I had a wonderful time at Bible study this morning. I was alone.
This blog is mainly just me talking out loud to myself…and others can listen in. So, I invite you to listen in…esp you ministry gals…because if you are missing this as I was, you will at some time or other, wilt, wither and fizzle. You may already get this; but sometimes hearing it fresh, or from a different perspective, helps.
This is what I am getting: Praise Him. I thought about the lines from Sherwood Films’ Facing the Giants:
“I want God to bless this team so much people will talk about what He did. But it means we gotta give Him our best in every area. And if we win, we praise Him. And if we lose, we praise Him. Either way we honor Him with our actions and our attitudes. So I’m askin’ you… What are you living for? I resolve to give God everything I’ve got, then I’ll leave the results up to Him. I want to know if you’ll join me.” ~Grant Taylor
In the ministry, it sort of translates to this:
“I want God to bless this church so much people will talk about what He did. But it means I gotta give Him my best in every area. And if I see great attendance and lots of apparent spiritual activity, I praise Him. And if no one shows up and it seems like perhaps nothing is happening, I praise Him. Either way I honor Him with my actions and my attitudes. So I’m askin’ myself… What am I living for? I resolve to give God everything I’ve got, then I’ll leave the results up to Him. I want to know if you’ll join me.”
See, when it becomes all about His purposes and claiming His promises, my perspective changes entirely. I want His purposes to be wrought in me…that work is monumental enough, considering what I know He has to work with. So, this morning, instead of wondering why ladies did not come (and understanding that if they seek to meet with Him today, they don’t need to be with me in the church building…His purposes can certainly unfold elsewhere), I talked with Him about what His purpose for me is, and what He wanted to accomplish in me today, since I was there. I read, prayed, sang, meditated…enjoying the quietness of this special meeting for nearly an hour. I think His purposes were accomplished today. One of the hymn texts I read was this:
Though the way seems straight and narrow,
All I claimed was swept away;
My ambitions, plans and wishes,
At my feet in ashes lay. ~Margaret J. Harris, 1898
I have to lay it all before Him. All my plans, good intentions, my “great ideas”, talents, hopes…everything. I need to be okay with there perhaps being a respite from using the gift I love, which is teaching, so that I can pay closer attention to His plans. I need to examine my motives for the plans I make, to be sure they are not about my own agenda. My study needs to first be about my own heart renovation. When I grab the precious promises for myself and hold them close, only then can I most effectively dispense them to others.
My prayers have been renovated. I read this quote this morning:
“Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth’s shoes won’t fit.” ~Joni Eareckson Tada
Let’s face it…shoes that are too small hurt. And they affect the way we walk. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to suffer means to “submit to or be forced to endure” something or to “feel keenly.” This can mean a lot of things. The common denominator, whether it is physical pain, heartache, loss, disappointment, grief, or self-denial, is that it is something we would not choose. It is something to which we must submit or endure, and something we will keenly (acutely) feel. For the believer, there is no “forcing” if we receive whatever it is from our Father’s hand, trusting Him, knowing Him to be loving, all-knowing, and sovereign. The better we know Him, the more up-close we see Him, the less “forced” we feel. We begin to relax, because we know that “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Here is another hymn I read through:
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. ~Civilla D. Martin, 1905
In the portion we are studying right now in Ephesians, these verses are found:
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
(Ephesians 1:4-6 ESV)
I am His blessed Beloved (!), and He has chosen to lavish me with an identity in Christ, making me “holy and blameless before Him.” He chooses to work the work of progressive sanctification in me, according to His purposes and to the praise of His glorious grace. It is not about me. Today is about Him. What is He trying to do when I am alone at Bible study? What is His purpose when I have more child rearing challenges than I do patience? When I am bone tired but the laundry beckons? When I am already spent on every level, but still need to summon energy to bless my husband when he arrives home, needing his loving friend and confidant? I lean harder. I allow all the weight of my cares to press into His everlasting arms. The Spirit teaches me to welcome and even embrace all the things I am called to endure because they all point me to my own weakness (something humans need to be reminded of continually) and allow me to revel in and utterly rely upon His strength.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor. 12:9
So, what I pray for myself, my family, my dear church ladies, and our entire church family is this: That our earthly shoes may never fit, whatever the cost, whatever must be endured, whatever pain requires our submission.