A friend emailed me and a few others about trying an experiment. She wants us to pray for each others husbands for the month of November.
I said yes.
Honestly it’s not so much because I think my husband (or theirs) needs it as much as I need to do it. I need to be reminded that this life I live is not all about me. I need to know that where two or more are gathered we have an effectual plea before the throne of grace. I need to be reminded I’m not alone. I need to remember my husband is, like me, made in the image of God. I need to love my husband better and what better way than to pray for him.
I know my husband will benefit too,in ways I can’t even imagine right now.
My friend suggested we start by confessing and repenting our own sins first. To God and to our husbands. This is a little terrifying. I know full well my sins (though probably not well enough), but to actually confess them…
Psalm 51 came to mind.
Have mercy on me O God
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
Remembering my sin is first against God is sobering.
Create in me a clean heart , O God
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
James puts it this way
But he gives more grace.
Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4
We should not turn away from God when sin abounds but just the opposite. Submit, draw near, confess, mourn then let God do his work and restore the joy. Let Him exalt you. Let Him purify. Let Him impart righteousness.
Ah what sweet salvation to be fully forgiven.
Then, with faith, pray because he gives more grace.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. James 5
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Great Power, not to wield for our pleasures, but to affect change, impart blessings, bring healing, give hope, increase faith, and learn humility.
Each day this month I’ll pray for my husband and those of my friends I’ll try to be here every few days and encourage prayer and give glory to God. Join me and let me know How God’s great power is working through your prayers.
It’s been wonderful to accomplish what I set out to do. Really wonderful. You see, I am a starter, not usually a finisher. I get going on things with much enthusiasm but then motivation, and inspiration fizzle and procrastination sets in.
But this month was different. I was able to put something on this blog everyday. That was the goal. I didn’t have a theme or topic just mostly shared what was on my heart, what I’ve been reading or a few pictures or poems here and there. Nothing worthy of going viral or making a mark on the blogging world just faithfulness each day.
And that’s enough for me.
Today, this last day of October, I want to highlight some of the blogs I was introduced to over the month. The most compelling blogs are from women who have shared from places of hardship and adversity. Some adversity of their own making some hard circumstances beyond their control. All came to a place of humility and grace at the foot of the cross. They cling to this cross and have a message of hope for anyone in similar situations. Others just tell it like it is in church or out of church they too though have a message of hope and are laying it on the line to speak the truth. The last link is a link to the 1600 other bloggers who linked up and took part in the 31 day challenge. If you have a few hours to kill browse through that and find anything from devotionals to menu plans.
Yesterday I put up this stuff about being known. About stepping closer and letting our real selves be known all the ugly and the good mixed together. I put that up but knew I hadn’t really done that, or hadn’t been living that in a while. I’ve been reading the hope diaries, this brave courageous women whose sharing all her dark stuff, and this post about letting go weighed heavily on me. Stuff was suffocating me and I really needed a safe person to unload on. I didn’t have the guts to actually call someone but I did pray. I asked God to send someone.
Ten minutes after I hit publish on my post there was a knock on the door. It was already dark, dinner was over, kids were settling in, who would be knocking on my door? It was my safest person, the one who gets me, even though we are so very different. The one who listens without judgement, because she know she can’t throw stones. The one who I bonded with when we lived next door to each other for four years and even though we lived in such close proximity for that time she still likes me.
I dragged her immediately back out the door and we headed for the coffee shop. After some chit chat, which is never about the weather, she asked me a question and we had to leave. The next half an hour was spent with me spilling out all my stink in her van. Eyes and nose dripping all over, mopped up with Mcdonalds napkins, and her just listening looking concerned but never patronizing, validating but not excusing.
And I could breathe. Finally.
Seems everything I’ve been reading and coming across in blog posts and devotionals has something to do with being known. Being known can make us feel vulnerable but also gives us security when those who really know us love us. Love.
Love practiced is the process of getting to know people. In the book Anatomy of the Soul (yes that book again…) He describes a way of loving based on 1 Corinthians:
We have been called to embody all the virtues listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but without love we cannot do so. And I suggest that the path to developing such love includes
the process of being known;
the experience of feeling felt;
the encounter of being validated but never coddled;
being cared for but not overwhelmed or patronized;
being fully understood while called into proper risk-taking adventure;
being healed and awakened to growth, compassion and responsibility,
Furthermore, this process requires us to live in close proximity to one another. Becoming a body that breathes justice and mercy requires the presence of love, which then doubles back, its full development depending on that very community. Ultimately this cycle is empowered by the Holy Spirit, who creates all of this through the process of being known.
Oh how I long for yet somehow avoid being in close proximity to others. Even those I live with I avoid and stay emotionally distant. I don’t share how I feel, yet let out my aggravation, I don’t ask for help yet fume when no one comes to my aid. I stew and brew in the cesspool of my mind where I rehash grievances, rehearse how to rebuke, and relish my judgement.
