"It was God who sent me here…"

I’ve been through a few hard things in my life, and I firmly believe that God has allowed me to walk those roads for my good.  I never thought much about the fact that He might use my challenges for someone else’s good as well.
I was reading in Genesis today and this struck me…
Joseph says to his brothers at their reunification, “And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.  8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Genesis 45:5-8
Joseph was able to see God’s bigger plan in his brothers’ jealous act of selling him into slavery.  He was a slave and spent two years in prison because of their sin.  Yet he was able to say, “it was not you who sent me here, but God.”  When I’m hurting as a result of another person’s actions am I able to forgive them and trust “it was God who sent me” there? Can I withhold my frustration and pity party in the midst of a terrible life circumstance and trust that “it was God who sent me here?” He recognized that God sent him there ahead of others to preserve life!
We’ve struggled with infertility, thus far unresolved.  We have long-term depression in our family that has us wading in deep waters.  I have three sets of food allergies to cater to in the kitchen. I’ve had extended family upheaval I never thought I’d see.  But you know what?  The Lord has allowed me to be in places to share this hurt with others who are in the thick of it themselves.  He’s brought me women begging God to carry their own little one, friends and family stuck in the shock of a new diagnosis as they try to navigate new (very long) lists of foods to avoid, friends I knew long ago who are going through family situations the likes of mine, and the list goes on.
Because I’ve been there, I can share that it gets better.  God will draw you nearer to Him if you allow it.  He will shape you in a way you’ll never imagine, if you’ll give Him full reign in your heart and hang on with all your might.  He will give you wisdom in places you’d never look.  And then when it’s time, He’ll use you to share His love with another hurting child of His.  It will be your turn to say, “it was God who sent me here” so you can bless a sad heart and be a balm to a troubled soul.
Let Him take you there.  Press into Him and let Him heal your wounds.
Let Him use the horrible place He sent you for His glory by loving others who are there too. He just may have sent you there first for their sake.

Bible in 90 Days ~ I’m Finished!

I finished up last night!  Woohoooooooooooooo!   Amy over at Mom’s Toolbox has asked those of us who wrote about our journey to sum it all up for others to read about.
I decided to read this way, because I felt the Lord nudging me to do so.  I knew it would be a challenge, so I chose the winter as a time to do it, because I leave town the least!  Over all, it was a challenge in discipline.  With an assignment of 45 minutes to an hour a day, I knew catching up wouldn’t be very easy! so I had to stay on top of it in order to not be discouraged.  I had to choose to have calm weekends, so I could catch up if need be.  I had to choose to get out of bed when I didn’t want to.  I had to choose to keep my eyes open when I wanted to close them.  I chose to read the Word instead of any other books during this time.  I had to choose to read instead of write (which is why I have a few weekly gaps to fill in on my Bible in 90 page)!  But all of those were worthwhile sacrifices and God gave me the desire to make every one of them!
I have read the Bible through before once, but it was slow and disjointed.  This time was far more enjoyable.   This is the best way I know to describe it:  You know how people are all excited and close when they come back from a trip together?  They can tell you all of their stories, and you can laugh and look at their scrapbooks, but you are quite clearly missing major pieces of the puzzle.  So then the next time you go along and all of the inside jokes, struggles and successes make sense because you are there in the middle of the action this time.  Well, this time I was “in the middle of the action” instead of counting on others to “feed” me.  This time I got to read it, soak it in and let it change me, because I was there in person – engaged, committed and hungry.
Reading large portions at each sitting allowed me to see the verses in context which offered a much more appropriate application.  Reading it as a whole in such a short time period afforded me the opportunity to remember what I read in Genesis and Exodus so I could relate it to what I was reading in Revelation without having to look it up again.  Spending this much time in the Word gave me time with Him that I had been spending on otherwise worthless tasks, and I believe that’s just a blessing to Him.  And the best part?  Reading it all in 90 days makes the celebration in Revelation all the more victorious as I’ve been “pulling” for His people all the way through!  He wins!  There is a triumphant end to this story we’re living!!  I knew that when I started, but it’s a lot more fun to read it this way. 
I have a list of things I want to research now that I’m finished.  I understand the big picture in a whole new way than I did 90 days ago, but a small growth in understanding has left me seeking answers for new questions that have arisen as others were answered.  I like this unsettled feeling though.  I think it’s called hunger.  
I’m starting off with a word study on my word of the year: grace.  I really wish I knew Hebrew and Greek, but I’m going to have to stick with a word study for now.  As far as a daily plan, there was kind of a big hole today without a big chunk to read, so I’m going to have to jump back in with a plan!   I have learned I do much better on one than if I’m just reading randomly.  
If you’ve read along this time, I’d love to hear about your experience!  And if you haven’t read the Bible in 90 days, I would certainly encourage you to do so.  Amy at Mom’s Toolbox is starting another group July 11, 2011.  Don’t just “read my stories and look at my scrapbook”… get in on the trip!  Let me know so I can be praying for you and encouraging you.  Maybe I’ll just do it again with you.  🙂

