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All posts for the month March, 2017

Made for War

Published March 28, 2017 by Dawn

Funny story: I was standing in line at the check-out yesterday at Wal-Mart. My kids were bickering and had been for the last two years of my life, and I look around at all these people with their cute little kids twirling around like they don’t have a care in the world. As I’m telling my kids to stop talking to one another for the millionth time, I inexplicably start laughing. “What’s so funny, MOM?”

She said it just like that, too. I just kept laughing. I didn’t tell her why, because she doesn’t share my sense of humor and wouldn’t have appreciated it, but here’s what was so funny: all of those people enjoying their little kids like they won’t one day be teenagers. I laughed until I cried. Or maybe I was laughing to keep from crying and it didn’t work. I don’t know.

But seriously …

I was lying in bed last night, rolling around trying to fall asleep. It’s my nightly song and dance that, frankly, I could live without. Finally, I turned to God and said, “You know, this is hard. This daily grind. This constant friction. There’s so much hurting my kids right now and I feel a lot of resentment and bitterness toward you and a lot of other people. I’m trying to lean in to you but at this point, it’s about as comfortable as hugging a porcupine. You could do so much in our lives right now, show yourself mighty on our behalves, heal our wounds and hold us – comfort us – in our troubles. But though we lift our cause to you over and over again, you keep us here in the fire.”

I fell asleep praying for peace in my home, peace in the hearts of my children and restoration and healing in our deep wounds.

I woke up this morning and made tea, like usual, except I made it for my son, who on top of everything else, has a severely sore throat (that almost made me bitter but he left it without drinking it, so I am having tea while I write). I put some eggs on to boil (easy breakfast) and sat down to read my Bible. I opened it where I left off yesterday, and just started reading from the top. Because God is faithful (but mysteriously patient in our pain), He started the conversation right away.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).

Just in case the meaning is vague here, let me make it clear: things are going to get rougher than this. How are we going to manage the larger battles, the fierce persecution and constant attacks of the enemy, it if we can’t handle life in relative comfort?

When things started heating up in life for my kids, I remember praying to the Lord and asking Him how He could stand to put my kids through the fire. He told me that every child of His is made into a warrior, and the training for war is fierce. In His mercy, God could shield us from every attack, but that’s not how muscles are made. Muscles are made through the constant tearing down and building back up of muscular tissue. If you never use your muscles, they disintegrate.  Warriors have big, strong muscles. Because God is no respecter of persons, He even trains our kiddos. He trusts them with The Holy Spirit. He trusts them to grow in faith. He trusts them to grow in their relationship with Him. In my own life, these precious things have grown through suffering. How can I expect anything different for my kids?

So, here we are being strengthened though, at the moment, it feels like all of Hell is on special assignment Code Name: Dawn’s House. We’re going through training to be warriors in anticipation of greater battles in days to come. And they are coming. Anyone who spends time in the Word knows that prophetically speaking, there’s nothing else left for God to fulfill before Jesus comes back for His bride. The next fulfillment of prophecy will be the breaking of scrolls and the outpouring of the wrath of God. At that time, the Bible says Satan will be unleashed for a time. Unrestrained. God is growing His people to handle the onslaught of Satanic activity against the church. Everything that comes our way is to prepare us to face our enemy as we have never had to before. Here in America, we have been blessed and sheltered from a mighty storm but we won’t be shielded forever. Rather, we are being trained to withstand a mighty tempest. We are being strengthened so that in times of great tribulation, we are as unmovable and unshakable as the rock we are founded on. These last few years have been hard, but I have seen exponential growth in my children. I just want to encourage you: don’t look at the storm anymore. Look at the Maker of the Wind. He can stop it’s blowing, or He can show you how to stand in it. He can shelter you or He can show you how to be as fierce as the storms you’re in. God is making a warrior out of you. Trust Him.

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).

 

 

I Know I Can, I Know I Can!

Published March 27, 2017 by Dawn

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Last Wednesday was the culmination of two months of faithful training. I started out to complete my first uninterrupted 5k run. I had two months to scout out the various routes around town and pick my favorite. I didn’t pick the easiest; I picked the one that kept me closest to home. The trade-off was a hill that tripped me up every time. I always have to walk this hill; I never make it up at a jog, even. But having started out, I was headed in that direction and there was no turning back. I’m stubborn like that.

