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Monday, October 2, 2017

When My Heart is Overwhelmed



To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David.
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee,
when my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For thou hast been a shelter for me,
and a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever:
I will trust in the covert of thy wings.
 (Psalm 61:1-4)

A friend just lost her son. He was a beautiful young man, one of the most naturally talented people I have ever known. But, he has suddenly passed away. I grieve with his parents and siblings. I am overwhelmed.

I need something. I need to know how to pray.

God brought this phrase to mind. When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. That certainly describes me at this moment, when I’m beyond my means to understand or cope. You see, her son was the same age of one of our children. They were friends. They grew up together, went to camp together. This could so easily have been my child. His mother is my friend, a lady who always points me to Christ.

I need to go to the Rock. Who is this Rock?

The Scriptures are clear. These are just a few of many:
  • He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2).
  • And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer (2 Samuel 22:2).
  • The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation (2 Samuel 22:47).
  • The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted (Psalm 19:46).
  • In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God (Psalm 62:7).
  • And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Jesus is the Rock! He is the God of my salvation, my fortress, and my deliverer. The Bible leaves no doubt.

When my heart is overwhelmed, I go to Him. He’s ready to hear my cry, but not only that: Jesus is able to give me what I need: shelter. What a concept! When I am grieving, when my heart doesn’t even know how to express itself, I cry out to Jesus, and He provides shelter. What a lovely word!

And that’s not all. He’s a strong tower from the enemy. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of castles. They are always built on hills, and they have guard towers and turrets. Jesus is that guard tower. He looks out for us. He puts up that extra line of defense—when we are overwhelmed.



The following phrases present two more pictures: I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. The first is abiding in God’s tabernacle forever. This is speaking about an eternal trust—a future hope—of being in God’s habitation. We can think of this as heaven. The next one is really sweet. It speaks of chicks being covered with their parent’s wings. They’re all snuggled next to and covered up with those wings, protected.



That’s what God does for us. He gathers us to Him and holds and keeps us tight, sheltered, protected. Jesus looked over Jerusalem and said, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings (from Matthew 23:37).

My heart is overwhelmed, and I know where to go.

I will shelter.

  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Non-fiction Review--Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer


Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer, by Elizabeth W. D. Groves is one of the best books about suffering and death I have ever read. I highly recommend it. It is a joyous, victorious, and realistic account of a husband’s journey through terminal cancer. The book begins when he’s given approximately one year to live.

This is an honest account, written by his wife, about answered prayers, how God worked in their family, frustrations, and complications. His children wrote a few of the chapters as blog posts at the time, but the book is mainly from the wife’s point of view. She shares the Scriptures they hang onto at different times along the way.

I can hardly believe I can use a word like “enjoy” for a book about dying, but I truly enjoyed reading this refreshing account of a Christian family going through the “valley of the shadow of death.”


Easily five stars.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Taste for Tragedy


We want to read about it, hear about it, hear the survivor testimony, watch the movie, and even cry. We want to know about tragedy. Someone else´s suffering. It attracts. It draws us in.

Why? Perhaps it’s our fascination with news. Maybe it’s because we’re compassionate, and we want to empathize with fellow human beings. It could be because we’re curious, and we want to see how people deal with tragedy. I know I’m always looking for a pleasant ending—how someone overcame—and I’m disappointed if they don’t.

Maybe we’re so interested in sad news and bad news and people’s suffering that we miss what God clearly commands us to be interested in. Yes, the sad news attracts. Yes, we want to know. But, I think Christians need to discipline our minds onto a different track—and the Lord even gives us directions about how to do it.

Let’s look at Philippians 4. It’s a familiar passage, so let’s just delve into it in a little more detail. The Apostle Paul is speaking to the church at Philippi. It begins, Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown. This letter is written to believers (brethren). Then, immediately he admonishes them, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. These were times of persecution. Paul himself was in prison when he wrote this. He never sat down and wrote about the prison conditions. A couple of times he mentions sickness and feeling cold. He asks for a cloak and a copy of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:13).

Imagine if Paul were a blogger today. He’d capture the feeling of being in prison, the sounds, the smells, the treatment of other prisoners, and what it was like to lose a close comrade. It would be filled with emotion. He’d be transparent about his tears and inner struggles. He’d bare his soul about longing for freedom.

Instead, Spirit-filled, he writes, Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. This is how obedience to God contrasts with our human (and selfish) emotions.

Paul further admonishes: Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. He calls for balance in their Christian lives. Oh, how necessary! I feel I’ve spent my whole life searching for the correct balance. (I’ll probably achieve it in heaven.)

For worriers, over-thinkers, workaholics, and anxiety-filled people, he continues: Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. I don’t know about you, but I constantly need to go back to this verse. Instead of freaking out, I need to pray, ask, and give thanks—all three. The result of this kind of prayer is, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. For me, it’s one of those tried and true passages of the Bible. When I’ve been spazzing over something, harassed by someone, and very upset, I go to this formula for prayer: pray and tell God all about it, ask Him for the need of the moment, and thank God. I might thank Him for listening, for caring, for actually loving me, for Who He is. I spend some time in praise. Afterwards, every time, I know it’s in His hands, and He gives me this awesome peace. It truly passes understanding.

Just about the time we think we’ve wrapped up the passage, Paul instructs about how to think. Drink it in. It’s the secret to a healthy mind and heart. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Christians today might rewrite that passage to say, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are shocking, whatsoever things are horrible, whatsoever things are unfair, whatsoever things are tragic, whatsoever things are destructive, whatsoever things are painful; if there be any sadness, and if there be any reason for mourning, think on these things.”

I fully realize that God has put us in the world. We actually need to be aware of what’s going on around us. We want to be prepared to help others. The Apostle Paul instructed believers to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15). At the same time, we must discipline our minds towards what’s true, honest, lovely, pure, good news, virtuous, and praiseworthy. If we mastered only one verse in the Bible, Philippians 4:8, we’d be different people.

Following that admonition, Paul says the Christians should follow what he had taught and lived, and God through Paul gives a second promise of peace: Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

May the Lord help us change the way we think!

____________

All biblical quotations not referenced are from Philippians 4:1, 4-9.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Writing the Word--My Devotional Experiment


My friend Anna asked women to join her in a one-month Scripture writing schedule. I did, for the month of July. Here are some of my thoughts and conclusions about copying the Bible as a devotional exercise.

Cons
Can there be any cons about Scripture study of any kind? Not really! My biggest problem was actually doing it. I constantly found myself behind and catching up later. It was hard to carve out extra time every single day to sit and write with a pen in my hand.

Pros
  • It’s the nature of the Bible itself, the only living book in the world. For the word of God is quick (Old English for “alive”), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
  • By writing the passages, I had to slow down. This is good for meditation (thinking about the Word of God).
  • When I wrote the sentences out, I was struck with repetitions. A lot of the passages—all were in Psalms—are written in a poetic mode, and repetition is one of the stylistic ways that God makes a point. I ended up circling and boxing different repeated themes.
  • As a result of my marking my writing, I was able to make mental lists. This helped me ingest the Word. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103).
  • It also helped me carry the Word with me through the day—the whole point of personal devotions. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97). But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).

Personal Conclusions
  1. I felt like the passages on the schedule I used—usually only three or four verses—were very short for one day’s meditation and disciplining one’s self to sitting down and writing.
  2. I would have liked for the passages not to have been jumbled up. For example, I noticed I copied part of Psalm 23 one day and another part of it about a week later. It would have made more sense to do verses 1-3 on the first day and 4-6 on the second, to get the whole passage in context. There were other passages that were similarly broken up. One of the ways we understand the Bible is from its context.
  3. Writing out Scripture is an excellent way to actually see and retain what you read. I would love to see it used in an in-depth Bible study. The passage to be studied could be written out, and then the study can guide people through circling, highlighting, etc. the verses, so they can easily see the themes of the whole passage. I know a few Bible study methods use something similar, but the people don’t write the passage out themselves at the beginning.
  4. One of the drawbacks of writing the Bible is that many people only use computers and phones today. Others might not write at all. (Several of my friends don’t write, since they didn’t have the opportunity to go to school.) So, there are a few limitations to this method.

Was it a blessing to write Scripture? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Yes! Would I maybe change things up? Again, yes!

If you want to get more out of your devotions, try it. Take familiar passages, like Psalm 1, 19, 23, and 100 to begin with. See for yourself how much you retain and how you begin to see themes and repeated words. You’ll begin to meditate on God’s Word throughout the day.

Try it today!



(A big thank you to Anna. You are an example to me.)


Monday, September 4, 2017

Fiction Review: Always Watching


Always Watching, by Lynette Eason is the first of four novels in her Elite Guardians series. It kept me up at night, flipping pages to find out what happened next. I love it when a book so captivates me!

The story begins with Wade’s stalker showing up at a dinner. She’s jealous of the woman he has with him, and the reader learns she’s capable of killing.

The book quickly shifts to here and now. Madelyn McKay has been assigned to tail Wade. She’s part of a team of bodyguards, headed up by Quinn. She knows her stuff, and she’s ready. Except that the stalker is one step ahead of them. Madelyn gets a dart in her and her throat cut. She’s barely alive when the emergency crew gets to her.

Soon, Wade walks out of his work into a darkened parking lot. He senses a presence. He, too, is poisoned with a dart . . . and taken to the hospital.

Wade is the father of a precocious twelve-year-old, Amy. When he recovers enough to go home to his spacious estate, he finds out that his father had hired the bodyguards. Amy suffers from anxiety attacks, and Wade will protect her at all costs. He isn’t happy with the bodyguard detail and wants to live his life as normally as possible, even if it puts him in danger.

Until they almost get Amy.

Always Watching is full of action, to put it lightly. Though I guessed the identity of stalker, I didn’t figure out her accomplice until just before it was revealed. There’s a little bit of realistic romance, and a lot of action. No graphic violence, no kissing (except light pecks on the cheek and forehead), and no bad language. This book is strongly Christian from the very beginning.

Besides a compelling plot—who doesn’t want to catch a stalker?—I enjoyed getting a thorough education about what bodyguards do, how they secure an area, and how they advise their clients. Even though Wade doesn’t always take their advice, he becomes more aware of why they do what they do—and that the consequences are literally as important as life and death.

Most of this novel is about Olivia, one of the bodyguards in the group, and her interaction with Wade and his family. It’s fascinating how the author develops the characters. I think you’ll want to read this one!

Five stars.