Category Archives: A CLOSER WALK

just a closer walk No one knows who wrote this hymn or these words, but may these posts born in my own walk through The Valley of Baca, bring you into your own closer walk with Christ.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

A Closer Walk: Hold On To Hope In The Dark

It’s hard to hold on to hope, when you’re waiting in the dark, doing daily combat with oppressing fears.

Sometimes, you listen to sermons, you read the Bible, you fight “the dark” for all you’re worth—clutching for truth as if your life depends upon it—because it does.

I have those days when I have a strong grip on hope. My feet are firmly planted. I’m on course.

Led to a wildernessI also have days, when it seems like the slightest breeze will send my ship off the edge of the world the way the ancient mariners once believed; days when I am weary in soul and tired of waiting for things to change.

Unrelenting trouble can be so exhausting.

What do you do when you’re just, too tired, to hold on anymore?

Nothing.

(Uh-huh, you heard right.)

You do nothing at all—because those are the days when the only thing you can do—is let His love wrap around you and hold on to you.

Listen, no matter how deep the hole you or I might find ourselves in, no matter how black our night looks—His mercy will be there.

His mercy is sometimes tough, sometimes tender, but always, always there.

New every morningNew, in the middle of the night.

New, in the morning.

New, when I feel close to Him.

New, when I don’t.

No matter how dim hope’s candle burns…

He’s quietly there fanning it back into a flame.

I’ve learned a lot about hope walking through my dark valleys, and Jesus has taught me a lot, about the kind of encouragement that brings life. But mostly, He’s taught me that His love never, ever, lets go… no matter how long the darkness in my circumstances lasts.

Because of that?

I have learned to let go of my “why’s” letting Him plant the seeds for new hope in all of my soul’s dry and barren places.

Then, I can hold on to His hope when life gets HARD…

Hold On To HopeWhile He takes me in His arms… and we dance.

It wasn’t easy learning to accept His invitation to surrender, “Why?”

(That cry of pain put up a fierce fight in me!)

But, may I share with you?

There’s so much relief in the surrendering.

It’s peaceful in my soul now that all those “Why’s?” have had their say… and gone their way…

(And this dancing in the Arms of Grace has made me strangely… hopeful.)

Perhaps I am finally at long last—learning to trust Him with everything. Not just the easy stuff, but all the gut-wrenching questions, He only answers with His own eloquent silence.

It is curious how His silence stills all my questions… while speaking VOLUMES to my soul.

It is odd and peculiar, how I am learning about this powerful love of His, by walking through dark valleys of pain and loss…

Stranger still, the way He keeps whispering, “For such a time as this…”

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VALLEY OF TROUBLES

When My hand lifts you up many will criticize and condemn.

Many will say, “Who is this?”

(Never mind.)

As I lift you up and put you firmly in your place, I want you to remember, that a prophet is never accepted in his own land.

You're becoming a door of hope!Many will say you don’t deserve My favor. Many will accuse you of things you have not done.

(Never mind.)

It is part of the cost.

To be chosen for such honor will cost you dearly.

This is why you have gone through this Valley of Troubles.

All the lies, and false accusations; all the scorn and slander; it is only a fortaste of what is yet to be endured.

You have wanted many times to ask Me, “Why?”

(You have let the question die in your throat.)

Well, My child, this is why… training, toughening, and tenderizing.

(To be given so much blessing requires very refined graces to carry.)

Your schooling will soon be complete; lessons soon over.

Preparation for all that is ahead is essential for your balance.

And we dance...

You will be grateful in days to come.

You will thank Me over and over for bringing you through this valley.

As I take your life, and transform it from an agony to an ecstasy, and others gather to exclaim, “Who is this?”

You and I will look each other full in the face, smile, and say, “…a door of hope!”

a closer walk“…He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever.”

1 Peter 5:101 Peter 5:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

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A Closer Walk: Renunciation and Following Jesus

I have thought on the word “discipleship” a great deal in recent years.

If I had to describe, in one word, this journey of mine it has all come down to the word: RENUNCIATION.

The dictionary gives this simple definition of renunciation: abnegation, denial, forsaking, giving up, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-renunciation.

Tough words. Sometimes painful. Always challenging.

I smile when someone refers to a Christian as “wimpy.” (Truly, they haven’t got a clue!) Of all things required to pull-off a set of words like the above? Wimpy is certainly not one of them.

obedienceFollowing Jesus is definitely not for wimps!

Discipleship is the act of daily “laying your life down,” sometimes literally, as we have seen in our news headlines, but always, always, in absolute fidelity.

And here is where the struggle comes in—at least for me.