Oh but for the grace of God I’d be living only for myself and would be swimming in that cesspool everyday while thinking it’s a mountain spring. To be known by others we have to step courageously closer. As we step our stink will permeate, the ugliness revealed. Yet confessing brings healing.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
And He already knows us.
You have searched me,Lord,
and you know me. Psalm 139:1
There is no hiding.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:11-12
And there is no greater love than that of one who knows us yet laid down His life for us. So let yourself be known to others because in being known you let Him be known.
I decided to only spend five minutes today on writing and took my cue from the above 31 days of five minute free writes. Today’s word is wake.
Wake from the dead, wake up you sleeper. There is some bible verse that exhorts us to wake from something. Our own arrogance? self centeredness? Something. Wake you sleeper take note of the life around you. Don’t live so focused on self, so inward as to think the world revolves around you. Wake little one, it’s time to rise and greet the day.
It’s time to wake the children that’s why I chose a five minute writing exercise so I wouldn’t have to worry about what to post for the rest of the day.
I like to wake early and have my time. This morning, however, my little girl woke with me and at first I was annoyed but then she quietly found things to do so I still had my time. Like it’s really mine, I don’t own time. But to wake early and have the still quiet house around me to be alone with my thoughts and let the light grow brighter with each waking moment.
And five minutes is gone in the blink of an eye.
I like to write and am happy when I can compose a few words that express the thoughts I’m trying to convey in a clear, concise and engaging way. It’s not easy for me though. ( if you knew how many times I rewrote that first sentence you;’d be like “give it up, Martha”.) I struggle with finding the right words. My vocabulary never feels adequate, my thoughts are rather jumbled and I feel like I am cloudy in my meaning. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to express. My grammar is not exact. I’m never sure if I’ve place the comma in the right place or if a semi-colon would be better. When I am pleased with what I write, I’ll often go back to it and wish I had done something differently.
What am I even trying to say here, right now, today?
During this blogging challenge I haven’t had to write new stuff everyday;(is this the right use of a semi-colon?) I’ve used Silent Saturdays to post only pictures, and a Psalm on Sundays to lessen the composing, I’ve pulled from the depths of my computer to post previously written poems or letters so I wouldn’t have to come up with original stuff. It hasn’t been a big stretch to blog everyday. But moving past this 31 day challenge I want to continue to write. I’m afraid though I”ll run out of things to say and get weary in the composing. And really what’s my point anyway? Something in me says why bother, why do you think you have anything to share? Some of what I’d like to write is just too personal for a blog that others might read. Some of it is too trite for anyone to be interested. And anyway hasn’t somebody somewhere already said what I said in a better more engaging, artistic way?
Another part of me though says yes go on it doesn’t matter who reads. This writing thing you’re doing isn’t about gaining an audience or ministering to others (though if it does minister all the better) or even improving your writing (though I hope that is a by product of the practice). Its about pouring out and trying to make sense, teasing through the jumble, finding a voice, my voice and maybe leaving a legacy. I don’t know.
I’d like to be a consistent blogger…and really call myself a writer. And these people say I should embrace that:
you are a writer
I have had people encourage me in my writing. Complimenting me. It’s nice to hear kind words about what you do.
Truly what I want is to be faithful, as a Christian, to be and do what God would have me do. Vocation, calling, gifting all these things I struggle with. I never had formal training or education in a particular field or career. I don’t have any particular expertise on any one topic, though I know a lot about many things. But what is God calling me to do and be outside of the normal everyday responsibilities of a stay at home wife and mother?
I hope by continuing to write I will find God’s pleasure, His encouragement. How will I know? I think it has something to do with knowing I can’t not do it. I heard that somewhere, when you find something you can’t not do that’s your calling.
For now I think that’s it for me, I can’t not do this. So whether or not I ever gain a following, or ever really feel like a “writer” I’ll continue to write in my jumbled, at times incoherent and not always engaging or artistic way. I’ll just write for myself, for God and for whoever else wants to listen.
From the Message Bible
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be-
you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean
Count yourself lucky-
Yahweh holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.
When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.
Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to Yahweh.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone=
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.
These things add up. Everyone of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.
Yahweh’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.
Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:
“Don’t be ornery like a horse or a mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”
God-defiers are always in trouble;
Yahweh-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!
I don’t always like the message bible, it seems so colloquial and not even modern colloquial but like 1950’s. I wanted something different though so I started thumbing through the Message Psalms. This one reminded me of my new life in Christ. How all has been made new. And not just from my former god-less life but from my present struggles as well. The same God who pulled me out of the darkness of addiction and promiscuity is the same God who pulls me out of the more refined sins of self righteousness and pride, when I confess. This God, as I cry out and hold nothing back, dissolves my guilt.
Oh how I need to humble myself though, not try to figure this life out on my own; cry out to God and speak.