I walked for five to warm up, then hit my usual stride. I didn’t start out fast, but hit the stride I was going to have to endure for the next thirty minutes. The initial part of this run is uphill, leveling out near a school, then dipping down one street, up to another and looping around to a consistent hill before beginning a descent that would last long enough to prepare my muscles for the next incline. This is the part that kicked my butt every time I attempted it. I made it up the first hill, ran the level part, and began the dip.

The incline coming out of the dip always makes my muscles scream in agony and makes a stop inevitable. Wednesday, though, I lowered my head and started to pray: “Lord, I can’t do this without you. I will never accept this hill as surmountable unless you give me strength right now and help me to endure the pain.” My legs continued at the same pace without faltering, even though the pain was intense. I pushed hard and kept my head low. I was tempted to look up and see how much further I had to the crest of the hill, but that was what always made me stop – looking at the distance and telling myself I can’t possibly make it that far. I decided to keep my head down and started telling myself, “One more step!” It became my mantra, out with every breath. “One more step.” I didn’t look up at all to gauge my progress. I just focused on that next step and before long, I was up and over the hill and beginning to feel the strain on my muscles ease as the road descended back to level ground.

By the time I checked the clock, I was fifteen minutes in and feeling like I just started running. My legs felt alive with strength and I knew then that I was going to make it the whole way. It wasn’t just because of my muscles, though, it was mostly because of my mindset. My muscles would strain again when I hit the bottom of the big hill and had to start running up another. My muscles would scream  and ache and resist the forward motion, but I was determined in my heart and mind that I could overcome that pain and finish what I started. I determined not to measure my ability by the distance left to travel but to consider my past performances and persevere in the next goal. The one thing that made all of this possible: keeping my head down, focusing on my God and the next step in front of me.

This is us in life. We face so many uphill battles, sooner or later, weariness and fatigue sets in and if you’re anything like me, you look at the fight left to go and measure it against your strength and throw your hands up in hopelessness. The secret to victory: focus. Don’t focus on the uphill battle. Don’t focus on the seeming endlessness. Narrow your focus to one thing: the face of God. Train yourself to focus on God in these times. Pray. Speak to Him. Ask for strength to endure. Trust in His providence. Trust that He will get you through it as you are faithful to do all that you know to do. Take the next step, and the next, and the next until you are over it and moving along into something else. This too shall pass, they say. Let it. Be strengthened in it. Grow. Press through. Because on the other side of that hill is most likely a brief reprieve and then another. But with the strength you gain from one, you will be less tried the next. You and I both can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

 

Self-Annihilate, for the Glory of God

Published March 20, 2017 by Dawn

“…for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Colossians 3:3,5)

I was lying in bed the other morning in a very self-righteous state of mind, counting the cost of transactions already made with the Lord. Parts of myself I have willingly given up and submitted to the Lord, things in life I have placed in His hands and not taken back, although I may have wavered at first. Battles with self that I have won … I was thoroughly patting myself on the back and recommending myself to the Lord in what can only be described as a disgusting display of self-pride. This was my usual prayer time and the Lord was there too, bearing witness to my self-love until He no doubt had enough. He very tenderly (but also firmly) reminded me of a story in the Old Testament that wiped the smile right off my face.

Samuel anointed Saul for a specific conquest and told him to destroy the Amalekites. The men, women, children, livestock … they were to be destroyed completely. Nothing to even suggest they ever existed was to be left. He then left Saul to the battle.

“When Samuel reached him, Saul said, ‘The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.’

“But Samuel said, ‘What this is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’

“Saul answered, ‘The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.’

When Samuel returned, he was indignant. Saul greeted him with a victor’s hello, but Samuel immediately knew something was not right. Saul boasted in his victory and paraded the livestock and even the king of Amalek around as a spoil of war, bragging that he had completed the mission God had sent him on but that was not how God saw it at all.

“Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely  destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out. Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’

“’But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag, their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’

Samuel repeated the instructions God had given Saul, but Saul still wouldn’t admit that he had done anything less than completely obey. He was blinded by his own pride. He kept Agag as a sort of trophy for having defeated an army that was notoriously vicious and most often victorious. In the same breath, Saul defends himself and says he did exactly what God commanded and destroyed all of the Amalekites, but admits to keeping Agag alive. Um, hello Saul! Is Agag not one of them?!

In his mind, Saul was justified in keeping Agag. He also distanced himself from the sin of keeping the livestock by blaming it on his soldiers. Twice. With all authority in his hands, he shrugs off his soldier’s defiance against the orders of God. And in case that wasn’t enough to satisfy Samuel, he tells him that the best of the livestock was purposed for God anyway.

When the Lord begins to deal with us in matters of the flesh and our earthly nature, He comes at us resolutely with the command that all must die. All of ourselves that is flesh and not spirit must be given over to death so that we may live in the new way of the Spirit. Because we love Him, we zealously thrust forth everything He points out as being unholy in us and nail it to the cross we are bid to carry. We easily identify our lusts and our unrighteous inclinations. We know they don’t please him … in fact, they no longer please us either, so it’s an easy sacrifice. But if we go on in this way for long enough, God begins to deal with things we would rather He leave alone. Things we carry around as trophies, spoils of war from days gone by. We look Him in the eye and insist it will be dealt with, then squirrel it away out of sight so we can take it out when we think God isn’t looking and admire it some more.

There are things in our flesh we are  sympathetic to that we will never willingly submit to God if we are functioning in our self-will. We have to submit to His will entirely in order to see the job done correctly, or like Saul, we will kill off only the things that serve no real purpose in our lives while keeping parts of us that doesn’t please God. We might even think, in our deceptive hearts, that what we have kept will serve a real purpose in His kingdom. And it will … just not God’s purpose. It will serve earthly purposes. Devilish purposes. Never God’s.

You see, God commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites because He knew the threat they posed to the kingdom of Israel. The rampant idolatry, the constant destruction and war. God wanted His people to live in peace in the land He had so lovingly reserved for them. The Amalekites threatened their peace and security, and their presence threatened their purity and devotion to God. Saul’s sympathies – or pride, as it were – endangered the Israelites for centuries afterward.

There is sin in us – deep, hidden things that when brought to light, we will defend instead of surrender – that are traitorous to us. There is treason within our hearts just waiting for the moment we sympathize with it. Things God has said must go that we have hidden away because it seems to serve a purpose, or exalts our lowly pride. We will even look at God and insist we have given over all of ourselves, put to death all the misdeeds of the flesh, while glancing back at things we know He commanded us to give up and kill completely.  We don’t realize how serious a threat these things can be. How detrimental to our faith and our walk with the Lord. God wants us to live with inner peace and joy, and we are allowing things of the flesh to rob us when all we have to do is kill those desires and inclinations in us and we would be better off for it!

Be careful what you side with in your character. Each of us should bare every part of ourselves to the Lord and let Him approve or disapprove. We will no doubt approve of things that does not please the Lord, so to be all that God desires, we must allow Him to show us what in us is not of the Spirit, and then we must immediately kill the things that displease Him, dishonor Him, or violate our witness in any way. We cannot offer to God parts of ourselves as a holy sacrifice that He has already deemed as an unholy thing. We can never pride ourselves in a job well-done, because to pride ourselves at all is to admit that the job isn’t done. When we have completely died to flesh, we will find ourselves mortified, humbled yet gloriously alive in the Spirit and a pleasure to our Heavenly Father. To become such, we must first abandon all of self to death, so that we can be raised to life in the Spirit.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22)

God is For Us

Published March 16, 2017 by Dawn

My son got in trouble at school yesterday. It wasn’t the first time; in fact, it seems like he’s embarked on a steady stream in the wrong direction as of late because his decisions lately have been reckless. He knows what he should do, but he has begun responding to life out of his emotions instead of wisdom.

I usually know about it right away. He texts me and tells me what has happened, afraid that I will find out from someone else first. He owns up to his guilt and has finally stopped blaming it on everyone else. So there is that … maturity is taking place, even if it seems like things are increasingly negative. He also owns his punishments and doesn’t expect me to rush in and defend him despite his transgression. One of my requirements when he gets in trouble is that he writes an apology note to those involved that have to deal with him. He now does it without having to be prompted.

His text yesterday started like this, “I got into trouble again today. I’m such a bad kid.” He told me what happened and told me he already wrote his apology letters and gave them to everyone involved. When he got into my car after school, he asked me if I still liked him.

Let me make something clear here: I am for my son. He can mess up a million times and I am going to choose to focus on his growth and maturity. When his teachers bring their frustrations over his behaviors to me, I am not going to talk bad about my son with them. I am not going to fraternize over his mistakes with them. I am going to be hopeful and optimistic about my son, even if all they see is a downward spiral. I don’t see that. I see a battle. I see him losing ground. But I also see victories. I see a kid who now knows his weakness and strengths. I see a kid who wants to be a man in spite of a lack of firm examples. I see a kid who takes his prayer life seriously, and has begun to put it first in his life. I see a kid who is fighting against his present culture, even if right now he’s not fighting as hard at school as he is at home. He’s not a lost cause to me. He’s one of my only causes, and I am on his side. I have caught him in indiscretion and I choose daily to forgive, correct, rebuke and discipline with love. I’m not in denial, but I am not losing faith over him. I love him, and I am his biggest cheerleader. I am for my son.