Perhaps there are those who joyfully follow wherever Christ points without the slightest questioning. For me—there has always been the struggle—especially when it is something that seems unfair, unjust, or illogical.

And, I suspect all the talk about the many folks going out the back doors of our churches confirms, I am not alone.

For a dedicated disciple of Jesus, life will come down to obedience—always.

American ChristianityFollowing Christ is choosing to obey Him in ALL THINGS.

We don’t pick or choose.

We don’t get a vote.

We are required to sacrifice anything and everything—if He wills it. We renounce our rights to ourselves, and renunciation, is where many walk away believing the price is just too high.

Discipleship means tough choices and giving up our right to any refusal (perhaps this is the toughest choice of all,) but that is why Jesus said to us, “Count the cost.”

Discipleship is very costly at times.

I imagine Non-Christians wonder, “Why would anyone choose this?”

For myself, I had to think hard to know how to answer that question:

I suppose, first, it is the JOY of learning that you are thoroughly LOVEDjust as you are.

All the broken, unworthy stuff, forgiven because He wants us; just as He finds us; in spite of all our mess.

Then, there is the PEACE He gives.

A peace that will overcome and rule any situation. (How could you possibly put a price on that?) He is the Prince of Peace, and when He comes to dwell in a heart He brings His peace with Him.

There is escaping hell and it’s judgement. (No explanation necessary here.)

There is His STRENGTH and the HOPE He gives.

There are all the PROMISES that He absolutely makes good on, either now or in the life to come, because He is completely TRUSTWORTHY.

He never lies. Never betrays. Never abandons.

daily renunciationHe is a King.

This world belongs to Him.

Make no mistake about it, He will never ask your permission.

He is a ruler.

He is: The Ruler.

(Something this world will soon discover!)

He will not spare for our crying, yet He will always acknowledge our suffering, for no one is more compassionate, or kind.

No one is more forgiving. But—He is laser-focused and unrelenting in His goals for our lives!

Does following Christ make you a wimp?

My answer—try it—see for yourself.

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ONLY WE TWO

We are going somewhere, you and I!

This, all of this, will be transformed into glory.

Remember? I give grace and glory.

(This we have talked about many times.)

Ah, but the cost we rarely speak of.

So today, let’s speak of it.

This chafing you feel? This constant, dragging, irritation? This is from Me. The things you think you cannot bear? The things that try your nerves, and scrape, and grate, on your soul? From Me—all from Me.

(How long?)

Just a little more.

Just until your nerves don’t grate and your heart can bear.

(Oh, that look!)

“Never.” you say?

(Oh, I don’t know about that!)

My child, I don’t smile at your discomfort. I smile because I see what you are becoming. I see the seeds of glory beginning to sprout.

(Ha, I knew it!)

Soon, you will be a luscious garden of graces, filled with the fruits of My Spirit. All this grating, chafing, misery, will dwarf in comparison.

As you begin to fulfill your destiny?

Oh, the healing that will flow from those lips; from your heart. Your life will burst into bloom and blossom and the world will marvel at what you have become.

Only we two will know what it has cost you—what you laid down and sacrificed to bear this fruit for others.

Only we two.

a closer walk“After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory.”

1 Peter 5:101 Peter 5:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

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A Closer Walk: Standing Barefoot With My Failures At The Cross

Some of us in the church are so quick to spread the sins and failures of others, aren’t we? We love to talk, especially about the latest dudes who blew it. It might be the kid who was just arrested for dealing drugs. The next door neighbor’s unmarried daughter, who we just discovered is pregnant. The abortionist down the street. (No comment necessary here.) Or, the scandalous political figure, (or pastor) who was just exposed in a headline-making sexual scandal.

If it’s juicy… and especially sinful… we’re talking.

Gossip Wounds

There are sins we positively abhor. Sins we are scandalized by. Sins we raise our eyebrows and voices against, waving our placards in self-righteous protest… oh yes. We shout ourselves hoarse to the world and whisper among ourselves, “Have you heard about…?”

(Oh, yeah, we do.)

Scandalized by other’s sins, yet so justisfied… in our own?

“Who… me?” we ask, all doe-eyed innocence.

One sad fact I have discovered in my thirty-some-years as a returned prodigal, is that we “The Redeemed,” are enormously tolerant of our own acceptable-sins.”

I refer, in this case, to the sin of slander and gossip.

In churches I have attended since my return from “the far country,” I have discovered no sin is quite so rampant, indeed, quite so ENJOYED, as the sin of spreading salacious slander or malicious gossip.

(It does seem as if we enjoy the wounding of others.)

And, it does wound.

It wounds if it’s true… it devastates if it’s NOT!

