Being Overcome with Spiritual Double-Bend.

Meeting Him: Overcoming Spiritual Double-Bend  #QuietWorkings.com

I have been finishing the devotional book, Meeting Him, by Beneth Peters Jones that I began way back in February.  I have a bad habit of not sticking to one devotional book at a time.  So this one was half read when I picked up another and then another, and you get the idea.  A few weeks ago I decided I was going to finish this one so I could pass it on to someone (it is a REALLY good book).

Meeting Him is a devotional book based on all the women that Jesus interacted with in the New Testament.  I love reading books by Beneth Peters Jones and have had the privilege of hearing her speak on more than one occasion.  The Lord has really touched her and given her wisdom regarding Biblical themes for women.  I highly recommend this book for personal reading/study.  It even has questions for each chapter that you can work through.  They are hard questions that will make you think, and help you grow in your walk with Christ.   And that is what our devotional moments should be all about, right?

When I started the particular chapter today’s post is based on, my first thought was, who?  I honestly did not know this woman’s story (shame on me for not knowing my Bible better).  She’s found in just 3 short verses in Luke 13 (verses 11-13).  They read:

“And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up.  And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou are loosed from thine infirmity.  And he laid his hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.”

This woman did not call out to Jesus, or touch the hem of His garment (as the woman with the issue of blood did).   We see earlier in the chapter, that Christ was teaching in the synagogue, so she had come to either hear Him, or had just come for worship and found Him there.

It would have been a difficult thing for her to get there.  Imagine being bent in half (anyone who has had serious back pain can understand her, although being like that for 18 years would try anyone’s patience).  Can you imagine trying to traverse the streets while staring at the ground.   It doesn’t say in the passage that anyone helped her.  Just these short verses about a woman that Luke thought was important enough to include (I love seeing how each of the disciple’s personalities came through in their writing – Luke being a doctor chose to include this healing along with the woman who had the issue of blood for 12 years).

As I was reading through this chapter, I was thinking the whole time, Where is Mrs. Jones going with this?  How is she going to use these short verses to make an application for us as women?  But she did not disappoint.   I was so inspired by her application that I immediately wanted to share it with you all.

Beneth Jones shares how this woman’s physical deformity can be compared to our spiritual deformity.  All of us at some point or another are bent double spiritually, staring at the earth, the dust, and the rocks.  We see only the hardness of life and none of the beauty that the Lord wants to us see.   Sin is what causes this spiritual problem.  Ecclesiastes 7:29 says that God created man to be upright but that we have sought out many inventions.  Isn’t that so true?  We seek out our own desires.  We “invent” things in our lives that should not be there.  Not every invention is bad.  But some of them are.

We keep hidden sins, secret sins that steal our joy without us even consciously thinking about them.   David, in Psalm 19 asked the Lord to cleanse him from “secret faults”.   We should ask the Lord to show us those things that maybe we aren’t even aware of!

And then David, in the same passage, asks the Lord to keep him from presumptuous sins.   Those times that we assume God will approve of something without first seeking His approval or blessing.  David called that sin.

These things can cause us to bow away from God towards the earth.  To become bowed-together because of sin.  Beneth didn’t address this, but the idea of seeing only the dirt, the ugliness of life, reminded me of what depression can be like.  And I saw such a correlation between our spiritual deformity and depression.  Granted, not all depression is spiritual-related, I realize some can be caused by a chemical imbalance in our bodies (I have dealt with both and understand some of the issues on both sides).  But when we deal with depression our view is altered, much like this woman that was bowed-together.  When she walked she could not see the sky, or even the tops of the trees.  The only birds she would be able to see would be those who landed on the hard-packed earth.  No soaring eagle filled her vision.  No leaves moving in the wind.  No gorgeous sunset.  So many things she missed because of her deformity.  Those dealing with depression may see these things, but they can’t really “see” them.  Depression can be a sin issue, and, like the others addressed by David, needs to be given to the Lord so that He can make us upright.

“…Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”  Psalm 19:13b

I don’t want to be in a bowed-together position, spiritually.  I don’t want to be hindered or slowed in my walk with God.  I want to be able to stand upright so that I can see what the Lord has for me to see.

In this short passage, we see that Jesus called this woman to Himself.  He picked her out of a crowd of people and she had to make the decision to go.  So, too, He calls us, tells us to stand upright.  We need to make the decision to listen when He calls.  We cannot free ourselves from this debilitating deformity, we need the hand of the Lord on our lives.  His voice in our ears.

Do you listen?  Do you respond when you hear Him calling you?    Are you bowed with spiritual double-bend?

Encouragement from Writing

Letter-Writing for Encouragement

Recently I was challenged by someone regarding the verse,

Not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25

Her challenge was in regards to going to church.  That verse says, “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching“.   In other words, the closer we get to the Lord’s return (and it certainly feels like it’s close some days) we should be fellowshipping more!  When in reality we see people missing more and more services.  And we rarely see each other between services.

But what got my attention even more was the part of the verse that says, “exhorting one another“.   That word has a huge meaning, but included in that is encouragement.  The Bible says that we are supposed to be encouraging one another MORE as we see the Lord’s return coming closer.

It made me think about how I encourage others and how I can be more active in that area.  Some of our church ladies have been discussing ways that we can encourage people in our community but this verse indicates that we, as Christians, need to be encouraging each other whatever way we can.

I also believe that, as Christians, God has given us gifts.  Some people have the gift of hospitality/serving, some have the gift of giving, others have the gift of administration, some the gift of teaching, etc.  The point is, we should be using our specific gifts to encourage others.  The way I encourage people might not be the way you do.  There are so many different ways to do this, whether it be through having people over to your house, making a special homemade gift for someone, making a meal, taking them out shopping, watching their kids, cleaning their house, giving them a phone call, or just simply writing them a note.

During the month of August, I took an emotional roller coaster ride as the Lord brought some struggles to our family that were difficult.  I was thankful for one friend who literally just took my kids for almost 2 weeks total (here and there),  I cried at the sweet phone call from a pastor friend who called just to pray with me, and I treasured the two cards that came in the mail from friends who wanted to be here with me but just couldn’t be.  Just through these simple acts I was so encouraged (and believe me there were so many more!)

Cards and hand written notes are one specific area that I find is special to me.  I have kept a box of notes from people over the years.  Postcards from cousins who lived overseas and thought of me while they were there, notes from friends who took time out of their busy day to write me, and even notes from my students when I was teaching that were left on my desk before I arrived in the mornings.  They’re treasures.  And I love pulling them out and looking at them every so often, and they never cease to bring a smile to my face and encouragement to my heart.

Sending notes and cards is not a huge thing these days with the advent of text and email.  Unfortunately, everything gets a little more expensive every year and I was shocked when I mailed a card this week to see stamps were $1.00. With the purchase of a card you can easily pay $7 or $8 just to mail a note to someone these days.  Yikes.

A lot of people make their own cards now and I applaud them.  Some of them are absolutely gorgeous.  I buy from people who make their own, haha.  That is one craft I am not into.  I know making your own cards can get expensive as well.  Personally, I have no problem with just using a sheet of paper.   It doesn’t have to cost much to send a note of encouragement to someone.

 

Let me just put in here as well, as much as email is fast and easy, it’s not the same.  Not to say people can’t be encouraged through email.  I have been many times.  But sending a hand written note says that you took time to put it together.  You gave of yourself and that’s a huge part of where encouragement comes from.  The value of something increases exponentially when you know that someone sacrificed something for you!

Now, not sure what to write?

There is a great resource by Liz Duckworth called “A Perfect Word for Every Occasion” that gives you a good place to start and also has little quotations that you can put in the card (especially good if you are using homemade cards).  This little book has been helpful to me when I didn’t know what to write.

A Delightful Home also has some great tips for writing encouraging notes.

Here are some more ideas to think about when writing letters:

1.  Don’t write “I understand what you are going through.” to someone who is going through a trial unless you really do.  Instead, tell them you feel for them, are praying for them, etc.  People know that unless you have been through a particular situation you can’t begin to understand it.  Although you may understand pain, it’s not the same thing.

2. Include Scripture.  There is so much in the Bible that is untapped.  We often quote the same verses over and over (and they’re all good verses) but try to find one that specifically can encourage someone.  Maybe you’re just writing a letter for fun, then tell them what you are learning from the Scriptures.  This will also help us to learn more about our Bibles (but make sure you’re not taking it out of context.)

3. It doesn’t have to be long.   Some of the best notes I’ve gotten were short, 4 or 5 sentences.  Think: postcard.  These days you can even take your own pictures and turn them into postcards.

4.  Find something to talk about.  I love to talk about my garden or sewing projects, so my notes to people are often filled with those things (along with notes about my kids).  Talk about what you are passionate about.  I remember writing someone one time about our adventures with squirrels.  She thought it was hilarious.  Or find something they are passionate about to write on.

Letter-writing can be a great way to encourage people, both young and old.  Don’t hesitate to send notes to the seniors in your church (they love to hear what is going on in your life) or to teens (they need a lot  more encouragement than we think they do).  Notes of encouragement are not just for our peers.

Challenge: Buy a book of stamps and purpose to write one note a month (a book of stamps will last you 10 months usually).  It’s not a huge expense but it will be a huge encouragement and blessing to the people you send them to.

Writing for Encouragement

*REMEMBER: we need to encourage each other, “so much the more” these days.