God is for His too.

Not all are sons and daughters.

  • “Therefore, come out from among then and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18).
  • “If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all” (Heb. 12:8).
  • “You are all sons and daughter of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
  • “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

But when we accept Christ through faith, we are adopted and become sons and daughters of God, and for us, there is mercy. There is optimism and hope. There is forgiveness. He sees our sin and chooses to focus on our growth and our spiritual maturity instead. He will never agree with naysayers about who we are or where we are going in life. He knows us. He knows our imperfections, but he also knows our strengths. He is resolutely for us. We are His and He is our biggest cheerleader. He corrects, rebukes and disciplines in love. He takes care of business and He doesn’t allow us to excuse ourselves, but He doesn’t accept our indiscretions as final unless we choose that. God chooses to deal with us mercifully and with much grace. He won’t lose hope, even if we do. We can crawl into His lap at anytime and He will gently and faithfully remind us who we are and whose we are. This is the graciousness of a Father toward His children. God is for us. Hallelujah!

Planted in Christ

Published March 13, 2017 by Dawn

It all started with an egg carton and a whimsical fancy.

I bought a tray of 30 eggs the last time I went shopping, and after using them up, I noticed that the egg carton seemed extremely useful. I was immediately sure of what I wanted to do with it, because on a whim, I had bought flower seeds just a few days before and suddenly, I had the perfect planter to start them in. I planted a different seed in each row, putting down a little bit of potting soil before dropping the seed, then covering each one with a layer of potting soil in top. Then I watered them. I measured the water with an oral syringe, making sure each seed got the same amount. That’s more care than I’ve ever put into planting. This is the third time I’ve planted flowers, and twice before, I labored for hours over the flower boxes and tossed the seeds in prepared soil while hoping for the best. This time, I was meticulous. Every day for the next two weeks, I measured out the water the same way and made sure each had a decent amount. Remembering that April showers bring May flowers, I was liberal with it. The water soaked through the soil, the cardboard and trailed along the table. Those seeds had all the water a seed might need.

I checked my homemade flowerbed every day for two weeks, watching for a sprout. Amidst all of the brown, I noticed a tiny bit of green a few days ago. My first shoot! A closer inspection before bed revealed nine more! I excitedly said to my kids, “Look what I have grown!” Immediately, my spirit was indignant.

“What you have grown?”

Ah, pride.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor…”

Clearly, it was absurd of me to claim that I had grown anything. I had put a lot of meticulous work into the process, but although I planted and watered the seed, there would be no growth unless the life God put inside it is awakened by God himself. The growth is a miracle of which I am not capable. I am literally going through the motions if God is not doing His work. I believe the same can be said of anyone who finds themselves in a ministry of any kind. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy or thought we put in to anything. If God is not in it, creating life in the midst of our efforts, it’s all in vain.

I also took notice of the amount of water these seeds needed. Every year, the beauty of spring arrives through the coaxing of an abundance of rain. Before that seed sprouts up into something unique and wonderful, it nearly drowns underground. The beautiful thing it soon will be is delicately prepared under a lot of dirt and water. The same is true for us. The beauty that God is meticulously preparing in each of us happens in place of darkness and distress, but if we are willing to accept the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in those dark places, if we are receptive to Him, we will eventually come out from beneath the load of it and show forth a beauty that could not otherwise exist.

Another thing I have learned about plants over the past few years of breeding aloes in my dining room is that plants grow toward the light. Their shoots reach toward the sun. A few days without a light source and plants wither. All other things being the same, couldn’t it also be said of us? How can a Christian expect to remain strong without a light source? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” We need His face shining on us, and we must behold Him daily lest we begin to falter, or cease to grow. Like plants, we will naturally yearn for our light source and reach for it. But there are so many distractions!

I have a Bonsai on my dining room table, and every once in a while, I have to dust it’s leaves because if I don’t, the tree cannot grow. Although it has water and sunlight, it cannot photosynthesize correctly if the leaves cannot absorb the sunlight without distraction. We Christians must also keep ourselves clean of distractions if we intend to grow uninhibited in the Lord.