We, with our whispering, our accusing eyes, and our very cold shoulders, sadly seem to relish pummeling another’s reputation (and heart) while we find these “slight sins” of ours—entirely understandable.

Really?

My Bible says, “…the person who keeps every law of God, but makes one little slip, is JUST AS GUILTY as the person who has broken every law there is.” James 2:10James 2:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he has become guilty of all.

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Every law?

One… little… slip?

Our slips from God’s point of view make us guilty of breaking every law in His book. All of us, at one time, stood barefoot, naked, and guilty, at the foot of Jesus Christ’s cross. We all desperately needed a Savior—and still do.

Perhaps we should all remember that the next time a “juicy little tidbit” floats our way.

Instead of spreading the dirt, perhaps we should cast our eyes on the dust at our own feet.

What do you suppose Jesus might have written there… about us?

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LET ME GIVE YOU HOPE TODAY

Oh, honey. Don’t weep so. I see, I hear… truly I do. Nothing that touches or concerns you is ever out of My care… but Sweet Heart—you must believe.

(Those tears in your eyes belie the fears in your heart.)

I have not abandoned you. It is your past; the cruel deeds of others, that accuse Me.

I AM your Father. I AM your Lover. The One who loves you with tender, perfect love.

I see your faults… so what!

You think what you do could make Me forsake you; stop loving you?

Never. Never. Never!

Rise Above the GossipCome to Me… lay the heaviness of your broken heart on Me. That is what I came for… why I chose you!

I knew you needed someone who would never fail you… never abandon you.

(You think you deserve this treatment?)

No honey. No one deserves to be forsaken, but oh how many are!

Your failures are why I chose you.

Forsaken, and abandoned, so many times, and yet… look at you!

You shall be a trophy of My Grace.

Don’t despair. You won’t wear those wretched rags on your heart forever. Soon, yes soon, I will dress you in My splendid glory!

Let Me give you hope today. Cast all that ugly care on Me. (I can take it.) Trust Me just a little longer. If you could only see yourself, as I do.

Oh… what a jewel you are becoming… fit for a King! A King of kings!

(Hey, come to think of it, that’s Me!)

a closer walk“Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” 1 Peter 5:71 Peter 5:7
English: World English Bible - WEB

7 casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you.

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A Closer Walk: Fear & The Broken-Hearted-Vessel

Nothing can send hailstorms of ice cold fear rampaging across the landscape of my soul like being asked to speak in public!

(Yep, that’s my thing.)

Think of that thing you hate doing more than anything else. Now multiply it times ten and you have an approximate idea of how I feel about public speaking.

It’s my absolute worst thing.

If the choice is speaking in public or hot coals… bring on the coals!

I once signed up for a speech class in junior college thinking I would conquer this fear.

I lasted one day—one.

All I had to do was get up in front of the class and give my name and a little information about myself. (You’d have thought it was the Gettysburg Address the way I was shaking and quaking on the inside!)

When I was on staff with a large church, I wiggled and squirmed for months, trying to get out of the first time I had to do my own program presentation in front of the whole church.

A Single Dream I can still see myself, standing in that darkened doorway stage right, waiting to walk out into those bright floodlights. I was so terrified, every single “prepared” word evaporated from my brain. I remember sending up this panicky prayer that went something like, “God, please! If you don’t put some words in my mouth right now, this is going to get real ugly, real quick!”

To this day, I have no idea what I said. All I know is that later in one of the back rooms of the church, people kept coming up to me, thanking me profusely for all my wonderful encouragement. I stood there smiling politely, repeating over and over in my heart, “Thank you God. Oh, thank you God. It was only You.”

And so now you’re probably thinking, “And God called you to be a WRITER? Really?”

Yep, isn’t it hilarious?

(I think so too, since the idea of public speaking still turns my legs to spongy gelatin, and my mouth to dust.)

Why does God do this?

It’s completely crazy, but He always has, and still does.

Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Gideon, David… just to name a few. (All men after my own heart.) People with huge flaws and failures, but all God-called and God-commissioned. Men God used mightily in spite of their brokenness and weakness—if not because of it.

This is not the way the world does it.

Nope. No way. No how.

The world goes for the strong and outwardly shiny, while God chooses broken men—the storm-driven weak ones.

He seems to specialize, in frail human beings with a myriad of flaws and failings—just like us.

A Closer Walk

THE MOST!

Storms make muscle.

(It’s as simple as that.)

I want you strong! I want you confident!

How will you become strong and confident if you never go through storms?

You know Me by now, you know, nothing, nothing, touches you by chance. (Not My child!) But, because you are My child, I decide what is best for your training and development.

