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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a hugger.  I love to give hugs. If you know me well and see me coming if you don’t want a hug you might want to run, because you’ll get one.  It’s almost second nature to me.  I love to receive them too. It puts a smile on my face. Many times, the person giving them doesn’t know I needed it at that time.

 

It was one of those days in which I was sat and looked out over a pond at a local park. Birds bobbed on the water, and a fountain bubbled, gurgled, and struggled to rise out of the water.  It was a particular hard day; the tears began welled up.

 

“Daddy, just once I would love to feel your arm around me like a father does his child.”

 

Later when I described my day to a friend they said “Have you ever felt a warm breeze on your face? Or sat and listened to the birds chirping away or smelled your favorite flower? Have you enjoyed fellowship with others?  These may seem like small things, but God’s hugs are in the small things, not always the big wonders.”

 

That reminded me of another park visit where I walked the boardwalk, worship music played in my ear. I climbed the tower sat down on the recycled bench pulled a pen and notebook out and closed my eyes. What happened next came as a surprise. A breeze picked up, birds chirped and the words which flowed in my ear became clearer. The world was disappeared around me like the movies when a character is deep in thought everything around them move in slow motion and blurry.

 

If anyone had come to the top of the tower, I wouldn’t have known it.  There was peace, joy and the presence of God was felt without a doubt.  I’ve learned to relish these times.

 

In another blog, I wrote that sometimes solitude moments with God are about being still and letting Him love on me.  It’s being and listening and feeling using the senses to experience God’s love and His creative side, by being in His creation.

 

Lately though I have left the music behind and have taken my little word processor to the park to observe God’s creativity.   Through it, I’ve seen illustrations of how to express myself to Him. He allows me to experience things that are new, like a huge duck flying not more than three feet away whose wings just made the loudest most awesome “whoosh” with every flap. It was incredible almost like a rhythm of a drum. The breeze rusted the leaves and ducks quacked and bird chirped even the annoying seagulls squawked musically.  I heard God’s orchestra play just for me.

 

Have you ever scheduled time to just be still at the park or at the beach in the evening to watch a sunset? I would encourage you to just take in nature and allow God to wrap His arms around you.

 

 

“The Mighty One, God, the LORD speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty God shines forth.”

Psalm 50:1-2

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I decided as my daughter was taking her photography class three days a week, instead of sitting in the library for three hours I would take Ceramics 1 – and learn how to work with clay. My true interest in taking the class, was to learn the potter’s wheel.

 

On the first day, the professor showed us around the studio and we came to this one room with a huge mixer.

 

“Don’t worry about it if you don’t like how a project turns out. You see these two bins?”  he pointed to two huge plastic trash cans.  “Throw it in here along with any clay that may be to dry.  The water turns it to a “slip” like substance.  Then we add powder clay to it and it becomes re-usable clay.”

 

What he didn’t say was how bad it would smell due to bacteria breaking it down which I learned about later.

 

Ceramic illustration

Knowing that I was starting the class, I chose to study what the Bible says about the potter. When I got home it hit me.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)

 

As I think about my how life has been working and changing and healing I thought about the “slip” in the classroom.  My life is the clay.  What I think is too big of a mess up or the flaws are just too damaging I can’t be used, it’s just not true. Sure, It’s been tough.  However, the great thing is God will take everything in the past, present and future, and mix it with His love, and heals me through the work of the Holy Spirit (the water) for my good and His glory and make me even more usable.

 

Cool huh?

 

It sure doesn’t feel good sometimes. In fact, it smells pretty bad as the Holy Spirit illuminates things, and not necessarily of my own doing.  But through the Word, prayer and even other people this lump of clay will be recycled and made to be used in beautiful ways I never thought imaginable.  That’s hope, and I will not be rejected by the love and creativity of the Potter.  He has a purpose for me and will use the flaws, mistakes, struggles and trials to accomplish it.

 

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter;

we are all the work of your Hand”. 

Isaiah 64:8

 

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“Change is mandatory for extraordinary results.”

 

I noticed this quote on an electronic information board. That day the words cut like a knife, not just because the words were truth, but the changes I have been going through have been less than easy.

 

In fact, I would relate it to a wrestling match, except I was getting body slammed by my past which has influenced my present.

 

I was angry. Angry at people and yes, even God. I questioned why would He wait so long to have me deal with these things? Because it didn’t just affect how I see myself, but how I view God and the way He sees me.

 

This particular wrestling match lasted a month. Tears, fatigue, and anger were constant companions.  I felt black and blue, emotionally and mentally.

 

What I’m beginning to realize is that through the brawling, even when the fear is overwhelming, that’s where hope is.

 

In the messiness and wrestling, with each blow I’m breaking through the cement of my heart so that I’m able to receive and accept God’s love, and healing.

 

These struggles are not only the gateway to healing but also to sanctification which is a fancy word for the process of purifying, to make me holy, to make me clean.

 

I guess another way to look at it is restoring of a home.  An old house has to go through some tremendous breakage, sledge hammering, pulling up and tearing down in order for the new to be put up.

 

Wrestling things out can be part of that process in our lives. God is the master renovator and He will take His time to do things right. He will contract the work through His Spirit and even through other people, if He sees fit.

 

The change is mandatory in order for me to move forward.  It’s hard. Oh, my is it hard, and terrifying at times. However, the results He gives will be extraordinary and for my beautification. That is something I am anticipating with excitement.

 

Oh, and don’t think this is a one – time deal.  He is wrestling and renovating along with us until we are called home.

 

 “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6  (NASB)

 

 

 

 

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I wasted time a few weeks ago waiting for my daughter to finish work. Walking a few shops down, I found a wall hanging with this statement, “Until God opens the next door praise Him in the hallway.”  My first reaction was, “Yes, Lord I am in the hallway, but there aren’t any doors to open.”

 

I smiled to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks.

 

I’ve stepped out temporarily from ministry, which started a strong tug of war. The two sides pull hard with the intent of winning. On one end of the rope, confidence.  I have made a good decision to rest.  One the other end is busyness and the need to be back in the race.  As I talked to a friend about this struggle, he mentioned a devotional by L.B Cowman Streams in the Desert which gives a wonderful illustration of the periods of rests in our lives.  This is the author’s take on the period called rest:

 

 “There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music.  In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests.  During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song… He (God)* brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent.  We grieve that our part is missing in the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson.”  (Cowman pg.43,44)

 

Resting periods in my life (a masterpiece) is part of the grander piece. Sometimes these come as hardships, illness, struggles and trials or the everyday mundane.  These rests are times of silence and solitude in which He uses to grow me in my relationship with Him. God is the composer and conductor of my life and He creates rests for reasons.  Some reasons I see some I don’t, but all are for His glory and honor.

 

I love what Margaret Feinberg said in her book Fight Back with Joy, “Always be suspicious that God is up to something.” Even in the resting there is the hope that God is going to do something wonderful through it.

 

For me there are a couple of reasons for my rest: 1.  to grow closer to Him which in itself brings about rest  2.  To understand better who I am in Him, and how He sees me.  There is probably more to it, but that is what I’m observing now.  How cool is that?

 

Yes, I’m in a hallway right now that has no doors. I sit and wait in expectation when not only a door appears but opens and I walk through.  Praise God.

 

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

 

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It’s been a long time since I have visited Solitude with the Father. Deep down I have longed to be here, but God has had different ideas. Which brings me to the word for my year; Hope.

 

In today’s world the word hope has strayed from its original meaning.  It’s usually associate with a “maybe” connotation.

 

The true meaning of hope is “expectation, expect with confidence.” As I have been studying this word, I found a hard saying by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

 

“…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope;” (Romans 5:3-4 NASB)

 

Here it comes.

 

“and hope does not disappoint…”

 

The first time I saw this I froze, tears welled up and a little anger welled up with the tears.  If hope (anticipation and expectation) doesn’t disappoint, then where was the transformation I prayed for last year?  Where is the totally changed person I expected?

 

The only transformation that came was a deep depression, where I would do anything to go to a far away place and be alone.

 

I was praying and in the Word daily, yet nothing changed except the dusk turned to darkness without even a flicker of one star. It was terrifying.  I have fought bouts of depression before, but nothing like this.

 

The last part of verse five says

 

“…because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

How could this be because of God’s love? The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. “Christine, hope is expectation without your expectations to be fulfilled. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open — not set and stubborn. Hope doesn’t disappoint because transformation springs from the love of God. In trials, hope is the expectation of how God is going to refine you.”

 

What I realized, God is going to transform, and grow me in any way He sees fit.  The depression was allowed, why? To show me, now is the time.  The time to take care of deep seated issues, fears, anxieties. I was going to need help with it.

 

It’s been a process.  And it isn’t over yet.  But one thing I do know, because I belong to God as His beloved child, I have hope that healing will come. Transformation will come. Experiencing God in ways I never thought possible will come. Experiencing stillness and knowing He is God will come.  I also know that it may not be in ways I think, but they will come.

 

It’s exciting and scary at the same time. With my eyes, ears and heart open to Him I wait in expectation with exuberant anticipation of what He will do. I have seen glimpses of Him through the dark. In fact, there are little holes He has punctured to let streams of light in.  He will continue to work through the trials to grow me.

 

That is the best kind of hope.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55: 8-9

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In March I took solitude to a whole new level.  This in turn caused an increased hunger for it.

 

When I started this journey of solitude, the desire to have more time without the distractions and noise of the world grew.  The opportunity arose in March.  I went to a silent retreat weekend led by Laura Petherbridge.

 

How would I face almost a full forty-eight hours of no phones, computer, TV and absolutely no talking?   I admit I find it difficult to talk to God in my head,  so I have to talk out loud, so for me it was not total “silence”.

 

Communication was limited to two counseling sessions.  We could not even talk at meals.  That was a little awkward when you’re at an Abby and even the monks can talk to each other and your group sits there just looking at each other or our food.

 

My goal centered on this:  no expectations.  Let God be God and listen to what He had to say.   Apparently I went in with expectations, for the first morning I felt frustrated. I desperately wanted to pick up phone, call my mentor, JoAnn, and go home.

