Which Voice Do You Believe?

 

depression-1250897_640You know how it’s difficult to taste food when we have a head cold? Well, my horrible health during the winter months affected my senses. I could taste and see the Lord’s goodness in my friends’ gifts to me: cards, meals, prayers, visits. But I couldn’t feel God’s presence or hear His voice.

I might have cried, “God, why have you forsaken me?” But two things helped me tread the deep waters while I waited for my good health—and a renewed spirit.

1). I can’t trust my emotions, but I can trust God.

My mentor/friend, Loretta, once said, “I can’t count on my emotions when I’m feeling low.”

True. I’ve seen how my negative emotions make it impossible to think clearly. They can also steer me down a destructive path. Pity party. Hopelessness. Spiritual lethargy. Does anything good come from viewing life as a half-empty cup? Or questioning God’s goodness?

I learned to trust God back when I had three miscarriages. Satan (father of lies) took advantage of my grief. He filled my mind with doubts about God’s love for me. He accused me of being unworthy. Grief spiraled into despair. I had to sort through my emotions and identify the lies. And then, I renewed my mind with God’s truth.

I’m glad I learned that lesson because this year, when God seemed silent while I lay ill, I refused to trust my emotions or listen to the enemy’s lies. Instead, I trusted God’s character and His promises.

Throughout scripture, the Lord tells His children: Do not be afraid. I am with you. You are mine. You are loved.

I choose the voice I listen to.

2). I can’t manufacture spiritual highs, but I can believe God.

Being ill is part of the human experience. I was willing to endure anything if only I could sense God’s comforting presence. I prayed for His peace and joy to buoy my spirits while my body healed. I read Psalms. I listened to praise music. But for all my efforts, I could not manufacture that mountain top high, or afterglow, that comes from spending time with God.

So I stopped trying so hard to hear God’s voice. If I didn’t have the energy to walk, or the ability to concentrate, then I needed to give my spirit permission to rest. And be comfortable with God’s silence. Knowing this too shall pass.

Spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading are opportunities to meet with God and hear His voice. But God doesn’t ask us to jump through hoops (or bust a gut) to get His attention. He sees us. He knows our name. He knows when our health suffers.

God says, “Believe.” Believe I’m present. Believe I love you. Believe I can use all things (even the silence) for your good and My glory.

Which voice do I believe?

Who do you listen to and believe when you’re going through a trial?

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Are You Unraveling?

IMG_4102A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

Ever feel that way?

 

Read my guest post on this fellow author’s website:http://www.joyawilliams.com/are-you-unraveling/

 

 

Too Busy to Meet?

I didn’t want to go, but too much time had passed since I’d been with my friend. We’d made a date. How could I cancel at the last minute?

And if I didn’t see her that day—when? Would there ever be a perfect lull in our lives to get together?

Even so, the weight of everything I should be doing pressed me down. By the time I met my friend, I felt like a simmering pressure cooker about to blow.

She smiled and hugged me. Then she listened while I ranted about life and how I didn’t have any strength. Finally, I buttoned my lips and allowed her to speak. She understood because her life was no less hectic.

Not unlike most of my friends when I ask them, “How are you?”

They reply, “Busy.”

We’re not just busy, we live in a hurry.

We’re always driving in the fast lane to get to the next thing. Rarely engaged in the moment.

That gray afternoon, I made myself STOP for two hours. The world didn’t stop spinning, but my mind did!

My friend mentioned a devotion she’d read which helped her. She talked about the Lord’s faithfulness in her life which led to a discussion about God’s sweet grace.

Somewhere between “hello” and our goodbye hug, the weight lifted from my bent shoulders. My mind rested as though I’d had a long nap. My spirit was refreshed.

I never did what “I thought I needed to do” that day.

The Lord nudged me in a different direction. I spent the evening with my husband at an event I had no desire to attend. Turned out to be a wise choice.

If I hadn’t slowed down to meet my friend, and bring God into our conversation,  I doubt my spirit would have felt God’s nudge much less gladly obeyed Him.

My mentor Loretta told me years ago, “Slowing down is necessary to hear God’s voice.”

So why is this a lesson I keep learning?

Every morning, I have a standing date to meet with the Lord.

When I choose to skip it and hurry into my day, I’m like the ignorant child C.S. Lewis described in Weight of Glory:

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“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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“The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63

 

When’s the last time you slowed down to meet with the Lord?

