Friday, May 30, 2008

Keeping Hope Alive During the Dark Times in Life - Pt 2

Desert Seasons

Several weeks ago, I had read a portion of 'Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ' by Madame Guyon, and one chapter in particular stuck with me above everything else. She entitled this chapter, 'Periods of Dryness,' and it started a thought process which God has found necessary to try in my life.
"Dear reader, you must realize that God has only one desire... His desire is to give Himself to the soul that really loves Him and to that soul which earnestly seeks Him. And yet it is true that this God who desires to give Himself to you will often conceal Himself from you - from you, the very one who seeks Him!

Now why would God do that? Dear saint of God, you must learn the ways of your Lord. Yours is a God who often hides Himself. He hides Himself for a purpose. Why? His purpose is to rouse you from spiritual laziness. His purpose in removing [the sense of His presence] from you is to cause you to pursue Him."

I find it interesting that David, the only one in the Bible God ever gave the title of a man after His own heart had similar struggles. The prophetic Psalm He penned gives light to the anguish of soul both he and our Lord experienced.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent..." Psalm 22:1-2

Again in chapter 13...

"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy by exalted over me?" Psalm 13:1-2

Obviously, these feelings are not new... Men and women throughout the ages have struggled through seasons where God felt very far away. Why does God allow this? Why does it sometimes seem we are clawing our way up an insurmountable mountain in our efforts to gain back the sense of His presence we love so much?

As I reflect back on the recent seasons of drought I have walked through, and examine what they produced in me, I have been encouraged not to grow despondent and weary through these seasons of testing. In a great degree, I believe that's what God's intent is for allowing them. He seeks to prove and try our devotion - how far are we willing to walk with Him?

It's easy to follow after the Lord when the path is lit with sunshine, and the winds of favor are in our face. Prayer seems effortless, and we delight in the beauty of life.

Contra-wise, do we care enough to pursue after God when the dark clouds threaten to swallow up our very existence? When Bible reading are prayer seem almost drudgery, do we faithfully continue, realizing our desperate need for it's sustaining nourishment?

Times like this have been convicting to my own heart, as I've realized it's tendency towards "fair-weather Christendom." I've been appalled at how much my flesh longs for and expects an easy pathway in my pursuit after God. If nothing else, Satan detests a passionate lover of God, and will do everything in His power to discourage us from our pursuit after Him.

Secondly, I believe God allows these times to remind us of our desperate need of Him. When life is going great, it's easy to forget where our strength is coming from. It's easy to start relying on circumstances for our joy, feelings for our faith, and mediocre Christianity for our norm. Everything is going fine in life, what more do we need to seek for??

When God grants us pain and struggles in replacement for ease, smashes those grand and happy feelings, and starts to reveal from His word the truth of who we really are, we have nowhere else to flee but to His faithful and caring arms. That's exactly where He wanted us in the first place. It is oftentimes our departure from those arms, unknowing though it be, that required Him to bring things into our path to draw us back to Him.

Dear reader, I have been learning through many tears and heart-crushing pain, that these seasons of darkness are not a sign of God's departure, but rather a token of His love as He encourages us closer to Himself. He who longs for nothing greater than for us to be completely consumed in Him, allows these times as a means of furthering and strengthening our heart's desire to know Him more intimately. Do not allow Satan to bring despair to your longing heart. Rather, lay out your struggles before your loving Heavenly Father, and trust Him implicitly for the duration and intensity of the clouds He has allowed. In the midst of the struggles, don't forget to look for the beautiful rainbow at the end....

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

...to be continued...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Keeping Hope Alive During the Dark Times in Life - Pt 1

Bright flowers adorn the mountain trail as you skip upwards with a spring in your step and a song in your heart. God's blessings seem nearly more than you can take in, and continuous praise pours from your overflowing heart. You feel as if you could just leap off the mountain edge and soar around for awhile, basking in the sunshine of the mountaintop splendor. God's word is alive, and each day you find yourself marveling at the new gems and rich treasures He reveals to you. Material blessings of all sorts may adorn your pathway, and you feel like the richest person in the world. You honestly feel life could not get any better...

Then there are the times, oftentimes following close on the heels of one of these mountaintop experiences, when faith nearly seems to crumble underneath your feet. Crushing circumstances bring dark clouds over your pathway, and it seems unlikely that you will ever see the sunshine again. Never have you felt so needy of God's presence and grace, but never has He felt so far away. You wonder if your previous Christian experiences were just a dream, so intense are the struggles you are facing now. With David, you feel like saying, "...all thy waves and billows are gone over me." (Psalm 42:7b) Your Bible reading times are dry, and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. Life at times seems almost too much to bear, and you wonder if it's even worth trying to live out the truth in God's Word....

What does this all mean? Can it truly be God's will that we walk through both of these times in our journey with Him? What is the right response to them? How do we keep the right perspective in the mountaintop seasons, and how do we keep faith alive and burning brightly when those dark clouds come and seek to snuff it out? 

Having walked through both extremes in the past few months, I wanted to share a little bit of what God has taught me through it. It's by no means comprehensive or completely conclusive; if anything, these times have showed me how little I really know the heart of God. But, nevertheless, God has been faithful to teach me a few more thing about Himself, and that is what I hope will be an encouragement to you. It is not the first occasion I have walked through such times, and I don't think it would be incorrect to assume that some of my readers are walked through similar times right now. As God has encouraged and strengthened me during these times when hope seems all but lost, may He encourage you as well...

...to be continued...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Charlotte and Clark's Wedding

With my growing interest in photography, I was thrilled to be asked to assist with pictures at a friend's wedding. I have never had so much fun at a wedding before! With limited equipment, many aspects were just not practical, but I loved what I was able to do. Perhaps you'll enjoy a peek nearly as much as I enjoyed the picture taking! :-)

The sweet couple

A good friend of mine, also an experienced cake decorator!


One last iron

Detail on sleeves

Final Details

The happy couple

Maid of honor with groomsman; a newly married couple and good friends of mine.

Fun with the groom

Charlotte





Sisters peeking out at the outdoor receiving line.

The completed masterpiece!




I was also happy to spend some time with two good friends who are right in the middle of a blossoming romance! This picture was taken on the sly. ;-)

When asked to do a photo shoot with them, I was more than thrilled!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Source of Faith

As Corrie Ten Boom recounted [her] experiences, (in the Ravensbruck concentration camp) one of the neighbors said, "I am sure it was your faith that carried you through."

"My faith? I don't know about that," replied Corrie. "My faith was so weak, so unstable. It was hard to have faith. When a person is in a safe environment, having faith is easier. But in that camp when I saw my own sister and thousands of others starve to death, where I was surrounded by men and women who had training in cruelty, then I do not think it was my faith that helped me through. No it was Jesus! He who said, 'I am with you until the end of the world.' It was His eternal arms that carried me through. He was my certainty.

"If I tell you that it was my faith, you might say if you have to go through suffering, 'I don't have Corrie ten Boom's faith.' But if I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust that He who helped me through will do the same for you. I have always believed it, but now I know for my own experience that His light is stronger than the deepest darkness."

-Corrie Ten Boom
Life Lessons From the Hiding Place

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Website


Thanks to the talent and time of a good friend, our family now has a website! This is an exciting and necessary step for us as God has started opening wide the doors for our music ministry. We continue to follow Him each step and are looking forward to whatever He has in store!

Picture and website credit.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dying to Self

This is a poem that I can never read enough. It challenges me anew every time I ponder it's verses...

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught,
and you do not sting and hurt at the oversight,
but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ;
that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed,
your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed,
and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart
or even defend yourself, but take all in patient loving silence;
that is dying to self.

When you quietly forbear any disorder, any irregularity,
any impunctuality, or any annoyance;
when you can stand face to face with waste, folly,
extravagance, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it;
that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment,
any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God;
that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation,
or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation;
when you can truly love to be unknown,
that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one
of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly
as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or
resentment rising up within your heart,
that is dying to self.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This is our God...

After a three-day series of meetings with a converted Hindu from South Africa, I've had a lot to think about. Out of all that Ravi Govender shared with our church body, one phrase has stuck in my mind. After relaying nearly unbelievable stories and testimonies of God's work in other countries, particularly persecuted ones, he always ended with a smile, and said, "This is our God. This is the God we serve!"

This is our God.... Wow. What a powerful statement!

This evening I ran across this gem by Elizabeth Elliot that gave echo in my heart to what God was already doing.

I have been told that in one of the China Inland Mission homes in China there was a motto on the wall that said, "The sun stood still. The iron did swim. This God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death."

This God, the One who, in answer to the prayer of an ordinary man, stopped the sun in it's course, the God who suspended His own law of gravity and made an axe head float, this is the God to whom I come. This is the God whose will and direction I am asking. This God is the One whose promises I am counting on. Whatever my predicament may be, as soon as I compare it with the circumstances surrounding the miracles of the sun and the axe, my doubts seem comical.

There are times like now that I am convicted deeply with the knowledge of how little I expect from my God. Do I really know Him? Do I really believe that He will do for me what He has done for many others?

God is, according to Isaiah 43, our Creator, our Redeemer, the Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior. Would we ask Him to be anything more than this, before we admit in our hearts that He can be trusted?

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9

This is our God....what will we do with Him?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Believer, rest assured that the heart of Jesus cares about your meaner affairs. The breadth of His tender love is such that you may resort to Him in all matters; for in all your afflictions He is afflicted, and like as a father pitieth his children, so doth He pity you. The meanest interests of all his saints are all borne upon the broad bosom of the Son of God.

Oh, what a heart is His, that doth not merely comprehend the persons of His people, but comprehends also the diverse and innumerable concerns of all those persons! Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ? Think of what His love has brought thee - justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life! The riches of His goodness are unsearchable; thou shalt never be able to tell them out or ever conceive them.

Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ! Shall such a love as this have half our hearts? Shall it have a cold love in return? Shall Jesus' marvelous loving-kindness and tender care meet with but faint response and tardy acknowledgment? O my soul, tune thy harp to a glad song of thanksgiving! Go to thy rest rejoicing, for thou art no desolate wanderer, but a beloved  child, watched over, cared for, supplied, and defended by thy Lord.
-C.H. Spurgeon