…when sorrows like sea billows roll…

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:

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.

Roller coasters and crashes

I love when the Bible study I am doing currently coincides with the activity in my daily life.  Boom!  Something terrible happened.  Crash!  God speaks truth into my life!  It took less than 24 hours for this to happen this time.

Yesterday morning, I had an “I really hate being diabetic” day.  I had listened to my body and taken less insulin than I normally do, and still something went topsy-turvy on me!  My blood sugar fell for no apparent reason.  I had to make some difficult decisions in the moment.  Thankfully, I had some glucose tablets with me that I quickly consumed, and even poured sugar into my hand and licked it out.  Disgusting, right?   Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And the roller coaster of blood sugars began.

As soon as I was stable enough, that’s when things began to fall apart.  As soon as I could, I got myself out of the situation.  Can I just say, PEOPLE ARE MEAN?!?!?  I don’t ever want people to have to experience what I experience, but yesterday was one of those, “I wish you could feel what I am feeling and experiencing right now” kind of moments.  In public, I balled like a baby.  Yes, I broke down in tears.  It took me a good hour and a lot of people talking truth into me to bring me back to baseline.  And in that process, God reminded me, “I am bigger than this, Kara.  I’ve got you.”

Then I read these words this morning:  “I NEED to open my Bible to see what God can teach me about peace and trust. Then He can show me how to become more than a good Bible study girl in my walk with Him. He’s shown me I can’t just read the verses. I have to understand and believe them, then put them into action by allowing His Truth to replace my anxiety.”  (Thank you, Walking the Daily Walk)

When I spend time with Jesus, He is able to remind me that He has the wheel.  He’s had it all along.  I try to take it from Him, try to be a backseat driver, but He NEVER LETS GO.  Even in the most chaotic of moments, He has it.  He never leaves my side.  And I know this.  I have experienced it time and time again.  I just needed yet another reminder!

How often do we all forget that though?  How many times in scripture does God remind His people, the Israelites, that He is in control?  That He is sovereign?  Oh, I don’t know, hundreds of thousands of times over the generations?  As He is providing Manna to them in the wilderness, or sending water out of the rock, or bringing them out of Egypt, or bringing them into the land of milk and honey, and even as He brings His Son to the cross, God reminds us that He provides, He loves, He is faithful.

Thank you, God, for reminding me that You are sovereign in all things, and that You call me to action through prayer.  So I pray for the people I interacted with yesterday.  I pray You remind them of Your truth.  I pray that Your Spirit will equip me with Your strength to forgive them before I interact with them again.  I pray that You will continue to walk me through this life of Type 1 diabetes, and continue giving me insights into the needs of my body.  You have brought me almost 30 years in this Type 1 journey, with minimal issues, and I am so thankful.  May I not forget that.  G0d, YOU ARE GOOD, in all things.  Teach me, mold me, make me.  I am Yours.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

How to Study the Bible, Part 2

“How do we get into God’s Word and get God’s Word into us?” (…the question from today’s Online Bible Study)
I love the verse Lysa shares from Ephesians 1:17, saying “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”
So first, we pray. We ask God to take us deep.  We ask God to teach us, reveal His Truth to us.  We ask for Wisdom.  James 1:5 also says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Being open to the Spirit is a huge first step in Bible study.

Second, we open the Word. Just praying for God to teach us and then doing nothing is like a student coming to class without supplies! “What? No textbook? So if I ask you to open to page 98, how are you going to do the work from page 98???” (It is amazing what students think they can get away with; as a teacher, I would literally have photocopies of the textbook work, as well as extra pencils…we have access to the Bible EVERYWHERE!  Online, in actual, old fashioned book form, in spoken word, etc.)  So pray, set aside time and actually open the Bible (online or in front of us).

Third, as Lysa demonstrates in Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl, ask questions.  The example she gives us in Chapter 6 of her book is a character study of King David, before he becomes king.  Character studies bring up some good questions!  So do topical studies, and contextual studies. God’s Word truly is interactive. When we ask, God will reveal. Sometimes we have to investigate, find the answer within more scripture (later in that same chapter, in another chapter, in another section of the Bible), ask others, search online, post here and wait for a response, but God will reveal His Truth.

