…may I reflect the LOVE that is unconditional. Lord, help me! May I love as You have loved us. You bestowed Grace and Mercy upon us, ALL people, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. May I not be selfish with that Love! May I overflow with what You have given me so that others too may know Your Love!
Where is the blame in these acts of violence? Society? Laws? Politicians? Human Nature?
Where does it stop? How does it change? With more gun laws? With more hate? With more discrimination?
No. It starts with me. It starts with MY HEART, MY MIND. Lord, if I am to love You with all my heart, all my mind, all my strength, all my soul, then I must love what YOU love: Your creation, Your people, Your promises.
We as the human race are so broken. We are prone to sin, to lie, to hate. It is only through CHOOSING to love that we can overcome those natural tendencies we have.
In the midst of differences, LOVE. See the beauty and interconnectedness through our differences. Each of us is a thread in a vast tapestry. Each of us, as tangled as we may be, add color and texture to the final Image of Grace. We NEED the different colors, textures, and facets in order to see the Image of Christ in each other. So LOVE. Honor. Extend grace and mercy.
And go. Encourage others to do the same.
Whatever we do, readers, we do to and for Christ. Be a vessel.
Lord God, You are sovereign! In ALL things, I KNOW You are sovereign! You have taught me that so many times over the last 20+ years. And I know You are the Great Physician, our Provider, our Supplier of knowledge and wisdom. You teach us to cast our cares before You, to trust You with our desires.
And sometimes You answer our prayers, just as we have prayed them. Other times, You answer them with a firm “No.” And still other times, You answer with, “Not yet.”
I prayed for my sister, for her to be near you, held by you, saved by you. In my mind, that meant, “KEEP HER HERE, LORD!” And You did save her, You do hold her even now, in eternity, with You, because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross over two thousand years ago.
I prayed for Jodeen. I prayed for Sam. I prayed for Uncle Bob. You have taken all three to be with You for eternity.
I have prayed for healing from this chronic illness, this thorn in my flesh. And You have said, “My grace is sufficient.”
And still, I come before You, and plead for Joe. Because I know You can. I know You might not, yet I know YOU CAN. The possibility, the hope is there that YOU CAN heal. You can grant wisdom to His earthly physicians. You have done it once for Him, and I know You can do it again.
Will You? Is it in Your plan for Joe to keep living this side of heaven? I pray so! My heart desires it to be so!
Yet, You are sovereign. As Jesus prayed, I pray: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) I ask, Lord, for this cup to pass from Joe. If it is possible, within Your sovereign plan, let this cup pass. Heal Joe’s heart. Heal his family. Be glorified through this healing!
Above all, God, BE GLORIFIED. In Your sovereignty, BE GLORIFIED. In my desired outcome, BE GLORIFIED. In my not-desired-outcome, BE GLORIFIED.
God, I know the possibility is there that You might not heal. And I ask anyway. I cast this before You, and trust in Your Sovereignty. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
There was once a day where I wanted not only to say those words, but punch them into someone’s face. That day was December 6, 1999, and it was the day of my sister’s funeral and the day my grandfather died. Why did I want to say that (and do that???)? Well, here is what had just been spoken to me:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
No. This isn’t good for me. How can my sister choosing to die by suicide be GOOD for me???? How can fresh grief that has just had salt poured on that gaping, open wound by adding the death of my grandfather, one of my main caregivers over the years, be GOOD??? Shut up.
I wanted to scream all that. But I didn’t. I shook hands, and stood there, completely numb. So much anger and confusion on the inside, and just going through the motions on the outside.
I so was not ready for Romans 8:28 in that moment…
And even moreso now, I see how out of context that verse is, and we misuse it all the time. So let’s go deeper.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So here is what I have learned and observed in these verses: I am weak. Oh yes, I am weak. I am so weak that there are moments I have no idea what to even pray for or about. I throw my hands up in the air and surrender because life has just gotten the better of me. In that moment. Then God reminds me, “I’ve got this, Kara. You can be weak because I am going to be your strength today and everyday. Rely on me.” I know this because He tells me He has called me since before time began! I am predestined! I am CHOSEN! God chose me. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Even that day, December 6, 1999, with so many people speaking Romans 8:28 to me, was written in my book before it even happened. God knew. He knew the events that were going to unfold. He knew the choice of free will my sister would make. He knew that it would be too much for my grandfather’s heart when he saw her in the casket during her visitation. He knew that I would be angry and unable to receive His words of truth.
And here is what else I have observed in Romans 8:26-39: God did not spare His own Son from death. God KNOWS grief. He has experienced it! In that moment, He had such great compassion and empathy for me, because He knows loss. I can see that now. I couldn’t then. But today, how comforting it is for me to know that I serve a God who KNOWS the hearts and minds of His people, because He truly has walked every path imaginable.
