What More?

QuestionsDavid, talk to me…

O God, you are my God; early will I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you;
In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Ah, you see! I knew you had lived in Habakkuk’s Vineyard!

In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. That’s it. That’s where I live, too. How did you do it David? How did you not only survive… but thrive?

I confess, I appear to be merely surviving. (It’s not enough.) Not for me. I want to thrive. I want abundant life. (It’s what I was promised.) I’m struggling right now to reconcile “abundant” and “barren”. Those two words appear to me to be at the opposite ends of possibility.

I am so full of angry and unanswered questions.

David… how does God expect me to thrive in a place with no water?

(Life makes no sense to me right now.)

You did it. Tell me, how? Saying life is hard is hardly a revelation. I’m weary of empty words. Sermons and sermonettes that are always promising – and never quite delivering…

(Is it me?)
I can’t figure out how I got here.
I obeyed, I trusted, I believed.

What more should I have done?

(Come on David… talk.)

You obeyed, you trusted, you believed, and still, you ended up in the middle of the wilderness with no water. How did you do it? Whisper the answer in my ear.

I can’t wait to hear… talk to me.

(… seek.)

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

LORD, I am in a dry storm. So many unanswered questions whirling around in my mind. Lots of thunder and lightning in me… but no water. I’m coming to You today for some of that “living water” that You promised in Your word. Please Father… I’m so dry and thirsty. You promised that if I would seek You – I would find You.

Who’s At Fault?

EmilysQuotes_Com-freedom-unknown-experience-weight-release_editedJoseph said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Oh, so you’re saying the one who put me here is not “the one” I have been blaming.

Hmmn. I have to think about that a minute.

What else?

You’re also remembering that God is:

Omniscient—knows all.
Omnipresent—sees all.
Omnipotent—has all power.

Wow, so captivity is part of God’s plan for good in my life?

(Hmmn, still thinking.)

So you’re saying, that no matter how people mean to do me harm, God will still use all of it for good. Good for me, and good for others.

Okay, so there are some keys to bringing dead things back to life:

⦁ I could stop blaming my captors and try forgiving them?
⦁ I could choose to see God as “all-powerful” not my circumstances?
⦁ I could acknowledge my pain, but surrender it to God’s plan, rather than bury it under all my bitterness.

(That could work!)

Thanks Joseph.

I feel better already.

These “keys” can unlock my peace, joy, and hope, if I’ll just use them?

What’s that you say?

Each day and every day?

Hmmn, ok.

(Is this what they call tough love?)

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:19-20 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, often my focus is on what the “others” in my life are doing/not doing; done/haven’t done. It’s so much easier to focus on someone else, instead of putting my focus where it needs to be – on You. Help me look past the injustices in my life. (Even the ones that were meant to destroy me.) Help me to focus instead on You, my Omnipotent Father, who can take every injustice (no matter how dark) and transform it into something that fits into Your Sovereign plan.

Remind me again… NOTHING is too hard for you!

Finding Solid Footing While Walking Through Drudgery

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Ever pondered how Joseph found favor in his captivity? (I have.) In fact, I have wondered many days, “How did he do it? How did he face the daily drudgery of Habakkuk’s Vineyard?” He seems to have found a secret to surviving and thriving, and I wanted to find it, too.

Captivity is tough.

Let’s face it, there are days you look around at things, people, and circumstances, and you feel the hopelessness begin to fold in around you.

Jeremiah said, “My soul still remembers and sinks within me.”

Remembers what?

“The wormwood and the gall…” (verse 19)

Just writing this my heart heaves another heavy sigh.

Yes, captivity is tough. And if I focus on the wormwood and the gall of my life, I’m going to sink into the quicksand of hopelessness.

So how did he do it?

I really need the secret because I want to be more than a survivor in my captivity—I want to be a thriver.

Is there such a word?

Well, there is now, and you get my point. I want to know how to thrive in a place where everything has died, dreams, possibilities, promises.

How am I supposed to thrive in a place like this?

Joseph did.

Cough it up Joseph. What’s the secret? Where are the keys to unlock the chains on my hope?

Talk to me.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

My soul still remembers and sinks within me. Lamentations 3:20 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, You gave us Your word so that when we are in trouble we have a place to run to for immediate help. The people in the bible were real people. People with problems just like mine! Open my eyes LORD. Help me to see how real people (even long ago) found real solutions for their own captivity. I don’t just need the comfort LORD, I need the revelation that only Your Spirit can bring me. When You open my eyes, open my mind as well. I need some hope!