Fourth, wait.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  If the answers you seek don’t come right away, wait.  Keep asking.  Keep praying.  God will ALWAYS answer.  That answer will come at the oddest of times, in the oddest of ways sometimes, but that answer WILL come.

We are not meant to understand God’s Word alone.  We need His Spirit, and we need each other to go deep.  There is so much richness on the surface levels, but so much meat and nutrients the deeper we dive!  Get ready to feast on God’s Word today, and every day!

(For the Character Study on David, Lysa takes us into 1 Samuel 16-17, with side trips to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and Psalm 23).

“Peace”

The Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study this morning had us diving into four specific verses.  So I am going to share what I posted to the OBS blog and then go a bit deeper after that.

From the OBS Blog:

O- Both my thoughts and external factors interrupt me.  I have such an active brain!  And I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old….And I have a husband….so interruptions here happen all the time.  But we get by.

B- Each of these verses speaks of peace.  When we gather in the name of Jesus, we find His peace.  And we find opportunities to build each other up, encourage each other, and hold each other accountable.  Which verse speaks loudest to me?  Good question!  Colossians 3:15-16, I think, because of how embedded this passage has become in my life over the last 6 years.  “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  This to me is the image of gathering together to praise our mighty God for what He has done for us through the cross, the empty tomb, through Jesus Christ, His Son!  We are called to, as it says in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything in perfect harmony.”  I love the ESV for that word, harmony, in this passage.  Not unity, not as one, but in harmony.  Sweet, musical harmony.  Can you hear it?  The bass, baritone, tenor, alto, second soprano, and soprano voices blending together singing in perfect harmony about the love and power and grace of God???  Each time I meet with Him, that is what I hear.  That is what I want to shout from my soul!

S- I feel like I am already making a habit of gathering together to encourage and uplift, to praise God together.  What I would like to do is find ways to be a source of Biblical encouragement daily, at work, at home, at the store, wherever I am.  So, Lord, may I be obedient to Your promptings!  Show me who I can encourage at work.  Let me be a beacon for You, for Your Grace.

Now to go DEEPER:

Let me share the four verses I was reflecting on in the “B” section above:

John 20:19 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'”

Colossians 3:15-16 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Romans 14:19 “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.”

Proverbs 1:33 “…but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Do you see how each of these passages speaks to peace?  And more than that, most of them speak of gathering together.  Fellowship.  We truly are not meant to do life alone.  Fellowship, encouragement, motivation, accountability, and harmony are essential to this journey!  (That is my opinion, anyway!)  If you don’t have the face-to-face fellowship, find some online!  That is the awesomeness that is social networking today.  We can feel so trapped and alone, especially if we are unable to move, drive, walk, etc.  The church I attend is a Network Church for Life Church in Oklahoma.  And I attend here in Illinois!  If you do not have a church home, check it out!  Here is the link:  http://www.life.church/

Explore the churches around you if you can get out and about.  If you go to one, give it 2-3 weeks in a row (unless God really speaks to you otherwise) to see if it is a place you can worship.  Then stay or move to the next!  Ask questions, go deep.

I have to speak to peace now.  Peace does not mean freedom from hardship and it does not mean an easy path.  Peace means assurance that whatever it is you are facing is surmountable.  It means Jesus is walking the path (mountain) with you.  We never walk alone, even when we feel like it.  So Proverbs 1:33, when it says “without dread of disaster” means that we walk through fire without fear because God is with us.  Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the fiery furnace and came out unscathed, that is God walking with us through life.  There are situations, sometimes daily, that have the potential to burn us deeply.  We get scarred, cut, bruised.  And God makes us stronger through it.  He purifies us.  He teaches us.  He equips us to help someone else through that same fire.

So we are not called to a life of perfection, but to a perfect eternity.  The hardships we face here deepen our peace and our reliance on God through Jesus Christ.  We are called to live a harmonious life with those around us.  We are not identical, but our lives will blend together in a beautiful symphony of sound in the presence of the King of kings.

