Category Archives: God’s Character

my “unnecessary” prayers

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in church a few years ago, we studied the book of 1st Peter.  I learned how God works through suffering, I learned that the character of my God does not change when life is one trial after another.  And I learned this by being thrown into one trial after another.  Physical struggles, emotional pain… at times it really seemed there was no end to the suffering and trials that had become my life.

Then God brought me past complaining to the point where I could see His goodness through the trials.  I began to see what He was teaching me and how He was using hard times to mold me into His image. And I understood that the Christian life involves many trials of all kinds.  It is filled with thousands of ways to take up your cross, deny yourself and follow Jesus Christ.

Somehow in the trials, though I always believed that God COULD bless me, I was tempted to doubt that He would.  I seem to be the type that learns the hard way (just take a look at my life…) and I resigned myself to the fact that God would use trials to continue to mold me to His image.  Though I often struggled with this, I learned to rest in His sufficient grace and realize that if God chose to use suffering, but in the end the result was that I was more like Him, that it was worth it all.

But then the wheels started turning again as God was preparing my heart to see yet another facet of His character… this time it wasn’t a sustaining and all-sufficient God through trials, I was unknowingly being prepared to meet a God who delights in doing more than I ask for… and through that, in revealing more of Himself to me.

But it all started with a closed door.  Or several years of closed doors.  And questions. and doubting.

When God closed the door to move to Washington DC last year, it opened the door for me to meet my husband.  He is the most amazing gift from God to me and I could not have imagined a year ago that I would receive a gift so wonderful.

I had prayed that God would provide a husband, but I honestly never prayed for someone like Ted.  He was “too good… too much of a dream” and asking for that would have been asking God for too much.  I had basically been praying for someone who would simply love God and care for me.  The extra details (like a quirky fun personality) were things that I could give up.

God surprised me.  He gave me more than I asked for.  He gave me a man perfectly suited to lead me.  He gave me a best friend.  He gave me a godly man who loves me with his whole heart.  He even answered the prayers that I was afraid to ask because I knew they were “unnecessary.”  And He did it to show me His character and blessings.  And as I watched that unfold, my heart grew in amazement and worship of my God.  I continue to be amazed.  I continue to grow in worship.

God has chosen yet again to answer an “unnecessary” prayer.  This week Ted and I adopted two dogs: Rex, a 2 year old boxer/German shepherd / chow mix and Cody, a 5 year old yellow lab/ chow mix.

For years I have wanted dogs.  But living in apartments and working full time it wasn’t really possible.  I mean, i could have had little rat-dogs that weigh 2 ounces and yip all day, but i wanted a DOG!  A dog you can take running, a dog who scares strangers, a dog who has a mean bark but a sweet temperament.

Ted and I have talked for several months about the possibility of getting dogs one day, but were aware that financially that would probably come later rather than sooner.  But I kept looking and hoping that maybe we would find good dogs for free somehow.

Two days ago, I found them!  Their previous owner, who has had them since they were both about 6 months old, is moving to Colorado and can’t take the dogs with her.  They had all their shots and even came with paperwork.  She threw in the bowls, leashes, and 40 lbs of dog food as well.

What a blessing.  I have cried so many times the past 2 days as I am once again overwhelmed at God’s blessings… this time in the form of 2 barks and 8 legs.  Once again, God knew the desire of my heart and blessed me abundantly.  And once again, my faith is strengthened and my view of God has grown.

Its cool being a “mama” to Rex and Cody.  Its cool being married to my best friend.   But its more cool that God cares enough to answer my “unnecessary” prayers.  What an amazing God we serve…

past sins

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What do you do with the person who says, “I’ve asked God to forgive me about this, but I still feel guilty”?  I hear that statement over and over again.  I usually say to these people, “If you still feel guilty, then pray to God again.  But this time don’t ask Him to forgive you for the sin that is haunting you.  Rather, ask Him to forgive you for insulting His integrity by refusing to accept His forgiveness.  Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you?  When God promises to forgive His people when they repent, He is not playing games.  If He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you.  And if God forgives you, you are forgiven.”   R.C. Sproul

a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.

sanctification and blessing

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i’ve been thinking lately about sanctification.  since becoming a Christian, i seem to have grown the fastest and learned the most about God through trials i’ve faced.  i think i started to equate sanctification with suffering in many ways.  but the past few months, there has been a shift.

since the start of my relationship with Ted, I have been blessed beyond measure.  through his love, I have come to understand more clearly the love of my God.  through his patience with me, I see the mercy and faithfulness of my Savior.  through Ted’s forgiveness and desire for reconciliation (the few times we have disagreed), I better understand our God, who is eager for reconciliation and a growing relationship with his Bride.

its true that God brings sanctification through trials.  i’ve experienced that countless times.  but its also true that He doesn’t use trials alone to bring this purpose about.

i’m learning what that means…

who is this God we serve?