Click here to read all about my Bible in 90 Days Journey.
I read with over 1000 people this round! Go see what they have to say!

Bible in 90 ~ Week 10 ~ Treasured by God?

So I’m catching up on week 10 blogging.  This was one week I was behind a couple of days after being out of town, so since I was behind I certainly didn’t have time to blog about it!  But behind in writing or not, I did have a bit of an “Aha!” moment this particular week.

I have questioned before if all of God’s promises are for me.  Not because I think I’m not good enough (I know I’m not good enough for any of it!), but just because one says something in one conversation does not mean that is something they feel to every other person who may read it in the future.  I’m just not that easy to convince.  I’m not David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea… you get the idea.  God wasn’t speaking to me when He said “I know the plans I have for you,” “Be ye strong and courageous,” “I will be with you,” etc., so who says I have the right to assume those comments of love are meant for me as well?  Or this one that was certainly encouraging, though I didn’t see it as for me when I read it in a vision Daniel had:

“Daniel, you are a man treasured by God… for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers… Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. Peace to you; be very strong!” 
Daniel 10: portions of verses 11, 12, 19
But this was my moment… I know I’ve heard that God shows no preference… Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no favoritism” and while Paul is talking about salvation, rewards, judgment and wrath, I think it’s a reasonable stretch to conclude that He would be non-preferential when it comes to treasuring His creation as well. I know that I treasure my children, and if I could bypass my flesh, I would wholeheartedly treasure them without any interruption of feeling caused by frustration.  But because God is without sin, and His love for us is perfect, then I believe He can treasure His children even while we are frustrating Him!  So I think I’m willing to believe that I am treasured by God just like Daniel was!

Bible in 90 ~ Week 11 ~ Do I ask Him to leave?

Week 11!  I can’t believe it!  The time has gone so quickly and I’m almost done.
This week I’ve read all four of the gospels and started Acts.  It was refreshing to read the fulfillment of the prophecies so quickly after reading the prophecies… I actually remembered what I had read so I caught on instead of having to see it in my Bible notes somewhere.  🙂
The gospels are full of the stories we were taught in Sunday School, so I think they’re really easy to skim over (in a bad way).  I struggle to go deep in them because they’re old hat, in a way.  But one verse caught my attention when I read it.

Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.  Luke 8:36-37
God was performing miracles, fixing a nuisance (surely a demon possessed man would be a nuisance, right?) and  they asked Him to leave because they were afraid!  I think we metaphorically “ask Him to leave” by ignoring His Spirit’s leading, seeking elsewhere for advice more suited to our liking, making our own plan and backing it up with scripture to justify it, and a whole host of other actions. I wonder how often God is right in the midst of doing work for my good and I ask Him to leave in fear of what else He might do?