This part, the suffering, is for training; deepening your character. Before you can dress another’s wounds, you must feel the knife yourself. (You know this.) You cannot touch, you cannot heal broken hearts, with a heart that’s never been broken! Too, many of My children have tried, and failed.

I AM weary of these would-be-healers.

Away, with physicians of no use!

Come, let us be reasonable.

I AM building in you, compassion, understanding and caring.

(You know I AM.)

You also know by now, that these precious qualities are only purchased at great cost.

Why are they so rare?

(You know why.)

Because suffering, especially unjust suffering, is hard to bear.

Fear & Broken HeartedBut dearest, did I not tell you that the greater your suffering, the greater your reward?

Honey, it is the broken-hearted-vessel that holds the most!

These are not just clever words to soothe your pain.

This is the stuff—the place—where true healing begins.

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“…for he will never fail you.”

1 Peter 4:191 Peter 4:19
English: World English Bible - WEB

19 Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God in doing good entrust their souls to him, as to a faithful Creator.

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A Closer Walk: Beauty In The Brokenness

We all have something, don’t we? Some fear, or flaw, or brokenness; some insecurity or sense of inferiority that we desperately want to overcome.

(Whether we admit it or not, we all do.)

Sometimes it’s a glaring and obvious failure; something that we believe everyone can see. Sometimes it’s our blind spot; something everyone, but us, can see. And sometimes it is a hidden something, we struggle with all alone, stumbling, falling, getting up again, hoping to conquer it, yet continually falling short of our goal.

We are all of us only human after all, and our weaknesses are ever present, daily reminding us of that fact.

Being weak is rarely admired in our society. We admire the strong. The brave. The people who are considered conquerors. Victorious overcomers. The winners. People who habitually “look and act” successful, and are always, always, admired by the crowd. And let’s face it, we admire them, too.

Yet every “winner” has that something… just ask them (in a transparent moment) they will confess to struggling, too.

We’re all flawed.

Doubt it for even a moment and your weakness will usually pop up somewhere, somehow, to remind you (and everyone else) that you are so much less than what the world admires the most.

the weak things

So why is it, “the strong” that the world lifts up, God looks down on?

The Bible says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” 1 Corinthians 1:271 Corinthians 1:27
English: World English Bible - WEB

27 but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong;

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Why do we tend to think of brokenness as bad?

It has taken me almost a lifetime to come around to God’s way of thinking about weakness. He seems to specialize in choosing the people we would never think of. And then, to make His point, He sends them off on some monumentally heroic or difficult assignment.

Almost without fail God picks the last guy we would pick.

(Someone like me… or you!)

God just loves showing off through the weak and helpless people of this world.

Beauty shines through

Don’t be surprised if God puts His finger right on that “something” you have, that ONE THING that makes you cringe in fear, or embarrassment, or frustration… that weakness or brokenness that you long to keep hidden, to conquer… yet always seems to be conquering you.

Yeah, don’t be surprised if THAT THING, is “the thing” that He calls you to do.

Someday when you least expect it you may hear God whisper, “Right here, in your greatest weakness and brokenness… this, is where you will serve Me and honor Me the most.”

A Closer Walk

“I CAN’T!”

My child…

I know how difficult and crazy your life has become. You are to press through these difficulties until you get to the heart of the matter.

There will I be.

I AM always with you Sweet Heart no matter what the problem. But you will not discover My presence in your outer stress.

No, My place is in the center of your storm. That is the place of peace. That is were you will find Me and My strength to go on.

You can do this thing you keep saying, “I can’t!” to.

(Press in. I’m there.)

It is your fear that immobilizes—your anger that paralyzes!

Your peace is not in the absence of conflict—it is in Me.

(You know this.)

Arise, My BelovedCome, I AM all you need.

I will bring you through.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do.

Focus on Me.

Did I not create you?

Who knows better than I? Your strengths, your gifts… even your weaknesses are from Me.

(Ah, you thought you were the source?)

I AM a God of balance.

I create the light and the dark.

Your weaknesses gift you.

Beauty in the broken

(Now that one surprised you!)

It’s true!

Listen, I’ll ask you again, “Where does true power come from?”

(… of course.)

And would you come to Me if you were nothing but “strength and gift”?

(We both know that independent streak you have.)

So… the storm and difficulty are for revealing you to you.

And as you see yourself, as you really are, you run to Me!

(I like that.)

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“…keep on doing what is right and trust yourself to the God who made you…”

1 Peter 4:191 Peter 4:19
English: World English Bible - WEB

19 Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God in doing good entrust their souls to him, as to a faithful Creator.

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A Closer Walk: In My Suffering Just Give Me Jesus

The God-given-value of suffering is not a very popular subject, is it?

I remember once, when I was the editor of the newsletter for my church’s Women’s Ministry, I submitted some samples for a series of articles on the subject of suffering.

I wanted to use much of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s writing as an encouragement to the many women, whom I personally knew, were going through tough times.

(The idea was soundly rejected.)

Our leader at the time said, “We don’t want to hear about this stuff. Write about happy things.”

I thought at the time, “Hear that Isaiah? Just like your crowd who said, ‘speak to us smooth things’ even though Isaiah knew what was coming, and was trying to warn them; prepare them.

We’re not much different.

The subject of suffering is definitely not popular. Yet, look around you. This poor world is bleeding like never before. (And think of what is to come.) Do we not have an obligation to teach all of the Bible’s truth?

To help the hurting see the deep value of their suffering?

Not for sufferingI know our hearts and minds recoil at the idea, but don’t we do people a greater disservice, and perhaps even harm, to spoon feed them only “a saccharine-gospel” with heaping amounts of nothing but the syrupy sweet stuff piled on?

When is the last time you heard a sermon series on Jeremiah or Isaiah?

(I’m not talking about the once-over-lightly-touch.)

I mean an intense study of their books. When is the last time your pastor did an in-depth-series, on the life-transforming-power of suffering—from God’s point of view?

For myself, my answer, not once in the last thirty years!

And, you know what?

I am profoundly sick of all the sugar.

Sugar and sufferingI know sugar is very popular. (Oh, yeah.) Walk down the aisle of any Christian bookstore and the titles shout out to you from shelves (usually at eye level!) about a God whose love is demonstrated by giving you health, wealth and a painless journey.

Really?

(And what about the next time the bottom drops out of your life?)

Sugar and ashes?

Not a great combo.

Definitely, not!

For a decade before my accident, I had been listening to a steady stream of sermons made of candy-apples from cotton-candy churches. It all sounded so good—until I was living out my own private nightmare.

Then, I desperately needed substance—big heaping handfuls of tough-as-leather-hopeso I could grapple with my daily realities.

Sorrow & SufferingBecause, in the ashes?

Eyes swollen shut from tears?

Guts falling out on the floor?

Confusion and pain tearing your heart to pieces?

Trust me, you do not want sugar!

What did the old song say?

Oh, yeah… “Just give me Jesus.”

Why?

Because Jesus was on very intimate terms with sorrow and suffering.

And He’s on intimate terms with me—in mine.

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I SEE IT ALL DEAREST

Little One…

Do you think I don’t know what is happening in that heart of yours?

Child, come.

(…a little closer.)

Suffering & HopeI see it all Dearest, your pain, your confusion, those tears you think you hide (but not from Me.)

Oh, yes, a heart can weep. Your soul mourns.

I see it all—your suffering.

You wonder at My silence, don’t you?

How can I know about your pain, and seem, not to care?

(Is that about it?)

Ah, Dearest Child… your greatest growth comes through these times of silence and suffering. You come to Me. Search for Me… in your days of gladness. (Yes, I know.) But, never with the intensity; the fervency, that your suffering leads you to do.

When you hurt, ahhhh, then how you run to Me! How you seek Me out! How you grow, in depth, compassion, and understanding. Your repertoire of comfort is expanded, and therefore, you are a greater comfort to others.

(I know the cost is high.)

Worthwhile things are always born out of suffering.

(Think about it and you will see the truth.)

Suffering always precedes comfort.

Pain is always the price of purity.

How could you have the encouragement, without darkness, silence, and fear?

(I promise you.)

When suffering has polished, perfected, and purified?

Then, will come rivers of blessing for others.

(Is this not what you asked Me for?)

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“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed…”

Isaiah 41:10Isaiah 41:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you; don’t be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

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A Closer Walk: Redeeming Lamentations and Grief

I have tread the stony paths of grief more than once in my life.

Can I confess, again?

I never saw any redeeming value in these paths until very recently. Grief to me was always something to be avoided at best, or impatiently endured; gutting it out at it’s worst. I wanted to move swiftly through it; to just get it over with and be done; focusing on the finish line while ignoring the journey itself.

I mean, who thinks pain has any redeeming good?

We are taught in our Western Culture to abhor grief.

Grief is seen as something with no redeeming value, and we treat it as if it were a freakish and unwelcome enemy, when actually the very opposite is true.

I know, how could grief be a friend?

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the allegory, Hinds Feet On High Places.

In Hurnnard’s story, the heroine, Little Miss “Much-Afraid” is longingly dreaming of leaving her home, The Valley of Humiliation, and going to the beautiful and majestic High Places. She is a member of the Fearing Family, and her bullying and unkind relatives torment her at their every opportunity, especially her cousin Craven-Fear.