And we walk this life together.  Cling to that truth.  Someone out there is listening.  Always God, and many of us as well.

May you find peace in the fires around you through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

How to study the Bible, Kara Miller Style

That’s right.  Here’s my outline to studying Scripture, for any of you who truly want to know what works for me.  And just that, THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME.  If you have a different style, structure, time of day, method, whatever, that works for you, fantastic!  Experiment.  Talk about it.  Share in the comments!

Time in the Word is time spent in the presence of God.  Starting with prayer is always a great place to begin.  Lately, I have enjoyed studying specific books of the Bible (A study through Romans, through Psalms, through Isaiah…), but I used to do topical studies.  Either is fine.

I like to read scripture in context, so 1-3 chapters at a time rather than verse by verse.  I like to look at the scripture in a variety of translations.  My go-to resource for that is www.Biblegateway.com, and I like to compare the English Standard Version with the New Living Translation.  I have a study Bible here at home of each of them as well, and I like the commentaries in the margins.  What I also like about the study Bibles is the chain references.  In the margin, lists of verses that connect back to one of the verses I just read are all listed there for me to look them up and get a bigger picture.

It seems like this could take a lot of time!  Sometimes, it does.  Lately, I have been getting up about 5:15-5:30 a.m. and doing my study before my boys wake up at 6:30.  If you do a chapter at a time, you can get some good, solid study time in less than 30 minutes.

Then I like to pray over what I have read.  How can I live out God’s love and grace and apply what I have read in my everyday life?  How does what I read reveal God’s character and will?

That is just a glimpse into the thoughts that run through my mind as I sit down with scripture and God.  How about you?

…More than a good Bible study girl…Reflections

Today’s blog on the P31OBS really primed the pump of my thoughts and reflections today, so I thought I would share.

“When God made me, he left his mark deep inside. His fingerprints covered my soul — no wonder his truth resonated within me.”  (TerKeurst, More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, page 23)

–This makes me think of Psalm 139:1-18

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 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.

 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

For YOU, Lord, formed me.  You alone.  YOU created ME!  God, when You made all of this Universe, You looked at each and every thing when you finished and said, “It is good.”  (Genesis 1:31a “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”) Then You made me.  I am one of Your works.  And Psalm 139 continues to say WONDERFUL ARE YOUR WORKS.  I am one of Your works, and WONDERFUL are Your works.  So, then, I AM WONDERFUL?  YES!  This broken, sinful, imperfect, human soul is actually wonderfully created by the King of kings and covered by the blood of the Lamb, forgiven because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

When that first sank in with my soul, deeply into the dark despair of depression, doubt, and self-loathing, something re-ignited.  I say re-ignited because I had accepted Christ 15 years prior to this moment!  Oh how the enemy loves to attack and drag us down, get us stuck on his lies!  It took the Spirit of God FIFTEEN years (and my soul that long to let Him) to knock down the walls of the Jericho of my heart.  FIFTEEN YEARS for me to remember, to see, to KNOW that the mark of my Creator will never be erased from my soul.  Fifteen years to KNOW that I am LOVED.  I am TREASURED.  I am more than more than my past, more than my pain, more than my brokenness.  God made me, and He molds me into a new creation through Christ.  IT BLOWS MY MIND every time I think about it!

Finally, I was able to break free from the “If I do this right…If I earn their respect…If I can overcome this…If I can be PERFECT…” mentality.  I could breathe!  I could stop pushing to EARN my value.  It already is there.  It always was.  I just couldn’t see it.  But God saw it all along.  He never left my side, He never failed me.  Even in the darkest moments of my life, I can still look back and see His fingerprints, His safety net, His beautiful tapestry wrapped around me, keeping me from sinking too far.  He has saved my life so many times, I can’t even count any more.  He has saved me from myself, from the enemy, from the snares of this world.  Oh how I praise Him!  I am so thankful for the constant reminders that I am HIS.  I am His daughter, His treasure.  And so are each and every one of you!  YES!  TRUTH!  YOU ARE ROYALTY!  YOU HAVE VALUE, precious, immeasurable value!  Isn’t it mind-blowing???

And all of that value just exists.  It is never anything I can earn or become on my own.  It is a gift from God through Jesus Christ.  Becoming more than a good Bible study girl isn’t anything I do on my own.  That is an impossibility.  It is something that comes from submitting to His authority.  It comes from recognizing where my value truly comes from:  God alone.  Just as I am, He calls me to Himself.  He enfolds His arms around me. And He alone transforms me.  All I have, all I am, is because of Him and from Him.

I’ll never be a good-enough teacher, good-enough wife, good-enough Kara without Him.  And it is because of Him that I am who and what I am today.  Thank you, God!  “Love came down and rescued me.  Love came down and set me free…” (Love Came Down as sung by Kari Jobe)

Our Bible Challenge in the study today is to look at John 15:9 in a variety of translations.  So that is how I will close today.  Using www.Biblegateway.com, that is what I will do and share with you here.

English Standard Version:  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Amplified: I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you].

Good News Translation: I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love.

King James:  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

Living Bible: I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love.

Message: I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

And according to Psalm 139, there is nowhere I can go where the Father’s love is not.  So I will abide in the arms of my Heavenly Father, treasured by the One who created this broken vessel.  Praise be to God the Father, today and every day!  Amen and Amen.

What I am learning from John 15:9-12

This morning began my 6-week journey with Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study, using Lysa TerKeurst’s book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl as a backdrop.  In the weeks leading up to today’s kick-off, we were encouraged to memorize Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  That’s what Bible study is:  an intentional seeking of God in His Word.

So when I opened to John 15:9-12 this morning, I knew I would learn something of God.  What He revealed to me is what I would like to share with you in this blog post.

Let’s start with the Word:  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my live.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Verse by Verse:

9.   As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Reference verses:  John 17:23-24, Ephesians 3:18, and 1 John 2:28

What is God saying to me in this verse?

A little background:  God is PERFECT.  He cannot tolerate SIN.  I am a sinful being.  I fully acknowledge that I have sinned and fallen WAY SHORT of the glory of God.  That being said, if God cannot be near dirty, sinful things, and Jesus loves me as the Father loves Him, then I AM RESTORED!  I am made new!  Truly, I am a new creation (as in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”).  Praise God!  I am covered, I am redeemed, I am LOVED!!!

10.   If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Reference verses: John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:1

What is God saying to me in this verse?

Sometimes, it can seem impossible to keep God’s commandments.  But, if I remember that all of them boil down to LOVE (as an action), it doesn’t seem as hard.  LOVE (extend grace, encourage, teach, provide, extend hospitality…) is so much more than just a word!

11.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Reference verses: 1 Peter 1:8, Romans 15:13, John 16:33, and Zephaniah 3:17

What is God saying to me in this verse?

True JOY is more than being happy.  It is confidence and knowledge that I rest in the presence of the King of kings!  This JOY never fades, in spite of the circumstances of life.  Sometimes, it gets covered up by the junk of life, by grief, by pain.  And still it remains.  It burns through and helps get rid of the dross left by sin and experiences.

12.   “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” 

Reference verses: John 13:34, 1 John 4:21, Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 4:8, and 1 John 3:23

What is God saying to me in this verse?

God says, “This is my commandment.”  SINGULAR!  LOVE!  That’s IT!  LOVE!  It all boils down to LOVE.  Love God, love people, love ME.  Yes, even love myself.  See?  It’s not so complicated, people!

How does this all apply to my life???

First, I am forgiven.  Nothing can even begin until that holds true.  Jesus Christ has paid the price for MY sins.  For me, He died.  He conquered Death, and He ROSE AGAIN.  Second, LOVE!  Not frivolous, St. Valentine’s Day love, but DO LOVE.  Give, treat others with respect, shower with grace, pray for, encourage, feed, walk alongside–LOVE.

Holy Father, thank you for reminding me that everything boils down to LOVE.  May Your Spirit reveal to me throughout my day (today and everyday) where and how to show Your love to those I meet and interact with.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies