Refuge

Finding trust in our walk with God is one of the hardest aspects of the Christian walk, but it is also the most necessary.  In fact, trusting God is the core of Christianity.  Think for a moment:  if you didn’t trust God at least a little, you wouldn’t be a Christian!  You have to trust that He lives, that He loves you, and that you will be with Him in eternity.  Somehow it’s easier to trust Him on these things than it can be to depend on Him for the day to day.

I am home from the INCH conference in Lansing, delighted after speaking to a group of wonderful girls and parents who attended my workshop there.  But getting there wasn’t quite so easy!  The day before INCH (Thursday) much of the printing we had to do was not finished, so after work on Thursday I drove straight to the shop to work on the books.  We ended up working all night.  The next morning was Friday, the first day of INCH, and we needed to be in Lansing by noon.  Driving with no sleep was impossible, even though I drank a gallon of coffee to try, and the result was that we had to stay home and rest before leaving that night. 

I was upset.  I was tired, stressed, and unhappy that I had missed the entire first day of the conference.  I was sure that my workshop would not garner as much interest because I wasn’t there for the first day.  I wasn’t trusting God.

When we are doing what God wants, we have to trust Him to take care of the consequences.  Just as I was worrying over the conference, so often we worry about little things that we think will destroy our goals and dreams, when God is allowing them just so we depend on Him.  I had no choice:  I had to trust Him for my speech and hope the girls would enjoy it.  And from what I saw, I think perhaps they did!

Walking as a Christian young woman is the perfect juxtaposition of pressing on and giving up.  We press on in the faith, fighting the good fight, but we also give up our own desires, worries and fears by trusting in an Almighty and loving God.  Trust is that giving up.  He is our ultimate refuge, no matter what our circumstances.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rest my salvation and my glory, my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”  (Psalm 62:5-8)

To Think About

  • Do you struggle trusting God for any areas or decisions in your life?
  • How can you practically surrender these areas to God?
  • How can you live in trust, giving up worries and fears that hold you down?
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Lassie, Come Home

thanksgiving-012That adorable little ball of fur on the left is my Sheltie, Lassie.  She will turn three this spring, just a few days before my own birthday, and she is a happy little creature without a care in the world.  Thanks to mom feeding her while I am at work, she is a fat little thing, too! 

Lassie’s main vice (besides yapping) lies in her timid nature.  She is deathly afraid of strangers and strange places.  She has an emotional breakdown every time I take her for a ride in my car.  She hides under furniture and shakes like we’re having an earthquake whenever she is confronted with something new. 

Sound familiar?

I hate to subscribe to the idea that in time, the owner begins to assimilate to her dog, but I see too much of myself in Lassie’s nature.  Physically, we have the same profile (check out my nose) and when it comes to our personalities, I see many of the same tendencies that Lassie displays when life throws her a curve ball.  She never goes and fetches.  She runs the other direction.

My world and Lassie’s are obviously very different.  She doesn’t have to go to work or do chores — she just has to be.  Well, she does have to be good, in addition to just being, and as a whole she does a fair job at that.  The test comes when  I give her a command:

“Lassie, come here.”  I see her round eyes recognize my voice — but then she surveys the situation.  Is there anyone around?  Anything new, strange, or fearful?  If so, she doesn’t come, but lingers timidly in the corner.  “Lassie, come!”  She takes a few steps forward, but quickly darts back when she hears footsteps nearby.  Her ears flick back and forth and I can tell I am not the only voice she is listening to.  Third time:  “Lassie, I said come here!”  She then has two reactions:  a mad dash into my arms, or a fearful huddle in the corner.  If the latter, I come thundering into the corner to collar her into obedience. 

What Lassie always misunderstands is that I call her to give her blessings.  I give her commands so I can enjoy her company, pet her, feed her, and brush her.  It is she who makes it an ordeal by her fearful disobedience.  When she continues to ignore my commands, the difficulty is prolonged as I have to punish her before I can give her what I wanted to give in the first place. 

I don’t know about you, but I see this as a fair example of my relationship with God.  He calls — and I survey the situation.  “Is it safe?  Will I be embarrassed?  Will I get hurt?” If I don’t like it, maybe I don’t go.  He calls again:  “Phylicia, follow me!” I start to follow, but I get dissuaded by fear and pride.  So God comes thundering into my corner, to pull me out of my huddle and show me what I could have attained with much less hassle.  I end up with my ears pinned back and my tail between my legs.  It didn’t have to be that way.

So tomorrow morning when I feed Lassie, that’s what will be on my mind.  Maybe I can’t help looking like my dog, but I can certainly put a stop to acting like her.  I just have to get out of my corner… before the Master has to drag me out of it!

Bottled and Shelved

I’ve seen it happen. 

A girl, pure and committed, living by every rule and guideline in the ‘book’, yet confused, afraid, and guilty over her own natural emotions.  If feelings arose for someone she tamped them down, stifled them, and corked it all in, not to see the light of day… but then at night, they came flooding back… and there was nothing she could do but stifle them all over again.

I’ve seen it destroy.  Those natural emotions that we have been given by God cannot be contained in so extreme a measure and allow us to still operate in freedom.  We become slaves to our emotions, constantly battling ourselves and feeling guilty because of it — when those emotions are part of our very nature.  The extremity of measures taken to keep a heart ‘pure’ can instead cause it to internalize natural desires, and eventually this leads to rebellion. 

What is a pure heart?  It is not a heart in slavery to rule and regulation.  It is disciplined, yes, but it is not bound and shackled to keep it in submission.  A pure heart is free of corruption, pride, selfishness and fear.  But most importantly… a pure heart is free.  Just free. 

If there is anything that causes me the most pain and frustration in the purity movement, it is the stifling of emotion that so many girls tend to do.  It is this tamped down, corked in, wound-up society of hearts that have natural, God-given desires for love and affection and friendship — without an avenue to vent those desires.  Friendships with boys are forbidden or closely censored, and any feelings a girl or boy may have is told to be stuffed away for That Great Day in the future.

It is not effective.  It is not safe.  This fear of relationships in high school, simply because we are devoted to purity, will prove to be the destruction of our commitment if we do not realize that in Christ, we have a marvelous freedom!  It is our own choice to use this freedom for good or ill — but we are free all the same!  This fear of friendships with girls or boys, this fear of touching or standing close, this fear of what others will think — it is fear.  It is pride.  It is not of Christ.

Oh you girls!  Do you see what you can have?  Do you see the freedom you have in Christ, when you are in submission to Him?  You can have pure, good, godly friendships with boys and girls and no one can condemn you!  It is perfectly possible to spend time with the opposite sex on a friendship basis and remain completely above reproach.  You may even develop an attraction to one particular friend — a crush, perhaps.  That is natural.  What you do with it is the issue.  If you stamp it down and grind it out with legalism and human strength, it will come back ten times stronger.  Give it to Christ, and you will be able to maintain a friendship as well as your heart.

God says all through Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  (Deut. 1:29, Josh. 10:25, 1 Sam. 12:20, 1 Sam. 22:23, Ps. 56:11)  Do not be afraid anything:  temptation, emotion, friendships, men, what others may think.  If you are indeed of God then you have nothing to be afraid of.  You should be perfectly in control of your emotions, perfectly strong in temptation, perfectly at ease in friendships, perfectly respectful to men, and perfectly content to let others think what they may.  Because God is perfect, and He is at your side.

So where is your heart?  Is it ‘bottled and shelved’ like a keg of beer, fermenting and growing stronger in its pungent smell?  Or is it growing free, like a lily in a field, with sun and water and a whole host of others around it?  The lily white heart is not rotting in a cellar but flourishes where accountability and beauty grow up together.  It is not afraid of the thorns of the thistle that grows beside it, because it knows that it is where it needs to be.  Someday someone will pick it, but until that day, it flourishes where it has been planted.

Through Our Father’s Eyes

Beginning this month I am starting a new pattern for this blog.  Monday through Friday will be themed posts covering topics like relationships, singleness, flirtation, modesty, and other issues, Saturday will be movie and/or book reviews, and Sunday will be a sermon review based on what my pastor talked about that morning.  Since it is Sunday — the first one of the year — I will be giving my readers the first sermon review. 

Being human, we often look at the world through our own biased lens.  We see things colored by our circumstances and perceptions, our backgrounds and histories, our pains and our joys.  Too few times do we stop to think if these perceptions are right and true; if they are in line with God’s word or even with the actual facts.  Sometimes the fiction appeals more than the truth. 

Everywhere you look, in your own life and outside it, there are problems with the world.  There is death and destruction, whirlwinds and war, hurricanes and hatred, bitterness and bloodshed… concentrating on these things can be depressing.  For those in a lost world, it is.  For those in the lost world, depression and despair are well known.  There is no hope.  Yet those of us that have Christ have hope — we have a hope that transcends circumstance. 

Are we as Christians giving this world our hope, or are we hiding it under a bushel as we join in the moanings of those who see nothing but the evil of society?  We have a choice — to perceive our world as negative, focusing only on the evil, or to remember the hope that lies within us.  Do we share that hope?  We should.

In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha was being sought by the Syrians.  The Syrian army surrounded the town of Dothan to capture and kill the prophet.  In the middle of the night, hundreds of chariots encircled the little city, and as morning dawned, Elisha’s servant beheld what seemed to be an impossible situation: “Alas, my master, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).  Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those that are with them.”

Do not be afraid?  That’s our first instinct — but in every situation that confronts us God calls out for us to trust Him and dispels the fear from our hearts.  When the angel came to Mary his first words were, ‘Do not be afraid.’  When the host of holy ones met the shepherds of Bethlehem, they announced, ‘Do not be afraid.’  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

When we decide that our circumstances or situations are insurmountable we are limiting God.  By limiting God we lack faith in Him.  We must choose to believe what He has said He will do, and that He is who He says He is.  We must also surrender the attitudes that we have taken upon ourselves that keep us from believing Him — attitudes of pride, self-righteousness, and insecurity — and take hold of the promise that He has extended to us…

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

I forgot to tell the rest of Elisha’s story.  After he admonished his servant to take courage, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened to see what God was doing on behalf of his people.  As the servant looked again at the surrounded city, he saw fiery chariots and horses by the thousands, ready to protect only one prophet of God and his trembling companion. 

Fear not… He is with you.