Photos: http://www.jennywredephotography.com

 

 

Are You Unraveling?

A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

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Ever feel that way?

Like you’re composed of multiple strings of yarn and everyone is tugging on you? 

And each time those strings are pulled, you feel as though you’re unraveling. Bit by bit.

Until there’s nothing left of you, but a heap of yarn on the floor.

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Unless, of course, you’ve learned to hide the loose, frayed strands from other folks.

Maybe—instead of a frayed scarf—you feel more like a string puppet. Just going through the motions with each tug. Nod, smile, wave, bend, move….

Too much jerking and we lose the elasticity of our stringy nerves. Or they get tangled from hurrying in too many directions.

So how do we avoid unraveling? Untie the knots?

How do we REST in the middle of wrestling life?

Return to the Lord and let your soul find rest (Psalm 116:7).

Exalt the Lord. Praise His name and thank Him for Who He is and the great things He has done in your life (Psalm 69:30).

Submit to the circumstances in your life in which you have no control. If we can’t change our circumstances, we can change our attitude.  (Philippians 4:8)

Trust God’s promises. Knowing He use the events and people in our life for His purposes which includes molding us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

Even when King David’s personal sin crushed him, he returned to the Lord. For he knew his redemption and delivery had nothing to do with his own character or actions.

It had everything to do with God’s lovingkindness and compassion.

Maybe you’re on the endangered list as your inner being unravels. Desperate for God’s compassion.

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Turn off the news; the cell phone.

Go to your hiding place and show your Abba Father the knarled knots and loose strings.

Then R.E.S.T.

And like a child who waits while a parent untangles his shoestrings…

Allow the Lord to clip and mend your frayed, loose strings until you’re new again and ready to rumble.

 

Photos by Jennifer Wrede Photography

Why the Hesitation?

How’s your heart? Are you overwhelmed? Dismayed?

That’s how King David described himself in Psalm 143.  And that’s how I felt when I woke up.

Though the winter sky was baby blue, and the sun’s rays shimmied between the bare tree limbs.

I blamed my mood on a head cold. And yet, sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason I’m anxious or depressed.

Thankfully, God knows the human propensity to allow circumstances and emotions to overwhelm us. That’s why He used King David to pen Psalm 143.

Words written centuries ago, but relevant today—in this exact moment—because God’s Word is able to clear the negative voices in a congested head. And point us to a better way of living.

My feral cat was also in a mood.

Stuck outside overnight, she sat on our front porch rail, waiting. Watching me through the kitchen window while I brewed a cup of tea.

When our eyes met, my cat arched her back and meowed. I opened the door, stumbled towards my desk as she weaved in and out between my feet.

Unlike most mornings, my feral cat wanted more than warmth and food. She paced back and forth, rolled on the wood floor. Then she sat by my desk chair, staring at my lap. It’s rare for this independent feline to cuddle, but I saw the debate within her eyes.

Meanwhile, I just “happened” to open my Bible to Psalm 143. It’s the same passage I underlined fourteen years ago when I dealt with anxiety and winter blues. Only this time, I paused at verse 5.

“I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Remember. Meditate. Muse.

On what?

  • My circumstances?
  • My emotions?
  • My thoughts?

No, we’re told to…

Remember God’s Work.  Meditate on the great things the Lord has done. Not only for mankind, but in people’s lives…in my life.

“Dwell much on what I did, as well as what I said. Remember, ‘I touched her hand, and the fever left her.’ Not many words, just a moment’s contact, and all fever left her.” (God Calling)

Lord, please touch my heart so my mood melts into nothingness.

I glanced down at my cat who watched me with the same hesitation that I came before the God. Afraid to ask, as if I was unworthy, or He had greater things to tend to than “my mood.”

I tapped my robe. “Come here.”

Cat ears flinched.

“What? You don’t trust me after all these years?”

My audible words convicted me. Wasn’t this God’s attitude towards me when I hesitate to come to Him? Hesitate to ask?

What keeps folks from wanting more of God, or receiving all He wants to give?

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Before I could answer my question, the cat jumped on the desk and settled beside my Bible. Soon, she curled on my lap, purring.

Content; unafraid.

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Not unlike her mistress, now resting in God’s capable Hands.

Let me hear Thy loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee...” (vs.8)

Still Thirsty?