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He is…

…the One who Remembers his covenant
“He looked upon their distress when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant and relented according to the abundance of his stedfast love.”
Psalm 106:44-45

…the One who Leads through confusion
“and I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

…the One who Provides in abundance
“Be glad, O Children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God… He has poured down for you abundant rain… you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your god who has dealt wondrously with you.”
Joel 2:23, 26

…the One who Cleanses our filth
“And the angel said to those who were standing before him “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you and I will clothe you with pure vestments”.”
Zechariah 3:4

…the One who Quenches our thirst
“… they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He made water flow for them from the rock; He split the rock and the water gushed out.”
Isaiah 48:21

…the One who Vindicates our injustices
“… when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon His vindication.”
Micah 7:8-9

…the One who is our joy
“though the fig tree should not blossom nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no fruit, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take my joy in the God of my salvation.”
Habbakkuk 3:17-18

…the One who Helps and takes our fears
“For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Isaiah 41:13

…the One who Guides and is worthy of our trust
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

…the One who Answers when we call
“When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 41:17

a “less-worried way”

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 To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.  C. S. Lewis

Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. “No, Corrie,” said Betsie, “He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Corrie concludes, “There is an ocean of God’s love available – there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love – whatever the circumstances.”   Corrie Ten Boom

Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!  William Culbertson 

God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.   
Matthew Henry

 I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.  John Henry Newman

Satan is ever seeking to inject that poison into our hearts to distrust God’s goodness – especially in connection with his commandments. That is what really lies behind all evil, lusting and disobedience. A discontent with our position and portion, a craving from something which God has wisely held from us. Reject any suggestion that God is unduly severe with you. Resist with the utmost abhorrence anything that causes you to doubt God’s love and his lovingkindness toward you. Allow nothing to make you question the Father’s love for his child.  Arthur W. Pink

 Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for his will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.  
Anonymous

God is doing a greater work in us, and that can only come as we learn to trust him no matter how dark the days and sleepless the nights. And it is only as we have been through the darkness with him that what we know with our heads slides down into our hearts, and our hearts no longer demand answers. The Why? becomes unimportant when we believe that God can and will redeem the pain for our good and his glory…. When I put the sovereignty of God beside his unfailing love, my heart can rest. Verdell Davis

There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart.  Alan Redpath

 While the Lord calls me to be wise and discerning, he reminds me often that his discernment cannot dwell in a cynical distrustful heart. With Him, there is no hidden agenda and no ulterior motive. His gifts are free for the taking but I cannot take these gifts if my hands are already full of my own weapons of self- protection. Therefore, He asks me to lay down the shields that I have forged for protection and to pick up the shield of faith in their place. He asks me to take Him at His Word.  Katherine Walden

random thoughts

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its been a busy week… lots of thoughts going on in my head right now.  Here are just some random thoughts that have encouraged me as of late…  I’m not sure all the exact verses and passages… they are just things I’ve memorized that God has brought to mind lately…

“forgetting those things which lie behind, i press forward.”

“there’s an anchor for my soul, though my heart and flesh may fail.  Jesus has overcome. It is finished…”

“rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”

“for I am persuaded that neither death nor life… nor anything…can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“for His sake I am contented with insults, with hardship… for when I am weak then He is strong.”

“come to me. all you who are weary. and I will give you rest… for my burden is light”

“trust in the Lord at all times. pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.”

“it is finished.”

“the Lord will bless His people with peace.”

“and when I saw you wallowing in your blood i said to you in your blood “live.”  I took you, clothed you and you became mine.”

“taking up the helmet of salvation and the shield of faith.”

“and He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

“He who called you is FAITHFUL. He will surely do it.”

“His mercies are NEW every morning.”

“so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”

“God is our refuge and strength. A very present help… we will not fear.”

“and jehoiacim removed his prison garments from him, and every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.”

“and they put a clean robe and turban on him. and the angel of the Lord was standing by.”

“peace. be still.”

“whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

“I am with you always, even unto the end.”

“He only is my Rock, my fortress, I shall not be greatly shaken.”

“i will bless the Lord at all times, His praise will continually be in my mouth.”

thoughts on suffering

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Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering but in being weary of joy.  G. K. Chesterton

 When ours are interrupted, his are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable) “toward the goal of true maturity” (Rom 12:2).   E. Elliott

When you and I hurt deeply, what we really need is not an explanation from God but a revelation of God. We need to see how great God is; we need to recover our lost perspective on life., Things get out of proportion when we are suffering, and it takes a vision of something bigger than ourselves to get life’s dimensions adjusted again.  W. Wiersbe 

The “Why?” becomes unimportant when we believe that God can and will redeem the pain for our good and his glory…. When I put the sovereignty of God beside his unfailing love, my heart can rest.  Verdell Davis

 

Where does your security lie? Is God your refuge, your hiding place, your stronghold, your shepherd, your counselor, your friend, your redeemer, your saviour, your guide? If He is, you don’t need to search any further for security.  E. Elliott

 

