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Sunday, May 24, 2015

To My Girls: Loving the Process

I am so very thankful to all my daughters for their loving thoughts, wishes, and gifts for Mother's Day. Little do they realize that I am the one who has benefited from being their mother.  When I became a mom at the age of twenty, I had so much to learn. Being the youngest in a large family didn't give me much practice at taking care of infants!  But I loved being a mom.  I loved the challenge, the rewards, the opportunities.  Oh, I had my days, for sure.  But I never wanted to go back to work.  I knew it was God's call upon my life.

So thank you, girls, (and Ben!), for the chocolate, the flowers, the mug, the candle, the lovely wall art, the material (to sew something for myself!), the journal, the family picture, the knee pad so I can garden,the watch,  the phone call, the text message.  The gifts were thoughtful and appreciated, but it is the one behind the gift that is so special to me.

The process continues.  I have learned so much in the last three years about how to be a mother who asks for forgiveness, a mom who lets go of all her fears and worries, a mom who can pray with her daughters, a mother who prays for the hard things in her children's lives.  I have learned how to receive from you, too.

One of my greatest treasures is the grandchildren that you have given me, and the little one that is on the way!  What a joy to love these kids, even through their tough teen years.  It makes being a mother all the richer.  It took me years to realize all the sacrifices my mom made for me, and although she kept her feelings to herself, I knew that she loved me.  I know that you girls make sacrifices everyday for your children.  Don't worry; someday they will realize just how much you love them.  Today it seems like a lot of work, a lot of care, and so little time to yourself.  Understand that God is grooming you through the process. Whatever else He has for you, being a mom is so dear to His heart.  He even tells us that He loves us like a mother.  

My prayer is that I will finish well as a mother and grandmother.  I know that I am still mom, on call, day or night, for my teenage boys and for all my children and grandchildren.  I know that I am still mom to my children that are ten minutes down the road or in another time zone!  I know that being a mom comes after being God's precious daughter, after being my beloved's partner and helpmeet, but it is a huge part of who I am.  It is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.  Don't get me wrong; I haven't been the world's greatest mom.  I was selfish, I didn't want to get up with the baby at night, I wanted to be able to go somewhere without my kids, I yelled when I should have prayed, I withdrew when I needed to step up, I plunged ahead when I should have waited, I was inconsistent, overbearing, controlling and thought I was right.  But deep down I always knew that this was exactly what God intended for me: to love Him and raise a large family. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Turning 70

No, I am not turning seventy!!  But my oldest brother did on May 15th.  He always hits his next big milestone before I hit mine.  I will be 59 on September 10, 2015.

He wrote a poem reflecting on Psalm 90 on his birthday which prompted me to write my own paraphrase loosely based on the same psalm.  

Psalm 90 English Standard Version (ESV)

From Everlasting to Everlasting

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

90 Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”[
b]For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span[
c] is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor[d] of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

My paraphrase:

Lord, I have dwelt with you my entire life. As a baby, and even before, I was brought to church—to every service. My parents' parents went to church and brought their children.

Yet you tell me that before you created this world, these grandparents, these parents of mine, before you created me, there You were—from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You limit my days and say, “Return to dust, O son, O daughter of Adam."  For I have inherited more than family traits from my ancestors. I have inherited Adam's inclination to rebellion, to wanting to do things my way.

Even if I live to be a thousand years old, to You my life is just like a day that has passed and become yesterday, or like a night that has ended with the sunrise.

Or my life is like a branch that is swept away in a flood, or like the grass that looks so green in the morning dew but withers in the scorching sunlight and by evening is faded and useless.

I know I deserve your anger and wrath. The thought of what I deserve brings me to the end of myself. I see that the character of all my pride and rebellion, even my secret sins, are revealed in the Light of your Presence.

So my days end as insignificant as sigh, even if I live to be eighty. Yet the whole of my life can be summed up in working, striving and facing trouble after trouble. One day I will be gone like a bird that flies away.

I consider the power of your anger, your wrath towards all who are in rebellion and fear you who can kill the soul.