 

My greatest fear came true: God’s voice was non – existent.  I sat in the counseling session and cried and cried.

 

Laura looked at me paused then said, “Perhaps God is not giving direction because He wants to heal some things first.  You expect the “hallelujah” moment when all He wants you to do is be still, soak Him in and heal some of the perceptions you have of yourself. You struggle with a lack of trust, fear, even hatred of self.  I feel God is wanting to heal rather than give direction.” We sat in silence for a few moments.

 

“You’re also a doer,” she continued, “ You have to do and do and do in order to be a good Christian and what you really need is to learn to be. Then balance the two.”

 

I sat there stunned, but refreshed.  I realized solitude isn’t always about what God wants me to do.  Many times it’s just to sit and be still.

 

Laura spurred me on, “Let God speak to you and tell you who you are in Him.  Find verses so that when the enemy plants seeds of self loathing, mistrust, or fear you can say ‘It is written… say the verse’, and he will flee.”

 

When I left the counseling session my first reaction was “Okay, God let’s get those verses.”  But then the thought immediately came, “No, just be.  He will show them to me in His time, in His way.”  I found a fountain outside, sat down and enjoyed the nature around me.

 

The rest of the weekend went well.  I basked in who He was, my Father.

 

I discovered in a deeper sense, that solitude centers on relationship.

 

God will tell me when He is good and ready and most importantly when He knows I’m ready to hear that “next step”.

 

One verse that stood out to me that weekend was Song of Solomon 7:10:

 “I am my beloveds and my beloved desires me.”

 

God desires me.  His desire for me, is to know Him in a deep an intimate way.

 

As much as I wanted to hear where I was headed, I needed to hear that the Creator of the Universe desires me.  He desires all of me; every strength, every weakness, every flaw, every single part of me.  He loves me that much.  He desires to make me into more than I could ever dream. But most of all He wants me to be still.

 

How about it?  Is it too big of a risk to take some time to be away, at a park, away from the distractions of the world, and be still before Him? Go without the phone, or expectations and let Him direct the time.  He may just want you to enjoy a walk through His creation.

 

Be amazed and awed in the One who desires you.

 

If you are interested in attending a silent retreat, either click on Laura’s name within the blog or go to the link below.

http://www.laurapetherbridge.com/speaking/silent-retreats/

 

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I was cooking the other day, a Matthew West song came over the speakers.  I was taken back by the concept portrayed.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.

 

Does it sound familiar?  “Love is patient..it is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrong…”  (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV84)

 

If you’re like me the first thing that comes into my head is not holding onto resentment.  It so easy to keep a list of the wrongs people have done to us.

 

However, there is another way we hold on to a list, a list of our own wrongs.   I find it’s easier to forgive others  than I can forgive myself.  If I sat down right now and wrote out every mistake I could remember it would be a doozie of a list.

 

Love does not keep a record of wrongs.

 

I think it’s the reason I and so many others are miserable, or freeze up when having to make a decision.  We’re reminded of all the mistakes we made, and they hang on to us like the chains of Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’ book  A Christmas Carol.

 

The rehashing of mistakes and the fear that freezes me to moved forward replaces the calling God has given me to live and to live an abundant life.  I also push away from the rich love God has for me.

 

When I hold onto the list of my wrongs  and mistakes tightly, in essence I’m saying, “Your Son’s sacrifice was worthless, and your forgiveness is nothing.”  I’m doubting and that is sin.  Catherine Marshall in her book The Helper states this:

 

“He (Jesus)*  claimed to be the Savior, to be able to save us from any sin, any bondage, any problems. By disclaiming that with regard to any one of my problems, I am calling Jesus a liar and a charlatan – a fake prophet – as truly as did those who long ago howled for His death before Pilate and who drove in the nails…we think of sin as the breaking of laws, whereas Jesus thinks of sin as being bound.  Why would anyone with good will condemn a poor man bound with chains or tied with heavy rope?  Would he not rather want to free him?”

 

When we take our mistakes to God for forgiveness, He forgives and forgets.

 

See I have another problem that is linked to all this.  I can’t tell you how many times, the enemy reminds me of things I have done, and immediately I ask for forgiveness again, and again.  I can picture the Father smiling and saying,  “What mistake?”

 

Take a look at some of these verses:

 

“ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from  all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASB)

 

He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west.”  (Psalm 103:11-13 NASB)

 

A person is blessed when they are forgiven, sins are covered and God doesn’t count it against them (Psalm 103:11-13 NASB)

 

“…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 NIV84 based on the new covenant that was fulfilled through Christ.)

 

Loving God means keeping no record of our mistakes for this simple fact, He loved us so much that He doesn’t keep a record of them.  The list was ripped up when we received Christ as our Savior.  Confession is for our benefit.  He forgave us at the cross.

 

It’s time that we forgive ourselves, let go of the past and move forward.  It’s not easy but through the work of Holy Spirit it’s possible.   If God is love then He keeps no records of our wrongs, so it stands to reason we should not keep a record of our wrongs.

 

*My emphasis

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