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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 61:3’

Micki and I first met at church, and within moments it became clear: this woman would make a great friend. Not only did she exude warmth and smile easily, she asked questions.   Good questions.  And then she listened intently to my answers.

Fast forward a few years from that initial encounter. God did bring Micki and me together, and we’ve been friends ever since—over ten years now.

To know Micki is to experience loving acceptance from her heart, hear godly wisdom from her spirit, and receive splashes of joy from her effervescent personality.

You would not know that this well-balanced and vibrant person has suffered much pain and loss.

With Micki’s permission I am sharing with you her story:

At one time or another during her youth, Micki lived in the same house with an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a person suffering from mental illness.

In addition, she is an incest survivor and rape survivor.

“When you are abused by a person who should represent safety and security, and no one comes to rescue you, your entire world shifts,” Micki explains. “All the foundational undergirding and security a healthy child experiences is taken away. The world becomes terribly unsafe, with no one to trust or run to. And even though it is the abuser who is wrong, it is the child who feels dirty and bad.”

Those dreadful circumstances, however, were not the only tragedies to enter Micki’s life. She endured the trauma of teenage pregnancy and a doomed marriage as well.

“My first husband was a good and honorable man, but he was so wounded by his own childhood, he could not express love. For five years I was married to a man to whom I would say, ‘I love you’, and from whom would come silence. A man I hugged who couldn’t hug back. A man who regularly moved away from my touch.

“He never abused me, never fought with me, always provided for me, but his rejection was like a cancer, slowly eating away at my self-esteem. At that time I didn’t know he’d been wounded. I only knew he couldn’t stand to touch me, and the conclusion I drew was he must have discovered the truth—that I was dirty, unlovable and ugly.”

Micki recognized the damage in her life from living with an alcoholic, so she began attending Al-Anon, the sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Through that program, Micki was drawn to people with this light inside them—people who seemed happy despite their desperate circumstances—people who appeared to have a handle on that “Higher Power” the Al-Anon leaders taught about.

Of course, those people who radiated that Light were Christians, and in due time one of them led her to Jesus. She didn’t know it, but that was Micki’s first step toward wholeness.

Not long after she became a Christian, someone asked her, “Do you know how special you are to God?” She remembers sobbing because, how could ANYONE, much less GOD, think she was special?

Micki was so blinded by her past she could not fully grasp God’s personal love. But gently and tenderly over a number of years, he led her toward emotional and spiritual healing, that moment in time when she could finally accept God’s warm and gracious love.

Micki participated in her healing through enthusiastic Bible study. Where once she found scripture rather meaningless, the new Micki reveled in the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement she found within its pages.

Prayer became a lifeline as she navigated the rough waters of challenging family relationships and a stressful job.

Later, ministries at church became a source of great fulfillment. God has put her on a healing team and the planning team for women’s retreats, given her Bible study groups to lead and young women to mentor, as well as put her at the podium occasionally to speak. She has impacted hundreds of lives throughout the three decades since she said “yes” to Jesus.

As he so often does, God took the great brokenness of Micki’s life and created beautiful wholeness.

Then God took her wholeness, broke it open and poured it out, to multiply the beauty in others.

It’s what our God loves to do.

 

Micki and me, April 2018

 

 

 

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The time:  1892

The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

 

Lucas_gusher

 

I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

 

 

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

 

 

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  We must keep watching and listening!

 

 

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly. One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

 

 

(Revised and reblogged from February 13, 2014.)

 

Photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; Art4TheGlryOfGod on http://www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com;  http://www.pinterest.com.au.)

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

What-Seems-To-Us-As-Bitter-Trials-Are-Often-Blessings-In-Disguise

 

Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

Philippians4_13

 

  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

quote-no-pressure-no-diamonds-thomas-carlyle-31833

(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

Green-Bean-Sprouts1

 

Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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1-samuel-12-24-consider-the-lord-landscape_1956134444

 

Consider what great things [God] has done for you,”

(from the farewell address of Samuel the prophet,

to the people of Israel–1 Samuel 12:24b, italics added).

 

I wonder if Samuel paused after those words, to give the Israelites a moment of reflection.  God had blessed them in numerous ways by:

  • Miraculously bringing them out of slavery in Egypt.
  • Sustaining them during their wilderness journey to Canaan.
  • Providing laws and commands for them to assure an orderly, pleasant, and productive life.
  • Giving them victory over their enemies.
  • Sending prophets and judges to guide and encourage (vs. 6-15).

 

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And what might have been the Israelites’ response as they remembered those blessings?

Were they whispering prayers of praise, because God had cared for them so attentively?

Did they resolve to reverence him more intentionally and serve him more faithfully, as Samuel suggested (12:24a)?

 

132658d0c1661c211eb040ed8e8a8308

 

Surely both responses were called for.

I also wonder if we might similarly be impacted by considering daily the great things God has done for us.

My own pondering made me realize my life includes parallels to those of the Israelites (although in less striking ways). Perhaps you, too, have had similar experiences.

God has:

  • Brought me out of difficult situations. (One small example: When a teaching job opened up nearby, I no longer had to endure  a stressful 50-minute commute.)
  • Sustained me with a heightened sense of his presence through the wilderness of hurt and emotional pain.
  • Provided his Word of wisdom for an orderly, pleasant, and productive life. (Not that I’ve always taken advantage of that wisdom.)
  • Given me the final victory over Satan, through his Son, Jesus. One day I will enjoy life in heaven with my Savior.
  • Sent spiritual teachers, pastors, and mentors to guide and encourage me.

 

A group of young women bow their heads and pray with bibles.

 

But perhaps you feel excluded from God’s blessings. Any consideration of your circumstances makes you shake your head in disillusionment. After all, the evidence seems clear. While others are enjoying marriage and family, a satisfying career, good health and/or _______________ (fill in the blank), you’re not.

Perhaps another point of view would provide alternative evidence. Consider your circumstances and the blessings they do provide.

For example:

 

worldteach-guyana-500

 

  • Not married? You benefit from greater freedom in your life.
  • No children? You can invest fresh energy and enthusiasm into children-not-your-own, providing the parents a much-needed break.
  • Struggling in a wilderness of emotional upset right now? Draw near to God and he will draw near to you in new, profound ways. Look for him in creation and in his Word. Listen for him in a song or in the encouragement of a mature friend. Be watchful, because he reveals himself in highly creative ways.
  • Is Jesus a part of your everyday life? Then you have a constant Friend who loves you, cares for you, withholds no good thing, and will never leave you.
  • Are there mentors and models in your life, showing you the way to a God-enhanced life? How splendid not to be struggling alone.

The bottom-line consideration is this:

Do I want to wear a shroud of despair or a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3)?

 

26054-field-girl-woman-armsout-praise.1200w.tn

 

Do I want to live selfishly or in grateful obedience to the One who has bestowed so much?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Amazing God, words fail to express my gratitude as I consider your countless blessings.  Nor can words sufficiently extol your grace that motivates such loving benevolence.  I long to be continually grateful and consistently obedient, as a love-gift back to you.  May thankfulness energize my obedience! 

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaper.knowing-jesus.com; http://www.lds.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.fullsupply.org; http://www.americakeswick.org; http://www.transitionsabroad.com; http://www.crosswalk.com.)

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The story of Cinderella always was my favorite fairy tale. The rags-to-riches, wrong-to-right, happily-ever-after story never grew old.

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And that ball gown! How the illustrators of the various editions must have enjoyed creating the glory and splendor of that dress!

Rarely, if ever, are we common damsels provided opportunity to wear such grand finery. And I doubt many guys out there in the blogosphere have donned gold-braided jackets spangled with brightly colored medals. Such ostentation is almost exclusively reserved for royalty.

Ah! But whether we’re CEOs of the home front (stay-at-home parents) or CEOs of corporations, plumbers or painters, teachers or taxi drivers, we are priests of the Lord King of the universe.   And that designation makes us a royal priesthood:

 

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(“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praises of him

who called you out of darkness

into his wonderful light.”

–1 Peter 2:9)

Because we are his royal priesthood, God has provided a glorious new wardrobe for each of us, including:

  • Rich garments of salvation, replacing the sin-stained rags of our self-centeredness (1).
  • A robe of righteousness, radiant with the perfections of Jesus (2).
  • A belt of truth, studded with gems from God’s Word that inspire, instruct, encourage, and comfort (3).
  • Garments of praise, because he continually manifests his glorious attributes and showers us with blessings (4).
  • Ornaments of strength and joy (5).
  • A crown of beauty, as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and turn our thoughts to the positive (6).
  • Beautiful shoes of peace, equipping us to tread gently and share the peace of Jesus with others (7).

Note: None of this is earned, like the medals on Prince Charming’s uniform. Every radiant item has been magnanimously bestowed by our King.

Why would that be, we wonder. Is his purpose simply to display his generosity?

Surely that’s part of the answer. But the last half of 1 Peter 2:9 (above) reveals more: Now that we’re dressed in his garments of radiant splendor, we are commissioned to proclaim his excellency everywhere we go.