When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
The Physical ramifications of keeping it all in and not confessing are real.
So today if you hear his voice, whether in the sanctuary of your church, or the still small voice of your conscience, turn to God and let his love teach you the way you should go.
Trusting God, Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges of The Navigators begins with the universal question of “Why does God, if he is good, allow bad things to happen?” The question of the ages. Why indeed. Of course as Christians we understand that sin entered the world and not only affected the first people and relationships among people ever since but also affected the whole world. Forever more the world itself lurches towards decay and destruction; natural disasters happen, nature is wild, in many ways un-tamable and from the day we are born we begin to die.
But we continue to ask why, if God loves us, do we suffer? Jerry Bridges sets out to answer this question by going straight to scripture and exhorts us to trust God even when we don’t understand. He even goes so far to say that if we are not trusting God we are disobeying God
In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense. And just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel (see Romans 10:17), so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the Word of God alone. It is only the Scriptures that we find an adequate view of God’s relationship to and involvement in our painful circumstances. It is only from the Scriptures, applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit,that we receive the grace to trust God in adversity.In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God truths we must believe if we are
to trust Him in adversity. They are:
•God is completely sovereign.
•God is infinite in wisdom.
•God is perfect in love.
Someone has expressed these three truths as they relate to us in this way: “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”
I read this book about 15 years ago and it changed the way I thought of God and how I thought of my life in view of God’s sovereignty. I have long since given or lent this book away and can’t seem get my hands on a copy of it but I found the first chapter on line here. This I hope is enough to jog my memory, but I may misrepresent the book as I’m working on lasting impressions that have been mingled with other books of the same topic and years of teaching in the reformed tradition.
What I do remember though is that this book was instrumental in teaching me about God’s great omniscience, his loving care of his creation and his part in the affairs of men. It also gave me peace about my own sordid past as necessary to God’s good plan for me. That’s the positive.
While I believe truly God does work all things for good to those who love Him I don’t think it is as simple as God ordaining all the bad to ultimately show His goodness. A negative outworking of this way of thinking for me was to harden my heart somewhat to the world. Whenever life was hard, disasters happened, people sinned and hurt others I chalked it up to God’s sovereignty. Even though I was taught about mans responsibility this teaching ultimately always pointed back to God as the orchestrator of every detail of every event of all time and kind of releases man from their responsibility. Reformers teach that God is not the creator of evil most will say that He allows evil, yet reformed thinkers have to go that one step further and say he has actually ordained evil. Don’t they?
This way of thinking also begs the question of salvation and the idea that before the beginning of time God had preordained, is sovereign over, who and who would not be saved. I bought this one hook line and sinker. There is a certain fatalism that comes with this way of thinking, it’s easy to write people off as doomed without hope.
For a long time I thought this must be true and while I tried to see all these events as part of a much bigger scheme to bring about good in the universe it’s difficult to really look at the suffering of the world and the future suffering of unbelievers and say yes, God is sovereign over that. To say God was not sovereign over events meant he was somehow impotent to change the trajectory of the world in general and people specifically? Doesn’t it? That is what I held onto. I didn’t want to tred on thought that God was unable to relinquish control of any aspect of His creation or people’s salvation, free will not withstanding.
Honestly, as is probably obvious, I’m still grappling with this one.
But it’s a healthy grappling.God’s ways are far above my own.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Yet He wants me to press in and know Him, draw near to Him and rest in Him.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
He is trustworthy even in his mystery:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.Psalm 62:5-8
I believe in Jesus whom God sent and who lived and died and atoned for my sin (and the sins of the world) and made a way for me (and all people) to draw near to God. My faith is not shaken it’s strengthened as I grapple, because in the grappling I draw near. In the questions I am challenged to think deep and long and hard and this has only given me hope.
While I wrestle with complete and utter sovereignty, I don’t wrestle with the God who is, the God who loves, and the God who cares. I do as Jerry Bridges exhorts me to, view my adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith and seek to trust God in adversity- through the Word of God[alone]… though maybe not exclusively through the Word of God.
Maybe in the end I really do believe that God is sovereign, I will continue though to seek out answers and look at varying view points even the very controversial ones.
After writing this I looked up what Rachel Held Evans says on the topic. Rachel Held Evans wrote the book A Year of Biblical Womenhood, which I will probably discuss in a future post. She is an engaging writer and has some alternative views on traditional Christianity while maintaining that she is a Christian.
If you don’t know of Rachel Held Evans let me give you a warning, she is somewhat of a sensationalist tackling the most difficult and controversial topics in Christianity for, seemingly, the sheer shock value. I think she’s been good for the church, but not everyone agrees and some think she’s just plain wrong. She is a refreshing voice though in that she welcomes dialog and differing views and truly seeks to represent Jesus’ love, mercy and justice rightly.
Here are a couple of her posts about the sovereignty of God: