First Response

I’ve found myself thinking a lot this week about my responses, inspired by the Israelites in Exodus, those with Moses and Aaron. The truth is, I would fit in among them perfectly.

They are first a people enslaved, crying out to their God for help. Honestly, I get that from a spiritual perspective. I do the things I don’t want to do – say the unkind word to my husband out of selfishness, treat my son with impatience. I don’t do the things I do want to do – pray with my son in the morning and spend time lifting up his needs to the Lord, give my husband my undivided attention in the evening to show him my love.

There are things in my life I have had to truly wrestle with, stand against, fight to break free from. And in the midst of those battles, there have been those times I have cried out to the Lord for help.

The Israelites are next a people rescued. They are freed from their slavery and in the process, they witness God’s tremendous might and power. Next time you read Exodus 7 – 14, pause frequently and close your eyes and try to picture yourself there. The sights, the sounds, the smells. I’ve never been in a crowd of panic’d people, and I’ve never faced what I would consider a widespread devastating disaster. So in a lot of ways, my imagination is the only thing I can use to try and really absorb what’s happening here. God’s power revealed to the Israelities at this point is terrifying, overwhelming. I can’t come up with a word to portray just how mighty this would have been.

In their defense, the first thing we see them do in Chapter 15 is respond with a song of deliverance. I can relate to this too. There have been times in my life I have sang and danced praises to God, my heart and soul overwhelmed by His intervention in my life. Times I’ve been brought to tears and to my knees because I am so thankful for what He has done to help me, to free me. His works in my life too are mighty, and the things He has accomplished in me are significant and powerful. I’ve never seen Him blow back the sea overnight so I could walk through on dry ground, yet I have seen Him do things that to my mind were impossible – so the power, the might, the greatness of God is still at work today.

And the Israelites and I, we are a people of complaint.
Ouch.

Then the people complained and turned against Moses. ‘What are we going to drink?’ they demanded. – Exodus 15:24

There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. ‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.’ – Exodus 16:2-3

So once more the people complained against Moses. ‘Give us water to drink!’ they demanded. – Exodus 17:2a

Responses. What I have found myself thinking about most this week is how the Israelites responded to their hardship, to their needs for food and water.

After witnessing God’s power, His might, His abilities on scales so grand that I can barely imagine it in my mind – their first response isn’t to go to God with their needs. Their first response is to complain.

I’ve done it. One day I have praised God for His goodness, His graciousness, His power, having witnessed Him at work – to turn around and complain the next day when the unexpected bill arrives in the mail. When the car breaks down. When a loved one falls ill. When temptation comes and rears it’s ugly head over a sin that I feel I’m just barely defeating.

It’s so easy to complain because complaining requires no faith. And complaining, once it gets going, can really go far. So far as to say words like “if only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt”. In other words, complaining can lead to a place where we take the miraculous work God has done in our lives, and say it would have been better had it never happened.

I don’t want to be a woman of complaint. I want to be a woman of faith. A woman whose first response when faced with a need, with a hardship, with an unexpected situation – is to go to the Lord in Prayer. To pause in my driveway and pray over the unexpected bill I just opened. To sit in the broken car and cry out to my God with my need. To fall to my knees and seek God for healing and help over the news of a loved one. To stand firm in prayer when faced with temptation.

I want my first response to be prayer so that my heart is consumed with seeking God and His power, and so that the seed of complaint has no room to be planted in my heart, no room to take root, no room to deny what God has accomplished, can accomplish, and will accomplish.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

May my responses to the unexpected and hardships be opportunities to live in Faith and worship You, O LORD.

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One Word 2018 – Peace

Last night I reflected on my One Word for 2017, and today after more thought and prayer, I have finally selected my One Word for 2018.

Peace.

And I have some specific reasons why this is my One Word for the upcoming year.

The main reason is because of 1 Peter 2:11 – Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. (NLT).

This was something Lysa TerKeurst talked about in her book Made to Crave, and it’s something that has stuck with me for years. I know what it’s like to have a “wage war within my soul”, and I’ve come to realize it must be treated as an alarm to danger. Ignoring it means I am refusing to heed the Holy Spirit, refusing to exchange my will for the Father’s. In my experience, this has always been a path that leads to chaos and despair, never peace.

So this year I want to walk and grow in true peace. I believe true peace is something that comes only from the Lord when we are obeying His commands to love Him first and love others second. I believe it doesn’t fit any human definitions, and can be obtained regardless of outside circumstances.

I know what my struggles are. Over-indulging in food and desiring to be lazy with my physical body. Depression and discontentment, especially in winter. While these are not my only struggles by any means, these are the re-occurring ones where I seem to struggle the most with being at peace. I praise God for how far He has brought me in these areas and the victories He has already given me. Now I long to continue this path with Him because I know I’m not done yet, and having tasted some victory I long to drink of His peace.

Additionally I want to have peace this year when it comes to serving. The last few months have left me frazzled and I’m not sure if it’s an issue of poor time management on my part, or if it’s an issue of over-committing myself. However, THE issue I KNOW I have is not spending serious time in prayer with God seeking HIS will in this area of my life, and as He is the only source of peace, it’s time I really lay down at His feet and ask for His direction.

Redeemed. Mending. Discipline. Hope. Focus.

Peace.

Thank you Lord for another year to continue in this journey and this life.

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One Word 2017 Ending

I just went back and read my blog post where I shared my One Word for 2017. The neat thing about blogging, which in many ways for me is therapeutic and encouraging, is that it helps me to see a bigger picture I might have otherwise forgotten about.

In this case, looking back has encouraged me this evening.
You see, this morning at church I was struggling to focus (no pun intended here) on the sermon. My mind was wandering and my thoughts seemed frazzled. Certain words from my pastor would break through the tangled webs of my mind, awaken me and encourage/convict me.
And then my mind would take the words and wander away again.

This all naturally led me to think about my One Word, and with it being New Year’s Eve, reflect on my One Word choice. Focus.  And this morning, in my spider web of thoughts, I was beginning to feel pretty discouraged about how miserably I had failed at my One Word goals.

Until tonight when I sat down and really took the time to reflect on those goals…

  • To focus on where and how God wants me to serve my immediate family, my church family, and others. 
    • I feel I have found victory while still having struggle. I am more aware of some of my strengths, gifts the Lord has bestowed on me that I can use for His people and His purposes. Simultaneously, I still struggle with feeling inadequate. I find myself feeling more compassion for Moses standing before the burning bush. Those questions of who am I and but what if bursting from my lips, my heart at times slow at soaking in the truth that God is with me. The thing is, God IS WITH ME, and as a result I have stepped out into ministry I never thought I would have, and have been blessed even among the struggle of inadequacy with it.
  • To focus on my dream to write a book from start to finish. 
    • I have dreamed this story. Literally, I dream about it at night. I dream the next chapter and the characters and the story line. I am genuinely excited to write it. At the same time – it’s time that I lack. I find myself thinking of it daily, yet struggling to find the necessary time to get it all written out. Tonight however, I am reminded that I have written several chapters. That I haven’t given up. So I am encouraged in the New Year I will continue to work on it, until finished.
  • To focus on His Word daily, to continue the habit of personally meeting with Him.
    • Praise God for His faithfulness in this. In 2017 I read the Bible chronologically. The experience was good, and it kept me constantly coming back to His Word, which kept me constantly coming back to Him, and thinking of Him, and praying to Him. However, as with the book situation, these last few months I have felt scattered in this area as well. Scattered with being intimate with the Lord, with being His bride instead of a distant second cousin. I think the difference is that in 2016 I journaled through the Bible, where as this past year I just read through it. So in 2018 my intent is to journal through it again. This year I was also encouraged by my husband reading through the Bible at the same time. It was sweet for us to discuss what we were reading at times and to know someone else was facing the same time struggles and falling behind struggles, and also getting the same encouragements and convictions.
  • To focus on preparing my nest as my son is a sophomore in high school, and in a few short years my husband and I will have the house to ourselves.
    • In this I give great thanks. How ironic it is that today of all days, is a day that my marriage has come under spiritual attack. Why do I say that? Because now that I am taking the time to sit down and truly focus on reflecting over the last year, there is SO MUCH PRAISE to be given here. My husband and I have had an “off” day today. Yet, this year, has truly been a blessing. We ENJOY one another’s company. We have rekindled a romance, and a deep friendship this past year. Praise God for His mercies and His leading in our marriage, and for the fruit He is helping us to produce, and for the rotten branches He is faithful to continue to confront and trim away.
  • To focus on my health and wellness, and continue to put into practice truths God revealed to me through my Made to Crave journey.
    • This is probably where the last few months I have lost the most focus of all. I’m realizing in this life, this is an area I only experience victory in when I am actively walking the path of victory. What I mean by this is that I must actively be in some sort of study, a spirit of conviction, to continue to honor the Lord with my physical body by not over-indulging in food and laying around in laziness. People struggle with all sorts of different sin issues, I struggle with ungodly over-indulgence in food. Yet, even in this I find encouragement, because this has really been bringing to life the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It is in this weakness that Christ’s power may be made perfect and work in me.

In addition to all of this, this year I also learned a new phrase. “Imperfect Progress”. It’s a concept Lysa TerKeurst talks about in her book Unglued. I find that this phrase, along with a description she gives about God being the master chiseler, chiseling me into a finished sculpture, have really grabbed hold of my heart. And I think it describes my One Word journey the best.

Imperfect Progress. I have made some imperfect progress with my One Word – Focus. I have found some direction, and where I have scattered and struggled, now as the year ends I find even the struggle is helping me to re-calibrate so that in the new year, I can continue moving forward. Which is my biggest blessing of all this year. I look back on 2017 as a year of moving forward. Maybe not as much as I had originally hoped, however, moving forward none-the-less. For that I am truly thankful.

I’m taking a little more time tonight to prayerfully consider my One Word for 2018. I’ll be back tomorrow to share what it is, because I know that as part of my new year, I want to pick up my blogging again. It’s my way of sharing my heart, and reminding myself of God’s goodness.

I pray my friend that whereever you are, you can see the imperfect progress of your own journey. And that you can also remember God is with you, calling you into an intimate relationship with Himself through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loves us more deeply than we can ever fathom.

I pray that we can all learn how to live the abundant life in Christ as part of our 2018 journey.

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