In a way I wish I could take to heaven my old, tattered Everest and Jennings wheelchair. I would point to the empty seat and say, “Lord, for decades I was paralyzed in this chair. But it showed me how paralyzed You must have felt to be nailed to Your Cross. My limitations taught me something about the limitations You endured when You laid aside your robes of state and put on the indignity of human flesh.” At that point, with my strong and glorified body, I might sit in it, rub the armrests with my hands, look up at Jesus, and add, “The weaker I felt in this chair, the harder I leaned on You. And the harder I leaned, the more I discovered how strong You are. Thank you, Jesus for learning obedience in your suffering…You gave me grace to learn obedience in mine.” Joni Eareckson Tada

 So many times we say that we can’t serve God because we aren’t whatever is needed. We’re not talented enough or smart enough or whatever. But if you are in covenant with Jesus Christ, He is responsible for covering your weaknesses, for being your strength. He will give you His abilities for your disabilities!  Kay Arthur

 

Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God. Robert Schuller

 The fact that disabled people hang in there does something for Christians. It’s not about being an inspiration for others, it more than that…. it’s a mystery. God somehow strengthens others by their faithfulness. They may feel like a burden to others, but God thinks the opposite. He thinks its necessary for others to take care of the disabled… they do more for one’s spiritual well being than can be imagined. What’s more is that it’s all being credited to the disabled person’s account, per Phillipians 1:25-26.  Joni Eareckson Tada

 

 Let your mind be renewed by this: God cannot lie.  God is love…. “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”  Do you know why the Bible tells us things like that?  its because we’re tempted to think that it hasn’t endured… that it doesn’t reach me in 2009 in this situation.  So God keeps speaking to us and telling us “no! it does!  it endures forever. It lasts forever.  It is for you…  God gave up His own Son to death to save you from sin.  And He points to that to show you how deeply he cares for you. 

 

He asks you to measure His faithfulness and His love by the cross.  If He would do that for me, how much more will he meet me when I’m growing weary in my sickness, when I’m wishing I had that relationship, when I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  How much more is God going to care for me.  God’s Word tells us that His arm is not too short to save.  He is able to meet us in any circumstance… Look back on your life.  Not ONE of God’s promises has failed.  That doesn’t mean you haven’t faced disappointment.  But look back.  All of God’s promises to be with you and to be faithful… not one has failed.  Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. Not a partial trust. 

 

SO here’s the idea I want you to think about … this kind of leaning (lean not on your own understanding) leaves us vulnerable.  If this thing I’m leaning on were to go away I would fall flat on my face.  And that leaves me off balance…  this is a little scary. I’m trusting in something else.  Leaning on the Lord leaves us off balance and we don’t like to feel off balance.  A lot of us spend our entire Christian lives running away from the feeling of being off balance.  That feeling of being vulnerable… of being held up by God…  this is exactly where God created us to live…and that is exactly where we are the most secure than we’ve ever been.”  Exceprt by Joshua Harris from sermon at CovLife on 8/9/09: Total Trust.

trusting God

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Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make  straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

This past Sunday, I attended Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg Md.  I was there for the Worship God 09 conference, and my friends and I decided to stay through the weekend and drive back after church.  Its funny how God’s sovereignty works… 

The conference was very challenging physically for me.  Due to the noise and busyness of the week, I had many migraines and other health issues.  I was grateful to be able to attend at all, though there were many sessions I was either resting on a couch in the lobby, or sitting on the floor in the back.  I really enjoyed the songwriting seminars and learned many helpful tips to incorporate into my writing…

Well, on Sunday, Josh Harris got up to preach.  Their church is currently working through a series on Proverbs and the topic this week was about trusting God.  His passage was Proverbs 3:5-6.  He talked about what it means to trust God, what it means to lean on Him and what it means to acknowledge Him. 

i think it is the only time in my life that I cried through an entire sermon.  God revealed so many areas in my life where I fail to trust Him.  I fail to trust that He is good, that He loves me, and that He has my best in mind.  Instead I often trust my own understanding… “this doesn’t make sense… God must not love me… or He must have forgotten about me…” 

He mentioned that leaning on God does not mean simply resting like you would against a podium but when the podium is taken away you’re still able to stand just fine.  Instead its a full dependence of “God, if you are not there to catch me, I will fall flat on my face.  Help.”  I spend much of my life trying to avoid this feeling, but this is where I was created to live… in utter dependence on God’s grace and strength and provision. 

There are so many unknowns in my life right now…  What’s going on with my health?  Will I be “stuck” in Greenville forever?  Where am I supposed to live?  Will I ever get married?  have kids?  be financially sound?  oh, so many unknowns…

How grateful I am for Josh Harris and this past Sunday.  I am grateful for the comfort that comes from being reminded that my God has not forgotten me… He is not angry at me or withholding goodness.  His steadfast love and faithfulness have followed me all the days of my life.  He has led me through valleys.  He has led me through paths of rejoicing.  And He has promised not to leave… even now, in confusion…