Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fashioned for Faith

I sit here awestruck...stumbling for words. I usually write my "revelations" and thoughts as I read the chapter. However, as I sat reading chapter three of An Untroubled Heart, I found myself saying that is good, that is good...how could I say it better? I've underlined so much. Do I just retype her words as I can't say it any better or any differently? Sunday closed with no post written, a little distraught that the words didn't come as normal.

So here I sit, about to re-examine the chapter, what I underlined and what I think. Comfort zone gone. Fingers scared. What will come?

Just the words "under God's sheltering wings" automatically makes me think of the protection of a mother bird. I don't know where I've read it or how it was depicted but the basic gist is that during a forest fire the mother bird will expand her wings over her babies. She never moves from her position. The mother has ceased living because of the consuming smoke and fire. When discovered, we find the baby birds are fully protected from the fire and harm...fully alive.

Isn't this exactly what our God does? He spreads His wings over us, sheltering us from the destructive flames of life. We do not escape the fires or the effects of the smoke and smoldering flames. However, we are not consumed or destroyed by the fires of life because our Heavenly Father protects us.

To parallel that, don't you just hate how umbrellas flip up in the midst of a torrential rain storm? I bought a Tote umbrella with double "flaps" on vacation in Virginia as we were hit by Hurricane Edward. The gap between the two layers is supposed to catch the wind and prevent it from turning upward. It is a golf-size umbrella big enough for two. This was bound to protect me, right? For many months and many storms it has. Oh, but I remember the long walk in which it flipped on me as I walked into work. Yes, into work. That is, I had to work eight hours with whatever condition my hair was about to become under God's wet pellets from the clouds. (Come on ladies, that's just a crime to work under such conditions.) Oh, but this was "guaranteed" to not flip on me. It was said to be the best. It's still my favorite umbrella...no wet purses or wet shoulders with it. It still rarely flips. It is a Tote after all.

However, we can count on God to never flip on us. He will never turn up and fly away from us. He will never allow us to get drowned by the heavy rains of defeat. The storms will come, but God will protect us firmly! As Micca so poignantly said "Sometimes the storms of life can go on and on." Amen sister. It seems like our lives can sometimes be nothing but storms crying out to God for a drought or a desert-feeling life, any relief from the storms. I believe the Christian life is characterized by storms of life. We are either in one, about to enter one, or leaving one. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

So that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:3

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5

"Under the wing of God we find strength to endure, peace under pressure, and a faith that anchors us until the wind and rain cease." Anchors us. Love that.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, I love when others quote my scriptures. Smiling here as they aren't actually mine alone but you know what I mean. :-) Micca quoted a scripture I stored in my heart years ago. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
"He knew we would be concerned about necessities of life. Even the most mature Christians today are apt to labor under the burden of personal concerns, family woes, and cares for the present, the future..." He knew we'd be concerned so He gives us love letters. He gives us affirmation that He does care about the littlest of things. Why do we worry so? Why are do we weary like we do? Cast all your cares on Him. Not just the biggies. Not just the job losses. Not just the financial woes. But the lost keys. The bad traffic. The many errands. The stubbed toes. The lack of devotional time. Everything. That is ev-er-y-thing.

Micca hit it on the head with this. "When it appears to me that God is not paying attention to my needs, worry returns, and I feel the need to do something about it." Okay, raise your hand if this is you. Okay, the rest of you are lying except the one raising her hand. :-) Seriously, do we not do that? We give it to Him and then He doesn't work as we think or when we think or how we think, so we grab it back. That's mine. I'll just do it myself!

Micca was talking about the time when she'd have colon attacks while grieving her husband, Porter. "I assumed that casting my situation on God and asking Him to carry the burden meant that my stomach troubles would go away. When I gave it over to God, I expected to shed the burden of going to counseling once a week and having that extra bill to pay. But none of that ceased. I kept having colon attacks, which meant I still needed counseling for my grief. And while I hoped that the counselor would at least ease my debt, she instead raised her prices. What was the point of giving my burden to God in the first place if He wasn't going to make it all go away? I wondered. The point is that when you and I cast our cares on God, we are recognizing that it's His responsibility to care for us--not ours."

This is where I could begin to quote pages after pages. She talks about how God uses a much larger canvas for our lives and we view our lives in little spectrums. We see the huge problem facing us right now, today, and not the benefit or advantage down the road from having endured that problem and overcome it. What we find as wasteful, pointless, painful beyond benefit, God uses for our good, for His glory. He uses all the bad for something good. We only need to trust and wait to see the fruit. Just as the fruit trees begin to blossom, we must wait for those blossoms to fall, and for the fruit to begin to form and grow until it's ready to pick. We then can lavish our lips onto those juicy and delectable pieces of God's yumminess. Time. His timing brings such a gorgeous harvest like none other can.

"He will allow nothing to happen to us that isn't filtered through His screen of protection. In other words, what won't destroy us, God uses to better us." Oh, how sometimes it is so hard for me to get my mind around that concept. If my life circumstances have been filtered through Him, then WHY has He allowed such things? When He was filtering these things why didn't He stop certain things? Why didn't He prevent things from going full course and being totally detached and buried beyond seemable resurrection? Yet, if I move my mind just a little bit, if I re-adjust my perspective and focus, I can see things that have happened in the last 21 months that most likely would've never happened had He not allowed the worst heart ache to ever touch me...death of a long awaited marriage with a Christian partner, with the love of my life. I've achieved so much in the last 21 months. I've grown leaps and bounds spiritually. He has done such wonderful things in my heart yet there's so much more growth I want to see in me. If He's done as much as He has, I can't imagine how much better is yet to come. Even with all the beauty in the ashes of my life, I still long for Him to filter my future...to make my desires happen, to prevent things from being buried any further.

Let's get back to the book. I guess that's why I never freehand my reflections on these studies...I'd have too many pages of rabbit trails since my hands can type faster than writing and the feelings flow when my hands touch these keys.

"God will not let our hardships destroy us." Are you sure? Sometimes it feels like it. Even as I see such growth in my life and heart, in moments of deep pain, I still say how much more God? When will the pain of my heart end? Will my heart ever heal or is that part of me destroyed by the hole left there? I feel destroyed at times by my failures and by the regrets of action I wish I had not taken. "You and I cast our worries on God, because it's His responsibility to give us what we need." We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Micca references Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind as saying she'll worry about it tomorrow. "We'd do well to do the same. It is not our responsibility to control our circumstances; it's God's."

That Micca sure had me humming as I read the section about God having the whole world in His hands. Sadly, I don't know any other lines except that one. I love the depth of her description. "The Lord God is so gigantic that He knows every creature that lives in that great body of water. He sees every ship that sails its waves, and He even knows where the body of every person lost at sea lies. With a God this big, what could ever escape His attention? What need could we have that He cannot handle?...Certainly, we can place our trust in a God so big that even the ocean waves obey their boundaries."

Wow...what a mighty God we serve. Stop and ponder that description of our huge God but not too huge to pay attention to us and care for every intimate detail of our lives.

Micca pointed out some very common words of people: Just believe. Just have faith. I, like her, have always wanted to ask, "Believe what? Have faith in what?" Faith is just faith. We can have faith in the winds or in a door knob. I know a very productive and beneficial group talks about its participants having faith. The group is not concerned in what to have the faith as long as there is faith. In actually, "there is no power in faith alone. Faith is only as good as its object." Faith alone is useless, pointless, and meaningless. Faith in Jesus is where there is power. "If you and I put our faith in faith, then the enemy will come along and tell us that our faith isn't good enough, strong enough, or real enough. This is satan's most devilish work." Don't put your faith in your faith. Put your faith in Jesus alone!

"If you and I believe prayer works, we will pray. If we believe God is working on our behalf, we will rest instead of worry; we'll have faith instead of fear." For some reason it seems the first part is easier and we are more likely to do it immediately. We know prayer works and we do pray. For the most part, we believe God is working on our behalf, so why do we worry instead of rest?

"When you and I worry, we are denying the wisdom, love, and provision of God...Worrying instead of handing our anxieties over to God says that we believe He is powerless to deliver us." Ouch. My toes are a hurtin'. Convicting, isn't it?

If you have any time remaining after reading this freehand novel, please go to Lelia's to see what others have to say.

(Don't forget to see my previous post on my give-away. I hope the controversial book, The Shack, has not scared anyone from entering. If you absolutely do not want that book, just let me know. I hope more people will comment and enter to win. Remember, four comments for four chances. Click here or just keep on scrollin' down one.)

Focusing on Faith and not Fear,

© Copyright 2009

15 comments:

Pam said...

well, well, it certianly does sound like i am once again a poster child for you post! gee, how fun for me. this sounds like a very very good book... also sounds like one i should read about now.

Sharon said...

Shewwwwwwww that was certainly alot to take and run with! I struggle soooo bad with this, with resting, with relaxing, he is in control. I think I would like to get this book too.
You know I find my fingers and my mind also works better on the computer compared to the pen.

