Conversations

Thorny Trials

The landscaping in our front yard has a very beautiful bush that blooms the prettiest pink flowers and grows more like a vine than a bush. It is not a very friendly bush, however. It has what I consider “killer” thorns all over the branches. A few months ago, my husband was doing yard work and noticed this bush was starting to get a bit more unruly and decided to trim back the branches to keep them from overgrowing onto the sidewalk. Cleaning up was difficult and a bit painful when a misplaced finger got pricked by one of the thorns. We carefully got all the branches cleaned up and out of the yard – or so we thought. A few weeks later, my youngest was outside in her bare feet and all the sudden I heard a gut-wrenching cry. It was the kind of cry that makes you feel your heart drop into your feet and your stomach jump into your throat. I raced out to find her gasping for breath between cries and standing frozen still. I quickly discovered she had a half-inch thorn directly through the bottom of her heel. I went into full mom-mode. I pulled the thorn out of her foot and scooped her up tend to her wound, comfort, and pray over her. The happy end to this story is that she was completely fine. There were no problems after the thorn was removed and the wound washed. It was almost like it never happened. But the memory is still there.

I  recalled this story when I read 1 Peter 1:6-7 recently:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

How does that work?

How can this work?

“…for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”

How is a trial necessary?

Reflecting on these verses, this story with my own daughter came flooding to mind. I asked The Father my questions.

He whispered back, in His still, small, wise, loving, tender yet authoritative voice:

The thorny trial is not what is necessary. The trial is what happens in the midst of life. Just like your heart broke to see your daughter in pain, so does my heart break when I see you in pain. In the same way that she knew you would come to help her and comfort you, you know that I do that for you too, little one. You know that I care for you. You know that I weep when you weep and I rejoice when you rejoice. My precious one there is still good for you, yes even in the thorny trials because when you have one, your faith is strengthened. You see something more about Me that deepens our relationship and the joy you find in me. Those amazing worship experiences you have are often birthed out of a thorny situation.

You didn’t “allow” your precious daughter to step on that thorn. It happened as a result of nothing more than living her life unaware. But when it did happen, you came to her rescue and comfort. She learned an unfortunate but valuable lesson in wisdom but more important than that is that she knew once again her mom loves her tremendously.

The same is true for me, your Heavenly Father. Thorny trials in your life have and will come. But remember precious one, I was there with you for all of them and I will be right beside you with the next one. Remember, I helped you through it – I will help you through again. I cared for you, mended your heart, comforted you and restored joy to you each time and I will do it all again because I love you so much more than you know. Through every thorny trial, I have been The Rock you can cling to and The One you know you can cry out for. No matter how many thorns you encounter, I will always be your Rock, your Refuge, your Strength, your Joy, your Comfort, your Father who loves you unconditionally and forever. I will always be I AM.

Conversations

Best Day Ever

Come on. He whispers. Come with me. 

“Where are we going?” (For some reason I think I always need all the details)

We’re going for a walk.

I often find lots of excuses (I call them “reasons”) why I don’t have the time or focus or energy, but this time I wasn’t making any excuses! Yes, I want to take a walk with The Father!

We walk along quietly for a while. It feels like a slow, un-hurried, almost aimless pace. The weather is perfect. The sun is shining to keep us warm and the breeze blows every now and then making sure we aren’t too warm. There are no annoying bugs or critters and there’s what looks like a path laying smoothly in front of us. There is a majestic chorus being sung by the birds, not too loud to be distracting, more like background music. Its as if The Father is orchestrating, painting, and perfecting everything around us while we are walking! I stop for a moment, closing my eyes to just listen and take in the sounds all around me.

I couldn’t help but blurt out clumsily amid the chorus, “The music of the forest is beautiful!”

I am so glad you like it, little one. I made it just for that reason – so you could enjoy it. 

A slow, distracted smile forms on my face. I’m so glad I came on this walk today.

We continue walking and step through the tree line into a wide-open, spacious meadow filled with color from wildflowers and green grass with the bluest sky I’ve ever seen as the backdrop. It looks like we just stepped into a painting! I feel giddy with joy. I want to run and twirl and fling my arms open and fall into the tall wildflowers and soft grass. I look at The Father. He is smiling, almost chuckling as if to say “go ahead!”. I am giggling now running and twirling before falling into the soft ground looking up at the clouds. I’m not even wind

ed. And there The Father is, right beside me on the ground looking at the clouds with me.

 

“This is so beautiful! All these colors and the sky and the grass! Its so wonderful.” While I don’t feel breathless, its almost difficult to get the words out. 

I am glad you like it, little one. I made it just for that reason – so you could enjoy it.

“You make so many beautiful, amazing things. Thank you for bringing me on this walk with you today.”

