Friday, January 28, 2011

Singing in the Shadows

Psalm 68:4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.

Some days my heart is like a barren woman hopeless for a child – empty, lonely, and sad. At times when I feel this way it’s as if I’m going to implode, that this aching hole will begin to suck me in until there is nothing left of me at all, only the gaping pain and blackness.

I hate feeling this way. Sometimes circumstances of my life bring me to this place – disappointment in a situation or person or myself, anticipated actions by someone don’t come to pass, overwhelming stress from a clamoring schedule, the loneliness that feels like solitary confinement. My plans/hopes/dreams aren’t coming to fruition, or my patience is running out. There are times it may stem from being physically tired, or just those crazy hormones/chemicals in my body going completely out of whack.

For whatever reason, I get so angry with myself for not being self-sufficient and able to handle it. I want to shut down my heart so that the pain (or people) can’t come in, or to self-medicate with the many unhealthy methods I’ve learned in my lifetime as I seek to “make it all go away”. It makes me feel weak, and out of control, and needy – and I hate that, for I want to be strong, self-reliant, never needing anyone. I fight not to cry, or to reach out, or to admit my need. Instead I close the shades, and withdrawl figuratively (and sometimes literally) into the searing shadows.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss recently quoted Oswald Chambers using the phrase “singing in the shadows” while speaking on serenity. Serenity… about the most opposite place I could be in these times. But when I think of “singing in the shadows”, the first thing I notice is that I’m not being asked to ignore what I’m feeling. It’s not saying that these feelings aren’t there, or that they are wrong, or that if I only had more faith I wouldn’t be in this mess and I’d be happy. It affirms that the shadows indeed are there, but it’s asking for a sacrifice of praise during this time. God is asking me to go beyond my feelings, to wade through the muck to a place where I can at least raise my face to Him and whisper His name. He knows I may not be able to do much else than that, but to Him that may be a beautiful melody, a praise beyond what I can imagine, even though to me it’s a failing, meager attempt at song, yet another disappointment for us both.

So, Lord, when I am in this bad place, I will seek You. I will ask You to take My hand and hold on tight. I will ask You to hold me close, and wrap Yourself around me. I will do my best to look for whatever it may be you are trying to teach me, or rest in the valley of darkness and wait on You. I will intentionally stop looking at me and lift my eyes to You. I know this doesn’t mean it suddenly will “all go away”. But… if You are there, filling up the emptiness/loneliness with Yourself, I can learn to sing in the shadows.


Today's Devotion is gratefully taken from the 1/28/11 devotion "Joy and Strength" from

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about “the thorn” and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong – the less I have, the more I depend on Him.

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.

Judges 5:21 March on, my soul with strength!

Title: Receiving From God's Hand
Author: Mary Wilder Tileston
Scripture References:
1 Chronicles 29:12-13 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.”

WHEN I have nothing in my hand
Wherewith to serve my King,
When Thy commandment finds me weak
And wanting everything,
My soul, upon Thy greatness cast,
Shall rise divinely free;
Then will I serve with what Thou hast,
And gird myself with Thee.

HOW are we to approach such blessed strength? First of all, through a steadfast will to refuse nothing that God requires of us, and to do nothing deliberately which can displease Him. Next, we must learn to take our faults humbly, as proofs of our weakness, and use them to increase our trust in God, and our mistrust of self. Neither must we be discouraged at our own wretchedness, or give way to the thought that we cannot do or bear any special thing; our duty is, while confessing that of ourselves it is impossible, to remember that God is all-powerful, and that through Him we can do whatever He may require of us. We must learn to say with St. Augustine, "Give me what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt." JEAN NICOLAS GROU

Monday, January 24, 2011

Colossians 4:8 (Amplified Bible) "I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are faring and that he may comfort and cheer and encourage your hearts.

With the new year comes new goals, and we think things like “what do I want to accomplish, what do I want to lose, what do I want to learn, I, I, I….” Well, I would like to encourage you to take those I’s off yourself and focus them outward onto other-centered goals. For example, how about seeking out ways to be an encouragement to the people in your life? In the book of Colossians, Paul sends Timothy out to encourage the Colossians' hearts (Colossians 4:8). He also sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them as to their faith. Paul then asks that they themselves in turn encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5, 11.) In Hebrews 3:13 we are told to encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today! The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is parakletos, and can be translated as Comforter, Counselor, or Advocate. (John 14:16, 26; 15:26, 16:7). To encourage is the Greek word parakaleo (verb) from para – beside, by, from, near kaleo to call.

A few definitions of encouragement mention comfort, instruction; to strengthen by consolation, to teach. In this day and age of instant technology, it’s so easy to send a quick email or e-card to another just as a way of letting them know you’re thinking about them, and to provide them with a few words of cheer, even offer a “verbal hug”, so to speak. How long could it take us to do this, especially considering how lasting the result might be for someone? Do you have someone within your circle that perhaps just needs you to come up without a word and just wrap your arm around their shoulder?

When was the last time you opened your “snail mail” after arriving home, to find an unexpected card with warm wishes from someone? Do you remember how that lifted your spirits? Again, in this day of technology, actual real, hold-it-in-my-hand cards are a growing rare event! I have several cards that have been sent to me over the years which I keep in my Bible, and read over and over again whenever I need a pick-me-up.