Praise God that he can put up with me and all my crazyyyy issues. I will say today, tomorrow and until I go to heaven I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS, I know I just have to keep workinnnnnnn it, He's proud of me cause everyday I learn something to new to succeed in for him. Girl did you give me a Paula Fix today, woooohooo, going to ponder this for awhile ok :)

Give me the shack book I'll take it! :)
I wannnnna winnnn the prizessss!!!!

Have a beautiful and blessed week sistah Paula :)

Sharon said...

Oh yea I wuvvvvvv the birdie story!! I have read that one so many times, that I can quote it!

Hugggggggs to ya

Hey did I mention, I wanna winnnn the prizessssss!!! :)
hahahaha

Beth in NC said...

Hey friend. I used to always scratch my head about the "God/wings" scripture. Only because we are made in His image and WE don't have wings. But last year I heard a teaching about the Jewish prayer shawl (sp?). The tassels at the bottom are called "wings" ... That really put a different spin on that scripture for me.

I know there is a lot of heated discussion about The Shack, but I loved it. Yes, it is a fictional book -- not theological.

Love ya,
b

CathM said...

Paula – you really have a gift for sharing the Father’s heart. You speak wonderful truths. Another encouraging post!

Andrea said...

Paula, I so appreciate your words! Why is it so difficult for us Christians to put our faith in the power of Jesus Christ? I fully confess that I struggle with faith, even after many years of serving God. I find myself having to deny the voices of doubt and turn my thoughts to scripture and God's past mercies in my life so often. But it's still hard. We are all only human, but we must challenge ourselves and continue to strive for victory in this issue.

I love your analogy of the mother bird and baby birds. Very moving! I had never heard that before. It's a powerful illustration, and so fitting.
You said, "we are not consumed or destroyed by the fires of life because our Heavenly Father protects us." Amen! Yes, yes, He does!

God bless you!

Andrea

Angie said...

Yes...I see what you mean. It was the perfect post. And Paula...rabbit trails are okay. We always learn something on them.

This was very good!

Gail W. said...

Hi Paula! I had never heard the moma bird fact before. What a perfect analogy! During this week before Easter, it made me think of Christ's death on the cross. Just like the moma bird, He stood in the fire and destruction, giving His life to keep us safe from harm. Just like the baby birds, we will emerge from this battle unharmed because of the sacrifice He made. Hallelujah, Baby!

Laura said...

Hello, my friend!

I accidentally left my book at work yesterday, so wasn't able to post on this chapter. I'll get caught up next week.

I was kind of like you after I read this chapter...how can I say it any better? I had a lot of underlines, but little to add!

Micca says it all so well.

Still praying for God's timing to comfort you, my friend!

valerie said...

Thinking of you this evening.

Once again, a great post straight from your heart.

Love,
Valerie

Abba's Girl said...

Beautiful post...

Sharon said...

Praise Him my friend!! He is sooo Worthy Amen! It's a good day, because we have Jesus in our life!
Have a Great Resurrection Sunday!

Stacy said...

Thank you for sharing so much of your heart. I loved the bird analogy; I had never heard that before---what a loving image.

Happy Easter!

Carol said...

Wow sweet Paula, that was awesome. I felt the same way about this chapter, nope haven't finished my post yet though. I have so much highlighted most of the page is pink.

This what you wrote is poetic my dear friend. "We see the huge problem facing us right now, today, and not the benefit or advantage down the road from having endured that problem and overcome it. What we find as wasteful, pointless, painful beyond benefit, God uses for our good, for His glory. He uses all the bad for something good. We only need to trust and wait to see the fruit. Just as the fruit trees begin to blossom, we must wait for those blossoms to fall, and for the fruit to begin to form and grow until it's ready to pick. We then can lavish our lips onto those juicy and delectable pieces of God's yumminess. Time. His timing brings such a gorgeous harvest like none other can."

And the part about the growth you have experienced. Well this was just beautiful.

I could go on. Love you my friend.

Carol

Micca said...

Hi Sweet Pea! Love that!

I'm so touched by reading these blogs!

I agree with your friends. You have a wonderful spirit that flows through your writing.

It's clear that you are allowing God to speak to you through this study. As the author, I honored that God would use me, a lump of clay, to do that. His grace is so clearly at work in wach of us.

I have a favor to ask. Would you mind writting a review of my book on Amazon.com? Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Untroubled-Heart-Finding-Faith-Stronger/dp/1434767973/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235427724&sr=1-1

If not, that's fine. I'm asking several of the gals taking part in the study. A review helps others decide if they want to purchase the book or not. It would be a big help to me, but again, no pressure.

May God continue to grow you in His grace.
Micca