Moving on

God has said it’s time to move on.  And I told Him I’m willing, but I can’t do it alone.  
About three years ago I felt like the Lord told me a very clear “no” in response to my asking for more children.  I was pretty sure that’s what I heard, and grieved as if He’d written it on my wall.  I wept at the loss of my dreams, struggled through a few months and a few more options, and got rid of some baby stuff, though I saved a lot “just in case.”  Slowly, though, I began to question if that’s really what I heard.  Some well meaning friends said they didn’t really think that’s what I heard.  I noticed many times in scripture where God gave children to a woman who prayed long enough.  I thought maybe this was just “no for now” and justified my continuing hope with that.  But under all of it, I knew.
I wasn’t angry or bitter.  I was just sad.  I was afraid that if I stopped asking it would make Him think I’d stopped hoping, and if I stopped hoping He’d forget how badly I really wanted this.

Last weekend through some sweet fellowship with women, teaching and communion with Him, God made it clear it’s time to move into a new chapter.  It’s time to put this hope of another pregnancy behind me and look ahead at what He has for me.  Maybe it is just “no for now,” but I can’t live in the “for now” anymore.  I have asked Him to show me what it looks like to accept that gracefully.  What do I do differently?  
Does it mean I stop wondering?
Does it mean I stop contemplating?
Does it mean I stop hoping?

I do know it means I’m to pass on all of my stuff I was saving “just in case.”
I did that yesterday.
And I didn’t even cry.
I know it means I’m to stop asking Him for my miracle and graciously accept His answer.  And yes, it means I’m to stop hoping.

I believe it means I’m to stop perceiving myself in the middle of the wilderness of infertility.  I believe He’s brought me out of the wilderness, it’s just that the milk and honey don’t taste quite like I expected.

I have a few things I’m asking of Him:
Show me, God, that You know how much this hurts me.
Redeem my pain and heartache. Help me use it for Your glory and others’ good.
Help me see Your sweet face.
Give me courage. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do for You.

Bible in 90 ~ Week 7 ~ Hmmmmm…

I crossed the halfway point this week!  It’s not been easy, though.  The kids have been sick.  I’ve been up in the middle of the night.  The books I’ve read this week weren’t connected to anything else, so it was very hard to stay “interested” so to speak.  But I stick with it because I know it’s a blessing to the Lord.  And I ask Him to meet me there in my weakness and fill me with His word.

This week I read through the second half of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. I struggled with these not only because much of this section is random (for lack of a better word) phrases or isolated paragraphs, but also because much of it is figurative and that’s not something I comprehend without thinking through it, especially because I know pretty much nothing about Hebrew culture of 500BC!  I have also learned about myself that I really am just more encouraged by seeing God work in situations, and these books don’t really have a context offered.  (I think when I do this reading style again, I’m going to buy a Chronological Bible and divide it into my own reading for 90 days.  That would make these passages come alive and make sense.)  I don’t tell you any of this to be complaining, but to keep it real.

*** I think I should put this disclaimer before the rest of this post… ***
The remainder is loaded with theological questions, and I don’t intend to make anyone stumble if this is all one ever reads on my blog.  I just think it’s worth thinking about, but if you don’t have a strong foundation of faith in the Almighty God, the God of the Old and New Testament, I think I’d leave this alone for now!  

I think one other question that keeps coming to my mind is this: Just because it’s in the Bible, are these promises for me, are these thoughts I should have?  I know the Lord loves David, and I know David was inspired by the word of God to write many of the Psalms, but does that mean that I can claim the promises David thought were correct about God?  See, it’s all well and good to pray this prayer from Psalm 139 as David did:
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 

That makes me feel great and I think many of us would claim that as a statement of theology as if God spoke it Himself.

But how would you feel if you were in my small group and I started quoting this one from Psalm 109 during my closing prayer?

1 My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2 for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me;
   they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 
3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4 In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5 They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.
 6 Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. 9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. 11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. 12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. 13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
   may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. 
15 May their sins always remain before the LORD, that he may blot out their name from the earth.
 16 For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor
   and the needy and the brokenhearted. 
17 He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him. 
18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water,
   into his bones like oil. 
19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,like a belt tied forever around him. 20 May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me.