This week, prayerfully consider a list of people you could come alongside to comfort, counsel and encourage. Make it your personal mission to contact at least a few by phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, or actual old-fashioned letter or card (okay, seriously, after looking at all our options, just TRY to find a reason NOT to do this)! In fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that if you yourself are in need of encouragement, make it a point to be that encouragement to someone else – put your eyes on them, and give of yourself at a time when it’s not easy or comfortable. Let it be a sacrifice of comfort to God – in spite of your needs/circumstances, you are going outside yourself to be His voice of encouragement to another.

As Dr. Robert A. Cook used to say as He ended his radio program, “Walk with the King today and be a blessing!”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Okay to Cling

Deuteronomy 13:4
"You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

Did you ever cling too much to someone, hold fast to them a little more than was healthy? I think of the movie “10 Ways to Lose a Guy”, and certainly one of those top ten ways was to be “clingy”! The character would show up at the guy’s apartment unannounced, when he was hanging with the guys, at his job, and would call incessantly. Just watching her antics (who, by the way, was purposely trying to make this guy break up with her) was painful, and made me want to take a deep breath and take a long walk – ALONE!

However, I’ve had times in my life that I’ve held people or things too dear, and like sand in my fist, watched them slip away. Sadly, one of my closest and most loyal companions over the course of my life has been abandonment. There he would stay, plopped down cozily on the couch, watching relationships come and go. He would take every opportunity to remind me of all the many reasons he stayed while others left – most specifically pointing out every fault I had and how I wasn’t good enough to deserve love. I listened intently, and tried to become perfect, but with every rejection, with the accuracy of a surgeon’s scalpel, he would cut away more and more at my sense of worth. If I could just be perfect enough, I would be accepted, loved, and cherished. I fell for the lie over and over again.

By God’s grace and mercy, I’ve taken the path of healing, and over the years have found my identity and worth in Christ. Occasionally, however, I do see myself slip into an old habit of perfectionism. Recently I caught myself, and shaking my head, wondered how I had let that pattern tempt me back again?

In Deuteronomy 13:4, and again in Joshua 23:8, we are commanded to cling to the Lord. It is the same Greek word, and means to stay close, to cleave, to stick with, join to, and remain steadfast. I can’t call upon Him often enough… He never tires of my presence… the more I’m with Him, the happier He is and the more love and devotion He lavishes upon me. I never have to worry that I’m in His face. My Jesus loves me 24/7/365! Most importantly, He has promised never to leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5). In His eyes I am perfect and adored and enough just as I am. He is my Beloved, and my heart is filled to overflowing with love, acceptance, and satisfaction.

Knowing this, I can enjoy my earthly relationships, and I am a healthier/whole person in those relationships. I realize that, no matter how wonderful someone can be, my sole source of identity, satisfaction, and contentment is in Christ alone – all others pale in comparison. No one can ever be my “all in all” – that is a horrible burden to put on anyone, and more importantly, they will always fail, not because they are necessarily lacking, but because they were never meant to fill that role. Only God can fill me to overflowing; only God can and should be God.

What freedom, what joy – I am His, and He is mine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Race

Phil 3:13-14 I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past... I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 In a race, everyone runs but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

I began this year doing something very different – I participated in a fun run, a one-mile run at my local park. The weather was perfect for a January morning – bright and sunny, much of the snow melted from last week’s blizzard, and surprisingly warm. I proudly donned my racing tag “Number 303”, and when the starting blast began off I went! I tried to stay focused on the course, to pace myself, and to stay on track. I didn’t remember the trail being as steep, and admittedly had to slow down to a fast walk several times on the journey. There were some before me, and some behind, all running with the same goal – to reach that finish line! As we neared the end, my friend took my picture, and the bystanders cheered us on. I received a ribbon for my efforts, and the satisfaction that I had achieved my goal.

What was particularly meaningful for me today was the analogy of my physical race to the spiritual race my Father calls me to run. It’s a new year, a fresh beginning, and I renew my commitment to Him to running the race strong, focused and steady. Yes, there will be unexpected turns, hills, dips, and at times discomfort and times of discouragement that perhaps I won’t make it. But if I fix my eyes on Jesus, in His strength I can do anything. My part is obedience, and faithfulness to run towards Christ and not let all the “stuff” in my life get in the way and entangle me/trip me up. Each step of the way I must choose Christ, and not lose heart and grow weary.

One day I hope to run into His arms in Heaven, and I wonder if there will be others there who have gone before cheering me onward, that great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews. This run taught me the importance also of cheering on my brothers and sisters in Christ, to encourage them and support/lift them up on their race as well. We need to be there for one another – we’re not alone on the path.

So on this first day of 2011 I write to anyone reading this to be encouraged and feel strong and confident – God is for us (Romans 8:31)!!! Let us lift up one another, keep each other on track, running strong and focused towards the goal. Be daily in God’s word and in prayer, pray together, keep each other accountable, really be there for one another this year when we need a friend, in any God-glorifying way we can.

And most importantly, devote yourself to Jesus Christ this year in everything you say and do -- may this year be the best and strongest run of your life -- RUN STRONG! FINISH STRONG!