The Keys

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To every broken heart He calls
The young, the old, the great, the small
If you will hear… just listen please
He sees your heartaches; they are the keys

~~~
To all He wants to do for you
Bring joy and peace; your hopes renew
He wants to take your pain and loss
And fashion it into a cross

~~~
You see, dear one, your open doors
Are in the hurt and pain, so sore
To glorify and honor Him
Your feet must go where light be dim

~~~
For in our darkness, grief, and tears
We learn to trust and hold Him dear
So come now… in the end you’ll know
‘Twas all His plan… His LOVE to show!

Designer Dungeons

027aa9fa73140da2048987f35b3e8b8cJeremiah is a great friend of mine. We have spent many days together talking about God and our dungeon experiences.

He comforts me. He sent me notes of encouragement from so many centuries before, yet his frustrations, are as current as yesterday’s battles.

Yes, he is a great friend of mine.

While he pours out his frustrations in Lamentations chapter three, I listen, and I nod “yes” in all the appropriate places.

A good friend does that.

His dungeon is quite different from mine. His—designed for him—mine designed for me.  And the God who sees and hears, and knows everything, knows just what we need to get us from anger and frustration, to hope and trust. Jeremiah’s is tailor-made for him. Mine is tailor-made for me.

Your dungeon? Yes, it is tailor-made for you and of God’s knowing and choosing.

I know, you think yours is the worst. Jeremiah thought his was. I think mine is. But no, each one, each captivity is designed specifically for the one it encloses; designed to bring us to the end of ourselves and face-to-face with God.

It is love that closes us in.

Oh, I know. I didn’t think so at first. Jeremiah didn’t either, but after the caterpillar begins to adjust:

⦁ to the tight space
⦁ to the dark place

After he has:

⦁ made his case
⦁ and surrendered his race

He searches:

⦁ for God’s face
⦁ and finds God’s grace

And he discovers his custom cocoon? His designer dungeon? Though snug in spots, fits him like a glove.

And remember little caterpillar. Though tight and dark your cocoon may be—it is the place where wings are formed!

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.                Lamentations 3:7 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, when life seems to close in around us; when the darkness of despair threatens to suffocate all that desires Your will above all else, then Father, then come to our aid! Remind us in the very tight places, that You love us with an everlasting love, and nothing can shake that. Remind us that this is the very place Your wisdom has chosen for us; our cocoon to transform us; to form wings of destiny for Your plan and purpose.
Oh Abba… help us, when we forget.

The Iron

re-bar

It is easy in captivity to focus on the “iron bars” that fence me in or the “iron chains” that bind me—my adverse adversaries.

They are there each day to mock my heart’s longing for freedom.
Adverse circumstances.
Adversities.
Adversaries.
We all have them.
Some to a much greater degree; some to a lesser.

But I believe our adversities are tailor-made for us by a God who sees us, who hears us, who knows us, intimately.

I am His creation after all. My life is naked and bare before Him. Certainly my adversity cannot escape His notice?

So why has this famine come and parked itself at my door?
Why is it that I still live in Habakkuk’s Vineyard after so many years?
Is my sin worse than someone else’s?
Why me?

Ever wondered?
(Of course you have.)
Me, too.

God told me this was coming… did He tell you?
He gave me two scriptures to act as my support through some of the first very dark days.

Isaiah 43:2, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.

1 Peter 5:10, But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.
To me they said, “The fire and flood are coming, but one day, I will make an end. And you will be stronger than you have ever been before.

You know what? I am.
That is “the iron” I focus on now. Not my adversity.

Oh, it’s still there, but you know what it has brought?
Iron to my faith.
(Mine used to wobble a bit)
Adversity has taught me nothing can separate me from the love of God. There is iron in my backbone. (I once had so many fears.)
Nothing like facing your worst fear to conquer it!

Yes, the iron is there.

I am much stronger now, inside.
No one is more amazed than I am… and I am thankful… very thankful.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.          Isaiah 40:29 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, there was a time I didn’t believe I would ever see any good in all the bad that has happened, but today I see, a little. Enough for my heart to whisper a tiny, “thank you.” It may be with eyes that are flooded with tears… but it’s a start.

A God Past Finding Out

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Why would God deliberately send a famine? To punish the guilty? But, what about the innocent? Is that a God of Justice or a God past finding out?

I remember when the famine began in my life—the captivity.

In one event, things were put into motion that turned my life from green and fertile into a wasteland. Like dominos falling, I saw my nice, neat, orderly life, dissolve into chaos.

Is that what happened to Joseph? David? Job? Jonah?

Why does God step into our sweet order and so rearrange us that the result is famine, captivity, confusion, and sorrow?

Dear Reader, were you as stunned as I was when the chaos descended?

Job was.

Dear sweet Job. Minding his own business. Living a life of holiness and obedience and, suddenly.

Yes, that’s it. Suddenly your nice sweet orderly world slips off its axis, and suddenly everything you thought you knew about God, about others, about yourself—all of it is put through the fire!

Did you try to understand it?

I did. Job did. But we, Job and I, were about to be introduced to a God “past finding out.” (Rom. 11:33)

Have you met Him?

If you’re reading this chances are you have.

And, I imagine you’ve made some discoveries about Him, haven’t you? Like, “… My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” (Isa. 55:8)

I have a much different view of those words today.

Past finding out? Yes. Unsearchable? Yes! A God of Justice?Yes, but on His terms, not ours. His plan. His purpose. His servant. His way.

Even in famine, injustice, and captivity?

Yes, even that.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

… He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. He sent a man before them – Joseph – who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters* He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”

Psalm 105:16-19 NKJV

* a chain or shackle for the ankles or feet

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father, this is some of the hardest stuff you give us. Famine. Our mind may look for Your plan, and try to see the good in all the bad stuff that happens… but our hearts? Oh God, how our heart’s reel under some of the things you hand us! It has taken me a long time to learn this very difficult discipline of singing: songs in the night. I confess LORD, for so long… there was no song in me… only stunned, dumb, silence… wincing and stumbling through the dark. Holy Spirit, come. Comfort every hurting heart reading these words today. Truly, You are the only One who has the balm to heal our brokenness. Heal us LORD. Help us. We lift our tear-full eyes to You ~ for You are our only hope.

Doin’ The Dailies While Waiting For Deliverance

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Is there anything harder than waiting for deliverance? My answer is “No!” I struggle so to do my “dailies” in captivity. To get up each day and face another day of restriction and handicap, and yet do what must be done anyway, and do it with a good attitude!

This tests my allegiance to Jesus like nothing else I know.

When all my heart longs for freedom, and choices, and ability to face my narrow sphere (yet one more day) and do it with grace and gentleness, and the compassion of Christ?

I don’t know about you, but there are days that my flesh screams in me; days I want to rebel. These are the days I see what a failure I am—what a rebel!

Habakkuk says, “I will stand my watch…”

Yes. My watch. The one God has given me. Narrow certainly. Unpleasant probably. But the freedom of how I shall do my watch? That is mine. God gives it to me each day and I choose to lay down my life, or take it back.

Simple when you think about it.

I can yeild to this plan I don’t like, and can’t understand, or I can rebel, and churn, and resist.

So there is freedom in captivity. Freedom to yield. Freedom to choose. No captivity can take those choices from me! I can stand my watch. I can accept God’s grace. I can do my dailies knowing the choices are mine and mine alone.

Yes, LORD, I will stand my watch.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.  Habakkuk 2:1 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Father please, help me today to accept where I am; to say “Yes!” to where Your sovereign hand has placed me. Help me to do everything I must do this day with peace in my heart, courage in my steps, and above all, Your love touching each act of obedience to Your will. LORD, you see how I struggle to hope and believe… help me today to face (one more time) what must be done. I confess my failures to You. Correct me for my good, and I will trust that You will step into my weakness with Your almighty strength and power. I watch for You alone.

Why This Waste?

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That was my question. “Why this waste?”

I looked into my father’s face with the tears flooding down mine.

He wanted to give me an answer. (He didn’t have one.) At least not an easy one. Instead he tenderly responded, “…you are not the same person you were before all this began.”

(At the time that did little to assuage my anger and frustration.)

Why does God choose the wilderness for us?

My short answer: I don’t know.

But my bible says it’s a common classroom for the LORD.

It also says His deserts have graduated some distinguished bible heros.  Mega-men such as:  Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, the apostles Paul and John. Not to mention the Lord Jesus Himself who went straight into the wilderness after being baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

All of the above did a tenure in Desert-U.

I know The Church is fond of comparing “the wilderness” to our unredeemed and sinful state, but if that is so, then the above is even more unfathomable isn’t it?

Nope. Sorry. I think there’s just got to be more to it.

Personally I believe “the wilderness” affords God a place of exclusive one-on-one time with us; face to face and heart to heart. No distractions. Little interruption. And above all, a pure and haunting desperation to hear from Him.

There’s nothing quite like the desert to boil life down to the pure essentials!

  • Sand and heat.
  • Water and food.
  • Shelter and protection.
  • Life at its purest and most basic.

It seems a “no-brainer” to me.

The basics (and not much else) is a great and very effective attention-getter! On me, it works every single time.

It seems, in spite of myself—I learn.

Nowadays, The LORD may not choose a literal desert for us, but by own experience I can attest to the truth that God has no diffiuclty in clearing the chess board of my life, removing all distractions, and bringing me up-close and personal with the King Himself.

I find when He desires to take me into an intense time of teaching, or graphic instruction, the desert experience seems to be His MO.

God certainly does know how to turn up the heat.

When you are going through a time of great suffering (for whatever the reason) you do feel like your life has been turned into a hot and howling wasteland. A difficult “wilderness” might be my health, my finances, my relationships, or just my own heart’s lonely journey, but when God wants to speak to me, mono-a-mono, I find He prefers a desert of some kind, ’cause not all necessary skills can be learned via sweet harp music on “flowery beds of ease,” to quote Isaac Watts.

Unpopular, I know, but some things can only be learned via sorrow and suffering.

I say all of this for one reason: to encourage you.

I know. I can almost hear your, “Thanks a lot!” but here’s what I want you to believe.

The wilderness is not necessarily a punitive place of punishment. Lots of times it feels like it is. (Yeah, I know.) But perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it is for something good.

If you are going through a wilderness time know this for certain…

You are in exalted company number one; and two God is planning on using you and your experience or He wouldn’t be taking such great pains with you! You are a diamond in the rough and God is polishing His priceless gemstone… YOU.

(So be encouraged.)

The word of God says, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”  [Isa. 62:3]

Have you ever seen a diamond in the rough? Not much to look at. Just an old brown rock. Okay, so right now you may feel like a throwaway. Not much to look at, either. All of your life looks to you like you are drowning in an ocean of sand, but trust me, that is miles from the real truth! God is up to something with you. Something good.

Don’t give in. Don’t despair. And don’t give up.

God has a plan.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following resources have really helped a lot while walking through my own wilderness journeys:

School of Suffering

“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement. To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life–to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’–this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point. Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. –Dr. Charles Parkhurst (emphasis mine)

***

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him.

We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.

***

“Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.”

***

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

(from Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman, Zondervan)

P. S.  For more help, I also encourage you to read Jamie Buckingham’s book: A Way Through The Wilderness

A Bruised Reed and A Broken Heart

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I have become good friends with my fellow captives from the bible.

Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Jonah, and of course, Job.

I can relate to their frustration, their questions, and their bruised hearts. I, too, have days where I bruise my heart against the stone walls of my captivity; the squandering of my life. It is hard not to question a God of Justice when I look at my chains.

My heart has learned to “hold it’s peace” (most days) as I review my life in this vineyard barren of fruit and dreams, but there are those days (you know the ones) when my heart wails, and my mind rails.

When the injustice of it all overwhelms my hold on a quiet patience.

My mind begins to search for an answer to all this waste… and my heart?

It bruises itself against the stones and iron bars longing for freedom and fulfillment. The dam of passions breaks, and out pours my distress, bewilderment, and yes, my anger with men and God. The only thing that keeps my faith alive on days like this is my belief in a God who cannot lie.

I look to a Heavenly Abba and take refuge in:

A bruised reed He will not break…

My tiny flame of faith finds fresh fuel in:

And smoking flax He will not quench…

And my bruised heart finds its necessary hope in the words:

He will bring forth justice for truth.

There is rest for the restless here; hope for the heartaches, and finally… peace.

The DREAM~MAKER’S Promise:

A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.  Isaiah 42:3 NKJV

A Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Abba (Papa) you see all my internal struggles. All my outward expressions of frustration; the battles I fight within and without. Please help me today to internalize the peace of Your promise while externalizing the expressions of Your love and light to the ones in my life who need me. Help me… not to look at the walls that surround me, but rather to look up, and focus on Your love and faithful promises, that will see me through another day of frustration in this vineyard.

© 2017 Martha (Molly) Gibbons blog text. All rights reserved.