Teach me to consider each day as an opportunity to partner with You; teach my heart to be wise. Return to me, Lord, for I am returning to You. I am repenting of my pride and rebellion. You created me and I cannot live, I cannot find my destiny without You. Have pity on me for I am coming to You humbly.

Only You can satisfy me each morning. Only your unfailing, eternal, never changing love can save me. Only in this Love can I have joy and be glad, truly glad for each day no matter what it holds.

Lord, may I be glad to be in You for as many days as I have rebelled against you and experienced the affliction of my sin. You are the great Restorer. Show me as many years of Your goodness as I have seen years of evil that pride produced in my life.

Let me truly see the work You have done, the work You are doing, the work You will do. Show me Your glory and Your power by Your Spirit.

Let Your favor be upon me, the favor You bestow on Your Son in whom You are well pleased, whose life I have because He gave His life for me. Let the beauty of grace show up in my life. May those things I do here and now count up there and forever as You accomplish all things in my life. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.
As it is in Heaven, as it will be in my life when I am in Heaven, so be it now in my life here on earth. And one day I will fly away to be with You forever. Oh glorious day!

Deborah Cawley, May 16, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jesus, My Advocate, Who Pleads my Case

May 4, 2015

Job 16

Thinking this morning about pain.  Last week when I had my teeth cleaned and the next day the whole right side of my mouth began aching.  Sometimes the pain would come in waves.  Eating has been difficult as any cold is extremely painful. Chewing seems to aggravate the pain and at times even talking hurts.  Pain killers bring some relief and it doesn't keep me up at night, but pain always wears me out.  

Physical pain seems to make other things in life so much harder to deal with.  Difficult situations now seem to loom as big as mountains I cannot climb.  It becomes almost impossible to stop thinking about myself and the pain.  So I thought about Job, the righteous man of old, who suffered the loss of all things, including the grief of losing all his children.  Maybe that would have been bearable, but then Satan inflicted him with tormenting pain in his body.The final straw was the condemning "comfort" and "help" of his friends.  

Yet in reading Job 16 I saw some things there I had never seen before.  In verse six, Job says:

“Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away.

He can't get away from the pain.  There is no relief

7 Surely, God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household. 8 You have shriveled me up--and it has become a witness; my gauntness rises up and testifies against me. 9 God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me; my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes. 10 People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me. 11 God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. 12 All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; 13 his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. 14 Again and again he bursts upon me; he rushes at me like a warrior. 15 "I have sewed sackcloth over my skin and buried my brow in the dust. 16 My face is red with weeping, dark shadows ring my eyes; 17 yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure. 18 "Earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest! [Job 16:7-18 NIV]

Job recognizes that God has done this.  We all put the cause of Job's pain in Satan's hand--the work of the enemy.  But we know that God gave Satan permission.  So ultimately it comes from God's hand.  As I read this description of Job's pain, I realized how this could be a prophecy concerning the death of Jesus.  

my gauntness rises up and testifies against me...
God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me...
my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes...
People open their mouths to jeer at me;they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me...
God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked...
All was well with me, but he shattered me;he seized me by the neck and crushed me...
He has made me his target; his archers surround me...
Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground...
My face is red with weeping, dark shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure..

Such a description fits the abuse Jesus suffered at the hands of men at his trial and crucifixion.  And like Job, Jesus suffered even though his hands were free of violence and his prayer was pure. Unlike Job, we know that Jesus suffered because of sin, suffered because of my sin and the sin of the whole world.   

But it is what Job says next that amazes me.  

19 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. 20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend. [Job 16:19-21 NIV]

Job says that he has a witness in heaven, an advocate on high.  One who pleads his case before God.  And not only an advocate, but an intercessor; One who is praying for him.  And not only an advocate and intercessor, but also a Friend.  Only the Holy Spirit could write these words of prophecy!  

Later on in chapter nineteen, Job again describes his troubles and it reflects accurately on the sorrow that Jesus would bear. And again Job speaks words of prophecy: 

25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! [Job 19:25-27 NIV]

So, in the midst of my little, annoying pain, I will remember that I have a Friend in heaven.  He is my Redeemer and He lives!  He is coming again some day to stand on this earth and set all things right. He pleads my case before the Father.  He intercedes for me. He has borne all my pain and sorrow. He took upon Himself all my rejection, all my fear, all my sin and shame.  He was declared guilty so I could go free!  All this He did for me.  

Today, in the midst of my trials and troubles which go beyond the physical pain, I say with the apostle Paul that my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs all my troubles.2 Cor. 4: 17-18  Nothing is wasted in God's Kingdom, not even a toothache!  Job had hope that His redeemer lived!  He fixed his eyes not on what he saw and felt, but on what was unseen. That is faith!  Fixing my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith!  Heb. 12:2  Without faith it is impossible to please God. Heb. 11:6

I can know that my pain and my trials and my troubles are temporary.  Satan lies to me and says that the pain will never go away.  That I can't get through today.  That the trouble I see around me will ruin lives.  That here is a problem that Jesus can't fix.  That there is no hope; it's been too long, it won't end, it's all my fault, and I have failed.  LIES!  God is achieving for me an eternal glory!
I can even rejoice in my trials and troubles!  I can persevere!  I can ask God for wisdom in how to handle each and every one! James 1 I can keep my thoughts and my eyes on Jesus!  I can stop looking at what I can see and keep my eyes on what I can't see, on the eternal!

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. [2Co 4:17-18 NIV]

Thank you, Father, for this perspective for my day.  Thank for Jesus, who is always the answer to my every prayer.  Thank you for this wonderful Friend, who has redeemed me and who is the pioneer who goes before me and is perfecting my faith!  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jesus, my Friend

Holy Spirit is my counselor, Jesus is my friend, so I am never without a friend or counselor.

Luke 5:20  When I put my faith in Jesus, He calls me His friend.

John 15:13 Jesus showed me how great His love is for me, His friend, because He laid down His life for me.

John 15:15 I know that I am Jesus' friend and not just His servant, because He has shared with me everything He learned from the Father.

John 14:26 The Holy Spirit comes in Jesus' name and teaches me and reminds of things I tend to forget...things that are true about Jesus.  He counsels me to stick to the truth and reject the lies.

Proverbs 17:17  As my friend, Jesus loves me...all the time, no matter what I do to mess up.  He sticks by me, more than my own sister, and He is there in my trials.

James 4:4 If all I want is my own way, if all I want to do is flirt with the world every chance I get, then I will no longer have Jesus as my friend; I become an enemy of God.  This will break His heart, for He loves me with a jealous love.  I need to stick with the truth that what God gives me in love, is far better than anything else I find.

Friend of God by Israel Houghton

When I was growing, I longed for a friend.  My best friend moved to a new town when we were about ten, and I felt so alone. I had brothers and sisters, lots of them(!), but I wanted a friend at school, and a friend to do stuff with after school.  A friend who went to church with me, because that was a very important part of my life.  

In high school, God gave me two very dear friends at my church, but they didn't attend my high school.  So I had church friends and school friends and it still felt like not enough.  

After marriage, I longed for that girl-friend that I could share things with and talk with.  You know, girl stuff.  I kept looking. Kept thinking, maybe she's the one, that bosom friend, as Ann of Green Gables would say.  I knew that I had my true friend in my husband, but often he didn't understand me. Who would ever truly love me and totally understand me?  I remember the day when I was reading in Philippians 4 and came to these verses: 

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! 
5 Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! 
6Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. 

7 Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

And the Holy Spirit whispered to me, Jesus, your best friend, is right by your side.  He is here!  Always here!  He knows you better than anyone else, and He is always beside you. You are never alone to face any problem, or worry, or pain, or disappointment, or struggle.  

So I claimed the promise in Isaiah 41:13  For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Jesus, you are my best friend.  You are the one who holds my hand all day long and whispers in my ear, "Don't be afraid; I will help you." You are my bosom friend, the One who fills the longing of my heart.  I love you, Jesus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Unshakeable Confidence

Praising God today for the confidence I have because God is my unshakeable confidence, and nothing can shake me so much that I lose confidence in Him.

I will not be shaken because of the unfailing love that God Most High has for me, his daughter.  Psalm 21:7

I will not be shaken because I keep my eyes always on the Lord, and He is at my right hand. Psalm 16:8

I am confident that the One who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion, right up to the day that Jesus returns for me.  Philippians 1:6

I am confident in the Sovereign Lord, because He has been my hope since my youth. Psalm 71:5

Because I  fear God, I have a secure fortress in Him, and a refuge for my children--a place we can run to and be safe. Proverbs 14:26 

When I put my trust in the Lord and my confidence in Him, I will be blessed.  Jeremiah 17:7

With me is the Lord my God to help me and to fight my battles. This gives me confidence, and I don't have to be afraid or discouraged. 2 Chronicles 32:8  2 Chronicles 20:15

Though my world be shaken and turned upside down, God's unfailing love will not fail me and His promise of peace will not be removed, because the Lord has compassion on me.  Isaiah 54:10

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Coming home from Encounter also means coming under attack.  The enemy does not want us to walk in the freedom we have acquired and will tempt us and pull out all the stops to get us to walk in bondage again.

For me this week it has been headaches, depression, resentment building up in me, and a desire to quit.  I have been spending time with the Lord.  I have been praising Him, listening to praise music and putting on the "armor" before getting out of bed.  But I am still struggling.

But I've also been hiding.  Oh, I asked some ladies to pray for me, and they did.  But I haven't shared what I am struggling with.  So tonight I will pray with my husband.  I will let him know what I'm struggling with--even though part of it is that I don't really know!
Why am I so afraid to let others know that I struggle?  Like the talk I gave on Peter, I fail to live and walk in my new identity.  Under pressure, under attack

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just home from another wonderful Encounter Weekend with a bunch of wonderful women.  God worked in mighty ways!  Made new friends and shared with old ones, too.

I wanted to post the testimony I gave on Friday night at Encounter.  Someone asked for part of it, but I think God wants me to share the whole thing.  I am an overcomer, and God's Word says that I overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony.  Rev. 12:11

April 14, 2015

Psa. 80:7 Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

About four years ago I was burned out, worn out, weary, depressed, depleted and struggling in so many ways. I cried out to God. We were in a new church fellowship and every Sunday they had prayer time during the service where you could pray aloud (or silently) while the Praise Team sang a song; and every Sunday I cried out to God with tears. God and I communing, often without words.

I started a Bible study on my own with Beth Moore's book on the Psalms of Ascents and poured out my pain and emptiness to God and the healing began. I was scared to get my hopes up, scared of failing God—again. After all, I'd been a Christian almost all my life, a church leader—wasn't I the one who was supposed to have all the answers? But I came to God knowing that there was no other place to go. There had to be more answers than the ones I already knew. So I came expecting God to meet me somehow, to show me what was wrong. The more I kept meeting with God, the hungrier I got for His Word. I also began meeting regularly with a couple of friends who loved the Lord.

And then God gave me this dream of a couple of old hags refusing to get out of a room that I am renting. So I negotiate a price with them that they will pay me to stay there. But I don't really want them to stay so I find the landlady. She has some financial records of rent I have paid but there are missing entries and she doesn't have any answers for me. I tell her there must be more records and she points to a pile of papers. When I look through the papers, I find that these are a lot of family mementos and pictures. Then I look up and the landlady is coming down the hallway holding her arm in great pain, a look of grief on her face. And I am surprised that the landlady is actually one of my friends that I have been meeting with.

God showed me that those two hags were fear and pride. Two sins in my life that were grieving the Holy Spirit. I had been working on fear—memorizing verses and renewing my mind with God's truth about His perfect love casting out fear. But pride? I would have to work on that one. I was raised to be proud, I had things to be proud of. But I wasn't too proud, or was I?

At the same time I began seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had been raised to believe that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit were not for today, especially speaking in tongues. It never made much sense to me, but when everyone you look up to, every pastor you've known tells you it is wrong, you accept it as wrong. I didn't necessarily think it was wrong for everybody, but it couldn't be something God had for me or He would have given it to me, right? I had good friends who spoke in tongues but no one in my family every had. Yet I wanted more of God. I was empty. I wanted power to actually live the Christian life. So I kept seeking, searching scripture and reading books on the Holy Spirit. And God was opening my eyes to the pride in my life.

I began memorizing verses on pride, like Prov. 11:2,  "When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with humility comes wisdom."  Or Ps. 10:4,  "In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God."  Or Prov. 8:13,   "To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."  I began to see how God views pride: He hates it, it is evil and disgraceful. Then one day I read this poem by Beth Moore on pride:

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
I cheat you of your God-given destiny…
because you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment…
because you “deserve better than this.”
I cheat you of knowledge…
because you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing…
because you are too full of you to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness…
because you refuse to admit when you are wrong.
I cheat you of vision…
because you’d rather look in the mirror than out a window.
I cheat you of genuine friendship…
because nobody’s going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love…
because real romance demands sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven…
because you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.
I cheat you of God’s glory…
because I convinced you to seek your own.
My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you.
I’m looking to make a fool of you.
God has so much for you, I admit, but don’t worry…
If you stick with me you’ll never know.

That was me. God was breaking down my walls, my strongholds, my prejudices. Finally the day came when I decided I was ready. I had grieved over the sin in my life and repented as best I knew how. I had forgiven people. I had no idea what God was going to do, but I was ready to ask for His Holy Spirit to fill me. So I prayed with my friends and they prayed over me and I asked God to come and fill me and He did! I had such a sensation of joy in my heart! I humbled myself to speak out loud the “silly” word that came into my head and received the gift of tongues.

And that was just the beginning. There is so much I could tell you of my journey. God has broken me over and over again at the sin in my life, but each time He has brought healing to my soul. He healed me of a deep, hidden grief over the death of our stillborn baby, Zebulun. He healed me of a spirit of rejection, of being fearful, of pride, of idolatry, and more. He is still healing me!

I wrote this in my journal on Jan. 28, 2013....

Lord Jesus, I kneel at your feel.  I humble myself before you, head bowed, not daring to lift my face.  I am no longer prideful, but pride threatens to try to worm its way back into my life.  I am no longer fearful, but yet not as bold as I should be.  
Before you filled me with your Holy Spirit, I thought the core of my life was to be righteous, yet I was still serving myself, opposed to You in my prideful way.
I was fearful of the rejection and wounds of man and built up walls of silence around myself.  I knew only a little of your grace and mercy and forgiveness.  I worked and worked to please You and everyone around me, but I was really working to please myself.  I never showed my true heart to anyone.  I couldn't look upon my own heart, afraid to see that I was unclean, scarred by the leprosy of my fear and pride.
Slowly, gently, lovingly, as I sought Your face and the light of Your glory, You revealed Yourself to me.  And as I saw You in your mercy and love, You began revealing my heart to me.  I came to that moment--actually several moments--when I confessed and repented of my pride.  Then you delivered me from all my fears.  Oh that glorious vision of removing Zebulun from his "grave-box" at your prompting and holding him and feeling the warmth of his little body.
But again, Lord, I am prompted by your Holy Spirit as I read the encounter of Simon the leper in the novel, "Second Touch" by Bodie Thoene.  I weep as I echo his words as he comes to Jesus.

     "This is my true heart: I am a leper!  Inside and out, I am unclean.
      There is nowhere else for me to go,"  Simon concluded simply.  "I..
       I need to be forgive.  Oh, Lord!  Clean the inside of the cup as well
       as the outside!  You can heal me if you want to!" 

 And then the Yeshua's words:  "I want to."  As I study your Word about healing and as I ask for healing for my arm, my headaches, my gut, I realize that what I really want is for your Word to heal my insides.  Take the leprosy out of my heart--all of it.  Continue to reveal my heart to me that I might purify myself.  Show me how to change the thoughts and intents of my heart.  Renew a right spirit within me.
I could never than you enough for the punishment you suffered for me.  I will never fully know the depths of your love for me to take my sin upon yourself, to carve my name on your palm.  I accept your righteousness, your forgiveness, your love and mercy and grace.  I welcome your Holy Spirit in my life.  May He dwell in me richly and bring the very fullness of your life into mine, until I  am fully hid in Christ.

God heals. He restores. He longs to show you who you really are in Him. He longs for you. You are the pearl of great price that He was willing to give all that He had to buy you back—to buy me back.