See what I mean?  That’s not one anyone would claim as something right from God’s mouth, not the God of the New Testament anyway.  I know it’s comforting to read these emotional poems that David wrote to God.  And I know it’s nice to believe that everything David thought about God was true, but is it?  David clearly had some misperceptions in his life!!  So how do I decide which of these poems are the ones I should pray as well?  How do I decide which of the Proverbs were just Solomon’s ideas and which ones are “promises” I can claim and put my faith in?  What makes it okay to own some verses of scripture and not others?  

Maybe this is why Psalms is not a book that brings me comfort like so many other people I know, though I ceratiainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I myself wrote a whole post last week on Psalms that comforted me!  I guess because I’m pretty black and white and like proof, I just like putting my cards in the scripts where God was an active role playing member (documented, I mean, not just understood) and what he said and did was written down on paper… no confusion there!   I’m sort of just playing Devil’s advocate in opposition to the other side of my brain.  I’m certainly not questioning my faith in the inspired word of God, and I do believe that every word is in the Bible because God wanted it there, but I think this is worth looking at.
Any thoughts?

Bible in 90 ~ Week 6 ~ God is My Rock!

This week I read some of Nehemiah, all of Job and we’re into Psalms.  And I have to say, I definitely enjoy reading more when it’s a part of a whole story.  I know it all fits together, but Job is an isolated story and Psalms aren’t really connected if you’re not reading them intertwined with the appropriate chronological event to which they apply.  So this isn’t my favorite section at all, but I know God put it in here so it matters to Him!

As I’m reading through Psalms I notice the verses that jump out at me are the ones that talk about God being our rock. God has given me a personality that lends itself to being in leadership in positions or relationships, whether or not I’m looking for it.  Because of that, it’s easy to think I have to bear the load, get it all done, be the strong one, and yet trudge through unaffected.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:1-2
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
Psalm 18:31
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Psalm 61:2-4
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2
 It matters to me that there is someone else who is the Rock, the Stronghold, the Fortress, the Strong Tower… because that means I don’t have to be!

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3

God, You are glorified in my trials when I turn to You.  I have trials I don’t want to navigate and stories I don’t want to be mine to tell, but You allow them so I will seek You.  Oh God,  put a new song in my mouth so I can praise You!  Allow me to show others Your power. Turn their hearts so they will put their trust in You.

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 

Psalm 51:16-17

Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord to Thee.
Take my moments, and my days. Let them flow with ceaseless praise.
Take my will and make it Thine, It shall be no longer mine. 
Take my heart, it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne.
Frances R. Havergal

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Bible in 90 ~ Week 4 ~ Give it all, or just most?

I can’t believe it’s been 4 weeks!  I know you are sick of me saying it, but I am so glad I am doing this.  I have learned more than any other time in the word, especially just reading totally on my own (without a Bible study).

This has been the hardest week thus far.  Not because the reading was uninteresting, though.  I’ve had tension headaches from spending so much time looking down.  I’ve struggled to focus and not felt well because of food reactions and hormones.  (I can even tell as I’m writing this I don’t feel like myself and this is taking so much work!)  My two calm weekend days didn’t pan out as I thought and I was frustrated I was reading late at night to finish.  But I know it’s such a good commitment and worth the struggle.

This week we read through 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.  I tried really, really hard to stay focused and absorb what I was reading.  If I found my mind wandering I went back and re-read the section, because I really wanted to get it all!  What I am finding is that pieces to this puzzle that have previously been missing are falling into place as I read it in this way.  I’m understanding things I’ve not understood for my entire life spent in church!  And I’m so thankful for it.

There were many kings who made a lot of rotten choices, and a few kings who made some good ones.  All of the “good ones” served God and followed all of His commands.  But in almost every case “they left the high places” and the Asherah poles.  They allowed people on the outskirts to still worship false Gods.  I wonder if I make mostly the right choices, but I keep a few idols hidden in the high places.  Do I give it almost all to God?  Or do I do like Josiah did and destroy everything that separates me from Him?