In my last blog, I encouraged folks with a bone-dry spirit to come and drink the Living Water.

So why are there days—even after a long, quiet drink—when my spirit resembles a parched plant whose leaves curl inward in a fetal position?

I read my Bible, but nothing soaks in.

I pray, but my words seem to fall on deaf ears.

What’s wrong? Is it me?

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I search my heart the same way I examine my automatic drip sprinklers when my plants aren’t getting enough water. Sometimes I find a leak in the hose. Other times, a grain of dirt clogs the pipes.

Perhaps my bone-dry spirit reflects an open wound? I meditate on scripture, but my thoughts wander aimlessly like a leaky pipe.

Perhaps, like that dirt clog, hidden sin prevents me from hearing God’s Word?

No, you might say, my conscience is clear. I’m focused, and hungry for the Lord. So why this ongoing spiritual drought that sucks me dry?

During these times, the enemy loves to wag his finger and hiss, What’s the point of seeking God? If He were real, or really loved you, then where’s the victory? 

Pick up the shield of faith and shout, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

For when my spirit feels bone-dry, I’m tempted to listen to his lies.

And sometimes, I’m my worst enemy.

Fatigue and stress becomes the incubator for heightened emotions until they reach a crescendo: Where are you, Lord? Don’t You care?

That’s why the Bible says to “live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I would add, Live by faith and not by feelings.

Which means, even when the spirit feels bone-dry, we seek the Lord and ….

Ø  Come expectant, because reading God’s word does not return void. (Isaiah 55:11).

Ø  Come in faith, because God hears a soul-thirsty cry even when we don’t sense His presence. (Psalm 116:1).

Ø  Come in obedience, because Christ bids us to come. (Matthew 11:28)

Ø  Come surrendered, because inevitably there are spiritual seasons of drought that stretch our faith. (Psalm 35:22).

During her own painful desert, my friend, Loretta once told me,

Trust is fundamental to the Christian walk. It can’t be imitated. 

Learn to trust God now because when you’re feeling hopeless, and God appears silent, the only thing we can do is trust God and wait.”   

Are You Still There?

Words poured from the woman’s heart like a broken water main. I waited for her to catch her breath so I could interject my thoughts over the phone.

Finally, a pregnant pause followed by her whimper. “Are you still there?”

“I’m here,” I assured her. “I’m just listening.”

Lately, I feel like that woman. I’m venting to the Lord, but He’s not saying anything. Lord, are you still there?

I imagine the Lord would speak more often if I’d be still and listen. And yet, there are times when I hold my tongue.

Desperate for wisdom or direction, I wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to me through scripture. Or I long for the joy and satisfaction of His fellowship.

Only, sometimes God appears silent.

The longer He’s silent, the more I feel estranged from the One I’ve come to love and depend upon.

I plead like David, “Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation….” (Psalm 51:11-12)

More silence.

So I remind myself to believe God and trust He is with me even in the deafening silence.

“Faith is especially required in times of silence as we wait for the intimacy of God.”

That’s what my mentor and friend, Loretta, told me years ago when she felt “God was silent and in the wings.”

Which is why Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks….But to do this, you will need the—

ü  Strong belt of truth

ü  Breastplate of righteousness

ü  Shoes able to speed you on as you preach the Gospel.

ü  Shield of Faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

ü  Helmet of salvation

ü  Sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

Putting on the armor of God is a daily task like brushing our teeth because the enemy doesn’t retreat. He knows my Achilles heel, the weakest spot to attack my faith.

When God appears silent or like He’s “watching from a distance,” Satan shoots flaming arrows aimed at my limited understanding to make me doubt—

God’s love. God’s mercy. God’s presence.

The SHIELD OF FAITH is my best defense.

Faith STOPS the fiery arrows from hitting their mark because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith enables me to believe God is present even when He Appears Silent.

Just now, my cell phone rings, interrupting the silence as I finish this blog. The voice coming through the receiver is a sister in Christ who lives in South Dakota. We haven’t spoken with each other in a year.

My skin tingles. This is a Divine Appointment. God’s perfect timing.

He knows I need a word of encouragement, so He sends a friend I’m least expecting to talk with me.

And while we’re on the phone, the Lord enters our midst and makes Himself known.

Faith extinguishes the doubts as we pray to the Glorious One who always listens—even when He appears silent. 

How do you respond when God appears silent?