 

Comfort for the Hurting: The Comforter Has Come

Comfort for the Hurting

Hope for the Hurting Heart

I am not one to normally write about things in the news.  I don’t look to get readers from flashy headlines.  But this morning my heart is heavy at what came across my news feed and, I know that thousands of Canadians across the country are hurting as well at the news of the death of the little 2-year old girl, Hailey Dunbar.  

Also, for Nova Scotians, we learned this morning that police officer, Catherine Campbell, missing since Monday, has also been found dead. 

So many questions have been raised about these two situations and, as of yet, there are no answers.

But for Christians – we don’t need to know the answers to what happened.  We already have all the answers that we need.  We have THE Answer!  Oh, I wish that I could share the most wonderful Answer with Hailey’s mother and grandparents.  That I could sit down and tell them how much love Christ had for little ones and how we have hope that she is in His arms today. (see * below for explanation) How through accepting Christ they can work through the anger and fear they feel at her death.  Oh, if they could understand the wonderful comfort that knowing Christ brings.

I cannot begin to understand the pain that they are facing, but I do understand the pain of losing a loved one and I can say with all certainty that without Christ I would not have made it through.  Without Him, I would not have been able to sing, “I want to know You more” last night at our meetings at church.  Yes, the pain threatens to overwhelm.  I still shed tears some days.  The ache isn’t immediately gone, but oh how He soothes that ache.   And I so wish that for this mother.  This morning as I pray for the family, I hug my 2-year old just a little tighter and my heart breaks for them.

I also pray for the family of this police officer.   I don’t know where her heart was spiritually.  But her family is hurting and they, too, need Jesus.  They need to know that He can heal their hurts; that He is the God of all comfort.  I pray that through this tragedy they can open their hearts to Christ and identify with His sufferings on the cross.

One of my favourite hymns says, “The Comforter has come”; part of that song says, “spread the tidings round wherever man is found, the Comforter has come.”  Christians are exhorted in 2 Corinthians 1:4 to “comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 

Our meetings this week with Evangelist Ron Osteen, have been all about spreading the tidings.  About telling people about the good news of the Gospel.  Christ called us to be witnesses.  Many days I feel woefully inadequate for the job, but if we love Him we will want to tell others about Him and that is what being a witness is.

So how can I be silent about the comfort that I have experienced from Him?  How can I not tell others about the peace that flooded my heart when I focused on Him? (Isaiah 26:3, 4)    I want others to know that in those moments when I struggle and falter, He is right there to pick me up and carry me on.  In the darkness, when my own thoughts threaten to overwhelm me, it is the Lord who wraps His arms around me and gives me rest.  This is what I pray for these hurting families.   I pray for a peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7) to guide their hearts and minds. I pray that He will send someone to them with the news that they, too, can have a Heavenly Comforter. 

I pray.  But I also write.  I write to tell them and anyone who reads this looking for comfort, that the Lord is there for you, all you have to do is accept Him.  It’s not enough to just believe, you have to accept that your sin is part of the problem and that you need a Saviour who has already paid for those sins on a cross 2,000 years ago.  You need to open your heart to the One Who longs to give you comfort and let Him fill the empty places.

I also pray for the Christians that are around them, that God would fill them with His Spirit and open their mouths so they can be witnesses of His power and comfort to these families (“…how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”  Romans 10:14)

I pray.  I write.

I weep for them. (Rom. 12:15)

 

*Understand, I do not seek to give false hope to those who are hurting.  The Bible is not explicitly clear on the subject of babies going to Heaven, but there are verses that indicate that those who cannot comprehend their sin, those who do not reject God, cannot be held accountable.  These verses seem to indicate that it is clear rejection of God and His Word, not simple ignorance, that sends a soul to Hell (see Luke 10:16; John 12:48; 1 Thess 4:8).   We also see in 2 Samuel 12 (v. 23) that David expected to see his child again (“I go to him”) implying that his child had gone to Heaven. I believe we can have hope unless the Lord tells us differently. 

When Your World Turns Upside Down

Upside down

This summer I have learned more about the power of the Lord’s presence than at any other time in my life.  It seems the devil is working overtime to discourage God’s people and it’s hard to watch those you love going through struggles and trials, having their world turned upside down – but we can know that prayer is such a mighty weapon for us and it  teaches us to rely more on Him for our strength.

At family camp in July, the speaker talked about how God has called us to suffer.  Not too many of us want to suffer (I daresay no one does), but suffering, unfortunately, comes to all of us.  It’s how we handle that suffering that tells the Lord where we are in our relationship with Him.   It is so easy for us to question and complain, to worry about situations and stress about the what if’s and possibilities than to trust in the Lord and wait on Him for the answers we are seeking.  Often it is easier for us to walk away (as in marriages, etc) than to work through the trials, to work to right our upside down world

This week, as my family works through some struggles of our own, I was reminded of what Tony Miller said at camp about choosing to take time to be thankful instead of focusing on the problem at hand.  He was speaking in relation to marriage, but I think the principles can be applied to any situation.

Thankfulness to the Lord:

Read Psalm 103/104 and other passages where it talks about praising the Lord for all He has done for us.  I’ve heard messages recently as well about how at least 50% of our prayer time should be praise to the Lord.  How much time do we take each day to praise the Lord?  Reading those passages in the Psalms reminded me of how much the Lord has brought me through already.  How He has worked each situation that I thought was impossible out to an amazing end.  None of it happened right away, sometimes it took years for His purpose to be seen, but He always had a reason for the situations and struggles I went through.  I learned from them, even when I didn’t want to.  Looking back I see how those lessons were necessary and I am working hard at accepting that right now I need this one.   It reminds me of the song that says, “What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re here…” I’ve had some sleepless nights this week but it has definitely reminded me more of His presence and I am thankful for that.

Thankfulness for Family:

Journal Entry

One of the practical things Pastor Miller encouraged us to do was to start a thankfulness journal for each member of your family.  Not one journal, but one for each family member.  Start writing down one thing each day that you are thankful for about that person in each notebook.  It sounds like a lot of work,  but really, unless you have 20 kids it shouldn’t take long.  When we do this, we start to see how the people we grouch at the most are really people we can be thankful for.  A friend of mine said this week that we often complain about our family the most because there is no filter there.  With friends we have filters that keep us from complaining about their faults, etc, but with family it’s like a free-for-all, and it shouldn’t be that way.  Our family should be the ones we look at through rose-coloured glasses, believing they can do no wrong.  When we start looking at the things we can be thankful for about them, it changes our perspective and our relationships.  We can change the atmosphere in our homes when we do that.

And I want to add that one thing that really hit me from the messages at family camp was that we can’t wait for the “other person” to take the lead in our homes.  Yes, the men are to be leaders, but that often is not the case spiritually and it is the responsibility of each one of us to make our homes a haven for the Lord.  I think of Timothy in the Bible. His father is never mentioned, but his mother and his grandmother are commended for teaching him about the Lord.  Those women made his home a haven.  Whether his father was dead or was just not active in his spiritual care we can’t know, but the lack of male leadership does not give us license to give up on the Lord or neglect our personal relationship with Him.

Is it easy?  I wish.  It’s a constant, moment-by-moment remembering to keep our thoughts focused on him.  Philippians 4:8 reminds us to keep our focus on what is lovely.  “If there be any virtue and if there be any PRAISE, think on THESE things.”  It’s a continual work in progress.  It’s not a one-time thing.  We need to work on keeping our thoughts away from the situations that aren’t going right and center them on our blessings from the Lord – moment – by – moment.  Letting that “upside down” situation right itself in the Lord’s timing, especially when we can do nothing about it.

I am so thankful for Godly preaching and teaching that reminds us of these things and helps us to keep our focus on the Lord.  We’re human and we will fail sometimes.  We will, like Peter, turn our eyes to the storm and the waves, but, the Lord is always there, reaching out His hand, ready to pick us up and return us safely to the boat.  Today, I am thankful for His promises.  Tomorrow, I may need to remind myself of them.  But…

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumer, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.  

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3: 22-24

Anchored – A Message of Grace

I had the privilege a few years ago to meet a little baby born at about 23 weeks.  It was an incredible experience and her mother and I have remained good friends since.  Reading this book brought back so many memories and even opened my eyes to more of what the mother and father went through during this time.  This book is about fighting.  Fighting to find hope, fighting to hold on to that hope, and fighting for a mother’s foothold in reality.

Kayla Aimee gave birth to her daughter, Scarlette, at 25 weeks.  After 155 days in the NICU, Kayla Aimee tells her story of how she and her husband survived those tumultuous days and hours.  For those of us with healthy children it is hard to fathom the pain and anxiety that such a stay in the NICU elicits in a parent.  Kayla Aimee tells us everything she felt through those moments while adding humour to keep the book from being depressing.

This book talks about the struggles she went through with her husband and the days she didn’t even want to talk to friends on the phone.  The moments of fighting for her daughter’s life and those moments of fighting for her marriage.  Kayla Aimee gives us an amazing glimpse in to what it is like for hundreds of mothers around North America and the world, who have similar struggles.  She also gives us ways we can help them, be an encouragement and pray for them.  With great humour she talks about the things one should not say to a mother with a baby in the NICU.   And she talks about how the Lord brought her back from the pit of despair to a place of hope.

I know that parents with babies in the NICU and those of us with healthy babies can all benefit from reading her story.  Giving hope to the hopeless and learning to be a blessing to those parents.