Much-Afraid has recently given her heart to The Chief Shepherd, who mostly lives in the High Places, and Much-Afraid longs to go there to be with Him, but has little hope of ever making the difficult journey because her feet are crippled and she often stumbles.

She is convinced that visiting The High Places is only a distant and hopeless dream.

Well, I won’t spoil the story for you. If you haven’t read the book, suffice it to say, I recommend it highly. It uses wonderful imagery to portray many of the difficult realities in our discipleship journey.

Hinds Feet: Sorrow & SufferingI bring it up here, solely to make this point.

In the story, Much-Afraid finds the courage to ask the Shepherd to help her journey to The High Places, and He grants her request.

To make sure she gets there safely, He gives her two traveling companions: one named Sorrow, the other named Suffering.

The first time I read the book I thought, “What! What kind of love is that?” She asks to go to The High Places so that she can be healed, and thereby transformed. And so, The Shepherd gives her these two “friends” Sorrow and Suffering?

(Friends?)

Most of us find this idea repulsive.

Recoiling in shock, or fear and anger, when we are introduced to these traveling companions with grief as our teacher?

Why would God do such a thing?

Perhaps, it is because we pray to be changed… transformed? To become more like Jesus?

So God agrees, takes us at our words, and answers our prayers.

Unexpectedly, we are introduced to “…the fellowship of His (Jesus) sufferings” and because we are, we wail and rail against a God, who would allow such painful things to happen to us!

So I’ll ask again, “Why do we believe these songs of lament will never be ours to sing?”

God gives us the truth via our Bibles; spells it out for us.

His unchanging and ultimate goal is to remake us into the image of His Son… by any means, at any cost.

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ALWAYS

Have I not told you the witness of two is true?

What does the 73rd psalm tell you? “…you are holding my right hand… my health fails; my spirits droop, yet, God remains! He is the strength of my heart.”

And My word in Isaiah 41?

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. [vs. 10]

Come, I see you struggling with doubt and fear.

You think, “I am alone.”

You are not. I AM here, with you.

Hinds Feet quoteNot for one second since all this began have you been alone. Although, I know, many times you felt as though you were.

Ah, those feelings of yours! They sometimes lead you a merry chase!

But I wouldn’t have you without them.

No, no! I want you to bring them with you when you come to Me. Always, but you lead the way… the feelings will follow.

Meanwhile, keep those lovely eyes… (Oh, those eyes!) Keep them on Me!

I AM present child. The difficulties, the heartbreak, will pass. I remain. Everything, every. thing. you are going through, is preparing you. Do not reject your teachers. Do not fear them.

redeeming sorrowI AM upholding you with My victorious right hand.

(I AM here little one.)

You may stumble…

You may even fall…

But I have your hand.

(Always.)

Even when it hurts.


a closer walkAnd this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 

Philippians 3:10Philippians 3:10
English: World English Bible - WEB

10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;

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A Closer Walk: The Idolatry of Approval

I never thought of family as an idol.

I mean how could wanting your family’s love and approval be idolatry?

For many years I longed to be loved and accepted by my family—but loved and accepted for myself.

Unfortunately, it was that longing to be myself that created a great many of my family problems.

I was an introvert born into a family of extroverts so instinctively I felt it. I just didn’t fit with everyone else’s idea of how I should behave.

The others in my household were life-of-the-party types—outgoing people-lover’s who hated being alone.

But rather than loving the stage and it’s limelight, and being the center of everyone’s attention, I often craved solitude. I didn’t fear solitude. Actually, I was serenely at peace with my own company. I loved doing simple, quiet things, which was good, for I often found myself in our house alone.

This sent the message,”What’s WRONG with you? You don’t fit with us unless you are willing to become, like us.”

"Going Along" for approval

“Going Along” is often the price to avoid rejection.

I wanted to feel a part of the group, but the price for their acceptance was to increasingly become someone I was not.

While I blamed my family for their pushing and pulling, badgering and bullying, one day I finally realized, they were not my biggest problem I was!

I had traded who I wanted to be for their approval.

finding peaceEven in my adult years, many times I surrendered who God was calling me to be, for the “love and approval” I thought I could not live without.

It took me a long time to face the truth. Paying emotional extortion is not love, it’s slavery.

I began to see that I could vainly attempt to please my family for the rest of my days, and hope for a few grudging crumbs of approval and affection, or I could accept myself exactly the way God had created me to be, and obey His vision for my life.

I knew what “the price” would be.

I’ll confess, I did everything in my power for years to earn my family’s acceptance first… but in the end I think I always knew that their rejection, and the pain that went with it, would be the price for obeying God.

Inevitably, my choice was no choice at all, God would not relinquish His demand to be my FIRST love. (He made me no apologies for it.) And, I knew my choice would be all on me, no matter what I decided. So, I prayed for the courage to let go of my family’s approval.

It has been painful and difficult living with the price of isolation and no family to connect with, but Jesus has always been brutally honest.

With no apology at all He reminded me,

Anyone who wants to my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters, yes, more than his own life, otherwise he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26Luke 14:26
English: World English Bible - WEB

26 “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.

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SURPRISED?

I see you there mourning for what is lost.

(You think, it’s over, all over.)

Child, Am I over?

Have I abandoned you?

(Sometimes, you feel I have.)

But feelings are not facts; no.

I AM here, right beside you.

(Remember?)

“Shammah,” honey, “Shammah.” I AM beside you in your tears, beside you in your confusion and pain. I don’t leave when things get tough. No, dearest.

Lift your eyes, your lovely tear-filled eyes, to Me. I have comfort for you; encouragement for your fear, and HOPE.

I would say, “Trust Me.” but I see your trust for the moment is buried beneath your grief.

(I know.)

But, Sweet Heart, I have heard your prayers! I know you thought My silence was disdain and disapproval, yes? But to listen, truly listen, you must be silent, yes? I have heard you, never fear.

Forgiving and moving onYour Father has not forsaken you though others have; forgive them. It is the only way.

Leave your family to Me.

Meanwhile, let Me lift that chin of yours because, “Yes, I AM the One who lifts your head.”

Your tears are ever before Me. See… I have kept them all!Comfort yourself child, your answers are on the way. Why, before you were done speaking? I was in motion!

Surprised? (You shouldn’t be.) I AM always listening.

(Love does that you know.)

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“…Don’t cry any longer, for I have heard your prayers…” Jeremiah 31:16Jeremiah 31:16
English: World English Bible - WEB

16 Thus says Yahweh: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says Yahweh; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

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A Closer Walk: Escape to An Awesome Savior!

I grew up with condemnation and criticism. It was well meant (sometimes) but still, it’s tough to breathe in that world. Tougher still, to grow into the decent and kind person, you want to be. All you can “think” in that atmosphere is, escape… I have to escape.

I am slowly learning...Yeah, rejection is a powerful toxin—and verbal abuse a stone killer.

When will we learn that?

Why do we believe that we can control, and own others, by battering another’s poor heart into a million, shattered, and broken pieces?

I didn’t understand the power of bitterness as a child, but I could feel it.

I used to think that kind of enviornment was normal. (It was all I knew.) Then later, I knew I had to find something different, because I was becoming like my abusers. My “normal” was corroding my heart into something I no longer recognized—into a someone I didn’t want to be. I knew if I wanted to breathe, if I wanted to love and be loved, I had to get away.

I had to lay down the dead hopes that my family would magically change and choose something better than their old and bitter verbal artillery.

So, I laid down a dead dream, and picked up His cross.

For a time, I believed all that “broken stuff” was wasted debris. That, not only could it NOT be fixed, but the dead weight of it had to be jettisoned from my life. (And there is some truth to that.) Some toxic relationships, no matter how much sweet water gets poured into them, will by their own heart’s choices, choose to remain bitter.

Your are priceless!Yet, even though the people we had hoped would love us, reject our love—even those difficult experiences can be wonderfully useful for His Kingdom.

It is His M.O. in us, after all!

He is: A Ransom-Redeemer, A Reviver-Restorer. The Royal-Resurrecter!

It has taken me six decades, count them, SIX long-n-dusty… bloody-n-broken… rocky-road-decades, but I have finally learned these Kingdom Truths:

God wastes NOTHING.

Our SCARS and DEBRIS are someone else’s HEALING and HOPE.

Forsaking ALL will lead us straight to HIS REDEMPTION PLAN.

And His plan?

Will BLOW destiny’s doors off their JOY-HINGES!

He rebuilds shattered lives into bridges—strong sturdy bridges that will carry other shattered hearts straight into His loving arms of Redeeming Grace.

Yahoo, what an awesome Savior!

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THEN… YOU WILL KNOW

There will be times when you will do your best, you will pray, you will believe, and still things will seem to go wrong. You may even be tempted to think, all you’ve done is worth nothing; only empty space.

This is where the wheat and the chaff go their seperate ways.

It is easy to work when all are pleased and the applause abounds. I have many in My Kingdom who will serve under such circumstances, many.

Ah, but when the wind is contrary, how those “easy-chair-followers” scatter!

Following ChristAnd, you? What about you now that you see what is really in their hearts? Will you leave Me, too?

I tell you, building this Kingdom of Mine is not for the faint of heart. The day is quickly approaching when the enemy will come in like a flood. There will be testing and trying like My Church has never seen! Many will forsake their friends and betray those they called “brother.”

I AM coming to do away with these easy-chairs, and all who cling to them! (But you?) You are My First Fruit! You will show the way to those who remain. You will encourage their hearts by your words of comfort.

No turning back

Then, “Ha, then!” it will not seem in vain. Then, you will see your Teacher, and you will know how wise were your appointed lessons.

Yes, then, your work will stand.

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“…but my work for them seems all in vain;”

Isaiah 49:4Isaiah 49:4
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4 But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Yahweh, and my recompense with my God.

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A Closer Walk: Victory Over Depression

I had been told for years that depression was simply part of my family’s DNA. I had accepted those statements as fact, without questioning, so the depression I was experiencing didn’t surprise me. Indeed, I had almost expected it. It was part of our family history, like some genetic trait that couldn’t be escaped; could only be feared and endured.

That is what I had always believed.

I was wrong.

Neil T. Anderson quoteGod was beginning to dismantle my erroneous beliefs and this one wasn’t going down without a fight. The battlefield? My mind. My thinking. The grid-system, where all of God’s truth got filtered through my beliefs, to get to my heart.

Somewhere in that crucial 18-inch-journey, truth was getting severely twisted, so that by the time it reached my heart it had no power.

You have probably heard it said, God takes us where He finds us, but He loves us too much to leave us there.

True, true, true.

The love of God through the Holy Spirit, began to tear down my faulty beliefs to show me, the reason I kept losing these battles with depression was because I was trying to fight them in my own strength.

truth vs. lies

I had “carried” the responsibility for my own self-care all of my life—but it was time to lay that burden down—time to let go of the crushing weight of my own self-protection.

  • Letting go of the belief that weakness was a bad thing.
  • Letting go of the belief that surrender to Christ’s Love was to be feared.
  • Letting go of the belief that I was helpless to change for the better.
  • Letting go of the belief that I had no hope of overcoming enemies like fear, abandonment, doubt, and depression.
  • Letting go of the belief that Christ’s Kingdom Power would come without battles.

It was time to embrace The Truth, and let His Truth, embrace my depression.

It was time to start believing in A Conquering King whose Light always, always, wins, no matter how deep the darkness.

It was time to believe that I was dearly loved.

It was time to trust that He could get me through any storm.

It was time to accept His Kingdom Truth when thinking about myself.

I WAS: a child of The Most High God, born into His Kingdom and given an inheritance with power, authority, and might. I was infinitely valuable. I was deserving of love, kindness, and respect. I was loved without limits. I was worthy of being cherished—and I was! ALL that was His, (Christ’s) had been bequeathed to ME!

He had always said it.

Now it was time for me to believe it!

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REPENT AND I WILL RESTORE

Why are My children so afraid of surrender?

Can a drowning man save himself by fighting and thrashing against his Rescuer? (Of course not.) But when you decide to go out in your own strength to fight your own battles?

Haven’t I taught you?

Are you still not clear as to this Kingdom Law?

Sometimes child, I AM so disappointed in My children.

Yes (even you) because you know better than this!

Your battles are not yours; never have been. But the choices, they are yours; always have been!

Truth Encounter

What have I told you over and over again?

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;”  2 Cor. 10:42 Cor. 10:4
English: World English Bible - WEB

4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds,

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When you insist on fighting for yourself and with the world’s weapons?

Why are you surprised at the meager outcome?

I AM your strength—I AM!

Come, remember what you have been taught. You are in a war to end all wars! There are cannon flash and explosions in the heavenlies. Great is the storm and conflict between LIGHT and DARKNESS… great is the cunning and stealth of the enemy’s agents.

Victory Over DepressionCome, forget the past—repent and I will restore.

The battle rages, and we (My forces and I) have great need of you. I have created you for just this hour. Put on your armor. Surrender your will and your ways. The battle is Mine ~ I AM your strength! Nothing can defeat My will (except your own willfulness).

Lay it down—surrender all to Me.

Then, you can’t lose!

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“I will love thee, O Lord, MY STRENGTH.”

Psalm 18:1Psalm 18:1
English: World English Bible - WEB

18 For the Chief Musician. By David the servant of Yahweh, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song in the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, 1 I love you, Yahweh, my strength.

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REPENT: Original Word: “greek” metanoia.

Short Definition: I repent—I change my mind.

Definition: I repent, change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God), repent.