 

Two-women-talking-in-a-cafe-300x199

 

Sometimes we proclaim with words (Mark 16:15), as simple as “God is so good,” while sharing a story with a coworker.

Sometimes we proclaim with loving action (John 13:34-35), serving as a channel of blessing between God and others. That extra-generous tip to a waitress, for example, may pay eternal dividends  especially if she saw us praying before we ate, and we engaged her in friendly, upbeat conversation (about her).

Sometimes we proclaim with our attitudes—simply reflecting the radiance of Jesus’ peace and joy on our faces (2 Corinthians 3:18)—especially in difficult circumstances. Someone may very well ask, “I don’t know how you do it,” giving you opportunity to proclaim God’s excellencies and the blessings of living in his wonderful light—just as that verse in First Peter suggests.

 

sun-beams-through-forest-300x199

 

If our new wardrobe is on full display, people will notice.

 

“Let us put on the vestments of holiness

and minister before the Lord all day long.”

–Charles Spurgeon

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (2), http://www.icould.com; http://www.kingdomcalling.com.)

___________________________________________________________________

  1. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 61:10
  2. Isaiah 61:10
  3. Ephesians 6:14; 2 Timothy 3:16
  4. Isaiah 61:3
  5. Isaiah 49:18
  6. Isaiah 61:3; Romans 8:5; Philippians 4:8
  7. Isaiah 52:7; Ephesians 6:15; John 14:27

 

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White_Oak-15_acorns

 

Elena, almost eighteen months old, loves to collect acorns. A grand oak tree, on the church property across the street from her home, provides perfect hunting grounds. She trundles along the edge of the sidewalk, her eyes on the grassy edge. Now and then she bends over, chooses a prime specimen, and clutches it tightly to her chest.

Yesterday was a banner day for acorns. Way too many shiny nuts with perfect caps. Her little hands couldn’t carry them all. I was given the honor of transporting a few of her treasures home. And this opportunity became the starting point for a train of thoughts.

You’ve no doubt noticed this yourself:  Acorns do not appear capable of producing oak trees.  They’re too small and too hard.  How can the seeds inside even escape those tough shells?   Yet given the right soil, the right climate, and plenty of time, the miracle of growth occurs.  White oak trees can reach the height of 150 feet, growing twelve to fourteen inches per year.  Acorns do not appear until the twentieth year.  In the end, the majestic giant provides hundreds of benefits (www.arborday.org and http://www.ehow.com).

 

white_oak_5036-320

 

Now a few tall plants, like bamboo, grow very quickly. But not tall, strong trees.  I wonder why?

We humans are also slow-growing–in body and spirit. And I wonder about that, too.  Why didn’t God make us more like bamboo, able to reach maturity quickly? Instead, we progress through a protracted, sometimes painful, learning process to become “mature, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Perhaps God willed our development to happen slowly so we have many opportunities to follow his chosen path and fulfill the potential he’s especially prepared for each of us. A false step in the wrong direction can be corrected, just as a crooked tree can be straightened if attended to promptly.

 

 HardMaple1

 

Yes, there are those who choose not to mature, not to participate with God.

But we know that God is good, that what he does is good. I want him to train and teach me (Psalm 119:68). My guess is you feel the same.

Day by day, choice by choice, we can progress along the spectrum from self-centered to selfless, from impatient to patient, from lesser to greater.  But we have to realize: it happens slowly over time.

Here’s another possibility, even better than just accepting slow progress.  Let’s embrace it.

You see, our culture tends to look at time as a thief who steals away our youth, worth, mental acuity, and energy.

But what if we view time as a gift–a gift of countless opportunities provided day by day, choice by choice–to grow into the mature and gracious people God ordained?  Instead of regretting the passage of time we can celebrate:

  • Our progress to become rooted and built up in Jesus, strengthened in our faith (Colossians 2:6).
  • The growing ability to bear fruit (the fruit of the Spirit, exemplary living, glorifying God to others)–even into old age (Psalm 92:14).
  • Becoming “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Oh, I like that last verse especially, don’t you?

And it can happen through  slow and steady perseverance, with God as our guide.

 

(Photo credits:  www.bio.brandeis.edu; http://www.treetopics.com; http://www.awesometools.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

The time:  1892

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

Lucas_gusher

I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  Often it’s through Bible reading and other Christian material.  We must keep reading!  Sometimes it’s in a sermon or a song.  We must keep listening!

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly.  One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

(Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org.)

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