There are many things in nature that mirror our relationship with the Lord. All the things He has made reveal who God is in our lives. He has taken great care so that we may know Him. Keep reaching for Him, be receptive to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and free yourself from distractions so that you may continue to know Him more. God bless!

 

Unfathomable Love

Published March 6, 2017 by Dawn

“Do you love me?”

It’s probably the worst question I’ve ever been asked. It makes my skin crawl and I want to vomit every time he asks me this. I want to get as far away from him as I possibly can, crawl into a hole and fall asleep for a million years until I can forget that this ever came out of his mouth. Do you love me? His pleading eyes literally tear my heart into shreds.

How can he ask me this?

It started maybe a month ago. I’m not an emotionally vacant person, but I will admit that sometimes, I’m hard to read. It’s a defense mechanism and at this point, I don’t know how to turn it off. But here’s the thing: I am exuberantly emotional toward my children. They don’t have to question how I feel because I’m not defensive toward them. I’ve been stricken since their birth and I love them enormously. This question seems so ridiculously unnecessary that the first time he asked, I just laughed. Hysterically. Why the heck would he ever question my love for him?!

He was questioning it, though. Hard core.

My son has asked me many times over the past month if I love him. My response has run the gamut: at first, I was hysterical. Too funny, you crazy nut. Of course I love you! Then I was disturbed. Why do you keep asking me this? Of course I love you. Then I was serious. I love you, son. You’re one of the most important people in my life. Finally, I am so sad, I’m sick over it. How can you question my love for you? It’s consuming me. How can you not perceive it?

I didn’t want to write about this because my heart hurts over it and I’m letting you in to something I don’t even want to admit is happening right now. My baby boy is unsure about whether or not I love him even though I have expressed it in so many ways. There’s no mask. It can’t be mistaken. I love him so much and every time he asks me, it’s like he’s thrusting a dagger right into my heart. And the worst part is that he actually feels the need to ask at all. How does he not know?

I’ve been putting this blog off for a solid month. That’s why I haven’t been writing. I’m sorry, dear reader. I couldn’t bring myself to admit this to anyone else because it hurts so much. But I knew I had to eventually write about it because every time he asks me, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “He’s you, you know …”

Am I the only one? Am I the only child of God who looks to the Father in sincere disbelief and asks through tears, “Do you love me?” I’m incredulous, really, most of the time. How can it be?

On the wall in my room, I hung a canvas that I painted once, and I remember the look my mom gave me when she saw it. She had no idea what it meant … it was my heart cry. It was my first attempt at mixed media journaling and it says “U LUV me.” Not “I love you” or anything normal. Just a bewildered, “I can’t grasp the fact …” It’s unfathomable. He loves me. My King loves me.

When my son started asking this question, I couldn’t understand why he was so serious about it. But as the Holy Spirit began directing my thoughts heavenward, I realized that the pain I feel when my son asks me this in all seriousness is the same pain our Father feels when we doubt His love for us. After all, if we read our Word and are people of prayer, there’s no mistaking how He feels about us. But there’s a whisperer, in my child’s ear and my own, doing his best to convince us that we are unlovable. And even though God is exuberantly expressive about how He feels, we choose to believe the lie because deep inside of us are roots of insecurity that have a strangle hold on our hearts.  I’m not good enough, therefore I am not worthy of love.

Unworthy? “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We didn’t earn His love. We were born into it. The moment He conceived us was the moment He loved us fiercely, and He displayed His passionate love for us by sending Jesus to rescue us from the enemy’s clutches. He demonstrated His love by His willingness to endure pain and suffering and death on our behalf. While we were still sinners. While we were far away from Him, separated by a chasm of sin, entangled in a sordid love affair with the devil and the world. God loved us then.

“Neither height nor depth, no anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38). We’re His. He loves us. When we accept Jesus and come into this love as a child of God, there’s nothing that can tear us away from His affections, or tear His affections away from us. We can walk away if we choose to, but that doesn’t cause God to stop loving us. And I am convinced that at the end of this life, when judgment must happen, it will be with tears of grief because many will choose to spend eternity separated from the love they’ve been chasing their whole lives and have rejected instead of embraced. I believe that moment will tear the heart of our Father to shreds. All this time He has looked at us and said, “Of course I love you.”

Trust me. He loves you. I know this because the love in me for my child is only a reflection of God’s love for His, and it’s consuming me. How much more passionately must God love us? Again … unfathomable.

How deep the Father’s love for us.
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To Make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory