God’s Landscaping Business

This is a follow-up to my poem “The Swamp” that I posted a couple of days ago.

A good friend, Naggie, texted me yesterday morning.  When I received her text, my eyes just about popped out, and I had to call her to find out more about it.  She hadn’t read my poem, and she had heard this from God on Monday but didn’t send it until Thursday.   Here goes:

Oh Jo, I got a prophetic word for you … It is that God will “fill in the pit”, that you will never trip back in, slide back in, jump back in, stumble back in … But instead rejoice and be glad and jump on top of the filled in pit … Knowing that He IS the victory!  He is victorious!  He has conquered and you just get to dance on top of the pit that no longer exists as He has filled it in!!

 

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been in and out of depression, up and down, back and forth.  Even in the good times I wonder when it’s coming back.  In the bad times it feels like I’ve always been there.  I have seen it in my mind’s eye as walking through a field of pits, never knowing when the next one is coming up, doing my best to stay away from the edge, but somehow unable to keep away as circumstances push me in.

And now God’s saying that…

Those pits are going to be filled in!

I’m not going to live in fear of depression anymore.  He’s changing the landscape.  He’s God, and He can do that.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
Isaiah 40 verse 4

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah 43 verse 19

Here’s a little bit of Handel’s Messiah, because great words deserve great music.

The Swamp

Out of the swamp of self-pity

Feet on firm ground

Looking around

I see your blessings surround me

I see your hand of mercy

But it’s easy to slide back in

With one backward glance

Wallow in the mud again

Forget what you’ve told me

Savouring the pain

But you never heave a sigh

Never turn your back

Never label me ‘too hard’

This one just needs a little more love

A little more grace

She’ll come round.

Whatever is Lovely….

In a recent post (Pain) I wrote about the difficulties I had been having getting over hurts from my childhood.  Even though my parents have been loving and good parents on the whole, there were painful memories and resentment that I was holding on to from the past.  Every time I visited my parents the old pain would be renewed, and I would come home unsettled and fighting depression again.  This happened many times, so that I began to avoid visiting their home.

The last time this happened was at Easter.  I was bitterly disappointed, because I wanted to be able to move on and not have this horrible pain, dealing with the same thing over and over again.  I felt like a child who couldn’t grow up.  It helped to remind myslf of God’s love and his acceptance, but I still couldn’t let go of the resentment towards my parents.  I asked God, “How can I get past this?”

The answer came when I met with a close friend and her husband for prayer.  My friend asked God for healing for the hurt places in my life, going all the way back to the little girl I was, who believed herself to be unloved.   And then she gave me a verse.  It is very well-known, but I had never applied it in this way before:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

She prayed that when I would think of my parents, I would think of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc: that my thoughts and memories of my parents would focus on the lovely, praiseworthy things about them (and there are so many – thank you Lord!).  I realised that my mind had been set on a certain track, so that when I thought about them I would focus on things that I resented, and each time my thoughts went that way, the groove would become deeper and it became more and more difficult for me to think about them any other way.  God was asking me to consciously change my thought patterns.  I had been asking God for the way forward, and He had shown me the path.

After my friend prayed I realised that I needed to repent of my wrong attitude towards my parents, particularly the way I had judged them and criticised them for years.  So I did that.  When I went home I felt like a huge load had come off me.  I was exhausted, but free.

Since then the pain is gone.  It sounds simplistic, but it really is completely different.  I was a wreck emotionally before I went to that prayer meeting, and since then, I have been at peace.  The real test will be when I see my parents again.  Will the old hurts still sting, or are they healed forever?  At least I now have a way forward.  If I am hurt again, I can choose to think on ‘whatever is lovely.’

Image

Why my blog is called Isaiah 41 verse 10

I was about 10 or 11.  I was staying with my parents who were missionaries in the kind of country where people don’t usually go for a relaxing holiday.  I never felt like I belonged anywhere.  Not in that culture, because I couldn’t speak the language, and I looked different and was foreign, and not at the boarding school for missionaries’ children, where the other kids often picked on me or disliked me. At an early age I had stopped believing in my mother’s love for me, and the lie that I was unloved was causing me to grow up crooked, like a tree that overcompensates for an early injury.

But I had heard that God loved me.  I also had heard that He would speak if one listened.  One day, when I was by myself in the room I shared with my sister, I took my Bible and sat on the bed, and asked Him if it was true.

“Is it true that you love me?  Do you care about me?”

I waited.  Then a verse reference popped into my head: one that I didn’t know.  I looked it up.

Isaiah 41 verse 10

So do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Then I knew that it was true.  He does speak, and He does care, and He is not only the one true God, Creator of the universe, He is my God, the one who watches over me.  He is Love.

He has kept His promise to me.  With Him I am strong.  He is always with me, and He holds on to me.  I’ve wandered off the pathway lots of times, and got distracted, and disobeyed His instructions, but He has not given up on me, and He never will.  Some songs say, “I will never let you [Jesus] go.”  I always change the words when I’m singing to “You will never let me go,” because the truth is that we often let go, but He doesn’t.

I’ve found that if I hold onto His love, I can love other people, and not be afraid of them hurting me.  It’s hard to unlearn old habits of mistrust and criticism, but slowly He is making the change.  If I ask Him to show me how He sees a situation or a person, it’s like He changes the perspective, making clear what was blurry, changing the colours, and sometimes revealing details I did not notice before. 

Sometimes I look back and wish I had pursued Him earlier, when I knew this from an early age, but for a long time it was about following rules and being a ‘good Christian’.  I was too busy trying to fix everyone else, and swinging from self-hatred to pride and back again.  But they say that nothing is wasted with God, so I will trust that He is making something beautiful with the mess. 

Pain

The last couple of weeks have been difficult.  Tension with a family member has dragged up emotions and memories from the past that still have the power to wound me.  I am stung again by rejection, criticism and the feeling of never measuring up.  Once I start thinking this way, it becomes habitual, and almost anything can trigger off the negativity, even an article in the newspaper about someone’s ‘perfect mother.’ I am reminded of all the ways I fail, and start thinking I am pathetic, hopeless and just generally a blot on the landscape.  Why do I listen to that voice?  I don’t want to fight this battle over and over again.  I am in tears many times a day, remembering, and then turning to God for comfort and truth.  There are some things He has told me that I have to hold on to:

“My Father’s house has many rooms.”  John 14:2

I am loved and welcomed by my Heavenly Father, always accepted because of Jesus my Saviour.

“You are a daughter of the King.”  Romans 8:15

No longer dressed in rags, but in his robes.

“We must obey God, rather than men.”  Acts 5:29

My allegiance is to Him, not to others’ expectations.  This is particularly difficult when I love and respect a person, and they disapprove of my choices, even though I believe that I am obeying my Heavenly Father.  People-pleasing is only taking me down the well-worn path of rejection and despair.  God will not take me there.

I feel like I am a child again, confused and wanting desperately for someone to look after me.  I feel completely inadequate to be a parent to my children when I am still a child myself.  But somehow my children are beautiful, sensitive people, who are growing in faith and learning to care for others.

Radical Obedience

I would like to recommend the audio book of What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst.  It is available free this month from christianaudio.com.  Lysa talks about her journey of learning ‘radical obedience’ to God.  This is familiar to me, as God has also been graciously leading me on this uncomfortable but joyful path.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Psalm 23 v 3

What does obedience look like?  Many of us want to ‘do great things for God’, hoping that He will call us to do something extraordinary and wonderful.  But what if the path of obedience is more mundane, such as washing dishes for Jesus, or learning not to lose my temper, or being honest when no one else is?  What if it means choosing not to respond in anger with my children when they disobey again, or are careless?  What if it means choosing not to complain or grumble about people who don’t pull their weight at work or at church, but being thankful for them and blessing them instead?  What if it means getting up early to pray rather sleeping for another hour?

I’m starting to see that the life of radical obedience that God is calling us to is made of many choices, day by day, but that these often trivial matters point back to one choice we must make – will we live to please Him or to please ourselves?  The little things matter.

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.

Luke 16 verse 10

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”

Matthew 25 verse 21

Lessons from Daniel

As a family we have been re-reading the book of Daniel.  The story opens when Daniel and three of his friends are among the captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon.  The best-looking, fittest and most intelligent young men are chosen to receive the finest education the Babylonian court can provide, and Daniel and his friends are among this select group.  They are to be fed on the choicest foods and wines from the king’s own table.  However, this is a problem for Daniel and his three friends.  They are forbidden by the Law given to Moses to consume certain animals, and may not eat meat that has not had the blood drained from it.  Daniel asks that they be fed vegetables instead.  The officer over them is reluctant, because he thinks that they will not fare as well as the other young men who eat the king’s food, but Daniel asks for a ten day trial.  After ten days the four young men who are obedient to God’s law look healthier than all the others.  They are allowed to continue eating their plain diet rather than the king’s food.  God blesses them with understanding and wisdom above all their fellows, so that they rise to prominent positions in the king’s court.

How many young men from Judah were in that court?  There must have been many more than four.  However, only Daniel and his friends were willing to be different from the rest.  What words may have been thrown at them?

“Why are you making a fuss?  We’re in Babylon now.  When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do.”

“You’re making the rest of us look bad.  I suppose you think you’re super holy or something.”

“Why are you bothering to obey God when he couldn’t save us from Nebuchadnezzar’s armies?”

It was only a ‘little thing’, but it mattered in God’s eyes.

Taking a break from blogland

For the next month I am taking a break from blogging and from visiting other people’s blogs.  It seems to be what God is asking me to do.  In fact He’s been asking for a while, but I’ve been struggling to stop.  However listening to Lysa’s book has encouraged me to take this step.

Some things I’m hoping to do in my blog-free month:  gardening, spending more time with my family, craft projects, praying, writing songs and poetry, cooking and reaching out to others.   Who knows what else God has planned?

Jo.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

Beggar for Love

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

Clutching my filthy rags around me,

Scrabbling in the dirt for scraps left behind,

Holding tight to what I could find,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

The longing for love a festering wound within me,

Scorned love turned to passionate hate,

Loathing myself more than anyone else,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love, but you stooped in the dirt,

Picked me up, washed my wounds, healed my hurt.

In your perfect love, Jesus, I find

A well so deep I can never drink it dry.

Not just one in a crowd to you,

But a beloved child lost and sought,

You never relented until you had me safe in your arms

Nestled near your heart,

A beggar no more.

I am yours.

A letter from China

Written by an evangelist in Shandong province:

When the gospel was first shared with us in 2012 we did not have any Bibles but we felt such a hunger to know more about the Truth.  We cried out to the Lord with burning desire to know more about Him.  In May 2013 the Lord answered our prayers and all our fellowship leaders and evangelists have received Bibles.  We fell down on our faces before the Lord weeping with joy as we thanked the Lord for providing us the Bread of Life. 

It was explained to us that God’s Word was provided by Christians around the world who sacrificed their hard-earned money so we could have Bibles.  We are just peasants from the countryside, so we don’t understand much about the world outside of China.  Everything outside China seems so foreign and strange to us; but we now feel a strong connection to God’s people around the world that provided us with Bibles even though they have never met us.  Although we don’t know you by name, we thank you from the depths of our hearts for providing these Bibles to us.  We believe that in heaven God will introduce us to those who provided Bibles and we look forward to worshipping the Lord with you!  Until then may God’s grace and peace be with you.

There is a critical shortage of Bibles in China today because of the massive growth of the church in rural areas.  Tens of millions of Christians are still without God’s Word.  Asia Harvest is partnering with house church networks throughout China in a long-term strategy to print Bibles for these new believers.  They are distributed to all parts of China, helping establish new believers in the faith and adding fuel to the revival that continues to burn throughout the world’s most populous country.  Each Bible cost just US $1.80 to print and deliver.

Information and evangelist’s letter from Asia Harvest’s March 2014 newsletter.

Dealing with my own distortions…

I want to reblog this post because it is a powerful reminder of how mixed up our thoughts can be. I know God’s still working on me and transforming my thinking.

In My Father's House

Distorted_Mel2 In my last post (“Dealing with our distortions of God”), I attempted to lay a foundation about our distorted view of God and how that effects our relationship with Him and how we see ourselves and others. Now, I would like to  share what I have discovered over the years about my own personal distortions. I will also confess here that I didn’t realize that most of these were distortions before this discovery. Like you, I thought they were normal. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…Okay, here’s a few to start with…

My distortions about God:

I thought that God was still angry at sinners…
I thought Jesus was the merciful, graceful, loving, approachable friend who had to hold back a distant, too lofty, angry, wrathful Father from striking us all down because He couldn’t stand to look at us without His “Jesus glasses” on…

View original post 1,258 more words

Dear Moppet

In January we had visitors from Germany come to stay with us.  They were friendly and fun, playing swing ball and jumping on the trampoline with our children.  However their stay also highlighted for me some problems in our family that needed to be dealt with.  It was painful at the time, but I’m grateful for the work God did….

Dear Moppet,

You have long blond hair, a sweet round face, and sturdy limbs.  You love to sing and dance.  I watch you on the trampoline and I laugh at the big words you use and your decided opinions.  You act tough, but can suddenly crumple at a harsh word or angry tone.  Sometimes you use words as weapons, lashing out at your three older siblings, and I wonder how you learnt that and why you want to hurt them.  You are growing fast and will soon be too big for my lap, and I suddenly want to put brakes on Time and keep you little for longer, and make up for the moments I did not cherish earlier.

I’m sorry to say that I resented you when you were little: the years of waking up every night for no reason I could make out, the annoyance of trying to keep everyone else quiet during your naps, the ‘inconvenience’ having a baby or toddler caused.  I even spoke the words, “I wish…..”  I don’t want to finish the sentence now because it is too painful to remember.  I didn’t realise the treasure God had given us in you.

I saw the damage my attitude had caused, when we had visitors in January and my little 5-year-old girl clung to a stranger, wanting to hold her hand and sit on her lap, things you never did with me.  God forgive me for my blindness.  That night I lay awake and wept because of the wrong I had done you and the words I had spoken many times, though never to your face, “I don’t want another baby if it is like M.”  I take them back.  I love you, Moppet.  It doesn’t matter how much disruption you cause.  Nothing changes the fact that you’re my treasure.

Your Daddy and I prayed together and repented of our words and attitudes.  God gave us His peace and I know that He will heal our relationship and make it beautiful.  I’ve been holding you more, and expressing my love for you, praying with you and playing with you.  I know things are changing and I’m grateful.

Love you forever,

Mum.