Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Failings’ Category

Equipped

Scraps of tune weave into my waking.
What is that song?

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I reach for my phone and press Search on my app. I must need the music. Why else would the Spirit impress it on this coming-out-of-a-dream moment? Yes, it is Him. I’ve experienced enough dream-related moments to recognize the insight.

I raise myself on an elbow and type. You will overcome. No, not that one. Broken strongholds. Nope. How does that song go? Something about a crown … ah, yes. Victor’s Crown. I select Play and the music spills over the edges of my downy comforter, flooding my mind with words of war. (Click on the link below to listen to the song.)

Victor’s Crown

I hold my breath. I’m secure in a room that’s warm within a house stocked with plenty of food, so why does the music of conflict stir my heart until it swells with hope and courage?
Do I need a buttress from the craziness in my nation’s capital, an hour’s drive away? Or perhaps against the monstrous hurricane bearing down on my favorite island beach?

Waves

My lungs whoosh out their air.

Maybe. Yet I believe in a God who stays with me through events I can’t control. Even if they affect me, which they undoubtedly will, He will give me wisdom and strength.

I listen through to the end, press Replay, and sink my head onto the pillow.
No, this is not about any exterior event churning my world into one I don’t recognize. These words of absolute victory strike a more intimate note.

It’s been a packed and wonderful summer of reunions, vacations, travel, loved ones, grandchildren, and … an empty nest.

That last one has nearly gotten me. Not the empty nest. It’s the fledgling, miles away, still trying to learn which way to fly and how, that knots my gut and tightens my throat.

You are ever interceding …

Fledging

The music definitely applies to my fledgling and to my other adult children and their children. I’ve needed the courage to rise above recent depressing demons of helplessness, ineptness, regret, and doubt where they are concerned. I’ve offered weak prayers, it seems, against their weaknesses inherited, in part, from their mother. The spirit-battles in their regard have raged and I’ve been near defeated.

Every high thing must …

I can’t control my children. I know that. Don’t want to. I can only pray and influence a little. Precious little.

I press Replay and throw off the covers. The music resounds and moves beyond my kids.
The song is for me this morning. It’s for my own personal war.

The carpet is soft to my feet. At the sink, I turn on cold water and splash my face.

You have overcome … You have overcome …

A verse I read a few days back comes to mind:

“Get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on … I am the Lord your God.” Ezekial 20:7&8

The Spirit of Light pokes with gentle touch. I bury my face in a terry towel.

What have I set my eyes on?

Easy. A screen. Hand-held or on my lap. A screen filled with the latest news that isn’t news, or maybe it is, who knows? Or filled with a recommended movie. Or a fellow author’s book. They are all good things in due season, but not when that screen should be pulsating with words, sentences, and holy passion being typed into an unfinished manuscript the ruler of darkness absolutely Does. Not. Want. Me. To. Write.

Not to mention my blog.

Cell phone

I surrender to my truth. My war is one that extends well beyond media, but I often set my screen idol before my eyes and it consumes precious minutes. Hours.

High things must come down.

You will overcome … You will overcome.

Music in hand, I pad down the hall and settle into my devotion chair. I want to enter the sacred place that holds my battle gear. I open the Word.

Bible

“…but you, woman of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith… keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time.” I Tim. 6: 11, 12 & 14

“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness … pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart … gently instruct [those who oppose] in the hope that God will grant them repentance … and will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will.II Timothy 2: 19, 22, 25-26

“But God’s Word is not chained.II Timothy 2:9
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
“It wasn’t by THEIR sword that they won the land, nor did THEIR arm bring them victory. It was YOUR right hand, YOUR arm, and the light of YOUR face, for You loved them … Through You, we push back our enemies; through Your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow. My sword does not bring me victory, but You give us victory over our enemies. Psalms 44:3, 5-6

Sword fight

I glance at my phone, press Replay, and bow my head.
Jesus, it’s You who wear the victor’s crown. You have won this good fight of faith. Since You are in me and I am in You, it’s my victory too.

I close the Word, equipped.

HALLELUJAH

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured

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Carpet blanketed in filth –

Kitchen sink smeared with a brown film –

Your whole heart afflicted.

Food rotting in the refrigerator –

Windows broken –

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness.

Counters and cabinets strewn with debris –

Walls pot marked with myriad holes, screws, and nails –

Only wounds and welts and open sores.

Hundreds of decals placed for hallucinogenic affect.

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Legal eviction had vacated the occupants, but not their mess. They had left that job for me.

I donned gloves and mask, scooped leftover items off the counters, and dumped decayed food from the refrigerator.

In less than six months, two people with diseased minds had turned a pristine, freshly painted, scrubbed and impeccably furnished apartment into a rat’s hole. They were two human beings caught in a trap of disrespect, dishonesty, and low living.

One glance at their mug shot and my son, quite snarkily, had commented, “How did you say ‘yes’ to that face?”

Not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. (Isaiah 1: 5b- 6)

Eight heavy contractor bags later, I was down to the walls. Colored paper, butterflies, and flowers stuck to the sheet rock, the plaster clinging and tearing as I peeled. Bit by bit. Like the thoughts that dinged my brain with each decal ripped from the wall.

Disgust. Bitterness. Superiority. No soundness.

Human hands had pasted each item and pounded each nail into a scattering of holes my own hands would have to patch. My hands, created just like theirs. They were two fellow humans caught in a web. How had they become oppressed?

Caught in a web of its own, my heart was an open sore. I couldn’t clean up their heart or mind, but mine required soothing oil. I was willing.

Stop the meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 1:7-15)

A prayer. A decision. Thoughts flowed: Compassion. Humility. Cleansing forgiveness. The good things of the land. Plenty of bandages and soothing oil.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come, let us settle the matter, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah. 1:17-19)

Every head, every heart has wounds and open sores. Yours. Mine. Be willing to be cleansed. Know the Holy Spirit’s soothing oil.

From Shame Wringer to Joy Catcher

“I want to praise you without restraint, but my joy has not yet been released. Why, God, Why?” Tears, the only evidence of release, flowed free and full like the words of her longing. “I sense my joy, deep down. What is keeping it there?”

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Beside her, two godly women prayed. “Try coming to joy like a child by singing a simple song of Jesus.” They suggested. Is it even possible to think about coming to joy and at the same instant experience joy? She wasn’t sure. All she knew, as she left the meeting early, was that the women’s prayers were doing God’s work. They had tapped into a deep place.

Out of that place echoed a quiet voice from years before: “God never turns shame into anger. God always turns shame into joy.”

God, after all these years of healing, is there still some leftover shame? You know my heart, Lord. You know what I need.

She fell into bed emotionally exhausted only to wake throughout the night. Each time she woke she was aware of God’s healing presence working within her, as though gentle hands were massaging and pressing far beneath the surface. She felt them. Drifting in and out of sleep, she dreamed:

Dirty water squished out between the rollers on an old wringer washer. Rollers pressed clothing into a tub for rinse. It was as though she were back in childhood, and with a sense of danger, her small hands guided the clothes, helping Momma. She was excited by the challenge. Clothing must be wrung smoothly. They couldn’t be bunched. Not too much could be fed through the turning rollers; only enough so she could gingerly catch and tug the laundry steadily through. All the while dirty water squished from the squashed clothes.

wringer washer with suds

She woke remembering a release bar for safety, just in case her small fingers or arm rolled with the laundry into its pressing, wringing mouth. She remembered Momma’s help with no harm done. She woke, aware of a divine Presence, aware of hands pressing, gently pressing within.

She slept. The clothes in the wringer washer rolled on, leaving the dirty water behind. She woke to the inner press of healing. Lying in the darkness, she sensed that this pressing was squeezing out the last traces of the shame of her life’s dirty water; even the remnants of the sewer water from choices not her own.

She slept and dreamed of lines hung with clothes and sheets billowing, filling with air fresh with the scent of sunshine.

She woke to memories of earlier bedtimes when she buried her joyful face into those sun scented sheets and drew in deep breaths of nature’s fragrance. She remembered drying with towels stiffened by the wind. Their roughness, so unlike soft, dryer-dried towels, had stimulated her skin. For years she had chosen not to own a dryer.

Laundry on line

She slept and when she woke again, anticipation coursed her being. It was an anticipation for the joy that she knew was set before her. Throughout the night, at a subconscious level, her shame had been despised and wrung out like so much dirty water. Shame was gone. Joy and unrestrained praise would come.

With sunlight brightening her bed, she reached for her Bible and listened to her Father speak:

“Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion. Instead of dishonor you shall rejoice in your lot. Therefore in your land you shall possess a double portion. You shall have everlasting joy. For I the Lord love justice.” Is 61:7

We all long for joy. Shame kills it. Jesus endured the cross. He despised its shame knowing there was joy set before him. (Heb. 12:2) When we sense our joy is lacking, we need more of him! We need to claim the truth that he did not come to condemn but to heal. (John 3:17) When we choose to believe that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12) and let him press that truth deep within us, our shame disappears. Whenever we gain a deeper sense of the stain and effect of our sin or as shame raises its ugly head in the words or actions of those who do not love us or our God, we need the truth that Jesus declares.

old washer with womanWe each need him to wash us clean and to wring away all the dirty water of shame. We need to allow the wind to fill our billows with the fragrance of his sunshine! As life slings its mud our way, we need to be released and refilled again and again. If we do not wrangle with the wringer, we will be pressed down only to fly against the sky on his wind, filled with his love, his fragrance, and his joy.

“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

Release your own shame to the Savior as you listen to Julie True sing “Beautiful Tapestry and I Release.”

Story contributed by JerryAnn Berry. Written by Merita Atherly Engen

Praise is Where God Lives

Singing Wren 2

“When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams,”(click to listen)

The lyrics drummed inside my head.

Yep, many of my dreams have been shattered. I often feel overwhelmed.

“Why don’t we keep a praise list,” the man I had idolized suggested. “Despite our dishonesty and our sin and mistakes, God has shown us mercy. We have been given so many indications that He still loves us. When we get discouraged, we can remember those times.”

“When your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes, my inner music continued to play.

Yep, he’s a snake, he is. A poisonous, deceptive snake in the grass.

“Will this do?” I showed the man, not yet my husband, a piece of construction paper. I had sketched and colored flowers down one side. The rest was blank.

“And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears.” I began to hum.

Can’t submit to my fears or anyone else’s. Can’t submit to the shame in all the gossip that inevitably finds its way here. Can’t! Resist the urge to submit to those fears. Remember, I have deeply repented. I am forgiven.

Massaging my swollen belly, I pressed gently against the life within. Then taking my marker, I wrote in bold across the top of the page: THANKFUL LIST.

“Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear,” I hummed louder, remembering that it was my ex-pastor who had introduced me to this song.

I loved its power. Back before I knew defeat.

“I’ll tape this right here,” I stood tall and stepped to the refrigerator. “Right here where we can always see it and add to it. So our faith won’t disappear.”

“Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him,” I opened my mouth and raised my voice.

Can You really work through me, Lord?

The man I loved stood beside me with a pencil. “Remember last week when the tractor and I rolled over in the ditch and I didn’t get hurt? That’s going to be one of our first praises!”

“Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise . . . .”  The music crescendo-ed as together we added to our list.

It’s true, Lord! You DO inhabit praise. Whenever, we praise, You are HERE!

Like the lame man healed at the Beautiful Gate, my spirit was walking and leaping and praising God.

Our God is NOT a negative, fault-finding, shaming God who hates the goats while loving the sheep.

He delights in praise, which means He is delighted when we are pleased and praise Him. Which means He delights in praising us!

Praise is where God lives. Let’s stay in His house.

Singing Wren cropped

Perhaps you have an experience where praise has brought God to new light. Please share your experience here.

” . . . thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.” Psalms 22:3

(I am praising God for my gifted photographer, JerryAnn Berry!)

 

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