It feels like time has stopped for a moment. As I lay here smiling and soaking all of this in, I start to wonder what could be on The Father’s mind? Why did He want to bring me on this walk today?

I can tell something is on your mind, little one. What do you want to ask me?

“This is such a wonderful, amazing, beautiful time with you. I really don’t want it to end, but I know we’ll have to go back soon but I don’t want to miss anything before we do. Was there a reason you brought me here? Is there something you want me to know or see or learn?”

Locking His gaze with mine He answers, This right here. He points to my heart and back to His creating a motion as if there were an invisible chord connecting our hearts.

This is what I want you to know. My heart is for you and I long to be connected to your heart in an unbroken way. I desire just to be with you. I want you to want to be with me and to enjoy my company. This moment right here, right now is what I want you to know. What do I want you to learn? I want you to learn that I love you and all this is for you. I want you to learn to be still with me. To seek out these moments and remember them, to hold on to them and foster them. I want you to know that the depths of my heart cry out to the depths of yours, longing for your heart to chase after mine because mine chases yours.

Our walk back was just as quiet as our walk here but it wasn’t an empty quiet. There was fullness in the silence. All that The Father had said still filled the air and my mind. My heart was full. What could possibly bother me or interrupt this great, full love of His for me? I felt safe in His presence. I felt strong in His presence. I felt peace in His presence.

We walked up the steps of the porch and sat together on the swing, examining the sunset together. Taking in the atmosphere with awe, I wonder how I could have never seen a sunset so beautiful, so colorful? I lean my head against The Father’s arm, soaking in every moment, trying to remember all the smallest details and every word, trying to hold it in my memory as if they were a jar full of lightning bugs like the ones now starting to flash in the dusk.

He wraps His arm around me and with a voice of tender reassurance He tells me,

No need to worry, little one. All you ever need to do is seek me out and I will tell you again how much you mean to me. I will always say ‘yes’ to the chance to walk and talk with you, to comfort and reassure you, to bring beauty and praise into your day, and to listen to you. Remember these moments. Remember I am always right here, always ready for the depths of your heart to cry out to mine, always ready for another afternoon walk or sunset swing. You are my most valued 

Scripture Diving

Isaiah 30:19

“For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more.
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry.
As soon as he hears it, he answers you.”
Isaiah 30:19

Observation about who God is

God is gracious. God hears me. God answers – and He answers right away.

Observation about context and/or how this fits with other parts of scripture

The verse right before this says that God waits to be gracious to His kids. Wow. He is such a good Father. He knows we want to ask, He knows we have needs, and He is waiting for us to come to Him. And when we do, this verse says, we will weep no more (God our Loving Father will wipe away our tears Rev. 21:4), He will be gracious to us, our cries/tears move the heart of our Father, and He immediately answers.

Life application lesson(s)

This verse reminds me and comforts me to know that when I’m weeping, when I’m weakest, God is still with me. It reminds me to send my cries to Him because He hears me. It reminds me that I am not alone, not without help, not without hope because He sees me. It reminds me to listen for the sound of His voice because He answers me. It reminds me that He is a good good Father, waiting to answer me, and He will answer me right away “as soon as He hears” me. I may not like the answer, but He doesn’t make me wait for it, He doesn’t tell me to “hold on a sec”, He isn’t silent as if He were absent. He sees me (Jehovah Roi). He hears me (Jehovah Shamma). He answers me (Yahweh). He holds me (Immanuel). He wipes away my tears (Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Rapha).

Prayer

Ah Sovereign and Beautiful Father, you are Yahweh – “I AM”. Everything I need is wrapped up in you. You hear my cries and are gracious to me at all times. You care about even the smallest thing that causes me to shed a tear and you answer me. You are always right here, ready, waiting for me to turn my face, into your chest and speak my cares to you. Thank you, Abba, for your tender mercies anew each day and your grace to meet my every need. Please help me to remember these things, to hide your word in my heart, so that when I am in trouble or in need of your grace, I will seek your face and I will stop and listen for your voice and hear and receive your gracious and comforting answer back to me, your child. Amen.

Conversations

I Forgive You

“…Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:13b

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ ” – Matthew 18:21-22

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6

Three tiny words. They are easy to speak with our tongue – often hard to live with our heart, but its at the heart-level that it is vital. Forgiving those who’ve sinned against us is vital for our very lives. Each and every one of us are not without some sin, but God who is fully, completely, and perfectly without sin has forgiven us. James 2 reminds us that if we break only one law (it doesn’t matter which one!) we become “lawbreakers”. And so since we have all broken at least one of God’s laws, we’re all lawbreakers. And if we’re honest, we’ve all broken more than just one and each of the laws we’ve broken, we’ve broken more than once. I certainly have.

But even though we have continually sinned against God, His mercy has been shown to us and it is His mercy that has won us and won the victory for us. God has not won our hearts nor the battle against sin by condemning us to what we deserve for sinning. Our Savior won our hearts because of His great love for us. He won our hearts because of His mercy. And also, in reverse, it is not a sacrifice that we made, nor anything we’ve done to triumph over our own sin or justify ourselves (remember – the first law we broke, we were done for) – it is the mercy and forgiveness of God that has saved, rescued, triumphed, redeemed, and is restoring us.

clouds-cross-dawn-635699

So, if God has shown mercy and given us forgiveness that we didn’t earn and certainly don’t deserve (we have given more grief to God than we ever get from one another), then we have no business withholding mercy and forgiveness from someone who has mistreated, hurt, or in any way sinned against us. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 18 when He explains that if we fail to forgive and show mercy to one another, we will no longer be recipients of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Yikes. Does that motivate your heart? It does mine.

One of the things I astronomically appreciate about God and my relationship with Him is that He has shown me great, completely unmerited mercy! There is no way I want to give that up, especially not because of some human being that was unkind to me and holds nothing on my eternal life with The Father. I don’t want to throw away the mercy and forgiveness of God for me because of someone who is not my Heavenly Father, is not the Creator of the Universe, and has no ability to adopt me as the daughter of an Eternal King.

When I hold the light of God’s mercy for me on the things that have happened and the ways that I’ve been hurt, my heart is softened so much more. I was ready to forgive before, but now, considering my great need for His mercy, I’m so much more ready! In fact, my heart is heavier and more saddened as I think about the difficulty their sin has caused for their own lives and I’m thankful on their behalf that God has the same mercy and forgiveness for them as He has had for me.

To the one who left: I wholeheartedly forgive you for being driven toward your own agenda instead of listening to wise counsel around you. And I am sorry that you are having to learn the hard way that comes from pride and your own self-determination to get things done the way you think they should be done instead of in the greater blessing that comes from humbly waiting on God to develop that leadership and influence in you. I forgive you for driving yourself away from all of us by acting like Jacob when he stole Esau’s birthright due to a prophecy and then had to run away to save his skin. I am sorry that you are having to walk through more waiting and uncertainty as you learn the lessons God is walking you through. I forgive you for making the leadership mistake Solomon’s son made in not accepting the counsel of wiser and older people around you over the opinions of younger and more inexperienced people and I pray that instead of great demise like what happened to Rehoboam, that you will understand the benefit of humility and learning from the ones God has placed with wisdom around you. I pray that you would have a greater leadership impact like Jesus who did not consider equality with God to be His for the taking yet had the biggest, most lasting impact on the world of any man who had come before or has been since.

To the one who has struggled with depression and self-image: I wholeheartedly forgive you for being so consumed with what has happened to you that you have succumbed to your own weaknesses and done wrong to those who’ve held you in high regard. I forgive you for running away in the face of conflict and I pray that you will grow stronger as the people around you who love you help you to stand firm. I forgive you for taking credit for all those years for the things that others did behind the scenes that made you look good in the spotlight. I forgive you for taking your queues from poor, prideful, and controlling leadership that came before you instead of investing your strength and efforts into bettering yourself and your leadership potential to pour back into the people you have led. I pray that you will surround yourself with people who you will allow to be honest with you, even if it feels uncomfortable and confrontational. I pray that you will have great courage to listen to their loving wisdom and do the things that they suggest weighed against the wisdom of God. And I pray that you will give more credit to those that God has blessed with gifts different from those he has blessed you with. That as you stand in the spotlight, you will increasingly, more and more pull out your mirror to reflect that light back on the glory of God and His hand at work in the people around you.

To the one who lied: I wholeheartedly forgive you for the deep wounds you have caused so many who put such great, deep trust in you. I am sorry that you allowed yourself to be separated from true accountability and that the Enemy dragged you off by yourself for so long that you began to believe all the lies were actually truth and that you continued in them as a result. I forgive you for betraying our trust that was almost child-like as one has for their parent. I forgive you for starting so many good things that we now loose because of the consequences of your sin. I am thankful on your behalf that the truth finally came to light because I can’t imagine what more mire and muck you were headed for in that dark blackness of lies all alone. I am sorry that so many have been hurt so deeply, in life altering ways because of your dishonesty and I pray that each one is able to come to forgive you from their heart as well. I pray that as God already had blessing, healing, and freedom planned ever since the garden and all the way through the Old Testament, that God would speak also directly to you His specific mercy, freedom, healing, and blessing waiting for you. I am sorry that you have to live with the weight of all of this but I am thankful that you do and pray that it will bring you truthfully deeper and closer to God and that the next time we hear from you, it will be nothing but truth and all to the glory of God, humbly accepting nothing other than our love and forgiveness for you.