Monday, August 20, 2012

The Lessons of Change

       The seasons of life bring the challenges of change. Some are welcome changes, like getting married or having a child. Others are painful, like losing a loved one or facing an illness. As I have gone through different seasons, I have experienced many changes. Some have been seemingly catastrophic and for a period of time have left me whimpering & defeated, hiding in a corner. Others have been exhilarating and have stirred my spirit to get out there and go! But through it all, I have learned some important lessons.
       I have learned that no matter what change occurs, and no matter how shocking or surprising the change is, God has already gone ahead of me to prepare the way. He is never surprised or caught off guard by my circumstances and always redirects my path to incorporate the new challenges.
I love the verses in Psalm 23 that say "He leads me beside still waters...He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name sake." Just like a good shepherd, God has gone ahead of me to scout out the land and remove any devastating hazards. My job is just to follow, rather than run or hide.
       Another thing I have learned is that there are always silver linings in each change, even the hardest ones, if we will take a step back and ask God to reveal them. Job losses open doors for new opportunities. Loved ones lost give others the chance to comfort & care for us, blessing them & us! Betrayals help us appreciate true friendships. Financial scares allow our faith to grow as we trust God to supply our needs. The challenge is to live as Philippians 4:4,6-7 admonishes us to do: "Rejoice in the Lord always...Don't worry about anything but pray and ask God for everything you  need, always giving thanks...and God's peace which is beyond our understanding will keep our hearts and minds steady in Christ Jesus!" As others watch us, and they are, we become lights to them as well!
       Don't misunderstand me: changes are not easy. Some are little ripples that we can easily float over, but others hit us like tidal waves, overturning our boats and making us cling to life supports for a season. Those drastic changes take some time to accommodate, and to some extent there is never a full return to life as it was before. But different is not always worse, just different,  & I have learned that as I mature in the Lord, leaning on Him and experiencing His faithfulness through all of life, the waves that used to threaten to capsize me are now more easily navigated & conquered. I am also able to share & help others through their changes, having seen God's ability to comfort, guide, and direct me. (2 Co. 1:3-4) Looking back, I see many lessons learned & benefits received from changes that I thought were life-threatening at the time! That's God's promise in Romans 8:28! All things Aren't good, but work together for our good! It's God's process working in us!!
       Changes have also strengthened the hope that I have in my forever. Someday the changes will all be behind me. I will be in the presence of my Jesus and will be able to just worship Him throughout all eternity. The fear of loss, of pain, & of suffering will all be shadows of the past and the joy of living in God's blessing will be my reality.
       Life on this earth will always necessitate changes. As long as we are here there will be circumstances & situations that will cause our lives to shift & shake. The important thing for us, however, is to make sure that we keep our focus completely on Jesus. As long as we continue to follow Him, our path is secure & our destination, no matter how full of twists & turns, is set! To fix our eyes on anything else is to wander off course & that's just plain scary!  

Monday, August 13, 2012

The choice...

Have you noticed that so many of the new songs on Christian radio have to do with forgiveness? One in particular, by Tenth Avenue North, is called Losing...and it's lyrics are very powerful!

I can't believe what she said, I can't believe what he did
Oh, don't they know it's wrong, Don't they know it's wrong
Well maybe there's something I missed, But how could they treat me like this
It's wearing out my heart, The way they disregard

This is love or this is hate. We all have a choice to make!
Oh, Father won't You forgive them They don't know what they've been doin'
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them Cause I feel like the one losin'

Well it's only the dead that can live But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that's mine Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it doesn't feel right For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it's not that much When I think of what You've done.

This is love or this is hate. We gotta a choice to make

Why do we think that our hate's gonna break a hard heart
We're rippin' arms over wars that don't need to be fought
Cause pride wont let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but it's just to burn them down
We think our pain is own apologies and get them to stop
Well truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not
Cause freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Your mercy and Your grace, Father, send Your angels down

That's the bottom line isn't it? We can choose to let our emotions rule and hang on to the hurts & pains that we feel we have a "right" to harbor. OR we can realize that no matter what someone else has done to us it pales in comparison to what God has had to forgive that we have done to Him! We also have to remember that if we don't forgive, He can't forgive us!

I was watching CBS Sunday morning as I got dressed for church yesterday and there was the story of Louis Zamperini, a one-time Olympian who was a POW in Japan during WWII. The story was of torture and sadism by the guards, and the toll those years took on Zamperini's life. He ended up a broken alcoholic until as a last-ditch effort to save him his wife took him to a Billy Graham crusade. Louis couldn't resist the call and gave his heart, as well as his broken spirit and bitterness, to God. The story ends with his return to Japan and a face to face meeting with his former captors where he offers unconditional forgiveness, much as Corrie Ten Boom did with her German guards. When asked how he could do such a thing, he responded..."God finally helped me realize that until I released them I would never truly be free. It's only through forgiveness, whether they receive it or deserve it, that I can break my own bonds and be free of them once and for all. Unforgiveness doesn't hurt them, but it keeps me from letting the past go! It was time; in fact it was past time!"

Like Louis and Corrie, & like the song says we all have the choice to make. We can choose love or hate...but be seriously deliberate about which you choose because the consequences of your choice have a powerful effect, both in this life and eternally! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Anticipation satisfied...7-27-12

       "The bridegroom stands at the altar, awaiting His bride. This is the day He has waited so long for. Music is playing but He is not really hearing it. People are being seated and smiling at Him but he doesn't pay much attention, except for an occasional acknowledgement. Finally, after it seems like hours have passed, the double doors open and the procession begins. Two young men come forward to light the candles at the altar, but the bridegroom barely notices as they pass. Loving parents are escorted down the aisle. They are treasured for their role in raising this glorious bride & yet, after a quick smile of greeting, the groom turns again to fix His eyes on the door. Next, beautiful young ladies walk the aisle, one by one, with perfect hair, makeup, flowers and dresses, but it is all lost on the groom. He has waited so long for this moment. Nothing can hold his attention for long and He quickly glances at each one with a smile, & returns His gaze immediately to the door. The anticipation builds as He realizes that SHE is next...His beloved is coming.
      Finally, He sees her. His emotions swell as His eyes meet her eyes and He sees her smile. She is beautiful, more beautiful than any woman He has ever seen. Nothing and no one could distract Him at this moment. He has forgotten all the pain of making this moment possible; the endless planning and preparations, the setbacks and frustrations of the bride's indecisive commitment. Her weaknesses and past failings are swept away in light of His overwhelming love. Nothing else matters now. Nothing can add to or take away from the depth of His love for her. This is the culmination of all that He planned since the beginning. This is the beginning of their forever!"

Isaiah 62:5 "...As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so does your God rejoice over you."
Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love. With loving kindness have I drawn you & will continue My faithfulness to you."
Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and shout for joy! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor for the marriage of the Lamb has come and the bride has prepared herself. And I heard a might voice from the throne say, 'See the abode of God is with men, and He will live with them and they will be His people and He will personally be with them and be their God!"
1 Thessalonians 4:17b "...and so always (through all eternity) we shall be with the Lord."