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All posts for the month May, 2015

Lessons in the Lawn: Recognizing Blessings

Published May 19, 2015 by Dawn

Seven and a half years ago, I began to pray that God would bless my children and I with a home of our own. We were living in a rental house, on HUD, and it just seemed like the government and our landlord were always all up in our business. So I began to pray some very specific prayers. I needed a house we could afford on a very tight budget, and I wanted a big back yard that was completely fenced in. I also prayed for wood floors because I have outrageous allergies. And please let it be on a street that’s safe to raise kids on!

A year later, I moved into that house. Because God is good. And a friend of mine in real estate said to me one day, “I have found your house.” We had never discussed “my house” but she was certain it was the one. So I went with her to look at it, and there it was: all that I had asked for being sold way under market thanks to the housing deflation. Before the papers were completed and signed, I would go over and walk the yard, praying and thanking God for the length and width of this fenced-in land with a nice-sized, everything-I-asked-for house and yard. I did this for a few weeks and then we moved in right after my birthday. Happy birthday to me!

One thing I neglected to consider in asking for this house has been a thorn in my side since: The yard. It’s big. It’s wonderful. And it is unruly! And every year since, I have complained about the maintenance of my yard. I mowed for almost two hours yesterday with a rotary mower because my yard tears up mechanical lawn mowers. There’s poison ivy and dead leaves from last fall all over the place. Another blessing: my house is surrounded by oaks trees, which really helps cut down cooling costs. But in the fall, I have to dig a path to get out my back door and then spend a month of weekend just clearing up right around the house. Aargh!

I mentioned I was mowing yesterday, and with all that time, I usually pray and listen while I mow. It’s good conversation time between the Lord and I. And yesterday, while sweating profusely and pushing my achy muscles past the point of exhaustion, I was praying about my yard. Only this time, my prayers sounded different, which pleasantly surprised me. You see, I was thanking God for the yard and the opportunity to mow it.

Say what?!

I have literally never done that before. And I don’t know what brought it on other than the fact that I finally remembered that it was a blessing that I had prayed very specifically for. I had asked for it and been graciously given my heart’s desire. And the Holy Spirit shared with me last night that caring for my yard is an opportunity to show gratitude for God’s gifts, and even an act of worship. An act of worship because while mowing, the only thing that sustains me is lifting my face to God and looking at Him while I endure the hardship that is my yard.

I thought about this truth in relation to other blessings that God gives us, like relationships (family, friends, etc.), jobs, talents, or even our possessions. Our cars, houses, paychecks, etc. One thing is obvious: this lesson applies across them all. There are hardships associated with many of our blessings. It is obviously much easier to see how this lesson applies to our belongings, so let me ask you to consider for a moment our relational ones: Our spouses and children, who develop and mature along lines we don’t design. Maintaining those relationships are often easily done because we love these people deeply. But consider the times when your spouse disappoints you or your children turn against you. Is it as easy? I can say from my own experiences it is not. But in those moments, maintaining our relationships – though not necessarily enjoyable or fun, or even deserved- becomes an act of gratitude and worship to our Father. He gives good gifts, even if we don’t immediately and always perceive the full extent of His blessings. And never mind the fact that many times, we have asked for these blessings in disguise!

I want to encourage you to consider your blessings. Remember the many times you prayed to God for the things you now have or the people in your life. Look past all the hardships to see the beautiful answer to your pray and worship Him who is faithful. God is good!

Like a Mother Hen

Published May 15, 2015 by Dawn

I sat next to my son’s small, curled up body completely at a loss for how to comfort him. His heart was being torn apart by a reality we neither could control, and I felt so desperate for him. Would holding him be enough, in this moment, to comfort him? I reached out and pulled his trembling body onto my lap that has all but been outgrown and hugged him to myself, gently rocking him like I used to when he was littler. He was crying uncontrollably and asking me questions I couldn’t find an answer to, and I sat there staring at the ceiling with tears running down my cheeks. Dear God, if I could take this pain from him, I would.

I was too numb then to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Too bitter about the pain I couldn’t control in the lives of my children. Too hurt by the perceived silence of our Daddy God to hear His gentle voice. Maybe because I was screaming, I don’t know. But a few days later while talking all this out with a friend, it tumbled off my lips, “This must be the way God feels about us.”

The moment I said it, I realized with such surety it was true. This is exactly the way God feels about us. Looking at us, steeped in our sin and the pain of this life. He looks down with such tender pity, with tears streaming down his face because if he could, he’d take it all. And in fact, he made a way to do just that. He sent Jesus, who came and lived among us, experiencing all the pain and disappointment, hearing the temptations we so often fall into, and then died an agonizing death to liberate us forever from the grip of Satan.

And the awful truth is that we often remain subject to the kingdoms of flesh and decay because we refuse to recognize the Way. The Way to freedom, the Way to redemption. The lap of our everlasting Father beckoning to us. The arms that have always ached to hold us. To shelter us. To hide us. To fight for us.

Instead, we settle into brokenness. We stop struggling with the enemy and crumble beneath the weight of the battle against us. We believe Satan’s lies, and we accept the fetters and chains. Instead of looking up, we look down, our heads bowed in defeat. We are overcome instead of overcomers.

Can you see Him reaching down to you? Can you lift your weary arms one more time to take the hand of the Father who wants to pull you out of that pit? Will you accept His strong arms pulling you up from there? Will you allow him to take care of you like a Father would, gently taking off your dirty, torn rags, washing you and loving draping robes of purest white around you? Holding you lovingly while you heal, whispering motherly love-songs in your ear as you sit in His embrace? Oh, how God longs to comfort us!

“…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings… (Matthew 23:37)”

Broken Cisterns

Published May 15, 2015 by Dawn

I’m haunted by this scripture in Jeremiah: “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jer. 2:13).”

 

This topic of living water has been recurring in my heart and my studies for quite some time. Ezekial tells of a stream that comes out from the temple and becomes a river. And he explains that “where the river flows, everything shall live (Ez. 47:9).” And the Lord says that if we believe in him, streams of living water will flow from us. In John 7:39, John explains that “When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.” And Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring and my blessing on your descendants.”

Why am I so thirsty? Why is anyone so thirsty? Why aren’t we overflowing with an abundant measure of living water? It’s a rare occasion when someone is saved within the walls of a church these days and it’s so sad. Because it seems like church is a gathering of dead and dying people just struggling to make it from Sunday to Sunday. Why aren’t we alive?

I think it’s because we have dug our own cissterns. We have created a message that caters to the people instead of sticking with the truth that reveals and heals. We’ve trusted in a false word of unconditional acceptance without ever talking about repentance. Where is the fear and trembling? Where is the reverence for God that causes us to examine our ways and turn from them? A broken cistern will appear to have a purpose and create a false sense of hope and security, but kill those who trust in it. Because it doesn’t hold water! There’s no life in it. Nothing to sustain. Nothing to revive. Desperately thirsty people will gather around a broken cistern and pray for water, and die there waiting.

When Peter began preaching in Acts on the day of Pentecost, scriptures says that, “when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart (2:37).” There is power in the work of the Holy Spirit that our broken cisterns cannot duplicate on their own. When people are not cut to the heart, they are compelled to think that everything is okay and there’s no need for repentance. But don’t forget that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12).” That’s the way of the broken cistern.

Before Jesus ascended, he told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. So they devoted themselves to prayer until the Spirit came. They didn’t get antsy and create their own program because it was their duty. They waited and prayed. And then the time was ready, and the Spirit descended, their work began and it was a mighty one! And people were saved. Three thousand in one day! That is the work of the Holy Spirit. That is what living water does. When the Spriit comes, people are cut to the heart. There is true repentance in the Land. There is an awakening of epic proportions and no man can take credit. It’s an act of God and it humbles everyone.

These broken cisterns are a tribute to generations of men and women who want to do the work of God, but instead of waiting to be filled, they dig their own wells and compel the dying masses to come. But if there is no Spirit, there will be no life.

It’s time to pray. To come before the Lord in repentance and to wait on the Holy Spirit to fill us with water so the thirsty can drink and live. So we can live again. So the church can be revived. So our lands can be healed. Holy Spirit, pour yourself out on the dry and thirsty land.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord to wait (Isaiah 40:31).”