I want to look at that verse a bit closer too: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ALL THINGS. God graciously gives us all things. Every experience. Every job. Every encounter. Every situation, good or bad. Graciously, God allowed me to experience every day I have had thus far. Even that day. In the moment of that day, I had no idea what God could possibly do with my grief. I wasn’t even ready to comprehend that. Time has softened my wounds and dulled the salt that falls upon them. He has allowed me to see how He has orchestrated the safety net that caught me. He had that net in place well before the events began to unfold that would cause me to fall into that net to begin with! He graciously saved me with that net. He graciously has worked on my heart every day since. He graciously took my mistakes and used them to teach me, coach me, and ultimately reveal to me the need for Jesus to cleanse my soul. He used that net to remind me that nothing will ever separate me from my Abba Father. Nothing. And so many times I have quoted King David, because I am in awe of all the Father has done for me: “Who am I that You are mindful of me???” (personalized Psalm 8:4)
Who am I? I am adopted into God’s family. I am CHOSEN by God. I am His creation. And I am so loved by Him that He made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that I could have a relationship with Him. And despite the pain, despite the anger, despite the confusion of grief, God has carried me and drawn me close to Him. He is my conqueror!
It has taken years to understand this: God has used the brokenness and pain of my past to grow me. He has allowed the fires to burn the dross, to purify my heart. He is allowing me to minister to others because others ministered to me. I am able to share these words, that God gives us not what we want, but ALL THINGS WE EXPERIENCE, because of the Truth God has spoken to me.
God is not a vending machine. He is not our go-to when we don’t have everything we want. He is more than that. He is indescribable! He is omniscient! Sometimes, we have to experience the pain in order to understand blessings later.
I want to share some great songs with you now, to bring this entry to a close. Grab some tissues…and listen carefully to the lyrics. And remember: we will rarely understand the why, but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust the WHO. So let’s throw our hands up in the air and let Him pick us up and bring us through the fires.
Wow, what depth this morning in my online Bible study! I want to share one of the 3 tasks with you. Three mornings a week, there is a blog post with 3 sections afterward: Observe, Bible, and Stretch. This morning’s Bible section tooks me pretty deep! I want to share with you that section and my response. Then feel free to add your responses to the comments! Check out the blog post here: Give Us Jesus, Week 5
Quoting from the blog:
Bible — Take a moment and read Hebrews 12:1-2.
In your notebook or journal write out your answers to these questions:
- Is something hindering you in your faith race? Ask God to show you what it is and how to get back on track.
- What can you do to ‘fix your eyes’ on Jesus?
- How did Jesus finish His earthly race? What does that mean for us as His followers?
And my response:
1. Right now, is something hindering my faith race? Fear and Fatigue. Fear of the unknown, how are we going to pay our bills, how am I going to pay for my medicine, how…blah blah blah…God is my provider, and I need to CHOOSE to remember that. Fatigue from not sleeping. Worry gets the better of me, especially as soon as I climb into bed. Hours later, I am still struggling to fall asleep.
2. So how can I fix my eyes on Jesus? Through God’s Word: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matt 6:33-34) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) “Though the fig tree not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Letting these familiar passages (and many more) come to mind, and even seeking them out if they get stuck in the gunk of life, really helps me take some deep breaths, calm down, and cast my burden once more before the Lord (1 Peter 5:7).
3. How did Jesus finish His earthly race? On the cross. Death. Conquering of Death so that I don’t have to. Which means, though my earthly race may end in death, it ushers in a great entrance into Heaven for eternity with the King of kings, my Abba Father, and my savior Jesus Christ. I’ll take it. That is a race worth finishing. Until then, I’ll train. As the semi-colon reminds me, it isn’t over yet. God is the author of this life, and until He stops writing it, I will press on, no matter how hard it gets, for God is my strength, God is my fortress, and Jesus is my savior. When I am weak, God is strong, and pulls me through. Sometimes He enlists His people to grab my arms and drag me, but He pulls me through!
God, I praise You for these reminders of Your Sovereignty and Your promises. Thank You for Your Word, for revealing Your character and reminding me that You are God and I am not. Thank You for making a way for us to have a relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Amen!
Be honest, how many of you have had this conversation, as a child, or as an adult WITH a child? Me!!!!
This morning in the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study, a great, thought-provoking question came up: Is there a time when asking “Why” was the wrong question for you?
So now, how many of you have asked God, “Why???” And how many times???? I envision the three year old (since I have one) and God’s conversation like this: “Why?” “Because.” “Why?” “Because.” and repeat at least 100 times…
God doesn’t tell us why very often, if ever. I know because I have been that three-year-old at least a handful of times…(or more…)
So why do I keep asking that question??? In the midst of struggles, “Why” is usually the first work that comes to mind. It is a simple question. And God has revealed to me His “Because.” Ready for this?
Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Best. Because. Ever. “Because I am God. This is what I do.”
So what now???
I can never understand the depth and purpose of God’s plan, simply because I am NOT God. So eventually I give up the “Why?” and ask, “OK, God. What can I do?” Sometimes, He says, “Wait.” Another time, He told me to move from Aurora, IL where I grew up and lived for 30+ years to Champaign, IL where I knew only a couple of people. “Are You sure, God?” “Oh yes, child. Do it. I’ve got this.”
That’s God’s go-to reminder for me: “I am bigger than this, Kara. Remember, my ways are not your ways.” “Oh, yeah, God. Thanks for reminding me.”
Are there any scripture verses that help you overcome your “Why?” moments? Feel free to share them in the comments!
One of my all-time favorite hymns is called “It Is Well.”
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Horatio G. Spafford wrote these words after an extremely devastating time in his life. He has lost everything in the Chicago Fire, and he has just lost his children when the ship they were on sank. All he had left was his wife, and God. And yet, in spite of the anger, doubt, fear, frustration, grief, and despair, these words flowed through his mind, heart, soul, hand, pen and ink onto paper. God took H. G. Spafford’s valleys and made such beauty from the darkness.
Why does this matter to me? It struck me today while I was doing my Proverbs 31 Ministries Bible Study that God’s Word is so powerful, and brings such incredible imagery to mind. It is ALIVE, and sparks these beautiful tapestries that are our lives.
Here is the blog post I read today: Managers of Blessings? The questions at the end of today’s post are these:
- Observe — What is an area of your life that perhaps you could look at as “managing blessings” rather than a burden right now?
- Bible — Take some time to read through different versions of 2 Corinthians 4:18. Write down which words inspire and challenge you most from this verse!
- Stretch — Fill in the blank: This week, when struggles arise in my everyday life, I will keep my eyes fixed on God by _______. #LiveItOut #BecomingMore #P31OBS
- – See more at: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/2016/02/15/managers-of-blessings-week-four/#sthash.oJ6ayqa4.dpuf
And here are my responses:
O—For me, I am managing the blessings in this disease of Type 1 Diabetes. When I get so frustrated with dealing with this, God reminds me of this: “I am with you.” I was diagnosed in 1986. I have zero complications. That is a blessing. I have two beautiful sons. That is TWO blessings! I can work full time with minimal issues. That is a blessing. THIRTY years, God has allowed me to walk this road alongside Him. When I remember that HE is with me, my pity parties melt away and my burnout moments slink back into the shadows. They still come, and God still shows me He is sovereign.
B—For this week’s verse (2 Corinthians 4:18), the Amplified version caught my attention: “So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.” The words that jump out to me are TEMPORAL (fleeting) as compared to EVERLASTING AND IMPERISHABLE. Such strong words! Temporal brings to mind a mighty tempest, a storm over the sea. And you know what? Jesus calms those kinds of storms. These moments in life are tempests. And my savior walks on waters in the stormiest of nights. My savior speaks, “Peace,” and that storm even listens. IMPERISHABLE. My future, my eternity is so secured through my savior, I have zero doubts. So why let these momentary struggles bring me down?
S—“This week, when struggles arise in my everyday life, I will keep my eyes fixed on God by…” taking some deep breaths, and asking Him to change my perspective. Move me, Lord, move my eyes, move my spirit so that I can see Your Hand in this. So that I remember that You are in control. You are bigger, Lord. Bigger than ANY of this. Help me to let go.
I want to go deeper into the keywords from 2 Corinthians 4:18 that jumped out at me. When I read the word “temporal” in the amplified version of the Bible, the image that came to mind was Jesus in the boat with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, asleep, remained so as a huge storm came over the waters. His disciples feared for their lives, and woke him up in a panic!
Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid. Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”
That is my savior! Mightier than the storm, mightier than the wind, mightier than any situation God allows me to face! The tempests are momentary. They are finite. My God is infinite. When I feel like I am sinking in the storms surrounding me, Jesus is right there walking on water, lifting me up in His arms. My weakness will pull me under if I forget to look to the hills, from where my help comes! Keep my eyes on Jesus, and He WILL bring me through the storm, one way or another. Sometimes, He calms that storm by saying, “Peace! Be still!” And sometimes, He calms me through His words, saying, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
So when peace like a river comes my way or when sorrows like sea billows (during a tempest) roll, I will turn my eyes to Jesus and KNOW that He is God, that He is mighty to save. I may be weak and broken, yet He IS victorious. He has already won the battle, AND the war!
So what storm are you facing? Know that is finite. There is a beginning and an end to it. I have faced some storms over the years, and one has been long term thus far. Through 2 Corinthians 4:18 though, God reminds me that it DOES have an end. Type 1 Diabetes will end either with a cure or when God calls me home. My prayer of course is for that cure! Will it come in my lifetime? Only God knows the answer to that. In the mean time, as needed, Jesus is here with me speaking peace to the storms and peace to my heart and soul. So then, it is well with my soul, and He is my strength.
Speak your storm, speak what it is. Bring it to Jesus. Trust that He will calm it or calm your heart. Sometimes, He’ll do both!
Until next time, may you find peace in His presence.