of God sweeps in, everything normal is swept out. Picture it this way it’s an ordinary day; your walking down the street just going about your business when suddenly a huge tidal wave floods in, knocking you off your feet.  Everything on this familiar street is under water-as are you. Even though your shoulders carry many weights, the rapid current causes all to be tussled about and carried down what used to be a road but now resembles a rushing river. This purging water envelopes you inside and out.

When the presence of God consumed my existence it  looked just as the description above. My whole life was turned upside down, it was painful yes, but not as painful and empty as living a half-baked life. The only recovery in sight was Jesus. Well, I could of chosen anger or any of it’s counter parts but I knew God was at work answering my prayers for more of Him.

For a good amount of my Christian life God was pretty much a room addition. I knew I wanted Him to be more but I didn’t want to loose control of my life. Making God more than a room addition meant making Him the House and me the addition. This concept tweaks with our-I’ll have it my way culture-even in the church.

Finally my life and heart were desperate. I looked for more in a few different avenues that I called God, but knew my more had to come from the only One who could actually give me more. It had to come from supernatural means, hence my supernatural God!

God in His mercy showed up not in a quiet, soft, gentle presence but in a strong, confident tidal wave, that shook my life to the core and left no prisoners!

Words such as sovereignty, submission, humility, relinquish, surrender and resignation became staples in my new vocabulary. Yes it was difficult, but God never asks us to do anything that He won’t equip us for. My part was to surrender my will, recognize my weakness, embrace the situation and allow God to heal and restore me.

I like to explain the process as follows:
heres me/you………………………………………………………………………………. heres God.
 All the dots in-between are different situations and/or things we fill our life and heart with that essentially keep us from intimate relationship with God. The goal is to draw near to God, to do so we must get rid of the “dots” in-between. This is where the presence of God makes an entrance, here within lay all His attributes. To do away with the “dots” we need His love, mercy, power and grace. Basically we need His presence. The presence of God will purge and cleanse the “dots” drawing us closer to Him.
me/you…………………….. God.

Whether His presence arrives in tidal wave form or a gentle nudge, submitting is the key. James 4:7-8  reads, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” When we submit to God we have the strength to resist the devil, when we resist him he has to flee. Now the good part…we are free to draw near to God, and when we do He draws near to us! In this atmosphere our hands are cleansed, our hearts purified and our double mindedness healed. You have got to love this!! Submission and God’s presence diminish the dots! Leading us into intimate relationship with God, here we no longer just know about God but we know God. This is the more that the deep within me calls out to.

At this present time, when I think of God’s presence in my life, I still see it as water surrounding and filling me, but now even in less than favorable circumstances I am weightless. His presence continually carries me and lifts my burdens. In this place of intimate relationship there is no worrying or fretting my prayers to God just complete trust in His will.

Weightless. Think about it.  It’s priceless.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Still thirsty for more? Check out my new book Thirsty Heart coming soon to a retailers shelf near you.

Never Fast Again

Gulp down some living water…

Jesus said in John 4:32 “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” John 4:34 “My food is to do the will of my Father and to finish His work.” Normally I’m interested in the verses that follow, but God has stopped me here. For two months now, God has been speaking to me about food, using the book of John, chapters 4 and 6. These chapters talk about food.

In John 6:35 Jesus makes a bold statement. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Further in John 6, Jesus makes such a bold statement that some of His followers turned away. Examine John 6: 53-56, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him”

Of course we know this is not literal, in the natural we do not eat His flesh and drink His blood, but what about in the Spirit? In these passages of scripture food represents life and all that it encompasses. As I’ve searched God out on this subject I began to get the picture.

  • Jesus’ food is doing God’s will.
  • Jesus is food.
  • Jesus is God’s will.

Okay, God knows how significant food is to us humans, and He is choosing to compare Himself with food. Whole industries exist because of food. Restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, bakeries, farmers markets, weight management businesses, fast food, pizza places, fair food, organic food, farming, cattle raising, fishing industries, dairies, antacid makers, the list is almost endless. Just about everything revolves around food. Food is important.

When do we not think of food? Food is vital to our survival. Food gives us energy-it’s our body’s fuel. Food satisfies and fulfills us. Food caters to our emotions and makes us feel better.

Jesus’ food was to do the will of His Father and to finish His work. Ask yourself, do I mirror Jesus in this way-is doing God’s will my food? Am I as satisfied and fulfilled doing God’s will as I am after I eat a big helping of my favorite food? Do I look forward to doing God’s will as much as I do to eating? Do I spend my hard earned income doing God’s will more than I do on food? Do I think about fulfilling God’s will more than I do eating?

Jesus said He is the Bread of Life. Ask yourself, do I crave relationship with Jesus as much as I do food? Do I think about Jesus more than I do food? Is Jesus vital to my survival?

God’s not saying get all fanatical about food but what He is saying is this… is the Bread of Life enough for you and all your needs?

John 6:60 ‘“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” “When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?”’

I ask you, does it offend you that Jesus wants to be more to you than everything you think vital, fulfilling and satisfying for your life? If so, offense is a choice. Instead, choose to be extraordinary and find your fulfillment in the Bread of Life. The good news is you’ll never have to fast this food!

“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” John 6:27

I’m Prideful

Take another drink…

I’m forever working on killing pride in my life. It’s an ongoing journey.

I picture it this way: I’m sitting next to this huge murky lake and in my hand is an 8oz measuring cup. With all my effort I’m scooping water out, continually striving to empty it, unfortunately the water level decreases extremely slow. Nonetheless I am working on it.

I was praying this morning and began just repenting of pride-telling the Lord how sorry I am and asking if this pride thing will ever end? He said “your pride doesn’t bother me-it keeps you humble.”

I sat there sipping my tea, just pondering this statement, realizing

  1. God is so much bigger than my pride
  2. It could be worse, I could be in oblivion and not even recognize I have pride.

Yes, this recognition and constant quest to diminish pride is indeed good. It reminds me of how human I am and how much I need Jesus.

It may sound bizarre but I am embracing pride. Seeing it’s relentlessness as a good tool in staying humble. Not embrace as to give in to it, but to allow God to be strong in my weakness. It’s the same with rebellion, strong will, and stubbornness. I’ve owned them and use them as instruments against the enemy.

I’m rebellious to evil and status quo, I use my strong will to will myself into submission to God and I’m extremely stubborn when it comes to standing for what is right and true.

I love this concept, no cowering to Satan and his tactics, just overcoming. Throwing his plans back at him, watching God turn all that Satan means for evil to good.

“you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” Gen. 50:20
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me, Says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17